In a family of storytellers, there was one tale never told … “Call this story fiction if you want, but you must tell it because it is true, and at its heart is that murder of forty years ago which people in India still remember …
“The Death of Mr. Love, a novel inspired by a true story where the victim became a villain and the killer became a hero, offers a rare and fascinating insight into the psychosexual undercurrents of Indian life.
The reverberations from the notorious Nanavati society murder in 1950s Bombay — the fatal consequence of an affair between an Indian playboy and his married English lover — were so great that they reached the offices of Prime Minister Nehru and changed the face of the Indian justice system irrevocably. What is not known — has never been known — is that a second, connected crime, so cruel that it destroyed the lives of two women, went unreported and has remained unpunished. Until now.
In present-day London the women’s children unexpectedly meet forty years after their idyllic childhood in India. Driven by grief, anger, or a deeper emotion they are unwilling to confront, they return to India to uncover the mystery of the crime that caused their mothers’ suffering and exact their cold revenge. But in the bazaars of today’s Bombay, a city racked and burned by communal riots, their adversary still enjoys huge power, and the friends soon find themselves in real, terrifying danger.
Spanning two continents and encompassing the secrets of fifty years, The Death of Mr. Love fuses myth and murder, fact and fiction. It is a tale of stories that “begin before their beginnings, and continue beyond their ends.”
The Death Of Mr Love by Indra Sinha is based on a real murder – the Nanavati case which electrified Bombay society in 1959. I was very much interested in this case since I have heard stories about this case from my mom, so when I got to know about a book that does full justice to the entire case I knew I had to have my hands on it.
For those unfamiliar with it, the details are as follows. When Commander Kawas Nanavati killed his English wife Sylvia’s lover, Sindhi businessman Prem Ahuja, popular opinion was solidly behind him, with a jury acquitting him on the basis that Ahuja, a serial adulterer who’s made a hobby of seducing lonely navy wives, had it coming.The judge refused to accept the jury verdict (yes we had a jury system in those days, but with this case the jury system ended as the perception was that emotions got in the way of facts. The reverberations of this murder case irrevocably changed the face of the Indian justice system), sentencing Nanavati to a prison term. After a public outcry, that reached the offices of the then Prime Minister Jawahar Nehru, the state governor, Vijayalakshmi Pandit (Nehru’s sister) pardoned Nanavati, (who had served only three years in prison) who sensibly left the country.
The author weaves a fictional tale using the backdrop of the murder case. The story spans five decades, two countries and a bunch of very interesting characters. It feels so believable, so plausible and makes you wonder – what if that were in case the fact.
Would I recommend it? I certainly would. There are places where the narrative gets a little slow, and you almost want to give up, but all in all, it is an interesting book. I was fascinated by how well fact and fiction were interwoven. An interesting, but a bulky book. So brace yourself for a torrent of information, be prepared to invest some time in unravelling it, and settle back to enjoy the journey.