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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

americanah-300x0Finished Americanah. I feel so many emotions swirling inside me that I don’t rightly know how to put in words. I wish I had Adichie’s words…she would have no trouble finding the right ones. Indeed no, she would find a way to solidify the amorphous until it was recognizable and beautiful in the way only the right words can be.

This is my first book by Adichie and one that deserves not 5 stars but a clear evening sky full of a million stars! Coz ever so often in my reading, that’s how I imagined myself reading it…underneath an epic sky! It seemed only fitting. It is epic in scope and in detail. A saga…that still feels firmly anchored in reality. Perhaps it’s Ifemelu’s influence. I like to think so. The inimitable Ifemelu – a girl after my own heart, a woman I strongly identified with despite the fact that she and I inhabit disparate universes (and I don’t mean real and fictional)…despite the fact that I’m not Nigerian, not an immigrant, not Black.

Being women is the only thing we have in common other than of course our shared love for our respective 3rd world cities, and it is enough! How comforting that thought in this crazy labelled world be now inhabit. I’m an Indian, born and brought up in India and the 4 years I lived in Singapore is my only brush with day-to-day life in the First World as we like to call it. It has it’s advantages but it ain’t all peaches & cream; and Adichie understands. She gets the nuances in voice-tone and body language that serve to silently alienate & subjugate; she gets the yearning for home despite the enjoyment of a great life in an adopted country; she gets the burden of the need to appear constantly grateful in the presence of self-proclaimed natives (lets just be honest about the fact that the White Man is NOT native to America. He slaughtered the natives and made it his); and she gets also, the guilt that can arise from feeling that burden, or worse from not feeling it.

For me this book was as authentic an experience as I expected from a story about immigrants. That is what it is at it’s heart. The story of Ifemelu & Obinze – as they grow up in Nigeria under various regimes, migrate to the US and the UK and come back home again in a full circle narrative. Along the way we are treated to each of their life experiences in those countries – bad, good and messy in equal measure. Adichie’s insights into migrant thought and feeling are phenomenal and she manages to be perceptive and funny without being preachy or condescending. There is no right and wrong here – just your truth and my truth and the occasional common ground where the two might meet and mingle.

Adichie also tackles the race issue – head on and without apology. For obvious reasons, I have not encountered the racial prejudice – subtle and overt – as Ifemelu & Obinze do in their very diverse immigrant experiences – but I understood their pain and confusion. Their joys and their angst felt as real and gut-wrenching to me as it must have to them. Their choices both good and disastrous – became mine, as did their dreams and hopes. You see how they’ve become real people to me? If that isn’t the sign of a great book then I’m sure I don’t know what is!

It’s hard for me to find faults in this narrative. It flows seamlessly from one country to another and back. It reads like Life itself, as Adiche establishes a rhythm to Ifemelu’s life and later to Obinze’s. I love that Ifemelu writes a Blog. I love that she feels insecure about it. I love that she is persistent and irreverent and brave and silly. I love that she makes decisions that turn her life on it’s head for reasons she cannot fathom herself.  I love that she forgives herself for not having said reasons! How often that has been true for me! And Obinze – if I had a man like him, I would go ahead & screw it up just as Ifem does no doubt😉 It is such a comfort and joy to read such a good masculine character – not one that is too good to be true – by no means that. But one who is inherently good and willing to deal with the mess he’s created with a semblance of dignity. He is his mother’s son in the end, even if it does take him a while to get there🙂

I also liked that the Lagos ethos was instantly identifiable as were Ifem’s immediate reactions upon her return. Her distrust of her memories of an older time, a bygone Lagos, because there seemed nothing left of them in the new gaudy city, were familiar. Akin to what I felt when I first returned from just four years away to my beloved Bombay and found it so changed. ‘Was that building really so old?’ ‘Were people always this rude?’ ‘Was life always such a hustle?’ And then of course her wondering whether she feels the way she does because the city has changed more than she has or vice versa or perhaps a little bit of both…that was all too familiar too. Lagos & Bombay felt like twin cities, being as they are economic hubs for their countries; drawing people from all over, hustlers all – each in their own way, trying to get a piece of the Good Life; their vibrant vibes concealing a seedy underbelly.

