“Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible,” said Virginia Woolf in her famous essay ‘A Room of One's Own’, criticising the patriarchal conspiracy against women. “But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings,” she added.
‘Eiliyah’ reminded me of this particular portion of the extended essay as it unfolds layers of stories intricately attached to each other. The book named after its protagonist draws a map of a journey of a little girl to her womanhood. With time, it introduces the reader to suffering, despair, and the most beautiful feeling humans can feel: love.
Umme Pritam, in her debut novel, did a fantastic job extracting an account of a female character so vivid that it may dazzle the eyes of the readers and hook them up only with her personal tales . The book is about so many things. It is built on broken childhood, child abuse, complicated family dynamics, crazy friendship, dreamy romance, and so on. But ultimately it is like a treasure hunt. It is a story of finding a desirable treasure that was lost.
The narrating style is also one of a kind. Three different timelines march ahead parallelly, building up a story and meeting at the end of it. In three different periods, a girl’s struggle with different generations and groups of people is portrayed so successfully that everyone can relate to it. Eiliyah is such a familiar character that people barely notice her in real life. With the mastery of her storytelling, Umme Pritam weaved her story so passionately that no effort was required to suspend the disbelief.
One timeline is set in 2004, where Eiliyah’s childhood is unravelled. It tells us how grim her childhood was. The middle part is set in 2018 to 2019 and tells us about the tumultuous youth, finding the lost treasure. And there is the conclusion, set in around 2039 where the female lead passes her life’s story to the next generation. Connecting these timelines has been a major challenge as an author and she passed it with flying colours. Keeping the unity of time and space intact, Umme Pritam serves a pleasant and whole dreamy love story to the readers. On a different note, ‘Eiliyah’ will trigger childhood nostalgia for some people and leave food for thought to some as it talks about a dark part of society that should be accounted for.
Going back to Virginia Woolf, as much as the novel runs around social and personal dynamics, depicting a dreamy love story, how clearly does it define the role of women and girls to make their way into the world? Well, that is for the readers to find out.
“We all tend to live inside a glass bubble which we wrap up from within with blankets and pillows and get so comfortable which makes us forget the fact that it’s made of glass and can break any time,” he says, glancing back at me. “But it’s okay. Unless the bubble breaks, we don’t get to feel the ground beneath us and look around without a glass barrier.”
When Ellie moves in with her father after her mother’s death, her long-gone nightmares begin.
Eiliyah aka Ellie turns out to be a kind and feisty twenty-one-year-old despite having a tragic childhood- a childhood that no child deserves. A childhood that was shattered by agony, heartbreak, and a big betrayal from her best friend.
While her tragic past keeps haunting her and she is in grief from her mother’s demise, she meets her neighbour - Raiyan: a charming, full of life, soon-to-be college graduate. Ellie opens up to Raiyan but he still keeps some secrets from Ellie. He rarely talks about himself and his life. Then, one day, Ellie finds something which changes everything.
'Eiliyah' is a moving tale of strong but vulnerable people, rock-solid friendship, unexpected betrayal, and heartbreak which is wrapped with the warmth of a love story.
'Eiliyah' is a contemporary fiction novel with approximately 77,000 words, which has dealt with some heavy subject matters like- child abuse and grief.
Born and raised in Dhaka, the bustling capital of Bangladesh, Umme Pritam has been in love with reading since childhood, which eventually led her to write fiction. Apart from writing, she works for a renowned financial firm- IDLC Finance Limited. She attended East West University for her BBA and MBA. She is a former student of Viqarunnisa Noon College and Faizur Rahman Ideal Institute. When she is not writing, she can be found hanging out with friends or travelling with her husband. ‘Eiliyah’ is her debut novel. Currently, she is working on her second novel.