Book review: The symbol by Varun Gautam

Last week, I received a copy of “The Symbol”, a debut novel by Varun Gautam, an IT professional from New Delhi. I completed the book today, and I must say that “The symbol” gave me a good and different experience.

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So, what is the book all about?

The story is written in the first person point of view of Dhruv, who is a close friend/relative of the Arjun, the protagonist.

The story revolves around Arjun, whose dream is get into the field of medicine by clearing the tough and reputed IMS exam. In spite all the hard work , he loses everything when he was inches away from being successful. At the same time, one of his friends from school, Mohan— who was not at all good with studies, hits the jackpot big time. This makes Arjun jealous and he ends his friendship with Mohan . When he thinks things couldn’t get any worse, he meets with an accident.

When he was at the hospital, Mohan comes to meet him and tells him that “the symbol” was the reason for his success. He also tells Arjun that he’s had enough benefits using the symbol and he doesn’t need it anymore. He gives it to Arjun telling him that he should have it, and walks away.

Post that, the story progresses describing how the symbol brings a change in Arjun’s character, transforming him from a self-centered, arrogant person to someone who sees and respects the reality of life.

Pros

The writing style of the book was good. No elaborate explanation and metaphors. The story has a simple plot, but the story pushes you to read further. Writing a full-length novel with such a simple plot is a challenging task, and Varun Gautam has done a wonderful job completing it.

The portrayal of the protagonist was intense, I would say. When the transformation happens through the pages of the book, one can actually feel it. Also the characterization of Swati was also equally wonderful. The annoying character of Swati, really annoys you. I like the author for taking the effort to work on the characterization.

Cons

The author doesn’t give enough importance to “the symbol” which is the prime concept of the novel. The novel was titled “the symbol”, so the reader would expect something more about what it is? How it works? How did Mohan get hold it? Etc. But, apart from its physical description, nothing was mentioned in the book. The author should’ve put more thought in discussing more about the device.

And, almost all chapters of the book starts with a description of a cricket match and MS Dhoni. It was relevant to the first chapter as it blended well with the story, but its frequent recurrence makes one wonder “why was this put here?.”

The whole novel was written in the perspective of the protagonist’s cousin, Dhruv, who occupies a very minimal portion of the story. According to my opinion, the author could’ve written the whole story in a third person point of view, giving more importance to “the symbol.”

And, the climax, was in my opinion very open-ended. An open-ended climax works wonders in short stories, but novels need a more definitive and clear ending to convince the reader. But, the ending didn’t quite convince me. It rather made me question the genre of the book.

Does it belong to supernatural? Or Sci-fi? Or Philosophy?

Verdict

“The symbol” is a nice book, with cons outnumbering the pros. It gives you a good reading experience though. The choice of words were good. The characterization is perfect, but the plot lacks intensity. But, the work is very impressive for a debut novel. I am looking forward to reading more books by him.

My rating: 2.5/5

The Symbol on Goodreads

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