I could go on endlessly about this book but I see this post is already too long😛 Needless to say, Adichie is now a favourite🙂 Her prose and style are utterly engaging and this story hit a whole symphony of nerves within! I wonder what Purple Hibiscus will be like – I’m reading it for my Book Club.

MUST READ!

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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Lust for Life – Irving Stone

79834This is the gut-wrenching, heart-stopping tale of Vincent Van Gogh’s life as narrated by Irving Stone. It is a book that grew on me slowly, as I took my time familiarising myself with his family, his milieu, his thoughts. Stone succeeds in making this journey through a long-dead celebrity’s life – a very intimate one. His recounting & reconstruction of the artist’s life events seems flawless and faultless, until I was prepared to believe that the characters must truly have spoken in these words and no other! Stone mentions at the end of the book that he has taken some creative license as far as conversations are concerned (expectedly), but the essence is true and it shows.I also liked the linearity of the book which I felt made the story easy to follow. Stone follows Van Gogh’s journey from London where he has his heart broken by Ursula, in a sequential manner, tracing his thoughts and steps as they led him to his final resting place in Auvers. At every stop in between, we learn how Van Gogh is affected by the people of the region and Nature. These are the two driving forces that teach him about himself and life and in doing so reveal the genius within. I LOVE the title. I didn’t start out loving it – wondered why a book on a painter would be titled so. But as I read how he lived and how he painted – so wholly, so completely, so utterly giving of himself to the task at hand – whether it be serving fellow humans or painting – I realised there could have been no other title for a book on Van Gogh’s life! He lived lustily indeed, squeezing life out of every moment – tragic and joyful – and knowing that puts a whole new depth of perspective on his work.

I’ve visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and stood in front of those Yellow Sunflowers in awe – not knowing what exactly it was that moved me but sensing that I felt happiness in their presence, sensing the magic that lingered after a century had passed. My favourite Van Gogh is The Almond Blossoms that he painted when his nephew little Vincent was born! I bought a tile that sits in my bedroom and that never fails to cheer me up just by existing! Oh that blue! And yet somewhere I wish it didn’t have to take so much tragedy to create a genius. I cried when he died – that’s the writing that is. Powerful, simple and eloquent. Much like Van Gogh himself.

And I didn’t know that Theo passed on within 6 months of Vincent! That bond they shared was something else! I was really glad that throughout his hard life, Vincent could always count on his brother’s love and support. I like to think it made up in some part at least for the lack of love he experienced in most of his other relationships. I also enjoyed the interactions he had with his contemporaries Gaguin, Cezzane, Lautrec, Rousseau…very interesting menage they made! This is a a wonderful and surprisingly uplifting read despite the tragedy that marked the life of this genius. 

A MUST read!

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

20140108-215723.jpgMy first book of 2014 and not a bad beginning. Lahiri’s prose is as always, sensitive, eloquent and evocative. Her ability to paint pictures with words is undiminished. What I really liked about this book though was its departure from the customary ‘migrational angst’, that has been the focus of her previous work. Although the characters in this story are also immigrants to the US, their struggle to adjust to an alien culture is thankfully not the prime focus. Instead Lahiri concentrates on the relationships between her characters and weaves together their disparate lives and memories in India and the US in a gentle,subtle mesh that is ever present but never overwhelms. And although neither the characters nor their stories are particularly original, her writing never falters. I understand why this book was short-listed for the Bookers (Lahiri seems a firm favourite!), but I also understand why it didn’t win.

So we have the two brothers, Subhash – the older, conservative, dutiful son bordering on the insipid and Udayan – the younger, spirited, a rebel in search of a cause. And Gauri – an unwilling link between the two, intelligent, sensitive and yet astonishingly weak and callous. There were times when I wanted to strike her, she made me so angry! And Bela – a product of equal measures of love and indifference – learning to survive without really living until the truth finally sets her free. The characters are not really likeable but they are human – flawed, weak, selfish, capable of great love and greater cruelty. I wish Gauri had got counselling. She really needed it.

I thought this book should have ended at the conclusion of Part VII. That to me seemed just right. Part VIII doesn’t feel extraneous, just a teeny bit forced & repetitive in an attempt to tie up loose ends. I just wish Lahiri had found another way. Still, it’s an easy read, the prose flows effortlessly along carrying you with it on a not uninteresting journey. There is tragedy but there is hope and on occasion if it all gets a bit maudlin – well I’ll survive😉 I think this will translate very well onto screen and I have a sneaky suspicion that That is what Lahiri intended all along😛

Here are a couple of quotes that gave me goose flesh😛

“A time she’d crushed between her fingertips, leaving no substance, only a protective residue on the skin.”

