A refreshing debut

November 21, 2021

A brief look at Syed M Ilyas’ new novella

A refreshing debut

The Treasure in the Whispering Pines, a short novel penned recently by Syed M Ilyas, is an interesting addition to the English language fiction by Pakistani writers. The book is also a good example of literature produced during the isolating times of Covid-19.

Rooted in the 20th Century rural England, the novella depicts the tumultuous period following World War II. The author, who also served as a director in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has chosen to go with English characters, perhaps to make his work more readily accessible to a broader audience.

The book begins with his main character, a WWII veteran and a major in the British Army, returning home at the end of the war, only to find that his son is exhibiting signs of a peculiar behaviour. On the suggestion of a psychiatrist, the family embarks on a journey, which is riddled with outlandish experiences, supernatural characters and events for which the only satisfactory explanations border on the occult. As they reach their destination, they start an inn for a living which gradually turns into a successful business. The major also undertakes a number of welfare projects that earn him immense popularity. However a severe rivalry with a vindictive local lord turns things around for the family in strange ways. After everything is lost there is another turnaround in their fortunes as they discover a mysterious treasure buried in their backyard. The vindictive landlord, however, refuses to give up and keeps hatching conspiracies against the family to make things difficult for them.

The Treasure in the Whispering Pines leaves readers with a strange mix of emotions – awe, amazement and sympathy, all at the same time. The author, in a simple but engaging fashion, exhibits a maturity that goes beyond ordinary storytelling that often makes use of stereotypical tropes and becomes cumbersome by an overdose of verbosity. The imagery, the dialogue, the humour and the conflict make the book an amusing quick-read.

The reviewer is a staff reporter. He can be reached at vaqargillani@gmail.com

A refreshing debut