The essence of historical fiction is telling stories set in a particular period of time. They transport us to a different place, offering insights into the past while exploring themes that are relatable across generations.
In the craft of historical fiction, authors take creative liberties with places, events, and characters, using them as foundations for their stories. Here are some noteworthy examples: "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy, "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, and “The Great Gatsby”... Fitzgerald. Among such works most discussed of course is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years Of Solitude.”
One of the few Indian writers who have attempted a huge span of time in a novel is my guest today, Tejaswini Apte-Rahm. Her debut novel, "The Secret of More," unfolds in colonial Bombay and spans 50 years—1899 to 1952. (Another such notable work is David Davidar’s “The House Of Blue Mangoes”—featured in my conversation with him in an earlier episode on this podcast: https://litcity.in/e41-sptfy.)
Tejaswini’s story captures the transformation of Bombay, under British rule, from a mercantile centre to a busy metropolis. And the emergence of a vibrant movie industry—starting with silent movies.
And against this intriguing backdrop, she unravels the story of a young man named Tatya, who is driven by a relentless desire for “more” success. Tatya is modelled after Tejaswini’s great-grandfather—and she crafted his character and that of early Bombay through extensive research, including the oral histories of her family.
It's easy to understand why "The Secret Of More" has captured the attention of critics like myself and many others. There's something truly compelling about this novel that draws you in and keeps you there. Managing to maintain a charged narrative across five decades is not easy, but Tejaswini does it well. Deservedly, the book just won the Tata Literature Live First Book Award For Fiction 2023, and at the time of this recording, it's shortlisted for both the JCB and the Atta Galatta awards. The JCB award winner is to be announced around the time this episode goes live.
I invited her on this podcast to get a look at her creative process. So she now joins me here.
ABOUT TEJASWINI APTE-RAHM
Tejaswini Apte-Rahm's short story collection, These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape, was shortlisted for two awards in 2017. She co-authored an environmental education book for children, The Poop Book!, nominated for the Jarul Book Award 2021-22 and translated into Tibetan. Her fiction has appeared in various publications. She has worked as a journalist and environmental researcher. She studied in Singapore and the UK, and has lived in Serbia, Israel, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Fiji and Azerbaijan. She currently lives in Germany.
BUY THE SECRET OF MORE: https://amzn.to/40LDTBn
WHAT'S THAT WORD?!
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the fun etymology segment, "WHAT'S THAT WORD?!"
Reach us by mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or simply, email@example.com
Or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theliterarycity
Or here: https://www.instagram.com/explocityblr/
Music by Aleksey Chistilin from