Advaita the Writer

Anusha Hariharan
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Touching upon popular themes associated with a first-timer’s experiences in a boarding school, Spillman weaves a very engaging narrative around Advaita, a young vociferous reader and a budding writer. Dealing with homesickness and loneliness, Advaita takes refuge in the school library, only to discover eventually that several treats await her!

Written in a style that is simple, yet lucid, Spillman contextualizes his story with sufficient nuance. For anybody having grown up in New Delhi, who has been sent off to boarding schools in Mussoorie and Dehradun, an association with young Advaita would be immediate. Unlike most other boarding school stories that are bolstered through stark stereotypes, in its characters, plot, etc., Advaita anchors around an intelligent and thoughtful protagonist. It was indeed a relief to also see that Spillman, unlike many writers, was willing to explore adult-child relationships that may not necessarily rest on the extremes of power or care, alone.

With a simple layout and illustrations that are well spaced and not superfluous, the narrative provides a delightful read. The story, however, leaves the reader feeling like it has ended prematurely, and could do with a little more etching out. The cover of the book is a tad staid, not one that would be altogether inviting for a reader aged about ten years.

The humor with which Spillman writes is clever and understated. However, it borders on a register of humor that is particularly abstract, one that, perhaps, may not garner a wide-ranging audience among young readers.

What any reader would desire, by the end of the book, is for a sequel, which would actually take forward the narrative and provide for constructing the character of Advaita with a little more complexity, and in keeping with the trend of boarding school stories, capture the life of the protagonist till a coming-of-age takes place. 

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Anusha Hariharan is a graduate of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, and currently works with issues of caste, gender and sexuality.


Advaita the Writer

Advaita the Writer
Ken Spillman
Soumya Menon
45 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-81-8146-9666
Tulika Publishers, 
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