Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back and hoping to stay

 To all of you who came here the last few months and drew a blank. My apologies. Blame it on publishing!

When I published a book, I crossed some faint invisible line in my head. I stopped being just a Reader who could devour the printed word and pronounce a judgement. or rather, go on the journey of reading and then talk of it with the same innocence that I could earlier. Some thing had changed. The way I looked at books had changed so had the way I now read them. I also found my self strangely inhibited trying to record my experience and hence this dry spell on this blog.

Now,I have  resolved many things. I discovered my joy of reading was undiminished, my experience of reading enriched. I may have become more sympathetic towards the writer in some ways but I have become more demanding in others. i also feel that I have now regained the language to describe my encounter with books and that has brought me back.

if you are back and reading this, thank you for the support. Coming up soon, a journey with a  really wonderful, recent  read.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I was too late in reading this one. And I almost did not read it. For the in the first page the narrator says ,’I am a carer’ and I was a bit repulsed, thinking- hospitals beds and lingering sickness. However I finished the page and then the book didn't let me go. I am glad I stayed till the end of the page. Otherwise I would've missed one of the best reading experiences of my biblio-life.

So , if this book is not about hospital and illness then what is it  about?  It’s about childhood and memories of childhood,  about friendships and betrayals,about moving on and about love. That’s what Ishiguro makes you think until he reveals what’s  beneath all this –a  horrific ,terrible truth that the characters know , yet do not and have to grow up to embrace it.

This is the story of Kathy, our narrator, Ruth and Tommy growing up in a  dystopian contemporary England. And through Kathy we  hear their stories and discover this terrible future that awaits them outside their school.
Ishiguro of course delivers his story beautifully, slipping in bits of the truth like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. You file them away impatiently- yes, yes , but tell me what happened the them? Then when the penny drops, you hiss with an in drawn breath and all of a sudden you have tumultuous reaction as you deal with this revelation, which you realize you kind of knew all along and with  the story of the lives of the people you had been steeped in.
In the end, I was not and still not sure what I am carrying around with me- the sorrow of the relationships or the import of this terrible truth.

Finally? Never let this book go. And that says it all.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Em and the big Hoom- Jerry Pinto

This was one of the books that I have had few starts and stops before actually getting down to talking about it.  Anyway, here is it.
First- the narrative- gripping. I couldn’t put the book down; I read it between moving houses between cities. That should  tell you.
What stands out- the language. It is so bright it shimmers off the page. I have yet to find another Indian writer  who has managed to use the language so effortlessly, so elegantly, so effectively. I savoured the words and the phrases.
Then there is Em- who is ‘mad’ and a ‘mudd-dha’. Her words. But thorough the words of her son, the narrator, we find a woman who is sharp, clever and witty . That Pinto shows us the woman behind the illness is this novel’s strength.
Hoom is the kind of man every woman is looking for . Solid, dependable, in love with his wife long after her mind is lost to her illness. Unlike Rochester.
Of the kids, we hear a little from the girl and everything from the boy. He is angry with his mother for denying him a normal family, fearful that he would fail when it will become his lot to care of her, fearing that his genes may betray him, sorrowful that he cannot protect her from the cruel mocking eyes of the world, suspicious that she might perhaps be using her illness, helpless that he cannot take away her pain and always loving her
This is a brilliantly written book about a hardly talked about illness; the story of the afflicted, of the family dealing with the afflicted and the toll it takes on their lives.
Icing of the top- In spite of the nature of the issue dealt in the book, a sudden startling bit of humour appears in a dark comedy kind of way.
But- yes, there is a but. This book reads like a memoir.  So , in the end it is just a telling of lives- and I want to ask- where’s the story you promised me? Why has nothing changed for the boy? The family? Where’s the ah-ha moment? What’s my take away?

Am I the only person asking this?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Lost River- On the Trail of Sarasvati- Michel Danino

I finished this book a while ago but I had to go away and think about how and what I was going to say(write) about the experience of reading it.

So , why this book? The title of course. If you grew up in India, Sarsvati is hard to ignore. She creeps in mantras and during pujas and makes an appearance at the Triveni  Sangam. But where is she, you ask when the Sangam is explained to you and you are told of a red river running underground. And from that day on, you have wondered.

Then you read Danino's book.
Danino brings to life Sarsvati's story, drawing from history, geography, mythology, ancient texts and archaeological evidence. The narrative is gripping and you are riveted. When you put the book down because the day demands it, you are wondering what happens next.  You can see the river gushing through  the land, hear the chanting of the sages on it's banks and watch the cities bustling around it.

He presents multiple perspectives and theories that abound on the river and it's life and death and leaves to decide for yourself- almost. His personal stand is visible of course.

So the book is not at all boring? Not really. Like all books, it does drag in places and sometimes you glaze over the excessive data and information. Then you realize that he needs to say all that to take a stand. Or for you to take one.

Verdict- an enjoyable read for a history buff, a necessary one for indologists.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bitch Goddess for Dummies- Maya Sharma Sriram - A Guest Blog

Okay, so yes this is my book and I have  a guest blogger reviewing it for me.
I have to admit , however there is bound to be an insider bias even now . The blogger is related to me

Scene: Pizza hut.  My friends  and I are talking about my mom’s book.

