Book Review: Boarding House by Vandana Singh

2016 is already proving to be a great year in terms of keeping my reading habit. I was pretty busy towards the end of last year so I decided I am going to try to read one book a week in 2016. So far I have been able to keep up with this resolution of sorts so the ” Books” tab you see on the top will have loads of new reviews pretty soon. The first read of 2016 was Boarding House by Vandana Singh. It is a Leadstart  Publishing book and they were kind enough to share a copy.


Boarding House is the story of Varsha, a girl from the small town of Rajnagar where she lives with her parents, her brother Arjun and two younger sister Uma and Shreya. The family is a typical middle class family living in a typical indian town divided by caste yet united by love. Even though they face financial issues as Varsha’s father is a mid level employee barely able to run the house and bear the expenses of the treatment of her mentally and physically challenged sister Shreya, she never feels that her family or life is incomplete in any sense. This feeling doesn’t last long as their father gets an opportunity to work abroad so the eldest of the kids i.e. Shreya and Arjun are left in India in a boarding house so that they are able to continue with their education. The sudden uprooting from the security  of her home leaves Varsha with a sense of abandonment which she experiences again and again during various stages of life. The book describes the journey of a girl who feels abandoned at every turn of her journey towards finding stability, her experiences in different countries, with Whites and Blacks, different cultures and family members.

I found the narration to be very effective but it does become erratic and repetitive at places. The simple language, the honesty and innocence in the narration even while discussing issues like child abuse or racism does leave a huge impact when you are reading about the protagonist’s experience. However, repeating an incident completely to address another aspect of feeling that Varsha felt when the incident happened originally, does get a little confusing and redundant after a while.

Character development is a little weak in the book. The author introduced a number of characters in the beginning of the story but they just vanish towards the middle which I feel is a little unfair and leaves a lot of questions in the mind of the reader. even central characters like the mother, the father or the mentally challenged sister to whom Varsha was so attached to were completely forgotten towards the end.

The story gets a little confusing towards the end. The author tries to address a lot of issues and co-relate them to Varsha’s childhood and her prolong sense of abandonment but somehow doing so she completely looses the impact of the issue. I wanted to understand a lot of things about things Varsha questioned throughout her journey from India to Cambodia and finally to US but the book just did not give me sufficient information. I was able to see where the author wanted to take the story but I couldn’t relate or imagine the journey Varsha took and her story just seems to be incomplete to me not and when I say incomplete I don’t mean the open-ended climax, the book just ends in the middle of nowhere for me .

I think the author had a good story in mind and was able to narrate it in a very effective manner in the first half but she just tried concentrate on too many issues towards the end. I have to say I was really hopeful about the book in the beginning but I was left really disappointed when I finished it.