The Not So Quotidian Telling of Quotidian Lives
Simi Malhotra
THE HOUSE NEXT TO THE FACTORY by Sonal Kohli Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, Noida, , 185 pp., 499.00
October 2022, volume 46, No 10

As the blurb on the attractive book cover says, Sonal Kohli grew up in Delhi and lives in Washington DC; she studied at the Sri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi and went on to do her MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK and The House Next to the Factory is her first book. These details are important because they help readers understand not just her writing style as a trained creative writer, but also her ability to capture a Delhi, and a world beyond, that we may all know and yet we get to know all over again when we encounter it in her simple yet evocative prose. She has the extraordinary ability to narrate and elevate what is most ordinary and mundane, and this to my mind is her greatest strength as a writer. Her prose is almost bare and yet it is most evocative—a rare feat for any writer.

The author’s ability to capture little details of what may also constitute Delhi—its sounds, smells and taste, the turns of phrases peculiar to it, the curious melee of people that inhabit the city—all of it strikes one as familiar and astonishing at the same time. As it surprises us, it also fills us with wry humour, as we encounter and read her Delhi in and through her stories that together comprise this fascinating book. Her eye for detail gives her the ability to richly texture her stories and capture moods and feelings which may otherwise remain fleeting.

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