What Reviewers Say about Leela’s stories
A five-star read!This collection of 11 captivating short stories is a pleasure to read from start to finish. Some stories are poignant and very moving, others quirky, and those told through letters are downright hilarious! The subjects are wide-ranging and capture the nuances of human (and primate!) emotions. You are left still thinking about the stories and characters long after you have finished reading. I thoroughly recommend this collection of short stories by Leela Dutt – and give it five stars!Purba Choudhury, 17 April 2022 New review from the novelist Valerie Norris I admit I'm not usually a short story reader so Fresh Beginnings by Leela Dutt was quite a discovery for me. The volume consists of eleven stories, each one different in content, viewpoint and length. Dipping in was like taking chocolates blindly from a box, where you don’t know what flavour you’re getting but you know it’s going to delight you. What has amazed me is the breadth of the stories. No two are remotely the same, and they are quite astounding in their inventiveness. My favourite? Tough to choose, but I guess it has to be Celebration, a woman’s first person account of her ninetieth birthday and of all the eccentric people that surround her. As with all Leela Dutt’s narratives in this volume, the characters didn’t need many sentences to make them shimmer. New review just in from Dawn Bush: Leela Dutt’s collection of short stories are an eclectic mix; with each new story you’re not quite sure whether you’re going to get a time travelling adventure, a series of “are you serious?!” letters or something a little more thought-provoking. What you can be sure of is that these stories are beautifully written. If Leela Dutt has a USP, it’s that she can make you see the world through a stranger’s eyes – even if that stranger is not quite human. I enjoyed these very much, and was quite disappointed when I realised I’d read through the lot. I hope there are more where these came from.Dawn Bush From Dr Kate North, Reader in Creative Writing, Cardiff Metropolitan University In Fresh Beginnings Leela Dutt shows us how stories can be found - whether in moments of change or in looking back on past experiences. In this collection we are treated to the perspective of a chimpanzee, a journey through time, post-war hunger and reconciliation, the blossoming of love and reflections on grief. If you like short stories, if you like good stories, then Fresh Beginnings is for you. Review from the novelist Vivien Freeman: Stories which hook from the startFresh Beginnings, the new collection of short stories by Leela Dutt, maintains the high standard of writing we expect from this original and engaging author.
Time, and its effects on us, is one of the intriguing themes explored in the collection. In A Royal Wedding, two teen-age cousins time-travel, entering the world of Hans Christian Andersen’s Copenhagen in order to find their missing relative, and find themselves helping another young person in the process.
In The Match, an elderly German movingly reminisces during a reunion with his English counterpart from the family who welcomed him as an adolescent after the Second World War, and with whom he has remained friends ever since. The theme of reconciliation, foregrounded, in The Match, is a recurring one throughout the collection, as in The Ocarina, which treats of healing between nations, and in Blizzard, in which family strife is mended. On all occasions, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity and understanding. We believe in the characters who come to life on these pages, sympathise with their plight, and want to know what will happen to them.
Humour is also present, especially in A Touch of Natural History, with its charming simian narrator, and in the written correspondence of the title story, Fresh Beginnings, and in that of All in a Day’s Work. Comedy is balanced by thought-provoking stories such as Damage and The End of the Road, with its poignant conclusion.
What I will take from all these varied tales is a sense of the uplifting moments in life. I can recommend Fresh Beginnings to anyone searching for a positive and entertaining reading experience. Vivien Freeman, Poet and Novelist 5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, imaginative short storiesReviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 March 2022 by Noisette, novelist
Leela Dutt’s eleven short stories are beautifully written in clear prose. The themes running through them will certainly raise questions in your mind as they explore family relationships, the gap between generations, rifts and reconciliations. In every-day contexts, the author raises the question of what it means to be human. Although the stories are set mainly in the UK, they reference historical events, such as World War 2: in ‘Ocarina’ an old granddad who worked on the Burma railway is now living in Wales and finds himself helping and befriending a young Japanese visitor. Old enmities are put aside, even though memories are still painful.Many of the stories deal with human relationships. A few contain elements of the metaphysical: in ‘Visitors’ an unknown person turns up at a funeral; she bears a strange resemblance to the narrator’s (Jennifer’s) great-aunt, who died when Jennifer was little. The visitor seems to know a lot about the family, can read thoughts and delivers a few home truths. In ‘Royal Wedding’ a young boy and his cousin invent a time-travel machine and go in search of the boy’s brother to Copenhagen, only to witness the actualisation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy stories.Although the themes of the stories are often serious the narrative is sprinkled throughout with humour and irony. One story ‘Fresh Beginnings’ verges on the farcical with a series of job applications by a charlatan woman who vaunts her own talents. Each application becomes more and more desperate, making it clear that the woman has been dismissed from a succession of previous jobs.Leela Dutt’s ‘Fresh Beginnings’ is a varied, interesting, imaginative and thought-provoking collection, offering the promise of change in the lives of ordinary people. When viewed from the perspective of an ape in ‘Bonobo’, human life is not far removed from theirs but the whole collection of stories suggests a higher moral dimension to our lives which makes us capable of empathy, forgiveness, reconciliation and, above all, gives us the chance to start again.Kate Attfield’s lovely illustrations at the beginning of each story encapsulate the essence and give us a taste of what is to come.Noisette Review from Brian Jackson A very enjoyable read of eleven short stories. A lot of humour and thought provoking, may well inspire me to take up letter writing and I wonder if the author has done this in her 'real life' for fun? The stories are varied and take you on a journey exploring subjects as diverse as time travelling, automobile accidents, death to issues of gender. I would like to attend Charlotte's Quaker meeting. Very well written and lovely illustrations at the start of each chapter.
