Book Reviews

Diary of an Angry Young Man

AUTHOR'S NOTE I grew up in a housing society in Mumbai (then Bombay) that overlooked a slum colony, beyond which lay a notorious area which I refer to as the ‘other’ side in this book. The ‘other’ side held a deep fascination for me with its colorful, busy alleys bustling with activity, people and mystery. Most of the domestic help at our building complex lived in the adjacent slums. During my growing up years, I played cricket and other sports with their kids in our society compound. On a few evenings, I wandered to the ‘other’ side with them and discovered a whole new world of notoriety, warmth and color. There was one particular young man in that area that had become a figure of childhood folklore of sorts and we knew him only by his nickname. He had achieved a high level of recognition, given the issues he stood up for and the scraps he got embroiled in. I saw him just once and identified him instantly from his notorious group as he stood with an air of confidence outside that modest eatery, where he hung out with his peeps every evening. My only recollection of him was that he had a chiseled face, which bore a disturbed expression, and that he looked angry. Even though he didn’t live in the area and was educated, his fierce expression and restless body language somehow made him fit right into the unsettling character of the ‘other’ side. I visited the area years later, and was surprised to learn about how life had completely turned around for him and his current vocation. His unique journey revealed him to be an unreasonable and fearless man, and I admired his resilience and goodness of heart despite the cards that life had dealt him. I felt compelled to tell the surreal story of this angry young man. The names and professions of the characters of the book have been changed to protect the identities of the real people who have been referenced for this story, as have the locations and timelines. Parts of the book are inspired by true events, the rest is fiction. Diary of an Angry Young Man attempts to showcase the spirit of India’s youth and the humanity of society that we may or may not be oblivious to. It is a mirror of the times we live in, of the city that has brought me up.

Update 10 January, 2022: This review originally commented on formatting issues within the book. Author Rishi Vohra has corrected the record with me, and assures these issues aren’t included in the Kindle download itself. I have amended the review accordingly.

It could just be the time of year messing with my head—I read this book the day before Christmas Eve, and I’m sitting at my desk writing this review on Boxing Day, after all—but Rishi Vohra’s Diary of an Angry Young Man is a wonderful story for Christmas. No, it isn’t about December traditions, nor is it set during December. It isn’t about a man who lives at the North Pole; it’s about a man who lives in Mumbai (or Bombay during earlier years). Nor is it a story that has any relation to Christianity; where characters’ religious beliefs and practices are mentioned, it’s Hinduism. But the themes presented in this book are universal themes that are ever so relevant during this time of year.

Before I delve deeper into this review, I will point out that this is an overwhelmingly positive review. But before I get to the positive aspects, I wish to flag the negatives. While I don’t attach scores to my reviews here on the site, by necessity, I attach these to my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. On both websites, I have given Diary of an Angry Young Man five stars, however, there are some negative aspects, in particular a few instances of clunky writing, as well as areas the book needed another proofread to pick up on errors in the writing, these flaws did impact my enjoyment of the text.

However, despite these issues, Diary of an Angry Young Man is a delightful book. It tells the story of Raghav, a seven-year-old boy growing up on the ‘good’ side of Colaba in Bombay, while being seduced by elements in the poorer ‘other’ side. As the book enters its second act, it is twenty years later, telling the story of Raghav, a now twenty-seven-year-old man living on the ‘good’ side of Colaba in Mumbai, long seduced by this ‘other’ side. At an estimated 174 pages on Kindle, it is not a long read; its length makes for an enjoyably speedy one.

As you have no doubt gleaned from its title, Raghav is angry. One thing the author’s note (in lieu of a blurb) doesn’t mention is that Raghav has every right to be angry, harkening back to various (and one particularly grave) experiences in his childhood. I won’t spoil it here as it’s a key moment that the author has opted not to discuss in its proportional materials. These events (and that event in particular) have shaped Raghav into the titular angry young man that we follow through the story.

Despite the anger denoted in the title, Diary of an Angry Young Man is a coming of age story, about a man desperate to do some good in the world, who wishes to look after those he knows and loves, as well as strangers, the lost and forgotten. Thanks to the events in his past, Raghdav has anger bottled inside of him that could lead him down a dark path, should he let it get the better of him.

If you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you will have seen that I reviewed five Christmas books in the lead up to Christmas (you can check them all out via my homepage), with varying amounts of Christmas spirit, with some better told than others. However, not one of these books (and let me stress that this is not a negative on its own, given the stories their authors set up to tell) were about togetherness and family, and caring for those less fortunate than yourself. Diary of an Angry Young Man is about all of these things. No, it is not a Christmas story in any traditional sense of the word, but Vohra presents themes that perfectly align with Christmas. It is through no small feat that Diary of an Angry Young Man imbued me with more Christmas spirit than any of the other five.

However, before you pick this book up expecting something Christmassy, I should warn you that it includes violence and sexual assault, and makes no attempt to shy away from the difficult themes (so please consider this your trigger warning, if you’re likely to be distressed by these events). However, as prevalent as these are, Vohra handles them with tact, letting the reader feel the emotions, rather than lingering on the unpleasantness. Conversely, it embraces its themes as well as others like toxic family dynamics and socioeconomic issues. The author weaves these in expertly, and at no single point did I feel as though I was being preached to.

Vohra uses the book’s limited space wisely. For a book with such a limited ‘page’ count, it packs a bit in—including the issues mentioned above, the events taking place throughout the story, and some truly memorable characters. With its lean size, there is no unnecessary rumination; despite the lean size, it doesn’t feel like it’s rushing through any of its events or characters, either. Everything, and everyone in the book are paid their dues.

If you’re a fan of coming of age stories or enjoy books that star a character who stands up for what is right, Diary of an Angry Young Man is an excellent read. It is unfortunate that the book includes so many formatting issues and some glaring issues that should have been picked up during the proofreading process. While these hurt the flow of the book, they do not negate what a charming (despite the book’s bleaker elements) story this is.

Favourite Passage

My relatives had distanced themselves from the family a long time ago for ours was a struggling family with nothing to offer anyone. Papa had helped his brother and sister through their struggling years. But once they had got on their feet, they found some excuse for a rift as a way of obliterating any obligations. Mama had taken the beginnings of it in her stride, but Papa became cynical and was always complaining as if this came as a surprise. I even remember him mentioning to Mama, “Your parents teach you to be wary of strangers. But they fail to warn you about your relatives.”

Diary of an Angry Young Man, 9

Diary of an Angry Young Man was provided to the author for the purpose of an honest review.

Diary of an Angry Young Man is available on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon.

You can follow Rishi Vohra online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

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