“Her mother’s absence was like another language she’d had to learn, it’s full complexity and nuance emerging only after years of study, and even then, because it was foreign, a language never fully absorbed.”

“They were a family of solitaries. They had collided and dispersed.”

If you’re a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri, you’ll love it. If you’re not, it’s still an extremely well written book, albeit with a familiar, predictable story. The choice is yours!

Here’s to great reading year in 2014 😊

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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The Aryavarta Chronicles: Book 1 – Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar

The Mahabharata retold – reinterpreted & reworked – yet again!

This Epic has always fascinated me, as indeed it has millions of Indians who have grown up listening to its stories at Granny’s feet and from reading the Amar Chitra Katha series (a staple diet for all budding readers when I was growing up). It’s just that – an Epic – a tale spanning generations, choc-a-bloc with fascinating, complexly-layered narrative & characters (gods, demons, humans and everything in between!). Vast in scope (The ‘Bhagwad Gita‘ is just one part of this rambling parable!), and yet still relevant in today’s milieu – it makes for an utterly engrossing read – a veritable treatise on human emotions and relationships.

Many authors have attempted their own interpretations and re-tellings and this is yet another version from yet another author. I’m a huge fan of the original and I think it’s always risky to tamper with a well-loved, well-known story, especially one that is an inseparable part of our collective Indian psyche – but I must confess – Krishna Udayshankar doesn’t let me down. There are no Gods here nor demons – just humans – in all their frailty, grace and courage – and that instantly offers a refreshing if challenging perspective. Challenging in that, often ‘divinity’ is explanation enough (even for sceptics like me, in the fictional context), but humanity beggars logic and rational justification. So, although I may accept a particular behaviour in the God Krishna, will I accept a similar behaviour in his purely-human avatar ‘Govinda Shauri’? Will I accept that their motivations are similar – ‘The Greater Good’ that the Gods bandy about as an excuse and explanation for everything? That’s the question isn’t it? And that’s what I particularly enjoyed about this version – the way the author challenged my beliefs and status quo, forcing me to at least allow for a new perspective, if not accept it. No mean feat that.

I also enjoyed that she took some of the lesser known characters from the original and turned them into game-changers in her version, while down-playing some of the major players! It made for refreshing reading. So Vyasa – who is author of the original, is a king-maker in this version – a calculating, powerful man of hidden intent and cunning, a master manipulator. Sanjaya – King Dhritarashtra’s faithful servant in the original – has a much larger presence and role in this version – as an important counsellor to the king and right-hand man to Vyasa. In contrast Shakuni, Vidur, Duryodhan, Partha/Arjun and even Bhishma are surprisingly downplayed – a fact that I enjoyed, especially in case of Partha – whom I’ve never liked much😉 And Shikhandi! How can I not say how much I enjoyed the fact that he and not Partha is Govinda’s confidante in this version? Shikhandi is a fascinating if low-key character in the original, believed to be the reincarnation of the Princess Amba, who committed suicide rather than marry a man she didn’t love. She is reborn to revenge herself on Bhishma – the man she holds responsible for her tragedy. Here, Shikhandi is a peace-loving man and consummate warrior, at home with Nature, Govinda’s friend and confidante, loving brother to Panchali and Dhristhadyuma and at odds with his father King Drupad. I hope he continues to play an important role in the forthcoming books or I will be very disappointed indeed!

