Turning Fact into Fiction
By Priyangwada Perera
It is not a coincidence that Khaled Hosseini said, “Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.” Somewhere in her foreword, Sonali Premarathne, the writer, tells us it is not a series of lies. But she takes true incidents and arrives at a greater truth. In terms of her plot, she conveys what she wants to, keeping the reader on edge. Just because you get to hear something that has happened for real, you cannot make it a story. As interesting as it may sound, retelling it in the form of a novel is a different kind of a challenge. It is one thing to let your imagination run wild. But when you deal with something true, it can be even more tricky.
Svapna Seya is Sonali’s triumphant effort in telling a tale and she manages to capture the reader right from the very beginning. The beauty of it is that she does it effortlessly. It is a fine mix of dialogues and descriptions cleverly mixed so that there is no trace of monotony. The protagonist Aaranya does not know the mystery that her life is all about. To put doubt, fear, faint traits of the supernatural and romance all into one story is not as easy as we assume. Unless you are very disciplined with your plot and craftsmanship, you can make a mess of it. Sonali aces the art.
If you are reluctant to buy a book of a new, unknown writer, Sonali is an exception. Suspense thrillers are not the easiest to write. But the best thing is Sonali takes it’s ‘real-life-non-fiction origins’ to ‘heighten the stakes and grip readers,’ exactly the way a Masterclass article on writing describes it. She does not really go by the book following the steps of a crime, the unknown criminal, protagonist playing the role of the detective, one or more cover-ups, a trial of suspects and the pursuit of the criminal and so forth. It is just a young girl Aaranya, leading an ordinary life. But things pick up pace rapidly. One does not have to read five or six chapters to get into the story.
That is a relief. Sometimes, even if writing is good, it is exaggerated. That doesn’t happen with Svapna Seya. You plunge into action. You cannot sniff the first chapters and smell mystery. You have to keep guessing. But the writer creates a very visual, cinematic effect with words. Remember those Hindi movies where you sometimes sense what might happen yet you are so intrigued by the presentation that you have to watch every second of it? It is the same with the book. Once it picks up pace, you keep guessing. You keep trying to think before the next page comes. Your head gets flooded with possibilities. Alongside our protagonist Aaranya, together with the handsome Avishka who is the dream-come-true hero, the reader too is collecting clues.
The book has a very cinematic effect on you. Sometimes you cannot help wishing it would get recreated to be seen either on silver screen or small screen solely because of the swift, tactful manner in which Sonali weaves her story. Even in the form of a book, you cannot help the beautiful mental imagery the novel gives birth to. It does not tire you. It is not the kind of book where you have to be Holmes' assistant Watson. You can sit back and enjoy the book, transporting you to the beautiful hill country. At the same time, you can put your brains to work. The language is beautiful and flows easily. Nothing is fake or imposed. Svapna Seya provides ideal light reading that keeps you both involved and entertained. Do not underestimate the new writer. The most interesting fact about Sonali Premeratne is that with her, there is no end to surprises. You conclude and read the epilogue and you are bound to have a cold shiver run down your spine.