Book Title: Man On Fire
Author: Stephen Kelman
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus 2015
Source: The library, my second home
Page Count: 296
Format: Fiction...with true elements
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Adults..maybe YAs
Buy It/Borrow it/Avoid it: Buy it!
Summed up in one word: Quotable :D
Impression of the Book: I really enjoyed this book. What a wonderful blend of emotions, perfectly written characters and a flawless story that was sometimes hard to see with all the teary-eyed-ness :P Based on a true story of record breaker from India, Stephen Kelman wrote an epic novel depicting his success, his family and him meeting a white man from England.
Summary/Review Of The Story:
'Man On Fire' follows the story of two very different gentleman who cross paths in India. The narrative is first person and is split between John Lock, an Englishman who is dying of cancer and has gone to India to meet a man who takes life by the horns and takes no chances. This man is Bibhuti Nayak (nickname BB), an Indian man from Navi Mumbai who breaks world records and lives by his almighty's guidance.
The story switches between the present day events and both John and BB's past running up to the main event, BB intends to set the world record for most bats smashed over a human body (aiming for 50!). John is running from his life and his cancer, hoping to bring meaning to his life by helping BB achieve this record. John has left his wife behind, faked his death and offered BB every penny he has in this effort.
BB's history is long and full of achievement, many world records broken with his first being 'Most kicks to the unprotected groin in 90 seconds' (Cringe!!). Most of his record attempts have an element of pain involved as he managed through years of meditation to hide the pain from his body and endure it for long periods of time. Other successful records breaks include 'Most sit-ups in 90 minutes', 'Most watermelons dropped on the stomach in 60 seconds from a height of 10m' and 'Most back-handed push-ups in 60 seconds'.
There is a quote in the book that sums up BB's attitude and his character:
"In truthfulness I was in some agony but I know that in my new office of 'Guiness World Record Holder' I must keep at check my suffering to encourage those aspiring sportsmen who aim to follow in my foot-steps. I was therefore quite ashamed when I was unable to stop myself from falling into a small coma"
I love this quote and there are plenty of them just like this one, inspirational, humorous and slightly irresponsible at times. John has to earn the respect of BB and his family, whilst he does this the characters are brought into focus really well and you are able to enjoy each person individually and as part of the group. 'Man On Fire' is an inspirational story set in an true to life India, full of poverty, heat, religion, over-population and community spirit. I really enjoyed the relationship between John and BB's son 'Jolly Boy'. Their funny and heart warming antics brought a much needed smile to my face in the harder sections of this book.
I don't really have a least favourite part of this book, the whole plot is well written and there are no unnecessary bits to the story of the characters that was better left out. Every word had it's place and it weaved together so well, I actually read a lot of the sentences out loud as I loved the way they sounded. My major issue with this book was the unexpected changes between the past and the present, quick glimpses back to the past on a chapter set in the present or vice versa. I found this very disorientating as it stops the flow of the text more than it adds to it, but it is only here and there and not constant so I can live with it.
I recommend this book to those readers who love every word to count for something, those readers who love strong, well written characters who make the story amazing just by being included in it. There is much sadness in this tome, scenes that people like myself do not witness day to day and so it impacts harder as we have it so much easier here in England.
Relationships are made, relationships are healed and records are broken. SK has done such a great job turning this real life story (BB is a real man who really breaks records) into a more rounded and inspiring tale of overcoming fear, pain and facing up to life and all the negativity that comes with it. I am really looking forward to SK's next book, I will be keeping a careful eye out for it...hurry up.
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