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.