On Books & Reviews

The dignity of old age


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The Music of Solitude by Krishna Sobti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Much later she thought, I could have phoned and thanked him. No. Let this remain unsaid. I’m feeling special. I’ve just received the flowers of narcissus for a gift. These bloom on the mountains where silence swims in the air.’

Having sat on the review for almost a month and thinking and rethinking about the novel, I don’t find a more apt and lyrical paragraph in the entire book like the one above…

Translated by Vasudha Dalmia as The Music of Solitude, Krishna Sobti’s Samay Sargam is the story of Aranya and Ishan – neighbours in a Delhi complex but diametrically opposite to each other. Aranya is a feisty writer, living life on her own terms, vocal, impulsive and rebellious while Ishan is calm, disciplined, respect social norms and believes in the family institution despite having no one who calls on him.

The novel revolves around their daily lives and their little interactions. How each one is content in their own cocoon yet dependant on the other for emotional comfort. The beauty of the novel is that at no moment do you feel pity for these two for being alone or ‘deserted’. They are alone but they are definitely not lonely. They enjoy their space and solitude, they even need it to sail them through the last years of their lives.

To truly understand this, you need to see Aranya and Ishan in contrast to the elderly friends they visit regularly – the old widow, the former charismatic writer or the old man who was having an affair. Each saddened, bound by social norms and restricted by their children in contrast to these two highly functional emotional beings. It’s at that moment you decide how you want to grow old. Do you want to be like Aranya or Ishan, independent, happy or do you want to die worrying what the world thinks of you or what your family has reduced you to?

The sense of dignity in old age is what I admire about the novel and I believe that every young person who lives with or has ageing parents should read this once.

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On Books & Reviews

A tightly written page-turner!

51pc0-IIgIL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBESTSELLER by Ahmed Faiyaz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few days back I received a warm message on Instagram asking to review ‘Bestseller’. Yes, I had heard of the book and yes I wanted to read it. But right now? Maybe not. Not being able to say no, I picked it up immediately as I had just finished reading something which gave me a lot to think about.

Bestseller arrived promptly the next day from Amazon and being a weekend I finished reading it in a jiffy. In one word, it’s unputdownable. You have to, have to, read it cover to cover in one go. Tightly written and cautiously edited, it has all the elements of a popular fiction novel in place – humour, relationships, intrigue and most importantly a keep you on the edge plot line. You would really have to dig deep to find an out of place strand in this one.

I liked the style of introducing the main protagonist’s thoughts in between what he is saying in italics as well as the sense of urgency by naming the title chapters according to days lapsed. The way the women characters are written you would never think the author is male – bold, vivacious and outgoing, his characters are as everyday and normal like any working woman you would meet in a city like Mumbai. Though not literary in its descriptions, Ahmed has painted a beautiful picture of Colaba in his book.

If anyone of you has read Anurag Mathur while growing up and miss his brand of humour, Bestseller is a must read.

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On Books & Reviews

The perfect gift for a bookworm!

Book LoveBook Love by Debbie Tung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered Debbie Tung three months ago on Pinterest. After sharing one of her comics on my social platform, I kept getting recommendations for her comics until I finally followed her on Tumblr. I realised most of her comics are book-related and share-worthy much like Grant Snider. She just connects at an inner-level and gets you straight off. You feel like it’s your words, your thoughts, she’s representing on paper.

When Book Love came up for review, I just had to go through it in one sitting. At some point over the last three months, I’ve seen the strips but it still seems as fresh and joyous like you are discovering them for the first time. It’s something every bibliophile would like to hoard and flip through during a reading slump.

Given the holiday season, it’s the perfect book a non-reader can get a bookworm. Trust me, they would hold you in a special light.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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On Books & Reviews

A gourmand’s delight

Dodin-Bouffant : Gourmet ExtraordinaireDodin-Bouffant : Gourmet Extraordinaire by Mathieu Burniat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is the fastest I’ve read any book. Wafting through the pages, dipping in and out of the beautiful food descriptions and preparations with a neat little love story tied to it.

A graphic rendition to Marcel Rouff’s 1924 book called The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant, Mathieu Burnait’s adaptation is heartening read which makes you worry, cry, squeal in delight, make your heart race and leaves you with an ooooooo in the end.