The description of the locations has the ring of authenticity - for Leela Dutt has spent her life travelling/living in these places - and you get just enough details to create a picture in your head.
Another strength of this well-crafted novel is that it is fleshed out by just the right sized cast of characters - any more would have been hard to keep up with. As it is, you get a spectrum of people ranging from Alec's overbearing mother to his deeply troubled father. How the story is going to pan out is a tease all the way through. The ending delivers, and you are conscious of time well spent reading this novel.
A Great Read
Intricate interactions between their families and friends ensure the momentum keeps the book as a ‘page turner’. Backdrops to the various events that take place include Howrah Train Station which had seen the suffering endured by refugees as they fled from East Pakistan in 1947, and then to a current (1998) situation in Lesotho where events saw humanity collapse. And then there is the stability of the ever-present 8,586-metre Kanchenjunga mountain, south of Tibet, that upon reflection could be an analogy of Eleanor and Alec’s relationship – the majesty and beauty of the mountain only being glimpsed in short periods as clouds part, and yet when out of sight we know it is there.
The journey continues and when we feel it is concluded Leela Dutt takes the opportunity to pluck one last heartstring in the final sentence. Love, death, life, fear, the Grand Canyon and penguins – the reader isn’t left alone at any point. I became totally immersed in the story. Garry
I Could Not Put It Down - Great Read
I was Eleanor’s travelling companion; by each turn of the page, I wondered where we would be off to next – London, Wales, Finland, India or the USA, to name but a few. This book is a brilliant and enjoyable read, a book for everyone, and I feel it was written by a best-in-class author. If not already done so, this book should be made into a film and should also be put forward for a Book of the Year Award and TV mini-series. I look forward to reading more of Leela Dutt’s books. I leave you with this opening line from one chapter: ‘Hit the floor, lady.’ Want to know what happens next? Order a copy of ‘Only a Signal Shown’.
New review of ONLY A SIGNAL SHOWN
An Exciting Read
The characters’ moving through these locations provide an opportunity for Leela’s descriptive skills to come to the fore, without seeming contrived and give the reader both pleasure and knowledge. I loved writing techniques such as the use of italics for unsaid thoughts and the clever use of e-mail communications as a, now commonplace, alternative to verbal conversations. I also loved the fact that passionate feelings were clearly expressed, but without the need for lurid scenes; making the book suitable for young and older adults alike. On one level there is a sense of inevitability as to the future of the two main characters, Alec and Eleanor. But as the story unfolds with twists and turns, that certainty is challenged and the reader cannot be sure, until the last pages, what the future holds for them. This makes the book an exciting read.
‘Only a Signal Shown’ cleverly portrays ordinary people who, in certain circumstances do extraordinary things. The interlinking of three generations of one family sympathetically shows how the heroes and heroines of one decade become background actors in another era, as they settle for a quiet life. Similarly, the shallow, fun-seekers of youth can easily become shrewd and deeply, intuitively, sensitive adults.
Because of this, I feel that there is plenty more scope for deeper development of some of the characters. I would love to know more about Norman’s younger life as a soldier, lover and husband. Charlie and David could come out of the shadows and have the spotlight on them for a good read. And of course, I can’t wait to know the futures for Alec, Eleanor, Milly and Tamsin. This has been a great read and leads me to look out for more of Leela Dutt’s work. ‘Only a Signal Shown’ is also available via Kindle. It would make a great gift for anyone, young or old. Liz Muir (as seen in Calon, the Newsletter of Quakers in Wales)
Reviews of Mathison and Kingfisher Blue
“Ideal Travel or Holiday Reading”
‘Mathison’ tells the story of one family throughout the twentieth century involving an Indian home in Calcutta before the First World War, a Jewish dentist in Nuremberg in the 1930s and a Quaker weekend gathering in the mid-1990s. The two parallel storylines starting either end of the century gradually converge. The author uses the premise of an imaginary computer programme that can write a novel as the reason for exploring this family’s history that clearly draws on her own.
Both ‘Kingfisher Blue’ and ‘Mathison’ are related to Leela Dutt’s Quaker life experiences but her most recent novel, ‘Only a Signal Shown’, is different in that it is simply a love story that weaves around the world as it draws the reader into the story and its conclusion. It grips the reader with its twists and turns between people and places. Her descriptions are vividly first-hand, and she credits her husband for giving her the reason to travel to so many different parts of the world. All Leela’s books would make ideal travel or holiday reading.”