Book Review: Boats on Land by Janice Pariat

10 years ago Shaili Desai 3

Boats on Land by Janice Pariat is a collection of short stories based in the North East, mostly Shillong (a place that I’ve always wanted to visit). The common theme that connects all the stories is that of Change and how each person deals with it in his or her own way. Some become quite fanatical or crazy as you might call them, some move on while some spend the remaining time in their lives, in lamenting and thinking about the past. 

Book Cover
Book Cover

I have to say this, the stories in ‘Boats on Land’ are quite fascinating. The characters feel special to me. They are sufficiently well sketched yet maintain a sense of mystery. Although these are stories set in the North East (a part of India largely ignored in the mainstream, sadly), when you read them, you soon feel a sense of bonding as the concerns and the problems, all seem to be the same. Whether it be the fear of the unknown (in the form of the changing times and cultures), the nostalgia for the past, rebelling against some set norms in our cultures and the desire to stop time from passing by, isn’t that what we all feel scared for, irrespective of place, age and nationality.

The book ‘Boats on Land’ also explores some other themes. Some stories touch upon sexuality, liberty, humanism, modernism, youth and that much criticized word- Development. But it’s also about love, sadness, rebellion, the desire to be ‘free’ and at the same time to ‘belong’.

The best story in the collection is the title story- ‘Boats on Land’. There are so many strong contenders for the next position that it is difficult to pin point one. The stories will haunt you and touch you somewhere. All I can say is that do not miss this book! It’s totally worth the time!

Note: A copy of the book was provided by Random House India in exchange for writing an honest review.