Sunday, 28 February 2021
One cannot help but wonder how far this author has come in life to be able to pen such a compelling book, especially given his simple schooling, upbringing and home atmosphere.
The book is essentially a collection of 22 essays penned by the author about his mother. The author preface and foreword penned by his wife offer more insights into the stories contained within.
each essay is compelling in its own little shell. The topic on hand is discussed with a background just sufficient to follow the narration and impact that invariably follows at the end. All of them have the common thread of interminable will and resilience that follows the struggle of a rural woman. Her endless toil to feed and educate her sons, along with her peculiar idiosyncrasies, cleverness, acceptance and realizations make for a compelling read.
Stories like Making murukku and Gift Accounts are no different from some instances that all of us may remember from our own childhoods, with our own parental interactions.
The Book Addict is my favourite, for obvious reasons. I identify with the bibliophile in the author completely, down to the last detail. The Thousand Eyed Shirt is heartrending. However, it is the first one, AN invitation from the moon that leaves goosebumps over the skin, when he recounts the sheer courage, tenacity and spirit of his Amma.
It subtly points out how most city women have made laziness their forte and are insufferable fusspots, not much worse than the spoilt brats they normally raise. Also, it reminds us of the reality of the older generation today, especially in the cities, who are addicted to serials, gossip and general lethargy. There are many life lessons to be gleaned from this book.
The simple language and vocabulary are easy to read and relish.
The book contains multiple elements that strongly reminded me of an earlier read of last year by Bama, called Karukku. The rural setting, the long labour of women, the daily struggles and challenges, nostalgic childhood memories, repetitive story-telling tendencies and even the Dalit and caste connection towards the end, all of these were reminiscent of Bama’s famous work.
A clean 4.8/5 for this one. Extra points may be awarded to the ruthless honesty of the author – he neither spares himself, his family or his beloved Amma – everyone is dissected by his ink on the pages.
This book is a gem – a showcase to society and ample learning for generations to come.
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My 19th read of the year and first read of this author is a crime thriller by Arvind Narsima.
I enjoyed it immensely, being my first real crime thriller by an Indian author. I had the uncanny feeling of watching a masala movie on TV, a Telugu blockbuster with subtitles running below. It is a rather large book, but fast-paced and full of intellectual and some physical action along the way.
The novel is distinctly filmy, a Tollywood flick. Seems like the author wrote it to resemble a screenplay than as a book. The movie buff in me enjoyed it thoroughly because it did not compromise on the language, albeit a few minor errors that unlike many other Indian novels, do not take away the experience of reading the book and enjoying it too.
The setting is mostly in Chennai and Puducherry, along with some Hosur-Denkinikottai bits included in it. The various names of roads and places give it a distinct south Indian feel. The climax is perfect for the encounter between the cops and the thugs, offering vivid imagery for readers to imagine the scenes that play out on the pages.
ASP Arya, the super-cop protagonist is larger than life – the perfect sensitive man beneath the hardcore cop. One wonders which Tollywood hero the author envisioned in his mind while penning Arya’a character. Mahesh Babu, perhaps? The tall dashing man who sends female hearts aflutter, wins grudging respect of his seniors and stuns his male colleagues with his exceptional fights. His boundless energy matches his superfast mind while on a case. The fatherly touch is an added bonus to the perfect package. Overall, the book is a celebration of the protagonist – either his own acclaim-worthy acts or the females going gooey eyes over him.
Shivani is the besotted mom who is convincing as weak in the knees for Arya while being a doting mom to Payal. The interactions between the fatherly IG, Shivani and Arya wrt to their children are heart-warming.
Bhairavi is rather predictable and a bit too filmy. The whole characterization of all the antagonists and her interactions with them are heavily dosed with Bollywood, Tollywood and Kollywood undertones. Rudra Guru is a powerful presence, more than the politicians Adhi Kesavan and Prabhakar Reddy. The goons, Blade Rajan, Kathi Kumar and Bullet Bhaskar are as terrible as the sobriquets awarded to them. Jeyanth Nandan the singer, his wife Ananya and even the rowdy Jaya akka have their own roles to play in the plot.
There is a lot of detailing accorded to even the minor characters, especially the foolish group of IT professionals from Bangalore, and most important is the little girl Ahalya. The detailed descriptions of their clothes and behaviour of minor characters does lengthen the book. Also, each of them has specific roles to play to add to the detailing and ambience of the story.
The only problem is the sheer number of characters. There must be more than 30 of them, I stopped counting after the first dozen.
The story is an out-and out Indian masala flick. All the elements are present – the brutality of child rape to betrayal, motherhood to blossoming love, fight sequences to murders and anti-climactic finish. All this, with some suspense and a bank robbery and high-profile murder mysteries are thrown into the mix.
