All that Jazz & other Pathbreaking Tales: Captivating stories about ordinary lives

Review by Chaitali Sengupta

In the recent days, I happened to come across Lopamudra Banerjee’s “All that Jazz and other Pathbreaking tales”. I often read and enjoy her brilliant write-ups on various online literary platforms. Lopamudra Banerjee is a writer, poet, memoirist in her own right; she has written and published “Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey” - a memoir; two poetry collections and also translated Tagore’s selected works of fiction and drama.

Her “Thwarted Escape” is also an award-winning memoir/nonfiction book and her other works are wonderful too, especially the English translation of Tagore’s timeless classic “Nostonirh” and 7 other stories (The Broken Home and Other Stories). She has done an excellent job of translating this rather daunting novel and Tagore’s women-oriented stories and comes over as a powerful translator.

Lopa Banerjee
This time, however, she has come up with her first book of fiction, a collection of 10 short stories and a novella. It’s a captivating compilation, to begin with.

In my opinion, her short stories (A fistful of wants, Rendezvous, Trapped, Femme Fatale, Amor Mio- my favorites) are wonderful for their characterizations and plot.

Each story has its suspense and surprise, a mix of a seductive fantasy and an unapologetic realism, filled with gripping twists and turns and flawed, but relatable characters. Their tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and riveting, as the author moves gracefully from one character to another- be it the 16-year-old self from Rendezvous, or the abused, exploited Shalini, from Amor Mio. Her narrative voice is wonderful, and she reveals their inner secrets, with intimate details, so vivid, that it makes the readers feel that they have known these characters for long. And that is perhaps not wrong, for we relate with Lopamudra’s characters on a deeply personal level, for she brings out their humanity. The appeal of her stories lies in the fact that they provide catharsis in the end, and we await the next one coming up. Her storytelling power is impressive.

Chaitali Sengupta
Her lyrical prose flows smoothly and calls you invitingly to read deeper into the stories and enjoy the rich effect. In the short story Park Street, she begins the story with a short poem: “How can my love hold him/when all I have is my ebony morning/bruised, breathing like a wrecked car?” The prose is almost poetic, and the details are exquisite and evocative.  She engages us with these expressions, trying to bring forth the dilemma of the characters. “Her befuddled soul had seen the calm after the storm, had known the hollow numbness, following her throbbing pain, while she bid adieu to the men she knew, flitting across her memory.” She writes, depicting the emotions of Anupama, a character from the short story A fistful of want.

The romantic novella “All that Jazz” is a gripping tale too. It is a sensitive drama that keeps you hooked till the end. A musical band and its members/protagonists form the core of the story in this romantic novella. The novella depicts the story of Amrita who is an artist and a musician. Both she, and her boyfriend Joy, are part of their jazz band ‘All that jazz’. The novella opens with quite evocative words and sets the tone of a modernist novel. “Tireless, she meandered. The city looked like a painted whore with her chipped off nail polish, smudged kohl, smashed lips.” The brilliant description coupled with the imagery lingers at the back of our minds as we dive into the story of these two star-crossed lovers, who walk away apart, forced by the circumstances.

Her protagonists, most of them, nurture a troubling scar that run deep, and seek closure, bearing the burden of the past. The stories are neatly structured and to me, they appear to be entrancingly real and well-paced. The book has a charming cover for which the artist, Rhiti Chatterjee Bose needs to be applauded.

I recommend this book to everyone for its fluid prose, the intensity of emotions, powerful characters, and Lopamudra’s heartwarming sincerity in creating a place where real life and stories convene. Above all, this collection of a romance novella and 10 short stories will not disappoint you.

The book has been published by Blue Pencil Publishers, India and is available as both paperback and e-book in Amazon.

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