Book Review: The Wrong Turn

When we think of historical fiction, we usually think of stories set during the World War and most of these stories make for a superbly unique reading experience. Rarely though, there comes along a book that is a historical fiction based on Indian history. Yes, there are many books and accounts written of the Indian freedom struggle; but very few that court controversy, especially related to Netaji and the Indian National Army.

So when I was offered a chance to review The Wrong Turn by Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghose, I was eagerly looking forward to sinking my teeth into this juicy, hitherto unheard of, part of Indian history.
Of course, historical fiction is something that you are expected to take with a pinch of salt, but when something comes in your hands that is as engrossing and as enchanting as The Wrong Turn, well, it is time to sit up and take notice. And I did just that!
Here’s my review of this expansive adventure of love, loyalty, and duplicity.

The Plot

The Wrong Turn is a historical fiction based in the times of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Fauj. This is the story of the fight of a country’s people for their independence, for their freedom from the British Raj. This is also a brilliantly crafted war story, with strategies, espionage, adventure and action at every twist and turn. But at the heart of it, at the very core of it, The Wrong Turn is a touching story of young love, of yearning, of hopes, desires, heartbreak and the ultimate, deep hatred that the hater can feel only for someone they have deeply loved!

The story begins with our charming hero setting foot on his homeland after his studies at Cambridge. The prodigal son returning home. Heir to an illustrious family, our debonair hero charms us with his easy smile and his beguiling sense of entitlement. But even as the laat-sahab gets back to the pleasures of the life he had left behind, he is faced with cheating friends and vulnerable family falling prey to the scheming, treacherous designs of vile elements surrounding them. And even as he is still reeling from this sudden onslaught, a freak foray into an unlikely haunt leads him to a chance encounter with the INA!

Before he knows it, he is engaged in a skirmish with the British and is suddenly on the run, crossing the border, getting out of the country he had just stepped into - now a fugitive, an implausible INA man, a man branded traitor by the very same British, whom he so adores and whose ways and pleasures he so enjoys.

A man without a country now, our charismatic hero finds himself charming his way into the hearts of the people he fled with, most importantly, making a friend with the very same INA man he was protecting taking this daring step. As the night wears on, they talk of life and dreams and hopes; and the INA soldier talks of his love, the ultimate prize he is waiting for; while our hero lets him know, in no uncertain terms that he aims to return as soon as he has taken in the delights and allures of the city they have escaped to.

Providence, however, has something else in store for him. A chance encounter with Netaji, whom his new friend takes him to meet, makes him join the INA as a young officer and that is where his life changes forever!

As our energetic young hero advances in the ranks of the INA, he makes some close friends, some enemies and a lot of fans as he earns the grudging respect of his commanding officers as well as Netaji himself. Along the way, he becomes best friends with his INA comrade, the one who he feels is instrumental in changing his life the night he escaped with him. However, even as the two become the best of friends, serendipity intervenes; and our enigmatic hero is wounded, sent to the hospital, in the care of a beautiful young nurse who is part of Netaji’s Rani Jhansi Regiment. As she helps heal his wounds, he loses his heart to her.

What follows then, is an extensive, emotional tale of affection, adulation, passion and emotions running amok in the backdrop of war and rampage. The story explores the beauty of love and passion and also the intensity of its ugly cousins, jealousy and hatred. It shows in all the gory details that the same love that can propel men to work hard towards their dreams can also turn them blind and bitter with hatred.  

The positives

This is a story that is extremely fast paced. Before you have time to understand and settle to one emotion, the story has moved on. It sweeps you off your feet from the word go; and keeps you hooked till you find it impossible not to turn page after page after page to find out the conclusion of the story. To find out who betrayed who; and what were the repercussions of their actions. You cannot rest till you have read the very last page, because even as you think the story has ended, the authors have left one little nugget of surprise for you at the very end!

The not so positives

As much as I loved this book, and I loved it a lot; there are a few things that stood out as disturbing little details that left a bitter taste in my mouth till the next scene (blissfully) engulfed me in its enthralling grip.

One of the most common of these, was the usage of some really uncommon English words; and while they drove me to the dictionary sometimes, they did nothing to enhance the story; ergo, I would’ve felt definitely better if I had found familiar, more commonly used, regular words in here instead; as I was already hooked to the story and the narration, and did not need these words to impress me anyway.

Another thing I felt, was the use of some very commonly used derogatory language - yes, it is the story of men in the field, and not all of them can be expected to be polite in the face of war, I understand that, but still, it is difficult to digest the fact that these words were actually used or spoken in the time the story is set in. But then again, I wouldn’t really know how far back the use of these derogatory words go either.

The real takeaway

Having said that, let me now come back to what I loved the most about the story! And that is our sprightly, handsome, charming hero and his lady love; and the love story they have!

All the characters, including the portrayal of Netaji and even the loyal Kabootar are relatable and realistic. The authors have beautifully captured the emotions and motivations of every character, be it the hero’s parents or the treacherous Goopta or the self-serving British Brigadier Whyte; and especially those of the two protagonists and their lady love.

I also liked the way the authors have built up the suspense towards the end over the betrayal that led the INA to lose the battle of Kohima.
But it is our dapper hero that takes the prize for me. His easy charm and comely attitude won me over; and had me rooting for him all the way to the end!            
My Verdict

Having read a lot of historical fiction set in the WWII times, this particular story set against the backdrop of the battle of Kohima between the INA and the British is a refreshing read. Fast-paced, gripping, adventurous, and dripping with edge-of-the-seat action, The Wrong Turn is definitely worth a strong reco for all book lovers!
In fact, the wonderfully lush cover proclaims that the book is soon to be made into a movie and I would definitely be looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, I would recommend this beautiful story for all to devour before the movie comes out!  



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