A family saga through different eras, False Ceilings by Amit Sharma is a book that will keep you engrossed until the end. From the hills of Dalhousie to the lands of Punjab, and from there to the brimming violent streets of Delhi, False Ceilings is centered around a secret that has been carried down like a family heirloom for 130 years. The only difference, it brings disaster and doesn’t flourish.
False Ceilings is centered around the life and clan of Shakuntala, who was born in 1930’s in the quaint and beautiful Dalhousie. Born as a pampered child of a wealthy builder, Shakuntala had everything that one could ever ask for. The only thing missing was the grandmother’s love. A time comes when Shakuntala is left all alone in the world and her uncle takes her in.
On the night of her wedding in 1946, Shakuntala is gifted a secret to use wisely and only when the time is right. And from then on, the secret trickles down to her family tree, hidden under insecurities and jealousies, leaving a trail of ruin and sadness and in the family. The secret is then finally discovered by the great-grandson of Shakuntala, and he is left perplexed by the malice that flows in the family and the trail of ruin the secret left behind. He is not able to understand, that whether it was the family that destroyed itself even when they weren’t aware of the false ceiling where the secret was sleeping for so many years? Or was it really the secret that destroyed everything?
A family saga spread across 130 years, from Dalhousie to the burning Punjab during the partition of 1947. From Punjab to Delhi, infested with communal violence when Indira Gandhi was killed. And from there to the year 2062. False Ceilings is a journey that you undertake with Shakuntala and her family, a journey that will engross you in it’s happy and sad moments.
One of the most incredible things about False Ceilings is Amit Sharma’s writing. As a debut writer, he has written a family saga that spans over 130 years, which is in itself is a big deal! And with such poise and clarity that you will really like the story line. Another beauty about the book is the non-linear narrative that Amit Sharma has used in his book. The story jumps back and forth pretty skillfully, making the reader believe that the secret hidden in the false ceiling is the reason of malice in the family. But on the real front, it is the family that has destroyed itself. Amit Sharma has done an incredible job in exploring the human psyche, digging for deep rooted emotions, fear, and half-forgotten memories.
But then, False Ceilings lacks in a few areas too. The Non-Linear narrative is a very tricky thing, especially for readers who are not used to it. It may leave the reader confused, even irritated at times that why the story is jumping back and forth so frequently. Also, there are some areas where False Ceiling is stagnant, every story is ending at the same point. You read a few pages and the conclusion of that chapter is the same as the previous one. Also, you need to keep track of all characters. There are too many, and it may make you go back a few pages after almost every 2-3 chapters.
All in all, False Ceiling stands true to its theme of “what if” which is discussed in the first chapter. The what if of missed opportunities and lies spoken and secrets kept. It makes for an intense read, something that you should pick up.