Another major and welcome change for me personally is that Panchali is a central, pivotal character and narrator along with Govinda. In a satisfactory change – her marriage here is to Dharma (the eldest Pandava brother), and not to all the five, a fact that disturbed me endlessly in the original. Although she is no less pivotal in the original, here, she is refreshingly center-stage while her husband Dharma takes a definite back-seat. Dharma – an epitome of honesty in the original, is similar here, but the author puts her own spin on his character – allowing us a glimpse into the psyche of one who is not as comfortable with his chosen path as one assumes. An indecisive man, easily influenced and full of his own self-importance, desiring to be right and true at all times while unwilling to do the work that makes it so – relying instead on Vyasa’s machinations, the prowess of his brothers and Govinda’s intellect – justifying their actions on his behalf as divine intervention. Fascinating! And so we come to the man who graces the title – the lynch pin – Govinda Shauri – without whom there would be epic. He is as enigmatic and charismatic as his namesake Krishna in the original. He may not be divine here, but his influence, principles, and readiness to sacrifice all for the ‘Greater Good’ are identical. What particularly intrigued me was his intimate relationship with Panchali. Whereas in the original, it came across as a brother-sister bond, here, it is anything but! The tensions between the two friends and almost-lovers are palpable and make for some very interesting, taut scenes that will translate excellently on film! I wonder whether she’s sold film rights? JP – are you listening?

I loved that she used lesser known names of the characters – so it’s Dwaipayana instead of Vyasa, Panchali instead of the more common Draupadi, Balabadra instead of Balaram, Partha and Dharma instead of Arjun and Yudhisthir – refreshes my memory and adds novelty. She also introduces a new concept – The Firewrights – a race of brilliant innovators & inventors (akin to magicians), that work with the First-Born (the Vyasas) and the Kings – but that have fallen into disrepute and are being hunted down by both. Her writing is spot-on – she manages to weave an undercurrent of mystery & suspense even when dealing with a story we all think we know by heart; her concept is interesting and her perspective refreshing. Except for the font-size which is too small, I have no major cribs! I will definitely read her next in this series – Kaurava, probably on Kindle to rest my poor eyes J

P.S. Reading this has made me want to re-read the original and I’ve downloaded The Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari to refresh my memory!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller

Mixed feelings!

The Bridges of Madison CountyI read such vitriolic reviews of this book on Goodreads, I almost abandoned the thought of reading it! That’s another book I’ve read only because it’s a book club selection, like last week’s Dongri to Dubai. It had totally fallen off my book radar and if I ever came across a reference (which I haven’t in decades), I would automatically have thought of the movie instead of the book which is really rare for me!

I remember watching the movie vaguely…way back when I was too young to understand much of what this book is about or take it seriously. I love Streep although not Eastwood so much, but I see now how this was a perfect casting coup. Who better than Eastwood to play ‘The Last Cowboy’ living in ‘Dimension Z’? Who better than the phenomenal Streep to play the ‘regular housewife’ turned guilty adulteress confronted with a life-changing choice? I don’t remember much about the movie but I’m keen on seeing it again now that I’m closer to Francesca – in age if not in sentiment! I think it will be easier now to be non-judgmental and non-dismissive of what is essentially the story of a 4-day extra-marital affair masquerading as ‘true-love’. I use the word ‘masquerade’ intentionally here because there in lies my conflict. ‘To believe or not to believe.’ – That is the question.

I can’t quite seem to make up my mind, probably because I sense that Waller can’t either. There are times when I want to believe that yes Francesca & Robert Kincaid were indeed star-crossed lovers in the traditional sense, where everything was right except the timing and yet…and yet something keeps me from taking that final leap of faith. Perhaps because most of the time, it seems like Waller wrote a screenplay instead of a story – a collation of scenes that he imagined would look great on film; probably even imagined Streep and Eastwood as Francesca & Robert (certainly Kincaid & Eastwood appear to be cut from the same cloth!), and that’s when everything falls apart and seems pretentious, calculated, and unreal – the premise, the dialogue, the eventual sacrifice…all of it inevitably feels contrived and fake. If what Waller was aiming for is confusion, well he’s hit the nail dead centre, at least for me! Perhaps he was – he does tell us to approach the story by suspending disbelief in the very first chapter, which brings me to my next point.

For some reason I thought this was based on a true story, which for me would have made it believable, because I truly do believe in the ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ line. Really. I’ve lived it. So the fact that this is completely fictional upset me in a visceral way, which should be a sure sign that I loved the book right? More confusion! So here’s the thing then – I liked the thought of Robert Kincaid – most women would I think – he came across as the perfect balance of sensitivity and respect – a guy with not only all the right answers but more importantly asking all the right questions! A rare find indeed, given the times we live in! Perhaps that’s why he felt a touch unreal – too good to be true. Francesa in contrast felt ‘real’ – I could understand her as a woman, lonely, depressed perhaps, disappointed, wondering about her life and the choices she’s made – that’s real. I think what really disturbs me is that while I can understand why Francesca would have an affair (it seems in character), I cannot for the life of me understand why Robert would. He seems perfectly happy up until that point in his own self-contained way and Waller shows me nothing in Francesca that can possibly have caused him to change. And this is where I believe the writing fails or I suppose the aforementioned suspension of disbelief is expected to kick in and make everything believable. Didn’t work for me.

