Our pre-teen reviewer Aditi Amritesh gives 3.5 out of 5 stars to The House that Spoke, by 15-year-old author Zuni Chopra, who is the daughter of noted film critic Anupama Chopra and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Published by Penguin Random House India, the book is an intriguing mix of the fantastic and the real, set in Kashmir.
The story is set in Kashmir and centred on the life of fifteen-year-old Zoon Razdan, who lives in a house with talking furniture, paintings and other artefacts. The house itself makes the items come to life, though only Zoon can hear them. Zoon’s life changes course when her house is about to be sold off and she discovers a dark secret, threatening to destroy her homeland…
I think the strong point of the book is its absolutely beautiful imagery, similes and metaphors. I feel as though I witnessed every event in the book before my eyes. Even the characters that populate the house were memorable and loveable with unique personalities. I was impressed with the author’s word choice, attention to detail and unique manner of expression.
However, at times, the book’s strength became one of its ultimate weaknesses (at least, for me) with the detailed description of gross things (e.g. black creatures squirming out of somebody’s ear, almonds feeling like insects when swallowed, somebody getting completely contorted and having their flesh being ripped from their body, etc.) While I know that this might not be a problem for many people and actually appeal to some, repetitive occurrences of such descriptions put me off slightly. Squeamish people, this book may not be for you. I found a few parts of the book to be slow and over-detailed. For instance, the meandering start of the book failed to get me interested, leading me to almost give up on it. This, however, did not happen very often during the story, so it was not a major weakness.
I enjoyed how the story interwove Kashmir, the protagonist’s homeland, with itself and included elements of Kashmiri culture as well as how terrorism in Kashmir (a real and serious issue) was the basis of one of the mythical aspects of the story.
This book was a nice introduction to Zuni Chopra’s writing and a good job for a debut novel by a young writer. I’d like to see more of Zuni’s work soon.