Monthly Archives: April 2013

Review: The City of Devi

Last couple of weeks have been very hectic on the personal front and I barely managed to read. But before that I was able to finish an interesting book but didn’t get time to put together a reviewmanil1.

I finished “The City of Devi” by Manil Suri a couple of weeks back (or may be more). I had just read an excerpt from the book before I decided to read it and it turned out to be a good ‘different’ read.

I have not read Manil Suri earlier but “The City of Devi” gives a good idea of the writer’s caliber. It’s ‘fiction fantastic’ and you will hardly find such fiction by Indian authors or set up in Indian backdrop (and what better city in India then Mumbai for this).

The book starts at a point where a war is being fought between the arch rivals India and Pakistan and which has come to the brink of escalating in a nuclear stand-off. And the city that is targeted is Mumbai. And in the middle of this mayhem Sarita is trying to find her husband Karun. The attack from Pakistan has turned Hindu-Muslims against each other and there are riots in all parts of Mumbai.

Also there is a great angle of people’s faith, in that the city is protected by “Devi” and can not be destroyed even by a Nuclear bomb. Sarita’s search for Karun takes her through many ups and downs, she meets Jaz on the way who is also interested in finding Karun for her own reasons.

*******************Spoiler Alert********************

The way Suri has brought out love between Sarita and Karun and between Jaz and Karun is remarkable. I have never read such a good handling of a love triangle. The story goes on as to how Jaz and Karun met and fell in love and later breakup which leads Karun to Sarita. But all this while Karun is unable to forget Jaz.

Sarita and Jaz gets caught up in the Devi show and tries to get information about Karun who has been taken up by the devotees of the Devi.

The character of Jaz as a homosexual who always looks for fun and adventure but lands up in love with Karun is very well written. There are romantic novels which might not even be able to describe such love between a man and a woman.

In one passage Karun explains Sarita that the Hindu Trinity is actually comprised of Shiva, Vishnu and “Devi” and that the trinity is often misunderstood. This explanation of Trinity has a very deeper meaning in the book which Sarita realizes at a later stage.

The scene that is described by Suri when the war breaks out, of people turning to Devi and killing each other, selling everything, etc. is  so good that you can actually visualize it.

And there is so much more to the book and every time I try to write about one thing, another one flashes in mind even after 2 weeks.

All in all a very good work of fiction and I am more than satisfied. A must read.

 

PS: Thanks to MySmartPrice for sponsoring this wonderful book.

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Review: The Elephant, the tiger and the cellphone

eleThis is where it all started, my interest in tharoor and his work. At that time I was in US and in one of the shows that I liked to watch “The Colbert Report” Shashi Tharoor was invited to discuss his then released book “The Elephant, the tiger and the cellphone”. I was pretty impressed with his way of handling questions (Colbert can be a tough nut to handle), his demeanor and his knowledge of India (although for a many years he was outside India).

“The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone” by Shashi Tharoor is mostly a commentary (aka reflections) about India in the 21st Century. The book is divided into many sections and tharoor expresses his views on anything and everything pertaining to India quite candidly. I specially liked his views regarding religion and how we handle it (rather trade) India, what does being a Hindu mean and how people derive their own meanings to suit their selfish means.

The book is a decent read, however it becomes too much information, too much views sometime. And I can’t believe it myself but I did get bored on some parts. The book is 380 odd pages and one big flaw (for which the author already apologizes in the beginning) is repeated information, repeated passages, paragraphs so many times. And if you have read or heard tharoor earlier with every passing page you might think that you have heard/read it earlier too.

“A woman of Italian Origin, giving away the PM post to a Sikh who is sworn by a Muslim president in a country 80% Hindu”, this example is worn out by its extensive usage by Mr. tharoor and yet he keeps on using it in his speeches every now and then. Not that it has lost its subject matter but then an example on India’s diversity can only go so far.

I skimmed through many pages and skipped some. Overall satisfactory book but I had high expectations from the book which were not met.

PS: I do like the cover photo a lot, which depicts the true India.

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Review: The Sins of the Father & Best Kept Secret

sinsofthefather BestkeptsecretAs I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I haven’t much read Jeffrey Archer when I reviewed “Only time will tell“, so when I saw his latest book “Best Kept Secret” out I thought why not finish off with “The Clifton Chronicles”, so I finished both the remaining books in the series back to back “The Sins of the Father” and “Best Kept Secret”.