Now for the end – I understand why Francesca would want to let her children know about the affair, but I do not understand why she would find it necessary to share details about where and how many times she made love! That’s just plain hurtful & poor taste and reeks of sensationalism; although a vicious part of me feels that it’s in character too. And so for all of Waller’s attempt at characterising her as a quiet, subtle woman – I found her anything but! Also the fact that the children just immediately caught on to the ‘great passion’ of their Mother’s life and accepted it as such, without ever feeling any sense of resentment or betrayal – that is just surreal! Another instance of hackneyed writing in my opinion. I wonder how a book like BOMC would do in our day and age, where affairs are commonplace and ‘true love’ is the stuff of myth and legend😛

Lasting impressions – Disappointment and confusion. I wanted to believe but couldn’t quite. In all honesty it’s probably my fault as much as Wallers😛 This is not my favorite genre and I’m a lot more cynical in my forties, so suspending disbelief is a lot harder than it used to be😉 Unless we’re talking Fantasy in which all things are possible, probable and believable without a shred of doubt😛 Also, I’ve had a huge argument with my Mom and am not feeling the love towards an errant Mom right now – even if she was chasing the love of her life & is fictitious! To top that, Waller’s prose is ordinary and some parts of this book just read like a glorified M&B, except that Mills and Boons are never pretentious. This one felt pretentious to me and try as I might, can’t get rid of the feeling. And yet I have no doubt it will make for an excellent book club discussion😉 It has however made me want to watch the movie again and this time I’ll be paying close attention! I think this is one of the rare times when I’m going to like the movie more than the book – whether it’s because of the cast or the content – well that’s fodder for another post🙂

The only parts where I felt a deep connect were when Waller describes Kincaid’s photography. Being a keen amateur photographer myself, I enjoyed how he went about his craft. His skill and love for what he does was obvious. And those bridges – I googled them – Pretty, but not photographed half as well as I had imaged in my head. And then I wonder why I love Fantasy so much😛

Happy Reading People🙂

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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Dongri to Dubai – S. Hussain Zaidi

I wouldn’t have read this book if it weren’t a book club pick. Not a great way to begin a post, but it’s the truth and that’s as good a place to start as any! It isn’t that the subject was uninteresting, just that after I finished I felt a little cheated.

book--dongri-to-dubaiLet me explain. Dongri to Dubai is a treatise of sorts on the post-Independence evolution of the Mumbai Mafia in general and Dawood Ibrahim in particular. Authored by S. Hussain Zaidi, an experienced journalist and crime reporter, it is based on several interviews with gangsters and policemen alike and documentation from the involved agencies, including a telephonic interview with the Big D himself, apparently the last time he spoke to a member of the press directly. And yet, while I do not doubt its authenticity, I found little within the pages to excite me, to fire my imagination – you know what I mean? As a journalist, I expected him to give us deeper insight into the gritty lives and motivations behind the often glamorous faces of key gangsters like Haji Mastan and Dawood. Who better than him to cut these larger-than-life characters to size; to take us into their lives and to show us intimately how they lived, loved, killed and died? Instead of gritty prose and sharp editing (this book could do with a re-edit in my opinion), it read like a rambling documentary that was strangely lacking in depth, pace and most importantly author opinion. The latter really got my goat – how does a man who has spent 6 years of his life researching and writing this book, manage to seem so aloof & unaffected?! I read in vain for his personal opinion on events and the utterly impersonal tone of the book brought me face to face with the reason why I avoid most non-fiction like the plague! Perhaps I’m being too harsh but I really do think that’s what made this book unexciting and ultimately uninteresting for me😦. I understand that his journalistic background is what must have prevented him from getting up close and personal with his characters, much like medical training does for us doctors – it attempts to keep us objective and rational. And while it may work in a news report, when I’m reading a book from an expert of sorts in the field, I want more, I expect more.

