Book review: A fine romance but nothing to move you
The book 'Only a Signal Shown' was written by Cardiff-based Danish-Indian author Leela Dutt and tells the story of travel writer and artist Eleanor as she traverses the world, while occasionally having a desperate on-again, off-again love affair with TV archaeologist Alec. The two have occasional meetings over the course of several decades with plenty of heartbreak and confusion.
Spatially the story moves all over the world, with scenes taking place in countries as different as Iceland and India, and a scene in 1980s Copenhagen illustrated a very much forgotten time of a Rådhuspladsen that is not a construction site. This globetrotting does provide the book with a neat hook as a story emerged in the field of globalisation literature, even though at times the lack of any sort of stable ‘home’ place gives the reader his own diaspora to contend with.
The book’s strong suit dealt with the coming-of-age elements of the protagonist Eleanor. The bildungsroman traits are what kept me most interested in the story, which makes the earlier part of it the most interesting and riveting to read. In fact I wish the story would have delved more into those earlier formative years. It was slightly jarring that as soon as you believed the story was entering the often fascinating area of the Künstlerroman, the story does a flip and moves away from the theme into the more tame world of the romance novel.
At times it feels as though the book could have done with a stronger editor to cut away unnecessary fat and make the narration more poignant. Especially towards the end, things kind of drift off and become a bit too chaotic.
The main problem I felt was with the male characters in the book, who come off as being too stereotypical and lacking in the necessary charisma to make the reader care for them. They drift in and out of the story without leaving any lasting impression sufficient to create a connection. The minor characters as well are introduced too much for the imagination and too little for the mind, making them seem, well, a bit redundant.
The book, however, shouldn’t be written off by those who enjoy a simple love story. It is fine as such and can well fend for itself on shelves next to Nora Roberts and others who specialise in the field of love affairs and middle-aged women. So if you like your literature easy and lovely, and you enjoy books about travel, then this is the book for you.
This review was paid for by the publisher
For more information about the author or to purchase this book:
To order work: www.wonderbookland.com/leela-dutt