Book Review: ‘A Lost People’s Archive’ by Rimli Sengupta

A story that will reinstate the power of hope and love!


Book Title: A Lost People’s Archive
Author: Rimli Sengupta
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Number of Pages: 232
ISBN: 978-9393852700
Date Published: Jun. 05, 2023
Price: INR 526

A Lost Peoples Archive Rimli Sengupta Book Cover

Book Review

A Lost People’s Archive” by Rimli Sengupta is a strange and moving story about two childhood friends, Shishu and Noni, set against the backdrop of pre-independence India, Partition, and refugee-enhanced migration. Shishu and Noni, the two main protagonists, meet in 1922 and form a connection that lasts through the shifting landscape of undivided India. Rimli Sengupta expertly combines history and imagination into a novel that delves into issues of love, friendship, political turbulence, and the tremendous impact of relocation on the lives of Bengali people.

Author Rimli Sengupta reminds us of the devastation created by partition and its life-altering impact on individuals who lived through it. Shishu joined a revolutionary party fighting for India’s freedom, while Noni married young. Shishu is imprisoned for murder, and Noni has to deal with the difficulties of early marriage and partition. They communicate via letters and poems written in a notebook, which serves as a motivational and life-saving medium for Shishu. This narrative depicts the diverse beliefs that support or oppose British control. These activities effectively foiled the supremacy and its consequences for the established religious and ideological division.

The story takes place in Patuakhali, a town in the delta where the Meghna River meets the sea. Shishu and Noni create remarkable friendships as youngsters, connected by their love of literature and poetry. However, their fates diverge when Shishu joins a revolutionary organization and is imprisoned for seventeen years, and Noni marries at a young age. One delight of reading ancient letters is knowing they do not require an answer. However, the readers grasp society, lifestyle, emotions, and social fabric in this context. The book is engrossing from the first page.

The long-lost friends who have survived the ages meet in 1991 for an unplanned reunion. Noni, who is now a matriarch and has a big family, has made it through the atrocities of the refugee exodus. On the other hand, Shishu is still unmarried and cherishes his journal as a reminder of their friendship. As a gift to his enduring muse, he gives it to Noni. Sengupta has written evocatively elegantly about various topics, including pre-partition India, the upheaval and fallout from the tragedy, East Bengal’s migration, and its loss. The fact that this work of fiction was influenced by the author’s “Dida,” or paternal grandmother, makes reading it a meaningful and emotional experience.

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The language in the book is simple, excellent, conveying a clear sense of time and location. The monsoons, petrichor, and the characters’ emotions are well described, immersing readers in the story. The author masterfully navigates between personal and national history, expressing the essence of Bengali experience and struggle. The letter-format chapters gave a nice touch. Because the narrative is a fictitious work based on a true story, this hybrid narrative proves that reading true stories always attracts and entices readers.

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