Book Review: ‘Red River’ by Somnath Batabyal

A Tale of Identity, Migration, and the Unyielding Forces of History

Book Title: Red River
Author: Somnath Batabyal
Publisher: Context
Number of Pages: 364
ISBN: 978-9360453411
Date Published: Feb. 1, 2024
Price: INR 450

Red River by Somnath Batabyal Book Cover

Book Review

Somnath Batabyal’s “Red River” is a moving and captivating story of three boys growing up in Assam during the chaotic early militant years. Somnath Batabyal is the author of two books: The Price You Pay, a political thriller set in Delhi, and Making News in India, a study of television news techniques in Rupert Murdoch’s Indian endeavors. He resides in London and teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Red River,” Somnath Batabyal’s latest novel, tells the narrative of three families whose lives are upended by the turbulent forces of history and violence in Assam. Batabyal dives into important concerns of identity, migration, nationalism, and separatism via their interwoven destiny, creating a vivid portrayal of a place contending with complicated sociopolitical forces. As the story progresses, deeper themes emerge, prompting readers to reflect on the lingering legacies of conflict and the human experience among ever-changing landscapes of identity and belonging.

Batabyal dives into issues of friendship, love, and identity in an area riven by migration, displacement, and separatism. What begins as a snapshot of a little town between election cycles evolves into a grand tale transcending borders and generations. The novel is divided into two volumes, the first having eleven chapters and the second having four. The characters strike a deep chord, eliciting powerful emotions that remain long beyond the last page. Geeta Mashi’s presence stands out above the others.

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The novel follows the lives of three families shaped by historical events and human decisions. Batabyal expertly explores the nuances of their lives, from childhood innocence to adult reality, while the threat of violence pervades their existence. Set in Assam, Bhutan, Bengal, and Bangladesh, the story explores love and loyalty in a world of turmoil. Batabyal’s vividly sketched protagonists and evocative surroundings transport readers on an epic journey through the complexities of human connections and the long-term influence of history.

Red River” highlights Batabyal’s narrative prowess, delivering a profound reflection on the long-term consequences of violence and the possibility of atonement. With its highly complex plot and universal themes, this novel is a riveting investigation of the human condition, as well as a strong reminder of the value of empathy and understanding in a fragmented world.

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