Lol of the lonely pine

The one who dazzles-have you seen that one?

Upon him look!

A sleepless stream in search of him I run,

A restless brook.

In far off woods, a lonely pine I stood

Till he appeared,

My woodcutter, and came to cut the wood.

His fire I feared,

Yet though he burns my logs, behold I shine,

My ashes wine!- Habba Khatoon (Translation by Nilla Cram Cook)

Author:  Selina Sen

No of pages: 373

Publisher: Westland 

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Genre: Fiction 

About the book:

Joya a fresh graduate gets an opportunity of a lifetime when she gets to be an assistant director for Sudhanshu Rai in his next big movie. Sudhanshu Rai is an independent film director who has received both commercial and critical acclaim. His dream is to make a movie on the life of Zoon popularly known as Habba Khatoon, a poet, musician and the queen of the last king of Kashmir.

Zoon is the dream project for Sudhanshu and he puts the best team for it, there is Annapurna the leading lady of hindi film industry who is desperate to give an award winning performance and thus wishes to portray the role of Zoon. An oscar winning cinematographer is taken on board to capture the intrinsic beauty of Kashmir and Joya and Rashid put their heart and soul to ensure that the movie captures the essence of 16th century  Kashmir.

All is going well when suddenly an unseen catastrophe strikes the Zoon team. The magnitude of this is such that all lives change forever. Lovers are separated, dreams shattered and a fear and guilt creeps in that gnaws some for years to come.

After ten years, Joya comes back to Kashmir which has changed starkly and is simmering with violence and uncertainty. In situations such as this will Joya be able to complete the task assigned to her? Will the movie Zoon see the light of the day? Will Zoon’s story be told? Can lost lovers be reunited?


The picturesque writing is what drives this book. The author creates this beautiful imagery with a strong interplay of words that you feel a sense of travel in time and space. Though there is a huge time gap in this novel, it has been structured well such that there is a continuity. While character building is medium still one can connect with the characters even the ones which appear just in a chapter or two. World building is where the author has done a marvellous job. A major plot twist in the story but becomes clearly visible which can be deliberate.


My verdict:

I always think that fiction, more importantly, strong storytelling whether in movies or books can play a great role in educating people on issues and facts by connecting with them and involving them. This book was the testimony to this. Post reading this novel I wanted to go find out more about Habba Khatoon and understand the history of Kashmir better. This book educated me on so many facets of Kashmir’s history which I was oblivious to, yet it was not didactic. I strongly recommend all to read this book and if you love history or movie making you will definitely enjoy this one.

I received a review copy from the publisher for an honest opinion and review.

4/5 stars