20 by Vatsal Surti

I like the idea of this book better than I liked the delivery of it.  But  the novel contains some beautiful writing.  This is the first novel by Vatsal Surti.  He has previously published a novella written when he was aged 17.  He was 20 when he wrote this book.

20 by Vatsal Surti

‘It was strange to think how many emotions there are for us to feel inside of ourselves.’

In a brief novel, of fewer than 200 pages, Vatsal Surti writes of life, loneliness and love.  He writes about belonging, about being connected to others.  His main characters are both unnamed.  She is 20 years old, edging closer to 21 and works as a model.  He is a writer.  They meet by accident: she almost hits him in her car, he drops some books.  They both move on, away from each other.  An evening later, they are in the same restaurant. They meet.

They spend time together. They come to learn more about themselves and life, to love and trust each other.  The world looks different, feels different.  So full of possibilities.

‘Leaves fell with the wind, sticking on the pavement—waiting there like a whisper.’

I’ll leave the story there: a summary won’t capture the nuances and may ruin a first read.

My own reactions to the novel are mixed.  Much of the writing is beautiful, evocative and haunting, for example:

‘Dreams fill the emptiness inside us like the beginning of life.’

and also:

‘That night, a strange precognition came that filled her soul with a million stars.’

But occasional turns of phrase jerked me right out of the story:

‘With only her chest expressing to her in a whisper that it wanted him to know something about her.’

and also:

‘She could see tears rolling down her cheeks in a delayed movement.’

Vatsal Surti is a young author, and I understand he wrote this novel when he was aged twenty.  While I liked the idea of this novel and the poetic form it takes, I believe that editing would make a good story even better.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, an electronic copy of this book for review purposes from Hybrid Texts via NetGalley

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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