Arya’s quick brain and speedy action is breathtaking to read. The sheer number of people involved and the innumerable processes that run behind the scenes of a police investigation are picturized with flair. Also, the inherent corruption of the police and the criminal-political nexus are showcased in detail.
I liked the portrayal of a young mother yearning for the second chance at love in life. It is time Indians move ahead from the age-old craze for virgin heroines being wooed by playboy heroes. This characterization is a refreshing change, although it is yet to become the norm on screen.
Easy narration and superb vocabulary make this a good read, although it is a long book. Some tighter editing from the publisher’s team would have made this novel even more enjoyable.
Anyone who loves masala Indian movies should not miss this book. I rate it 4.5 out of 5. Extra points for highlighting certain evils inherent in corrupt Indian society while harping on the good over malevolence, with many messages attached to it along the way.
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This book is rare juxtaposition of history and science, with ample doses of culture thrown in for good measure. I totally loved the references to the ancient wisdom of the Aryans and the scientific genius that is depicted in the warfare sequences of the novel.
The characterization is the biggest strength of the book. It is powerful, relevant and compelling to explore each of them. What I liked most in the story is that all the characters are realistic. There are grey shades in all of them, including the heroic soldiers. Even the great rishis with all their powers are depicted as human, with tendencies towards losing their tranquility in the face of danger. Some key characters appear only in the second half but leave a powerful impact on the story.
Commander Bhakt Khan is the actual protagonist, who takes up more space than the hero of the story, owing to his importance in the proceedings that change the course of history of Gondwana. It is heartening to see how the largely negative character, with his brutality and anger issues, is given ample due in terms of showcasing his valour, bravery, cunning and especially the respect d fear he commands as ‘Abu’ amidst his soldiers. It is interesting how observant readers may notice that despite his immense prowess as a warrior, he wins over his enemies by stabbing them in the back, literally, instead of facing up to them like the brave soldier he is supposed to be.
Martand, the genius hero, appears in full glory only in the second half of the story. It is interesting how his grey shades in the beginning are almost completely reversed towards the second half. Soudamini is charming, and adds the beautiful bonding between siblings. Kuldeep and Ameen are intersting in theri valour and fighting prowess.
The Rishis are my favourite characters in the book. I loved the character of Rishi Satvagyan, who turns out to be a genius and valiant warrior in the climax.
The only challenge is that there are a large number of characters, and hence it is possible to forget some minor ones along the way.
Also, I liked how history is a character in itself, playing a vital role in taking the story forward. There are characters who will have a bigger role to play in the forthcoming chronicles of Gondwana. I am eager to read more about the beautiful warrior Princess Hansika in action in the next book.
The story begins with ample suspense with the usurping of a silver chest by Arab Khidmatgars and the unleashing of terror amongst the Aryans. The repercussions of this singular event follow, and sustains till the end of the book.
The whole story is rich with history and culture. This elevates the book by several notches. I have always loved studying history and hence I found it interesting to read the aspects of the past that are in the book, even in places where there are detailed historical aspects included in it. However, some parts of the history, especially about the divisions of society could have been trimmed, to render a more compact read.
It is interesting how it is possible for the Commander to emerge victorious only because of emulating the stolen ancient Aryan wisdom. The same can be said of the counter measures of excellent warfare techniques and inventions by the Aryans who study the scriptures.
Also, the complicated, yet simple technology behind telepathy is convincing. The Aum discs and double domes are enthralling in the power depicted in the sequence. Further, the hot air balloons add a nice twist to the time-versus-distance struggle of the period. The best part is how all of this supposed modern advancement was already existent in ancient scriptures, and yet a large majority of us are largely unaware of them.
It is also endearing that Lord Krishna has found a crucial role to play in the storyline, albeit indirectly.
Martand’s embodiment of the 'Ashwapurak Yantra' -Arjuna’s technique of feeding horses on the run, is another thrilling episode.
The Khidmatgar commander having to take pains to learn Sanskrit to pull off a victory is an ironic, classic touch. The power of Knowledge is not left to the imagination, especially in the turn of events showcased in the story. War scenes are filled with vivid imagery in their ruthless depiction. Reading the book was reminiscent of the blockbuster Bahubali II in the technology used during the war.
The story is thus a thrilling celebration of ancient wisdom, which is undermined and ignored in the modern era of technology.
The narrative is simple and easy to follow. It is also fast-paced to retain the interest of the reader. The chapter names allow a forewarning of what is to come, but retain the suspense of how the events come about. Some of the dialogues are peppered with small Sanskrit sayings that are a joy to read. There are ample translations for these. What I liked was how the Khidmatgars who do not know Sanskrit perceive them as ‘symbols’, which is hilarious.