As a well read Indian citizen, I already knew most of what was in the book – not dates and names, nor exact times and modus operandi obviously – but certainly the major shootouts and killings were extensively covered in the media and the book did serve as a refresher course of sorts coz I’d forgotten many details. I enjoyed reading about the smaller characters – Manya Surve, Samad Khan, Amirzada, Karim Lala and their ilk – people I hadn’t heard of but were pretty crucial in the roles they played. I also enjoyed reading about the Gawli gang although again, not enough details here to whet my curious appetite. Varadarajan was another character that I enjoyed reading about. There are too many characters however, as are wont to be when we’re talking 6 decades, and I don’t think I’m going to remember any of them for any length of time because of this book, if you get my meaning. I do feel however that for those who know nothing of the Mumbai Mafia and the D Gang, this is probably as good an introduction as any. Although I wish the author had utilized Bombay more effectively as a backdrop – he fails to capture her multi-layered, multi-ethnic chaos. Bombay is a city that is very much alive – it seethes with the lives, ambitions and passions of its millions of denizens, all struggling to fulfil their dreams and destinies. I feel Zaidi could have done a much better job of capturing her essence, her ethos, her ‘Vibe’ as it were. A missed opportunity, in my opinion, because every gangster in the book was seduced by Bombay’s charm and her inherent appeal. She seduced them all with tantalizing visions of power and glamour and wealth while cleverly hiding the price she would invariable extract. Having lived in Bombay and felt that charm (Still do! It’s not something that ever leaves you once you’ve lived there!), I missed it in this book. I feel Shantaram (though not the same genre), did a much better job of capturing the vibrant poignancy of the seedy underbelly of Bombay.

Also missing were details on the politicians involved. Perhaps the author didn’t mean this as an exposé, but surely one can name names now after all this time? If he doesn’t I can only assume one that he doesn’t know, or that the people involved are still either in power or close to those who wield it and so are best left alone – both of which do not make for very good journalism! I would also have liked more background on the policemen involved too – their families, their motivations and their ambitions. Zaidi rarely delves into individual psyche, preferring to deal with the Mumbai Police as a whole, except in a few instances, notably Dawood’s father who was ironically a constable – an honest one no less! As I read, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that the author was playing it safe – he had decided somewhere along the line that he would just collate the facts together and present them in book form – nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps he was threatened? He doesn’t say. But my overall impression was that he skimmed the surface and left the murky depths undisturbed. I was hoping for some insight into Nadeem Saifi, allegedly involved in the Gulshan Kumar murder, but was disappointed when Zaidi had nothing new to add. I did feel the piece on Mandakini, the infamous starlet thought at one time to be Dawood’s mistress was interesting. Here at least Zaidi seemed to have tracked her down and found out what happened to her – although yet again, her alleged relationship with the Don remains what it always was – a thing of mystery! And so what started out with a lot of promise ended up becoming a rather tedious, dull and boring read – surprising and sad for a book about characters that are anything but. And surely there should have been more pictures? So yes, although in the end I did get from Dongri to Dubai, I didn’t much care for the ride!

As for Dawood Ibrahim – this book does nothing to help me understand him or his motivations better. He remains as shadowy in its pages as he does in real life. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

Rating: 2/5

And you will not believe what I have to read next…The Bridges of Madison County (also for the Book Club!)…another genre that I’m not fond of…sigh😛 Life is tough😉

Happy Reading People🙂

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Non-Booker Reviews

 

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…Been a while

Have returned to this Blog after such a long hiatus that I seriously considered shutting it down! During the vacation in May and the move that followed from Bombay to Bangalore via Goa…I have brutally neglected both my Blogs, as I dealt with more immediate matters – sorting, packing, unpacking, house-hunting and most importantly the consequences of uprooting a 5-yr-old from a familiar environment. It’s been tough and we are just beginning to find our feet here in Bangalore. Junior has finally stopped howling about school and has made a tentative transition to travelling by school bus for the first time in his life. Every day is still a fingers-crossed kinda day for moi, but things are inching towards a new routine and hopefully a new normal! Wish me luck People😀 Lord knows I need it!

