Murder on WhatsApp | Review of ‘Chronicle of an Hour and a Half’ by Saharu Nusaiba Kannanari

A novel set in rural Kerala that makes for wonderful reading despite the grim theme

Published - March 08, 2024 09:10 am IST

The novel is a lesson in how in a matter of hours, lives can be altered and your phone can become an active crime scene.

The novel is a lesson in how in a matter of hours, lives can be altered and your phone can become an active crime scene. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

It has been raining heavily for six days in Vaiga, Kerala. But another storm is brewing in the villagers’ WhatsApp groups where a dangerous mob is taking birth. The news of an illicit affair is making the rounds. Public opinion is that the man, Burhan, must be punished. Not only is he sleeping with another man’s wife, the woman in question, Reyhana, is at least 15 years older than him. But things are not as simple as they seem, and author Saharu Nusaiba Kannanari peels the layers of a society ruled by the banality of man’s evil nature. Chronicle of an Hour and a Half is a lesson in how in a matter of hours, lives can be altered forever, and your phone can become an active crime scene.

Kannanari explores all the paradoxes associated with a mob — the human and the inhuman. Like a collective of ordinary men, the mob is driven by lust, misogyny and jealousy. Some get carried away by the communal pull of the mob, some are there to defend their masculinity that Burhan’s sexual activities have hurt. The mob of men secretly desires the beautiful Reyhana. Possessed by a fever dream, they seek revenge as if it is their wife that Burhan has had an affair with.

The novel almost reminds one of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Kannanari’s storytelling shares many similarities with Roy’s work. Both books, based in rural Kerala, deal with the themes of forbidden love and the loneliness of women. The God of Small Things deals with an inter-caste couple, therefore the state is complicit in the violence, while in Kannanari’s case, the love affair involves individuals from the same community, and hence the police try to protect Burhan. Society viewed the affairs in both stories as an immoral extension of lust. This begets violence for men and sexual harassment for women. Like with The God of Small ThingsChronicle of an Hour and a Half is a novel filled with dread that makes for wonderful reading due to its luminous writing.

The independent reviewer and editor is based in New Delhi.

Chronicle of an Hour and a Half
Saharu Nusaiba Kannanari
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