‘Voices in the Valley’ is another addition to the genre of historical fiction which is rich in detail and transports you to a different time altogether. The debut novel of Suravi Sharma Kumar, it is descriptive in prose and paints a beautiful picture of the rural countryside of Assam and is an engaging read for those who would like to know more about the tea producing state.
Set in 1960s, the book revolves around Millie who grows up in a family of seven sisters and is caught between her urge to conform to the societal norms as well as make her own voice heard. As she is born into a family of priests, she struggles with the orthodox norms but at the same time tries to keep her own liberal views alive. This later comes out when she starts taking an active part in a students’ organisation ultimately entering the political arena.
The style of writing is not rushed but does get a bit boring. Nevertheless, its poetic structure takes the reader through the picturesque nature that surrounds the town of Tezpur. The book covers a variety of social issues like early marriages, domestic abuse, superstitions and conventions that still linger in the north-eastern state today. The author’s thorough research shows in the novel as she describes the different rituals, superstitions and the thought processes of the rural folks.
Peppered with a liberal use of local words that provide an authentic touch, the novel is evocative in its description. Political unrest, the rise of militant organisations and the reasons behind it, issues of Bangladeshi migrants, effects of government strikes and its affect on Millie and her family are all smoothly infused in to this coming of age story. Spanning a decade, the novel is a compelling read that records a time that is long gone.