As always books are my number one stress-busters and as busy and distracted as I was, they were never far away🙂 No heavy, serious reading though…I invariably turned to my favorite genre of crime and mysteries and have been comfortably ensconced in that universe these several months. It began with Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey series – I enjoyed reading the shenanigans of this suave, aristocrat, who impressed with his deceptively laid back attitude that hid a razor-sharp mind and wit! During this time and until a few days ago, I read almost exclusively on my Kindle…surprising myself more than anyone else! I think it has to do with the fact that if I’m going to read series (which I will) that have more than a dozen books each (which they do!), I really cannot expect to find a place for them all on my bookshelves; and also the discovery of the fact that I can lock my iPad screen into a horizontal orientation which improves the reading experience for old-fashioned book-lovers like me in leaps and bounds! So I’ve decided that in the absence of a good library (although my new complex has a decent-ish one), I will use the Kindle for all the series I’m currently reading and for future ones that will doubtless follow. Isn’t it strange yet wonderful how inevitably one series of books will lead to another?🙂

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Sayers led me to Chesterton’s Father Brown series and I was lost for a long time in a world where an intrepid man of cloth, went about solving the most astonishing mysteries with ridiculous ease, while also offering spiritual succor to his flock! I found the whole idea of a detective-priest charming and irresistible and also enjoyed Chesterton’s writing style – simple, direct and peppered with philosophical dilemmas and moral debates. After a massive dose of Father Brown, I ventured finally to the only decent-ish bookshop close to home, and there stumbled upon M. C. Beaton‘s Agatha Raisin series. The book was Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate and with a title like that and the prettily illustrated cover – how could I resist? I enjoyed the book enough to research the series and give it a go, but after reading the first six books at a stretch – I’ve abandoned this series😦 I just couldn’t take anymore of the main character. Agatha Raisin is a fifty-something woman who is smart, funny, successful and yet such a wimp when it comes to people, relationships and men. That in itself is neither strange nor unbelievable, but when she stays exactly the same book after book, behaving like a teenager emotionally while miraculously demonstrating maturity in solving the mystery at hand – it makes for some very repetitive and tedious reading. It’s almost like the author can’t stand her own creation and is going through the motions of writing😦 After six books in which Agatha swings like a giant emotional pendulum, to and from the supposed love of her life James (such a flat character), I’d had enough. The mysteries (simplistic to begin with), were taking a definite backseat to the nonsensical love-story and I had no time for either. I did give the author a second chance (hate to dislike books) and read the first in her Hamish MacBeth series, Death of a Gossip and although Hamish appears at first to be an antithesis to Agatha, I soon realized they were very similar in a frightening way – he is hopelessly devoted to a woman who considers him ‘just a friend’! That scared me off and I don’t think I’ll be returning to this series either😦 There’s just not enough layers to the characters to keep me interested.

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No sooner than I had abandoned Beaton, I stumbled onto Safi! On another trip to said bookstore and I noticed a few slim books with gaudy, bollywood-kitsch covers and titles – Poisoned Arrow & Doctor Dread. Intrigued, I found they were part of an extensive series by author Ibne Safi, a part of his ‘Jasusi Dunya’. Written originally Urdu (I am fascinated that the language I’ve almost exclusively associated with spectacular poetry in my mind, has also been used to write mysteries! Juvenile I know😉 :P), they have now been translated into English and although I’ve read just one, I must say Colonel Faridi and Sergeant Hameed have caught my fancy🙂 I will be reading more of these. Faridi’s character is true to type – in that he’s an eccentric genius with an eye for detail, uninterested in women, and saddled with the Sergeant who is his exact opposite – sound familiar?! You betcha!

book--dongri-to-dubaiCurrently though I’m reading Dongri to Dubai – a treatise of sorts on organized crime in post-Independence India and more specifically the rise of the world’s most wanted man and India’s favorite whipping-boy – Dawood Ibrahim. It’s one of our book club selections for October and not a book I would otherwise have chosen to read. Having said that, the first chapters detailing the rise of key gangsters in India have been quite interesting if rather predictable – as the author quotes in the book, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention and the father of crime!’ The book has already been made into a movie – Shootout at Wadala, but I haven’t seen it and have no intentions of doing so! I will be posting my review here after I finish.

I have read a few books that are not mysteries, most notably Five Quarters of an Orange by Joanne Harris which I enjoyed and hope to post reviews here as I get back into a rhythm of regular posts!

A HUGE THANK YOU to ALL of you that haven’t abandoned ship🙂 I truly appreciate your patience and support🙂

Happy Reading People🙂

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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