“…my attention was drawn to a facet of our lives which we tend to protect, shield, guard and feel uneasy to discuss, though it is an integral part of our lives” says, writer A.J. Karan in a post titled Author’s Perspective on Sensual Attractions by A.J. Karan. His debut book, which is a collection of short stories, lays bare a subject which has led a veiled existence in our society. A day and age when we consider ourselves to be “advanced in so many fields”, as A.J. Karan puts it, people shy away from talking about sex. It is a topic which is more often than not, spoken about in whispers.

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       Sensual Attractions is a collection of about ten short stories. Two of these short stories which include, The Hotel and Friendship Pact, have been divided into two parts. Each of these short stories are distinct from each other and they revolve around families, marriages, friendships. Politics, as well, occupies a significant place within these plots. It is politics, which not only affects the personal relationships between characters, but makes an appearance at the workplace of these characters, as well. A.J. Karan’s characters are interesting. They share deeply twisted relationships amongst themselves. For example, Tara and Sonali, from Friendship Pact, have remained in each other’s lives for countless number of years and have been sharing everything with each other. This sharing extends itself to their marriage as well, when they decide to share their husbands. There are some male characters who are presented as villainous; however, what I wasn’t quite pleased was how most of the female characters are presented as conniving.

As the title suggests, “sex” becomes a character of its own in this short story collection. It is what the writer uses to break the relationship between characters in the various short stories. Sexual encounters between the characters are spoken about explicitly and in a much nuanced fashion. . While reading Sensual Attractions, what came to my mind was that, the explicit tone in which A.J. Karan speaks to his readers about sex, reminded me a lot of Khushwant Singh’s The Company of Women. The manner in which the parts of the bodies of women and men are described by the both of these writers, are similar in nature.  They do not show even the slightest of inhibitions when speaking about sex, through their stories and characters. They become naked to their readers, when speaking about sex.

       The Hotel was my favorite read. Having formerly worked in the hotel industry, A.J. Karan very skillfully amalgamates office politics, sex, friendships and crime and presents to the readers, in this particular short story which is divided into two parts. The crime aspect of this, two part short story, was what kept me going and did not allow me to put down the book, even for one second.

Sensual Attractions is a compilation of gripping stories, set in a not so fabricated world consisting of real characters. Its unique storylines makes your reading experience truly worth it!

Storieo Rating: ★★★★☆