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Posts Tagged ‘romance’


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.

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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.

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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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Mumbai Noir
Ed. by Altaf Tyrewala| Harper Collins | Rs 350

As in the first book, Delhi Noir edited by Hirsh Sawhney that took Delhi under its microscope, Mumbai Noir tells the story of the underbelly of Maximum City. The book is divided by places, events and notions that have shaped its hidden yet, palpable neurosis. Employing the devices of crime fiction and film noir, the stories in the book are divided into three sections: ‘Bomb-ay’, which looks at impact of bomb blasts and crime that scars its body politic; ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, that charts the relationship between the living dead and the newly arrived; and, ‘An Island Unto Itself’ that unspools the dream city. Incisive, heart-wrenching and dark.

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In the Orchard of Swallows
Peter Hobbs | Faber and Faber |Rs 450

Hobbs is a gifted storyteller. In this slim novel, his third after The Short Day Dying and I Could Ride All Day in My Cold Blue Train, he sets a story of love and power in the modern day Swat Valley in Pakistan. The tale is brutal, yet timeless and as beautiful as the garden of life that it seeks to inhabit. A young boy, merely 14 falls in love with a daughter of a local politician. The boy ends up in prison to emerge 15 years later. Life beats to a different drum now, except for the swallows that fly – like dreams – unfettered.

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Two Pronouns and a Verb
Kiran Khalap | Amaryllis| Rs 295

Khalap is a brand consultant who by his own admission enjoys ‘writing, rock climbing and spiritual evolution’. His first novel was Halfway Up the Mountain. This is his second. In it he spins a yarn around three protagonists, Arjun a poet and photographer, Dhruv a social activist working among tribals and an Osho Ashram visitor, a German girl, Eva. The story is set in a Pune wada but moves effortlessly at one point to Goa at another to Mumbai and yet another, tribal hamlet of Nagpur. The three places provide the backdrop to a rather mundane, insipid and uninspiring love-triangle.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 6 May 2011)

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Lest We Forget History
P G J Nampoothiri & Gagan Sethi | Books For Change| Rs 300

This document, put together by a retired police officer of the Gujarat cadre and a social activist, is a valuable addition to the material that has been produced on the state sponsored communal violence in Gujarat 2002. Appointed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to prepare the preliminary report on the gruesome events that shook the nation, the two gentlemen, recount their findings from 2002 and experiences thereafter, with an honesty that deserves both praise and attention. They openly admit that their report is NHRC-centric, but this does not in anyway take away the seriousness of their commitment to justice and fair play.

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All The Single Ladies
Jane Costello| Simon & Schuster| Rs 499

Costello’s first romantic novel, Bridesmaids, made it to The Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers in UK about five years ago. Ever since, the author and her publisher have been milking her “celebrity” status. You could say, that commerce has its own logic, yet the question that begs to be answered is, should you read her? In All The Single Ladies, the writer prods the reader to get on with one’s life after being dumped by a man. Do you really need to spend Rs 500 to learn that? If so, why not visit any random Internet relationship portal that offers the same profound wisdom for free?

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I Never Knew It Was You
Kalpana Swaminathan| Penguin| Rs 299

As far as fictional characters go, Bombay’s most famous detective, Inspector Godbole is impossible to top. So Swaminthan does the next best thing, she invents his alter ego, a 67-year-old silver haired female ex-cop called Lalli. This book features Lalli’s fourth case as a crime buster. Apart from the plot, it’s the writer’s keen eye for detail that will have you asking for more. Take this description of modern-day Vile Parle for instance: “Now all that remains is a heap of rubble, waiting like a parent by the gate. Shops have gone from general stores to shopping centres, but these won’t last. By next year we’ll have a mall.”

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 8 April 2012)

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The Song Seekers
Saswati Sengupta| Zubaan| Rs 395

In one of the most venerated texts on Goddess Kali, the Mahatmya, Kali also known as Chandi, is a fierce sword-wielding goddess. In the 18th century Puranic retelling of the tale, however, Kali as consort of Shiva assumes more importance. She becomes the goddess Parvati that’s tied to home and hearth, not the battlefield. Sengupta questions this twisting of the tale by the patriarchs who penned the Chandimangals in 18th century Bengal. “How did these contradictions come about?” she asks, as she spins an alternate tale. Fascinating read, if you can get over the un-evenness of the author’s narrative as it flits clumsily between past and present.

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The Grandeur of the Lion
Carl Muller| Penguin|Rs 199

Muller, now 77-years-old, has been a navy signalman, a tourist entertainer and a writer of science fiction and poetry. The ‘Lion series’ is his attempt to retell the saga of Sinhalese people through Buddhist fables and mythology. More accurately, he tells the story of the reign of Duttha Gamini – known both as a destructive and benevolent king – who ruled the kingdom of Anuradhapuram on the island between 161-137 BC. The first book in the series, City of the Lion earned him the State Literary Award in Sri Lanka. This book is the third in the four part series, describing how Duttha Gamini transformed his capital into the most famous Buddhist city in ancient times.

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I Have Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella| Banta Press|Rs 550

Kinsella shot to fame with her first bestselling novel, Confessions of a Shopaholic that was later turned into an equally popular Hollywood flick. In I Have Got Your Number the author explores the travails of a heroine who while losing her own phone finds a mobile belonging to a dashing businessman. The romance formula does not change. What changes is the setting. The hero is a tall, dark and handsome man and the woman, a physiotherapist in a recuperation facility. The heroine has no calms about accessing the hero’s official and personal emails and sms texts. In real life she would have got the boot, in the novel, she gets the man.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 4 March 2012)

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