On Books & Reviews

The cause and effect of a revolution

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Jasmine Days by Benyamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I just finished reading ‘Jasmine Days’ by Benyamin and was surprised to see that last year’s JCB Prize Winner was actually a translation of an Arabic novel by Sameera Parvin originally titled ‘A Spring without Fragrance’. I know people who have read the book would know this but those of you like me would be taken aback at the power of a good story. For this one moment, I actually took a step back and wanted to thank God for creating such deft translators. And then my surprise was corrected by this article where Benyamin clarifies that the ‘Arabic translation’ was a literary device he used where the reader entered his fictional world right from the cover page and remained enthralled till the translator’s note.

Coming back to the novel, having read Cairo by Ahdaf Soueif, I sort of felt I had a hang of where this was going but I was so, so wrong. Despite all that was televised and all that you heard and read about the role of social media, there are certain images and phrases about the book that you can’t take out. Who is the oppressor, who are oppressed? Who is right, who is wrong? An entire generation is silenced and yet another grows older with anger. When will there be peace and tolerance or forbearance and forgiveness? There are so many questions that plague your mind as you go through Sameera’s journey. All she wanted to be was a radio jockey in a foreign country her father adopted to ensure they lived a better life in Faisalabad. All she ever wanted to be was honest, and the saddest part is that her honesty is not expressed to the people who matter most. She was quelled before she could raise her voice.

I’m eagerly waiting for the translation of his latest novel – Al-Arabian Novel Factory – which is a twin novel or we can say a continuation of where Jasmine Days ended. An excerpt is available in the hardcover copy and online and it’s almost torturous; the wait!

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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

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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An army-style love story

Combat SkirtsCombat Skirts by Sahana Ahmed

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being from Calcutta, this book brings a lot of familiar places to mind. A journey of a college student finding love and herself makes for a fun light read.

Saba is an army girl out to carve an identity for herself as she steps away from home to pursue law (or her dreams) in another city. It’s about her finding love and losing it and finding it again in other places. An average life of a college girl well-blended with the topography and history of that period (1998), this book is a good read if you are into romantic fiction.

Way better than what we have around, in either case, the book is a good read.

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Simply unputdownable

Leila: A NovelLeila: A Novel by Prayaag Akbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sensitive, warm, fuzzy, scary, painful. The entire book is a roller coaster of emotions. If you read it over days, you would want to immediately go back and start again lest you missed something in the beginning which was telling of the end.

An emotional journey of a mother searching for her daughter in a dystopian world which seems so close to reality that it’s almost disturbing. Shalini, the main protagonist of the book, takes us back and forth in a crumbling world where freedom to love, marry and live life on your terms is looked down upon. Where in the name of culture and tradition families are torn apart and live in fear of being torn apart. The entire fabric of society seems so fragile in this world that you tiptoe into the next page fearing that your ‘democratic’ world isn’t suddenly destroyed.

At times you feel is this where your country is eventually headed to with all that is going on in terms of moral policing or do you think better sense will prevail. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where Shalini, Laila and Riz can’t be together, but you need to read the book to find out more.

All in all, it’s a must read and I promise you it’s not disappointing.

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On Books & Reviews

If there was one phrase to describe this book, it has to be heart-wrenching!

Fate BallFate Ball by Adam W. Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book which began as a simple college love story turns into something so intense that it kept me up all night wanting to know more. If you look at it from a different perspepctive, the book is about the life of an addict and her struggle to break out. She fails miserably and so do the people around her trying to help.

A sense of helplessness, guilt and inability to do anything but wait and watch is what keeps you on your toes. A light read despite being based on a serious plot, the book is simply unputtdownable.

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