Now I did like the first one of the series “Only time will tell” and so I continued with the series. “The Sins of the Father” starts from the point when Tom Bradshaw (Harry Clifton) is arrested on landing in New York on murder charges. Harry tries to explain the mistaken identity but no one believes then a high-profile lawyer Sefton Jelks (appointed by Tom Bradshaw’s parents) proposes a deal to Harry to take the prison time for $20000. Harry is deceived by the lawyer and ends up in prison for 6 years in prison. Emma, the mother of Harry’s child doesn’t believe that Harry is dead and so starts her journey to New York to find Harry. She believes that a big conspiracy is done against Harry when she reads a published Novel which she is sure is written by Harry but bears a different author’s name. Lastly with the help of her great-aunt and her lawyer son she gets in touch with Harry, who at that time had joined war from the American side fighting Germans.

Best Kept Secret starts at the point where the House of Lords takes a decision as to the Barrington estate should go to Harry Clifton or Giles Barrington. Harry is able to finally marry Emma once the decision is taken in favor of Giles. Giles falls in love with a lady Virginia, whom his mother disapproves. And when his mother dies she gives all the estate to her daughters and nothing to Giles. Alex Fisher conspires with Virginia to take hold of Barrington Shipment and remove Giles as MP but with Harry, Emma and Sebastian (their son) he wins the election. On the other side Sebastian enters his teenage years and is a troublemaker at school, he helps out his friend Bruno. Bruno’s father Mr. Martinez is a criminal (of which Harry is unaware), he falls in his net and lands up in Argentina.

Sins of Father is a good sequel to the first book however I didn’t much like “Best Kept Secret”. The “Best Kept Secret” of Jeffrey Archer was (which you discover at the end of the book) is that this is not a trilogy  and more books will follow and I am disappointed with that. While reading third book it feels like the author is unnecessarily dragging the story. The characters though are good but not that dear (at least to me) that we would like to read another book with them. But may be the second book’s success prompted Mr. Archer to continue this series.

Less to be said about writing, its same as the first book and typical British 🙂

So a good fiction but then I am sure The Clifton Chronicles can’t regale me any further.

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Review: Secret Daughter

secret daughterAlthough I haven’t posted a review for sometime but I did read and read a lot. By the end of the week I would have completed my 4th book of the week. Oh yes the 4th 🙂

Now I realized April approaching and my target of 52 books but realized I was well behind the schedule to just put all my weight on the gas pedal.

So I would start with the review of the first book that I finished this week, “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

Now this is a different book, it is that sort of book that you get to read once in a while and stirs something inside you. It’s a nice story of a mother who had to give away her daughter to an orphanage on her birth because of social stigma attached with giving birth to a girl in Indian society. The girl is adopted by an American mother (married to an Indian)  who is unable to conceive. The book takes us through  the vagaries of the Indian society and how deals with the lifetime of the mother Kavita and her daughter Asha.

The daughter is raised in the U.S. but her quest for her biological parents brings her to India and then after a long quest she receives a shock regarding the reason for her to be put in an orphanage. The story also deals with the pain of Somer (Asha’s foster-mother) who is unable to conceive even though she herself is a gynecologist. The pain and humiliation (supposed) of not having a baby is well depicted by the author. The story is also about Krishnan (Somer’s Indian husband) his longing to return to his motherland and be with his family, how he adjusts to American style still holding tight to his Indian roots.

The book is a very good read and as I said earlier the story is beautiful. Often while reading it reminded me of “The Namesake” but it certainly is not that high quality. I am not too sure how aware is the author about Indian ways of life and though she seems to have technically got things right but it still felt like an outsider narrating an Indian story. There was something missing… I can’t pinpoint what but it surely didn’t rank as high as “The Namesake” for me.

One specific passage where the grandmother asks Asha to lit the funeral pyre of her grandfather was a very bad read. It  served no purpose, was out of touch with Indian sensibilities and neither had any effect on the story. I really don’t know what was the author thinking when she put it there. Some characters are not well described although they seem to be important, like Asha’s grandfather. The reason (if there was one) was not convincing why Somer and Krishnan break-up. Then suddenly there is a narrative where Somer’s mother is detected breast cancer and then she is gone from the story. Kavita’s son Vijay’s character is left in the middle, his reasons for becoming a criminal are not explained, what happened with him later is not explained, then in the end suddenly so many pages are dedicated to Kavita’s mother’s death and her father’s dealing with that situation although there is absolutely no introduction about them in the beginning of the book, etc.

So all in all there were many gaps in the story and as I said it sounded like a story by someone from outside India and doesn’t touch you that deep but the plot of the story does stir something inside you.

It’s difficult to deal with so many issues in one story and you need to be an insider to understand the mindset of why people do what they do. But its a good first effort by the author and I hope to read a better handled story by the author in future.

 

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