C: A Novel

by Chandra Sundeep
Cover picture of C A Novel by Anupama Raju

In the mesmerizing narrative of “C: A Novel,” Anupama Raju seamlessly blends prose and poetry to craft a tale as intriguing as the title. Darkness and light, depression and desolation, love and heartbreak, hope and despair—all converge in a symphony of words, with poetry serving as the novel’s beating heart.

The novel unfolds across two ambiguous, yet enigmatic cities, centuries apart, connected by the thematic thread of poetry—a thread that runs through the very fabric of this story. The convergence of two Cs, spanning time and distance, becomes a metaphorical journey through the complexities of the human soul.

The protagonist, a nameless writer, arrives in C to write her book. Having arrived without a concrete plan, the narrator hopes to quell the darkness swimming within her in this dystopian city, where light is physically absent. Thus, the absence of light becomes a dual metaphor, symbolizing both external darkness and the emotional turmoil haunting the narrator.

The sunless city of C has many familiar elements. People, trees, bookstores, a university campus, libraries, cafes, and many more. Starved of love and deprived of hope, the writer navigates aimlessly through these places. However, unlike the protagonist, Raju has clear plans and cleverly uses these instances to reveal various intricate aspects of the writer’s life, like her episodes of depression, suicidal attempts, sexual assault, her dysfunctional family, a distant, cold lover, and her toxic dependence on him. The writer’s drifting thoughts take the form of poetic verses and Raju invites readers to navigate through the complexities of life and explore unrequited love, solitude, and heartbreak.

The story takes an interesting turn when a chance encounter brings the writer face to face with Alice, a spirit who once roamed the original C. Alice’s story, set in a time centuries before, is a heartbreaking tale of love and loss. As the novel unfolds, Alice’s past is revealed as a tragic love story set in a different C. Her fleeting happiness with a lover ends in separation, leaving her alone with manuscripts in an indecipherable script. Separated from her lover, transcending time and space, she roams in C, desperately seeking answers.

The dark city orchestrates the meeting between the writer and Alice and later becomes a silent observer witnessing the friendship blooming between two wandering souls.

The narrative shifts between the troubled female narrator and the city of C, where centuries of sunless existence have created a sanctuary for distraught souls. The protagonist’s troubled past and present add layers of complexity to her emotional struggles. The spectral presence of Alice lends a mythic dimension to the tale. While Raju’s portrayal of life in the sunless C appears unrealistic and vague, the incorporation of elements from various cities makes it relatable.

The prose narrative is interwoven with poetic elements, reflecting the experimental nature of writing, almost blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Raju’s writing style captivates with vivid imagery and inventive poems. While I appreciate the experimental and evocative nature of the writing, not being a poetry fan proved to be a deterrent.

Though self-discovery, redemption, love, and solitude are the main themes, it is impossible to not notice another theme that subtly permeates the narrative. The power of words and their healing capacity. It is something that all readers and writers can vouch for!

Anupama Raju’s debut work C: A Novel is an intricate exploration of the human experience, inviting readers into a world where the threads of poetic exploration and emotional turmoil intertwine seamlessly.


Leaving my favourite quotes here—

Stories have a way of reminding you of your frailties. They come at the most unexpected time, despite the most sophisticated warnings, shaking you out of your assumptions and wiping you off the ground you are standing on, to make you realize life’s short and that anything can happen anytime. Life itself can happen without warning.

It’s not a good thing to need people or silver linings. When we lose them, all we’re left with is the empty memory of exaggerated poetry.

If only we could love without wanting. Long without craving. Desire without lusting.


I received a review copy from New Asian Writing. This review reflects my honest and voluntary opinion.


Wordsopedia Rating 4/5

Title: C: A Novel Author: Anupama Raju
Publisher: Aleph Book Company Publication date: July 5, 2022
Genre: Fiction— Format: eBook
ISBN: 9789391047207 No. of Pages: 246

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the author

Anupama Raju is a poet, novelist, literary journalist, translator and communications professional. She is the author of C: a novel (Aleph Book Company, 2022) and Nine, a poetry collection (Speaking Tiger, 2015). She has been featured in several poetry anthologies and publications. Anupama has been translating short fiction and poetry from Malayalam into English.


This review was first published here.

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