Book Review: ‘If I Have to Be a Soldier’ by Nikhil J. Alva

Unveiling Mizoram's History

Book Title: If I Have to Be a Soldier
Author: Nikhil J. Alva
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-9356998704
Date Published: Jan. 29, 2024
Price: INR 329

If I Have to Be a Soldier by Nikhil J. Alva Book Cover

Book Review

The literary landscape of 2024 has seen a notable influx of books originating from North-East India, spanning across genres and authored by both newcomers and established writers. Whether fiction or non-fiction, these works delve deep into the region’s unique geography and evoke a spectrum of emotions that resonate with readers, sparking thoughtful contemplation and introspection.

In this connection, Nikhil Alva’s impressive debut novel, “If I Have to Be a Soldier,” not only offers a captivating narrative but also sheds light on a crucial yet often overlooked part of India’s history—the insurgency in Mizoram during the 1960s. Against the backdrop of the Mizo National Front’s struggle for statehood, Alva weaves a compelling tale of love, loyalty, and the human cost of war.

The story follows Indian Army Captain Sammy Rego, who finds himself entangled in the conflict when he is tasked with interrogating an MNF guerrilla leader, Sena. As circumstances force them to become fugitives, Sammy and Sena must confront their bitter pasts and navigate the treacherous landscape of insurgency-torn Mizoram. Alva’s narrative unfolds at a frenetic pace, immersing readers in the turbulent political and social upheaval of the era.

Alva’s evocative prose brings the lush countryside of Mizoram to life, transporting readers to a world vibrantly depicted with historical accuracy and cultural richness. The author’s meticulous attention to detail lends authenticity to the narrative, drawing readers deeper into the gripping tale of friendship, betrayal, and redemption.

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Despite its weighty historical backdrop, “If I Have to Be a Soldier” remains accessible and engaging, striking a delicate balance between informative storytelling and poignant human drama. Alva’s storytelling prowess is evident as he skillfully blends fact with fiction, crafting a narrative that resonates with emotional depth and narrative complexity.

In summary, Nikhil Alva’s debut novel is a remarkable achievement that not only entertains but also educates, offering readers a compelling glimpse into a pivotal period in India’s post-independence history. With its captivating storyline, vivid characterization, and rich historical context, “If I Have to Be a Soldier” is a must-read for anyone interested in the untold stories of India’s past.

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