Title: The Night Diary
Author: Veera Hiranandani
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: March 6, 2018
As Veera Hiranandani on quoted in her book, The Night Diary, “It was the answer I had always wanted to hear. It almost made everything we had been through worth it. The tearing of India. The tearing of walls. The opening of something new, of this”.
During one of the largest mass migrations in history, India was torn apart and separated by meaningless boundaries based on religion. Families were forced to separate, and people who didn’t conform to the religious ideas of a certain area were forced to flee. Areas that were once peaceful were corrupted with the rising religious tensions. In the masterfully told novel, The Night Diary, Veera Hiranandani explores one girls experience fleeing from Pakistan and dealing with the loss of her childhood innocence. In an unconventionally told coming of age story, one girl experiences the worst and best aspects of life on her journey to finding herself in the name of necessity.
While the writing style itself is simple, the meaning is carefully constructed with each word on the page and every word left off the page. Hiranandani’s ability to create a meaningful piece of literature without the use of filler words is absolutely stunning. However, the real highlight of this book is the relationships that are built. For example, a stunningly realistic sibling bond is formed between Nisha and Amil throughout the book. Despite the ever changing circumstances, their characters stay consistent at their core while learning and adapting to their new world. This relationship is not merely a subplot to the book, but a vital device pushing the plot along. No exchange of dialogue felt unnecessary or repetitive; rather, each exchange was necessary and beautifully written between the siblings. Though the other characters don’t have as much of a speaking role, they are equally valued in my mind when it comes to developing a story.
Another element of this book that was impressively executed was the format in which it was written. The entire book is constructed in letters to the mother of Nisha, the main character. Each letter feels extremely personal to Nisha, and almost as though you’re experiencing the pain and the happiness that she feels. Not to mention how her dead mother is also a character, and not a device to elicit sympathy as she would be in another book. Each character is valued, making the story seem so much more real because of the roles the characters play. Many stories have lessened value because they treat their characters almost as plot events, but Hiranandani avoids this fault through authenticity. In fact, Veera Hiranandani’s family used to be refugees during this period in India’s history. According to Hiranandani, “The fictional family depicted in this novel[The Night Diary] lives in one such area, and their experiences are loosely based on my fathers side of the family”. From a combination of personal experiences and storytelling ability, emerged a book that illustrates the story of a young refugee, struggling to recover from the impact of losing her home and parts of her family.
Through a seamless construction of character depth, raw emotion, and historical accuracy, Veera Hiranandani has created a book that one should read and feel whether they are 8 or 80. The Night Diary will leave you with endless questioning that lie not only in the book, but in the world. Every person will get something complex and different from this book, but not one who has the privilege of reading it will regret the new world view they gain from The Night Diary.