Archive for the ‘Novel’ Category

Black Bread White Beer
Niven Govinden | Fourth Estate, Harper Collins | Rs 350

Hanif Khureshi told the story of his generation. Govinden hits on his. In My Beautiful Launderette written in 1985 Khureshi tackled race in a tactful and humorous way. Years down the line Govinden sees no humour. In Black Bread White Beer, his loathing and empathy for the other is almost Roth-like in its embrace “… lippy girls who told him he never did anything right, until he got out his credit card”. An unnerving novel that deserves to be read by anyone interested in race relations in modern day England, told from a perspective of a second generation Indian who is, to put it simply, rabidly honest.


The Thread
Victoria Hislop | Headline Review | Rs 350

Set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean, The Thread, tells the story of three generations of an orthodox Greek family settled in Thessaloniki after the break out of the Greek civil war in the 1940s. Thessaloniki, says the writer, was a city where “an even mixture of Christians, Jews and Muslims lived”. Three decades later there were only Christians. There is more. Through the decades of upheaval the city served as a concentration camp where the Communists and other radicals were jailed and tortured. This is their story. Her first book, The Island, created ripples both in England and Greece in 2005.


The Accused
John Grisham | Hodder | Rs 250

Anyone expecting a typical Grisham legal thriller is in for a shock. This is not it. The Accused – a part of the Theodore Boone series – tells a story of a teenager who’s accused of a crime he does not commit. The blurb on the flap bills him as a boy who ‘who knows more than most adult lawyers’. Exciting you could say, particularly for young adults brought up on Harry Potter.  Only there is no death- defying thrill of adventure here, only lessons in law. So if you are looking for a true-blue Grisham fix, wait till fall when his adult thriller The Confession hits the stores.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 10 June 2012)

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The Soul of the Rhino
Hemanta Mishra & Jim Ottaway Jr | Penguin | Rs 299

For naturalist, Hemanta Mishra “Saving the rhino, had become an obsession.” An obsession that had to be tampered with realism when King Birendra of Nepal ordered Mishra to organise a hunt for the animal for a Tarpan ceremony – a ritual that requires a rhino to be killed to propitiate gods in order to earn ‘peace and harmony’. For animal rights activists this admission from a conservationist may cause revulsion. But Mishra turned it around into cause célèbre for saving the beast and its habitat. Written with humour and insight, this slim book recounts the history of the one-horned wonder and the man who set out to save it.


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith | Headline  | Rs 299

What is the statistical probability of love at first sight? Skeptics would say, none. Romantics would vouch otherwise. Smith belongs to the latter group. Or let’s say, her publisher thinks this kind of story will sell well. It’s another question whether young adults think the same. But let’s assume they do. If so, this book is for them. It tells the story of 17-year-old American girl, Hadley who meets a 20-something English boy, Oliver at an airport. The book includes an interview with the writer, including a section that tells the reader what places to visit if you find yourself in London or New York.


Gypsy Escapades
William J. Jackson | Rupa | Rs 250

Written by an academic who has authored several books on South Indian bhakti literature, Gypsy Escapades attempts to tell the history of Narikuruva hill tribe in Tamil Nadu by situating their story in a suspense drama that traverses India on the hippie trail. In India “sweepers continuously sweep up the endless rubble and rubbish” deposited on the streets, comments the author at one point, adding pompously of how it “makes you think of consumerism”. This sort of patronizing gives one the hiccups, more so since the author makes a living from researching “the other”. Obviously, the story suffers. As do the readers.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi dated 3 June 2012)

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The Coalition of Competitors
Kiran Karnik| Collins Business| Rs 399

If it hadn’t been for Nehru and Vikram Sarabhai, India may not have been the IT major it is today, says Karnik, in this highly readable take on the IT industry. Of course others also contributed, like Sam Pitroda, who is supposed to have told General Electric that if they wanted to sell aircraft engines to us, they would have to throw in USD 10 million IT software work into India. GE did. Karnik assembles this and other nuggets to describe the birth of IT industry and Nasscom. The book flap tells us Nasscom is upheld as a model. That’s a bit over the top praise for an association floated by private software firms.


The Child Inside
Suzanne Bugler| Pan| Rs 325

The Child Inside tells the well-worn story of marital betrayal and its aftermath. A married woman delivers a stillborn child, turns away from her husband to rekindle an affair with an old flame. Only, it does not work. “Do you know how lonely I have been,” wife tells husband when confronted, “I feel like I am trapped in emotional graveyard.” But we are ‘a family’, responds the husband. Not exactly a cheerful plot, you have to admit. It does not help that the prose is gloomier than the tale and narration is as lifeless as the depressed heroine of the novel. The novel is billed as a ‘psychological drama’ by the publisher.


The Flying Man
Roopa Farooki| Hachette India| Rs 499

This novel tells the story of a shady entrepreneur, gambler, businessman, political activist, journalist, fornicator, thief, dilettante, doodler and sometime playwright. He is born in Pakistan. But he could well have been from India or any other neighbouring Asian country. The novel penned by Farooki, her fifth, invents a memorable come-of-age immigrant. A man whose life moves as fluidly between London, Egypt, Madrid and Hong Kong as it does through his three marriages, shady businesses, invented personas and several incarcerations in jail. Sometimes, Farooki seems to say, to go “anywhere “ can lead one nowhere.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 18 March 2012)

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