June 06, 2020
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Droll Connect

This entertaining debut novel works not as a cricketing tale but as an entirely enjoyable romantic comedy

Droll Connect
The Zoya Factor
By Anuja Chauhan
HarperCollins Pages: 500; Rs. 295
In this entertaining debut novel, feisty heroine Zoya Solanki meets the Indian cricket team in the course of her advertising job. The team wins whenever she breakfasts with them. The players believe she’s their lucky charm; but not the dashing captain, who reckons hard work and talent matter more. But there is a growing undercurrent of romance in his rather fraught encounters with Zoya. All this resolves itself in the lead-up to the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

The pace rarely flags, and Zoya herself is that rarity in our contemporary fiction, a genuinely likeable protagonist. Moreover, its setting is one barely covered by more "literary" writers, a dynamic, young middle-class urban India. Zoya is its authentic embodiment.

Readers will connect with her droll takes on a variety of subjects: the marriage market, the tendency of NDTV newsreaders to parrot their boss’s style, peculiarly emphasised phrasing and all, or how many of Delhi’s less fashionable addresses have a soul that the posh bits lack. Equally, they will see themselves reflected in Zoya’s appealing meld of insecure ditziness and midnight-oil burning professionalism. The only flaw is that media coverage has made India’s real cricketers too well-known for us to visualise the fictional ones. Luckily, where The Zoya Factor really works is not as a cricketing tale but as an entirely enjoyable romantic comedy.

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