By Matthew Thomas
Shipping Weight: 0.33kgs
Publisher: Silverfish Books
In this novel, the first by Matthew Thomas, the central narrative is the fight to gain possession of Ankara House, an ancestral property in Malabar. After Kochachen’s death, his son, Chacko, entrusts the property to his Nepali servant, Shastri Bahadur Ram, and continues to live in Myanmar (Burma). He returns to India after ten years only to find that Bahadur Ram had usurped Ankara House. Chacko’s brother-in-law, Colonel Titus Mathews, drives Bahadur Ram out. Unfortunately, Chacko decides to go to Malaya and leave Titus in charge of Ankara House. History repeats itself when he finally returns and to reclaim Ankara House. Will Jimmy, his son, (the protagonist) be able to fulfill his promise to Chacko to regain possession of their ancestral property?
The plot is engaging and entertaining, though it occasionally sags, for example, when Thomas devotes an entire chapter to a long description about the history of Syrian Christians. There are many interesting and touching twists and turns, which compelled me to keep turning the pages. Among the characters, Titus is the most memorable. Some of the supporting characters are interesting and amusing.
Thomas’s description of life in a Malabar village ring true, and I especially enjoyed the narrative of the tactics employed by Titus and his opponents during the election. On the technical side, I would have liked Thomas to stick to third person narrative. The use of alternating first- and third-person narrative results in several technical flaws in an otherwise excellent first novel. Finally, I was somewhat disappointed by the end – especially because Thomas does not define the relationship between the protagonist and Sujata.
Despite these flaws, which can be easily corrected with the help of a professional editor, Ankara House is a good and entertaining read, especially for those who are fans of R. K. Narayan.
Reviewed by Rohi Shetty
(15 June 2014)