Palak Gandhi

Review of The Secret of Falcon Heights

By Palak Gandhi Grade 9. Indus World School, Indore.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where a person is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, no one will ever feel safe. Our society is full of political corruption and social evil. People are money minded. They think money is power but the real power lies in being human. “Many are killed before they have a start; all the feelings get buried in their heart, just that they all are not males.”

Ranjit Lal published ‘Faces in the Water’, brilliantly tackling female infanticide with sensitivity and surety. His novel won the Crossword Best Children’s Book award in 2010. He explores social scenarios and confronts the common social crimes that often ruin an individual’s life. Our generation truly needs good literature based on our society – goods and evils. Writing a society-centric literature for young adults is crucial. Lal has splendidly presented the reality of people’s opinions and behavior towards society victims in his writings.

‘The Secret of Falcon Heights,’ deals with political corruption and social ostracism. On the alluring book cover, a young woman in black sets a falcon free to soar against a heavenly landscape. Sandeep(seventeen), the narrator, along with his siblings, Manish(fourteen) and sister – Chubs(seven); and his Jack Russell terrier – Jacko had to go to an internet-free hilly area where their aunt, Ms. Mita lives. The place is portrayed to be set against a post-colonial pucca hill station, complete with a club, an army set-up and treks into the hill. They had to spend three months in such a place under the eagle eye of Mita Masi.

A falcon attracts them by her hunting skills, owned by a girl from The Falcon Heights which is besides The Falcon Ridge where they stayed. The mystery roams around the girl who seems to be ‘beautiful, fearless and bewitching’. Everyone in Pahadpur seems to be scorning her and her family. They also gave her the title - ‘leper of Pahadpur’. Her past was still a mystery which had to be disentangled. Lal kept the reader guessing almost till the end. Sandeep’s voice is in perfect sync with today’s teens. Take this imminent hint of first love when driving past Aranya in distress on a rainy road, thanks to Mita Masi’s prejudices: “I turned around and stared: her face was lit by the battery lantern… Her jaw was taut, her chin stuck out defiantly, rain streaming off it, but there was anguish in her eyes, the same devastated, hollow anguish I had seen in Papa’s eyes when Mom passed away.” From that moment on, it is impossible not to root for Sandeep’s happiness, no matter how danger-laced.

Lal’s charming way of detailing the scene makes the reader feel the ambiance. For instance, the natural beauty of the environment was illustrated so admirably as ‘the Pool of Magic Light’ that it revived the reader. Or the enchanting evocation of Aranya’s falcon as it dismantles its pigeon prey on a ledge. This powerful narrative soars, dips and lands as effortlessly as Aranya’s falcon. At the closing stages, Aranya got her dignity back and blissfully lived her life.

‘It is not enough to be compassionate, you must act; because the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’

Congratulations Palak. Besides your lovely Certificate you also win a gift Voucher from Crossword worth Rs 1500!

Plus, you get a chance to become a reviewer for Young India Books!!