Firstly, I’d like to thank the author Alisha Kirpalani for kindly offering me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Out With Lanterns is the story of a middle aged woman and aspiring writer, Karin Mehra, and her friendship with a famous author, Aksh Soni. The story begins when their paths cross at a book signing event where Karin tells Aksh that he has stolen her story, the story she’d been wanting to write. Karin is a married woman with two daughters while Aksh is in a live-in relationship with his girlfriend, Sia.
The first half gripped me
I was towards the end of a seven hour long late night flight when I started reading this book. The plane landed by the time I had finished one-third of the book. The writing flew so smoothly that I’d forgotten all about my exhaustion and was completely immersed in the book’s world. Aksh and Karin’s scintillating and witty banters kept me engaged throughout this time. Alisha has a wry sense of humour that sparkles throughout the narrative.
Writers will identify with the theme
Being a writer and an aspiring novelist myself, some words hit really close to home.
“Write and the paper will sigh and expose its black ash curls. as it is set aflame. The words will stand naked begging for the torch of your arson. The pen will quaver ecstatically waiting to penetrate the chaste whiteness of each page, spasmodically.”
The struggles of writing are vividly described with a refreshing eloquence throughout the book. Anyone who writes or wishes to write will find many gems of wisdom strewn around its pages, that would sound familiar to the journey they are going through.
There is also a speech by Aksh towards the end about the writing process. I found myself nodding my head because it was so relatable.
At places, where Karin shares her frustration about not being able to write or Aksh gives a glimpse of his insecurities about writing his next book, it felt all too personal to the writer in me. Hence, this is a book with which a lot of writers will feel a close connection. 🙂
The book is steeped in the aroma of old-world romance
Most parts of Out With Lanterns is written in the form of letters exchanged between Karin and Aksh. The intimacy that brews between the two main characters is delectable with a touch of the old world charm. They tease and flirt but after taking each other’s comfort and boundaries into consideration. At places, it felt like the characters tried a bit too hard to play it safe in order to avoid being judged by the readers.
I found the use of poetry and quotes from books extremely charming. Being an avid book lover, this was like an added treat sprinkled on story.
Aksh’s relationship with his dad was one that was very nicely portrayed and it gave a realistic glimpse behind Aksh’s personality. However, I didn’t get the same feeling about Karin’s backstory.
Some of the things that might have been improved…
The side characters seemed a bit stereotypical and two dimensional. Starting from Karin’s family, to Aksh’s agent and his girl friend, everyone seemed to be like props to push the story forward.
The way Karin or Raoul’s friends or Aksh’s agents were portrayed felt overtly negative. Of course, these characters exist but without a three dimensional depth,they merely become cliches rather than living breathing beings, in my opinion.
I found it baffling that when Karin has a fight with her family, it gets resolved without any explanation about the depth or complexities of human relationships.
Similarly, throughout the story Aksh seemed like a horrible boyfriend to Sia, emotionally distant and irresponsible, yet Sia tried to hold on to this man without any conceivable reason.
Also, the introduction of the protagonist’s past trauma seemed quite abrupt to me as was the introduction of a (non-human) character in one chapter.
Out With Lanterns is a fun, breezy, and light read. I’d especially recommend it to aspiring writers and to people who love the romance genre.
I felt more connected to the first half of the book. The second half seemed a bit rushed. This could’ve been addressed by going deeper into the characters’ psyches and maybe, by expanding the story for all the events to play out in a natural manner rather than appear forced and hurried.
Overall, this is a pretty good attempt for a debut writer.
My rating would be 3.5 out of 5 stars.