Book Review: ‘What Kitty Did’ Gives Voice to India’s Millennials
Trisha Bora’s ‘What Kitty Did’ attempts to represent the lives and times of urban India, but barely leaves a mark.
This line from her debut novel aptly sums up Trisha Bora’s What Kitty Did.
What Kitty Did, pitted as an irresistible caper with a millennial protagonist, has all the makings of a bestseller. It’s got a journey of self-discovery, a hunk from heaven, high drama and to top it off, a murder mystery. But the well-thought-out recipe for success is ruined by too many cooks (read: characters).
It begins with 25-year-old journalist Ketaki Roy (Kitty, for short) discovering her love for baking as she shifts her focus from a bad career choice. But this quickly turns into a drama-a-minute-saga that’s also got a murder mystery. Like a dessert with too much sugar.
Kitty struggles with bad hangovers, an even worse sugar addiction combined with a knack for making embarrassing decisions under the influence of alcohol. She’s stuck in a rut with her job at a fashion glossy Poise, and has nothing going for her.
Till she manages to get herself fired from the job. Life, as Kitty knows it, starts to change; along with the people around her. Enter a string of fresh characters, whose names and motives in the narrative are hard to place. One of them pulls her into a Nancy Drew-ish murder mystery, except Kitty has no interest in investigative journalism or the fame that could come with it.
With so many subplots and characters introduced in the first half of the book, it’s tough to keep track of the central story line after being introduced to Kitty’s eccentric parents, a roommate with the borrowed personality of Gaia Mother Sophia (yes, that’s Rima for you), and other shady characters whose names one doesn’t care to remember. Their motives in the story line, more so.
The story begins to move forward only in the second half, after 150-odd pages. The murder plot, which is the central theme of the book, leaves a lot to be desired. What’s really missed are dialogues between the characters, which also prevents you from getting a real insight into any of them. Much of the book takes place in the protagonist’s head as she goes about living her “wonky” life.
Heck, even the high-profile murder of Roxy Merchant is solved in a narration by the protagonist at the end. No clues are provided to the reader despite many suspects being named throughout the book.
Between all these sub-plots, though, the author manages to do two wonderful things; write in the voice of the protagonist with a self-deprecating sense of humour (really, there’s no situation where she doesn’t stop to take a dig at her own “sorry life”), and a love story that doesn’t threaten to become the central plot point. Let’s face it, we’ve had too many of those already. Kitty’s life does not revolve around men and it’s a refreshing change.
Trisha Bora has made it known that she doesn’t want the book to be classified as chick-lit, for such gendered roles aren’t lent to male authors. Fair point. But how does one describe What Kitty Did? You’re not sure what you’re getting with each turn of the page. Kitty doesn’t even end up in the same profession by the end of the book.
Instead, the book seems rather like an exercise in self-indulgence with Kitty moaning about her life over 300 pages. And the author too seems to realise this in flashes.
Trisha Bora’s writing style, as she zips from one conflict to another in her life, is very easy to read, full of pop-culture references and millennial speak.
There’s a scene where Kitty comes face-to-face with someone she calls the Elderly and his joie de vivre.
Kitty’s confused state of mind is the dubious story of many millennials.
What Kitty Did largely remains a disjointed narration of events in the protagonist’s life. While it makes efforts to represent the lives of urban India, the characters barely leave a mark.
(What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora, Harper Collins, Rs 299)
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