“This Place That Place” by Nandita Dinesh
What do you do when you are all ready for your wedding, dress on and all, and you are delayed by the announcement of yet another curfew of indeterminate length? Such is the plight of an unnamed couple in an unnamed place in Nandita Dinesh’s stunning debut novel, “This Place That Place”.
There aren’t many hints as to where the setting might most likely be. But I will forever identify it as Ukraine in the not so distant future. I read it during the second week of Putin’s brutal invasion where the story that will be forever remembered is the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people. Putin may well succeed in slaughtering thousands of men, women, and children, and forcing the evacuation and emigration of millions of refugees. But he will not win this war.
Dinesh writes of neighboring countries that have been at war for an endlessly long period. This is not the first curfew. The reason for the curfews is that That Place invaded This Place, but they have not won the war. There are pockets of resistance that will never give up their homeland consisting of young and old, men and women, professional soldiers and ragtag volunteers.
This could have been a straight forward drama of a country at war. But Dinesh has made it so much more with her unique and utterly compelling style. The narrative is a combination of scripted scenes from a play, survival mantras, lesson plans from a curriculum, evolving elements from Mental Health therapy. There are lists, dialogues, dream sequences, and visions.
The reader has to pay close attention to determine who is who at any given time — the bride, the groom, a parent, a relative. Someone from This Place or That Place or Another Place. Is this the voice of a dedicated occupier, a soldier with doubts, an infiltrator, a double agent? It’s about actions in real time, or maybe in the mind, or even in a parallel reality.
“This Place That Place” is simply a delight to read. Fight on, Ukraine. God is on your side.
Thanks to Melville House and NetGalley for the eARC.