Garnishing a love story and the lives of the characters within it with some personal experiences, Leela Dutt’s ‘Only a Signal Shown’ is an enjoyable, emotional journey. This journey starts – as we all do – with a burnt marmalade basted chicken, Eleanor and Alec share the results of his limited cooking skills and both find themselves comfortable in each other’s company. This was in the early 1970s with Alec being the traditional character and Eleanor more liberal minded and independent. This is emphasised by Eleanor’s response to Alec’s proposal of marriage in which she states her desire to travel first to Rome and then see where life takes her. Over the following years Eleanor’s artistic career and Alec’s archaeology take them both around the world where occasionally chance meetings take place. When they share parts of their lives with each other Alec talks about his wife, Milly, who is an emotional burden due to her mental health issues, especially when it comes to his children. Eleanor on the other hand has Patrick as a partner – hardly an emotional anything as he is totally self-absorbed and too busy flitting from one spotlight to another to notice Eleanor as a person. London, USA, Wales, Rome, Italy, India, South Africa, takes us on a world tour of chance and contrived meetings between the hero and heroine. Alec’s brother, Charlie, and Eleanor’s sister Gabriella take on concerned roles as shifting emotional plates continue on a collision course. Intricate interactions between their families and friends ensure the momentum keeps the book as a ‘page turner’. Backdrops to the various events that take place include Howrah Train Station which had seen the suffering endured by refugees as they fled from East Pakistan in 1947, and then to a current (1998) situation in Lesotho where events saw humanity collapse. And then there is the stability of the ever present 8,586 metre Kanchenjunga mountain, south of Tibet, that upon reflection could be an analogy of Eleanor and Alec’s relationship – the majesty and beauty of the mountain only being glimpsed in short periods as clouds part, and yet when out of sight we know it is there. The journey continues and when we feel it is concluded Leela Dutt takes the opportunity to pluck one last heart string in the final sentence. Love, death, life, fear, the Grand Canyon and penguins – the reader isn’t left alone at any point. I became totally immersed in the story.
“I’ve just finished reading Only a Signal Shown – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you. I liked the way you intertwined romance with family relationships alongside the more serious content of the book. It was fascinating to follow your travels around the world – mostly to places you and your family have spent time in. Well done!”
We are sad to report that Doreen died in March 2020
Matthew: ‘ONLY A SIGNAL SHOWN’ BY LEELA DUTT Wow fantastic where do I start? This is the first ever book by author Leela Dutt that I have read and I can assure you it will not be the last. I was from the first page captivated. Leela’s attention to not only the opening line but also the story and the characters within is outstanding! From chapter to chapter I was drawn deeper into the grip of the book. I felt a mixture of emotions – happy, sad, excited. The lives of the characters, their jobs and relationships were entwined. This book is a one size fits all so if you are after romance, adventure, laughter, war, then this book is for you. It is in a league of its own. I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I was Eleanor’s travelling companion; by each turn of the page I wondered where we would be off to next – London, Wales, Finland, India or the USA, to name but a few. This book is both a brilliant and an enjoyable read, a book for everyone, and I feel it was written by a best-in-class author. If not already done so, this book should be made into a film and should also be put forward for Book of the Year Award and TV mini-series. I look forward to reading more of Leela Dutt’s books. I leave you with this opening line from one chapter: ‘Hit the floor, lady.’ Want to know what happens next? Order a copy of ‘Only a Signal Shown’ from the publisher http://www.feedaread.com or see further details on attfieldduttbooks.co.uk and you will not be disappointed.
“I have just finished it. It had me in tears of both joy and sadness. But can honestly recommend it as a wonderful read . Another superb book, from a wonderful author.”
Liz Muir writes in Calon, the newsletter of Quakers in Wales This beautifully crafted love story soon picked up its pace to a ‘can’t put it down’ level. I could hardly wait to turn the page and know what was happening next – always a sign of a good book. The main characters meet in Cardiff, where one lives with his family. It is unusual but pleasing then to relate to local places such as Lisvane suburb and Llandough hospital and to hear of the familiar such as attending Quaker meetings. Leela’s own personal experience being the daughter of people from very different cultures and living in many parts of the world are clearly used as the book’s characters try to build ordinary careers, manage relationships, develop parenting skills whilst living and travelling in a global environment. The reader visits not just Wales, but Africa, Denmark, Italy, India, America, Australia and New Zealand where the sights, sounds and tastes of these very different countries are vividly described, bringing depth, pace and colour to the book. Not many books can move effortlessly between digging the garden in Wales to African politics with stops at archaeological digs in Italy and visits to the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and award ceremonies in India. The characters’ moving through these locations provide opportunity for Leela’s descriptive skills to come to the fore, without seeming contrived and give the reader both pleasure and knowledge. I loved writing techniques such as the use of italics for unsaid thoughts and the clever use of e-mail communications as a, now commonplace, alternative to verbal conversations. I also loved the fact that passionate feelings were clearly expressed, but without the need for lurid scenes; making the book suitable for young and older adults alike. On one level there is a sense of inevitability as to the future of the two main characters, Alec and Eleanor. But as the story unfolds with twists and turns, that certainty is challenged and the reader cannot be sure, until the last pages, what the future holds for them. This makes the book an exciting read. ‘Only a Signal Shown’ cleverly portrays ordinary people who, in certain circumstances do extraordinary things. The interlinking of three generations of one family sympathetically shows how the heroes and heroines of one decade become background actors in another era, as they settle for a quiet life. Similarly the shallow, fun seekers of youth can easily become shrewd and deeply, intuitively, sensitive adults. Because of this, I feel that there is plenty more scope for deeper development of some of the characters. I would love to know more of Norman’s younger life as a soldier, lover and husband. Charlie and David could come out of the shadows and have the spotlight on them for a good read. And of course, I can’t wait to know the futures for Alec, Eleanor, Milly and Tamsin. This has been a great read and leads me to look out for more of Leela Dutt’s work. ‘Only a Signal Shown’ is also available via Kindle. t would make a great gift for anyone, young or old.
Sheila M. Stevenson
Kingfisher Blue is a book of short stories in which the author explores topics close to Quaker hearts, for example, ‘Pebbles in a Jar’ tells of protest action against the manufacture of a compound that could cause pollution, or the value of Quaker membership provides the conclusion in ‘A Question of Belonging’. My favourite is ‘I Shall Spend my Pension on Brandy’ about the wisdom and acceptance that can come later in life; it also rings so true about some of the trials that the elderly have to endure. The stories all relate to Quaker issues and relationships that are explored with sensitivity and humour.
‘Mathison’ tells the story of one family throughout the twentieth century involving an Indian home in Calcutta before the First World War, a Jewish dentist in Nuremberg in the 1930s and a Quaker weekend gathering in the mid-1990s. The two parallel story lines starting either end of the century gradually converge. The author uses the premise of an imaginary computer programme that can write a novel as the reason for exploring this family’s history that clearly draws on her own.
Both ‘Kingfisher Blue’ and ‘Mathison’ are related to Leela Dutt’s Quaker life experiences but her most recent novel, ‘Only a Signal Shown’, is different in that it is simply a love story that weaves around the world as it draws the reader into the story and its conclusion. It grips the reader with its twists and turns between people and places. Her descriptions are vividly first-hand and she credits her husband for giving her the reason to travel to so many different parts of the world. All Leela’s books would make ideal travel or holiday reading.
Sheila M. Stevenson