A Book Within a Book

 Review of Painted Years; Dolly Saxena; Good Times Books 2012; Rs 195; pp 269

– Shana Susan Ninan

Yep, in one line, that’s exactly what Dolly Saxena’s Painted Years is: a book within a book. The protagonist is a debut author. But delve into Dolly’s first work of fiction, and you know there’s something deeper. Many works have been written about the anxieties and emotions felt by first-time authors, how they go about their lives, and how their friends, colleagues and family react to the new status as an author, and so on. Dolly does a good job of capturing all this and more, in Painted Years, and this is an interesting way of portrayal as the life of the author protagonist isn’t that rosy, providing for a lot of events that we can identify with.

Rya is an investment banker turned author. Her life revolves around her work, husband Rizwaan and their two kids. Like Dolly says, “This is the story of a daughter, a wife, a mother, a worker – all in one.” Through the life of Rya, one can see how similar or different the life of an author is from those of people around him/ her. The surprises and shocks she receives in her life keep her focused, often to a point where she ends up doing things to make her family and friends happy than for herself.

I’m sure many authors themselves go through phases that Rya does, in the story. Teana, Rya’s lead character in her debut book, Windblown, is nothing like Rya! Teana is headstrong and knows her mind, and goes about living life on her own terms. In Painted Years, we see how the character of Teana never leaves Rya’s mind, with Rya often wondering, ‘What would Teana do in my position now?’ Teana is everything that Rya would wanna be but wouldn’t just because she doesn’t have the guts to live Teana’s life.

One immensely good point about her book is that Dolly doesn’t bombard the plot with too many characters. There are only a few around, and they are well-scripted, revealing their behaviours and characteristics as the story unfolds.  

Only two things put me off about the book: one, the story takes a good while to roll on. Then again, each author sets his/ her pace accordingly. Two, towards the middle and end of the book, there’s a lot of rambling narrative that could’ve been edited, or perhaps, the addition of dialogues would’ve eased the eye and the mind of the reader.


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Rating: 8.8/10 (8 votes cast)
A Book Within a Book, 8.8 out of 10 based on 8 ratings

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 8:58 pm and is filed under Fiction, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. March 9th, 2013 | Priyanka Parmar says:

    Immensely liked the book. While reading, you get so much involved with Rya and her character that you just can’t stop relating with her.

    Loved reading it. Pg. 253, Para 2, ” Her mind would often argue……. never really managed it.” is my personal favourite. Hv read it umpteen times.

    Dear Dolly ma’am,Thank you for the beautiful food for the soul.


    Priyanka Parmar

  2. April 18th, 2013 | Dolly Saxena says:

    Thank you Priyanka. So much appreciate your comment.

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