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Review of Sylvia by Maithreyi Karnoor


Sylvia is unlike anything I’ve read before; a piece of beautiful prose punctuated by moments of poetry and dictated by a narrative that focusses far more on life’s every-day occurrences, coincidences and non-happenings than your usual event-driven plot.


The book opens following not principally Sylvia, rather Baobab, who’s aim is to find and create a place where he feels he belongs. Baobab befriends a young man, Lakshmi, and shortly afterwards we’re introduced to Sylvia as she and Lakshmi become involved. From this point, the narrative veers off in a number of directions, somewhat akin to a collection of short stories, and I’m going to make the choice not to give too much away here.


The book forces you as a reader to question how you understand a story, a plot and a standard course of narrative. Sylvia is the main thread that holds the book together, yet the characters introduced and the tales we’re told have barely any relation to her at all. Karnoor revels in the unfinished, offering us snapshots of relationships, friendships and family dynamics and forcing us to leave all of the characters we meet in the middle of their stories rather than at the end. In a recent interview with The Publishing Post Karnoor admitted to enjoying an abrupt ending, something she called a ‘poetic denouement’. In her own words: ‘I am bored by too much explanation and like to leave a little unsaid to trigger the imagination whose capabilities we greatly underestimate.’



Maithreyi Karnoor is, without doubt, a natural writer. The prose has an instinctive ebb and flow that invites you in as a reader and soothes you. I personally enjoyed the variety of South Asian language used and greatly appreciated the Appendix which helped explain any unfamiliar terms. 


Neem Tree Press champions writers who broaden reader perspectives and challenge the status quo and in this book and author I believe they’ve found a great success.


Review by Helen.

Sylvia was published on 02/05/23 by Neem Tree Press.


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