A must-read for anyone who enjoys food, loves reading about food or even holds French gastronomy in the slightest of regard. I can just think a list of people who would love to read it.

#DodinBouffantGourmetExtraordinaire #NetGalley

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There are always two sides to a story…

Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started this book with zero expectations, got intrigued by the brilliant introduction by Francis Wyndham and was hooked till the last page. The blurb says the story is about the ‘mad’ woman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, however, I felt its a narrative on the post-liberalisation White life in the West Indies. It’s about broken promises, zero compassion and heartache and love for the sake of money and love for the sake of liberation from one own’s lot.

The contrast between the beautiful, serene place and the conflicted, spiteful people just leaves you thinking how can somebody be so hateful and hurtful. Jean Rhys somewhere makes us understand that it’s not a single event that drives someone mad, it’s circumstances which continuously push her to lose her mind and finally all it takes is one trigger.

I now want to read Jane Eyre and see how Mr Rochester defends his actions. There are always two sides to a story, and I’m glad Jean Rhys wrote this side out.

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On Books & Reviews

Warning! This book won’t let you sleep.

Miss Laila, Armed and DangerousMiss Laila, Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d picked this up last year before setting out to Kolkata Literary Meet 2018. Had started with it and then shelved it after returning to Bombay. It’s been on my mind for a bit and then over the weekend I crash read it. I say crash read it because I steeled myself from the constant panic attacks I was going through. Most of the storyline is located inside a 30ft deep tunnel where the protagonist Akhila Iyer is crawling in and out to save a man buried under debris from a building collapse. Writing about it is bringing back the jitters. If I keep my claustrophobia aside, I loved the book.

I haven’t read any other work by Manu Joseph so won’t be able to compare his style or tell his readers whether the style of writing was very much him. For me, it was a satire on modern India at its best, much like what Shashi Tharoor tried to achieve with his The Great Indian Novel. Funny, forthright, yet sensitive, the book, in the end, leaves you with hope. It tells you when to lie low and when to raise your voice. How can you make a difference when your voice is constantly quelled. You wait. There is a paragraph which is repeated in the book about the baffled face of an Indian when he is shocked by the most logical outcome of his actions. I think I would face the panic attacks again to just read that in context all over again.

Have you read the book or any other by Manu Joseph? Let me know what you thought.

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Some books you just have to review!

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot EnsuesMy Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading My Life with Bob last week on my flight back to Bombay. I didn’t know what it was about. I thought it was about a library or a girl searching for books. I hadn’t heard of Pamela Paul earlier (yes, shoot me!) and I didn’t know what I was in for. In the Introduction when Pamela introduces BoB and tells us about him I was thrilled. I went back to the first scribbled page and read it again and I was like wow! wish I had kept a book like that. I would know the name of that RL Stine book I read so many years ago whose story I remember so clearly but not the book. There was a phase post Roald Dahl Summer where I read every RL Stine book not Goosebumps but Fear Street and every Sweet Valley High the neighbourhood library had – Funspot. It had a collection of Nancy Drew’s and Hardy Boys as well but I couldn’t get myself to read any of those but I devoured one Fear Street after another and one Sweet Valley High after another. I now realise it was ok to have grown up not reading Enid Blyton. It doesn’t make you less of a reader.

Somehow the book validated me as a reader. Was I looking for validation or was looking to know that I was not alone. Pamela here tells us the story of her life until now through the books she has read, so is it an autobiography, yes it is. It a book about books, yes it is. Do you want to read this book to just note down the books she mentions to keep it for a rainy day when you feel exactly that miserable or that adventurous, hell yes!

I never highlight books and couldn’t stop noting paragraphs or just names of books in this one. I guess I’m just having a lucky year. This is literally the fourth book in the year which makes me want to feel so good about having read it. I just feel miserable that I hadn’t read it as soon as it was realised or knew about it before!

I’m currently in the phase where I would give up my flourishing enterprise easily if I knew there was someone out there who would pay me to read. Pamela tells me it’s possible to turn your passion into a reality. Yes, there is only one New York Times, and there is only one Pamela Paul, but she gave me hope and that’s why I would cling to this book for my life.

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