Friend: So, what is your mom’s book about?

Me: It’s the story of a woman who is trying to undergo a transformation, and she embarking on a process of self discovery. It’s all about how important it is to be yourself and not try and be something you’re not. You know, accept yourself.

My friends: wow! It sounds beautiful.


What is it called?


Me: …”Bitch Goddess for Dummies”?

That is basically how “bitch goddess” goes too, a little self-mocking, a little tongue-in-cheek, really fun and cute. The story is a pretty simple one-Mira Iyer wants to become a Bitch Goddess, but how will she? She’s a wimp, and a responsible, sensible one at that (oh, the horror). So she decides to transform herself. She starts with a makeover and then changes the way she behaves too. She learns from and tries to defeat the ideal Bitch Goddess- her bête noir, Sanya,  the perfect woman. But things threaten to go too far once she falls for smooth Rohan and later ends up having to face her past and estranged family. What will happen to Mira now, with her life like a dormant volcano, ready to erupt and engulf her in the heat?

The novel isn’t a very serious one, and is clearly for fun value. If you’re looking for literary intensity, look elsewhere. This book is written for all the girls (and guys) who just wanna have a good time. The narrative is fast paced, but a little too much so in the middle, where one would really like to have a bit of emphasis on character rather than action and story. The language is good and as far as I can see it has no spelling errors; the writing is good.

The author has managed to pick up the mood and style of a chick lit really well and gives it her own, slightly smoother edge. The comedy is tongue-in-cheek and light. The issues in the story more often than not are sartorial. Talking about the clothes, they’re all tasteful and really cool.  The novel doesn’t have any of the clichés that everyone finds in chick lit these days.  The best thing is that the story is not a romance, but the story of a woman who is discovering herself, with romance as a subplot. The women in the story are all very strong role models and none of the characters, male or female are stereotypes, they all have a unique dimension or perspective. The story more or less laughs at itself. The funny Bitch Goddess rules are the funnest part. This book is on a low-steamy sex scene and absolutely-no-mush diet. The  book invites laughter, so on a low-key day, go ahead and pick it up, it’s the perfect recipe and has been proven to keep you riveted till the last page.   

Vishaka Sriram

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

I thought I would capture this reading experience as it occurs. An experiment to see if the quality of retelling changes or suffers.

What made me pick this book up - (other than the obligatory recommendations and reviews.)

 When you are always searching for the next book to read while your mind still on the one you just finished, 'newness' always excites. This one caught me with it's form. And the for a logophile like me, that's double delight. So  I am eagerly waiting to  devour it.

So now I am a little into the book. It is breathtaking  what he has done with words, with the meanings of the words he has chosen to tell his story with, the way he so beautifully tacks them on to 'love' , 'desire', 'togetherness 'and 'heartache.' All this while keeping the story going.

I was supposed to record as I read, but I have returned after the complete read. because

devour (v)
I ended up gorging on this book, completely, quickly and yet, many times came back to

savour (v)
many sentences and paragraphs - like this one - " and every now and then, when everything else is air and liquid, desire solidifies, and the body is the magnet that draws its weight."

Gamut (n)
I was amazed at how simply , lucidly and elegantly Levithan covered the whole range, from hesitancy to desire to love to heartbreak

Urban ( adj)
of an urban , contemporary relationship

Superlative ( adj)
One of the best love stories that I have read in a long time.
 Verdict ( n)
A book that is clever funny, poignant and brilliantly written, and finely plotted to. Keeps you involved at several levels- in the choice of his words, in his narrative style, in the plot and in the emotional connect.

Read. Please. You'll thank me for it

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Death comes to Pemberley- P.D.James

This book works at two levels- as a murder mystery and as a sequel or as I prefer to think of it, a revisit to old, familiar and much -loved characters. So, my response will also be on two levels.

As a murder mystery- This is a P.D. James after all. So naturally all the elements are in place. Mention worthy- the fact that this is a story set in Victorian England and she has made sure that reasons and motives fit the climate of that time. The mystery it self , however is not dazzlingly brilliant or breathtaking in it's cleverness.It works and it is interesting

Where the book scores is in taking the readers back to the lives of Bennetts,  Darcys and Bingleys. James has remained true to the characters. She has tried to recreate Austen's style of writing, and succeed at least in the opening line- as much as it possible for somebody to- Let's be fair-Austen is a tough act to follow.
Every Austen fan must have imagined life after Jane and Lizzy get married. James gives us one possible life- we get a lot of Darcy- a gentler Darcy, a mature Liz and more confident Georgiana who incidentally gets her own romance.
Lizzy and Darcy's lives, their minds get as much space in the novel as the murder. We also met Colonel Fitzwilliam and other familiar characters.
True to tradition. it is Lydia and Wickham who cause the upset that sets the story moving.
The plot moves cleverly ; James has used all the traits Austen established to her advantage. The additional characters she has created blend in seamlessly into the story. There is never a wrong foot here.
The resolution is also very satisfying.
Read it- if you are an Austen fan. Read it if you want a good mystery with all you favourite characters in it. Read it if you like Victorian murder mysteries.
Caveat- judged only a whodunit- there have been better.