Life’s Choices and Changes

Review of The Cedars of Kanchenjunga; Eric Jacquet-Lagrèze; translated by Lindsay Lighfoot; Editions Tensing 2012; Rs 1,400; pp 296

– Shana Susan Ninan

The author has done well to choose this particular title – it is one of the chapter names of the book as well. One that is short but strong with emotions, feelings and vivid events. Spanning the Parisian streets to the universities lawns of New York and to the handicrafts shops and busy bazaars of Delhi and Jaipur, The Cedars of Kanchenjunga is a platter of colours, smells and rampant emotions.

Hélène Jaudin is a 19-year-old student who works at Athéna, a boutique that sells necklaces, scarves and trinkets, made in South Asia, mostly India. She’s also a philosophy student, keen about researching on ‘Work and Ethics’. And her stint at Athéna helps her find a professor in the US who’s willing to take her research forward. Her move to the US is mainly because her boyfriend Frank relocates to New York.

Her boss Philippe Brissac reminds her of her grandfather, but then as days go by in the store, she grows fond of him, much beyond what she had thought possible. The grandfather figure is no longer so – she falls in love with his mannerisms, his looks, his personality, and himself! They spend a year in the quiet – neither of them acknowledging beyond within their minds.

To further her research, she travels to India with Athéna’s owner Lionel Gerber and buyer Caroline. Lionel shows a kind of life and lifestyle she has never before encountered, let alone live in. When she leaves for India, she didn’t go through any photos of it or listen to stories, so when she did land in Delhi, she was in for a real shock. But she adjusts soon.

Lionel, Philippe and their friend had trekked up the Karakoram Range in 1974. Their story inspires Hélène to undertake her own life-changing trek up the third highest mountain in the world, the 8,500-foot high Kanchenjunga, in Sikkim. This journey is as physically trying as it mentally taxing. She discovers her life’s changes and choices and returns to Paris a new person.

The chracterisations and descriptions are beautiful, just like the snow-clad mount of the Himalayas. Eric’s words have been translated well and form vibrant pictures in our minds, some of them staying long in the reader’s mind. The ending is quite unexpected and superb!

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Rating: 9.7/10 (6 votes cast)
Life’s Choices and Changes, 9.7 out of 10 based on 6 ratings

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012 at 9:42 pm and is filed under Fiction, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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