Also, I totally loved the vivid descriptions of the war, the science behind the inventions of the weaponry.
The only grouse I had was that the editing team of the publishers should have been a lot more vigilant. Grammatical aspects, such as articles and tenses, could have been taken care of with more care. Definite articles are especially missing in the narrative, in most of the lines. Had this aspect been addressed, the book would have been elevated to a higher level of Historical literature.
I rate the book 4.6 out of 5. Extra points for the delicious depiction of scientific warfare during the crippling challenges of the ancient times. A must-read for historical thriller lovers. Will definitely watch out for the forthcoming books in the Gondwana Chronicles.
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Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Today, it has become the norm to put as less as two-three short stories together into an anthology. The Kindle platform has enabled even single short stories to be called a ‘book’. While non-readers may feel triumphant about having read another ‘book’, avid readers may be left feeling cheated when the reading ends too soon. In this regard, ‘Love’ is an anthology that sports a good length and a decent number of pages, with 20 stories for readers to enjoy.
Each story is different, some of them almost belong to entirely different genres, including paranormal and magical realism. The common thread that runs along all of them is the theme of love, in all its myriad forms. It is a sheer delight to devour the varying writing styles and expertise of the authors, all in one book.
The most impactful story for me was ‘Take Me to Your Heart’ by Pallavi Sawant Uttekar. The angst of suppression and loss, centered around the setting of a medical college, is showcased with panache. I also liked ‘Hand in Hand into the Sunset’ by Narayani Manapadam, with its distinct south Indian flavor in vocabulary and mannerisms of the characters.
Another poignant story is the one by Alpna Sharma titled ‘Of Forsaken Flowers and Forbidden Frontiers’, a classic heart-wrenching saga. So is the tale by Alipi Das, 'The Daffodils of the Yorkshire Moors', which resonates with delicious literary descriptions and sports nuances of timeless poetry of the lake poets. ‘The Unwritten Story’ by Sarves is a compelling read as well, with the right amount of humour and suspense woven into a tragic tale.
It is sheer joy to read vocabulary that is flawless. It is well acknowledged by most readers that Indian authorial works are bound to have Indianisms, replete with what is now commonly referred to as Indian English. While this is becoming more acceptable by the day, seasoned readers however, may feel the jarring experience of constant grammatical incorrectness and common errors that are missed by the editing team of the publishers, in the recent spate of self-published Indian works.
One therefore prepares oneself to encounter ample errors in most Indie books, especially anthologies. This book turned out to be pleasant surprise, with its top-notch language and perfect vocabulary juxtaposed with compelling narration and multi-genre story-telling. Kudos to the editorial team that has ensured this challenging feat.
I rate the book 4.7 out of 5. Putting together such a sheer number of stories is not an easy task and the Hive team has brought out a compelling anthology.
The only grouse I had is that I missed having a contents page in the beginning of the book, with the stories and respective author names against them to click on and choose which one I wanted to read first. I had to keep scrolling the whole book, going back and forth trying to figure out which author had written which story.
Overall, a must-read, especially for readers who like short stories with good quality work.
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Wednesday, 17 February 2021
The characters are most interesting, especially the protagonist. The plot develops within the first three pages and oddly enough the reader is compelled to side with the contract killer instead of his supposed victim. He is endearing in his self-deprecating shock and
The other characters offer the required narrative and dialogue to keep the suspense and story moving forward. A certain character is depicted as more annoying than the killer himself, which allows readers to feel less negative towards the protagonist despite his actions.
The plot develops with some degree of suspense, where a victim escapes death. Although the confirmation at the end is only what a reader already suspects has happened, it is enjoyable to unveil the same.
The plot twist at the end is karmic and satisfying. It is fun to read another story set on a train, a moving one this time, similar to the railway theme of his subsequent novel.
Typical of Indranil Mukherjee’s unique style, one guffaws and smiles one’s way through the read. The ironic build-ups sustain till the very last line and one almost wonders how the humane element has overflowed even to the supposed negative characterization of the assassin, especially with regard to his ‘professional pride’. The language is top-notch and the vocabulary is flawless.
The touches of humour add a classic touch to the narrative and descriptive prose. I wanted the book to be longer, it ended too soon for me.
I rate the book 4.6 out of 5. Extra points for innovative plot-building, reminded me of Agatha Christie’s bestseller ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ although the length and suspense are easier to tackle.
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Thursday, 11 February 2021
This is my fifteenth read of 2021 and my first of this author. I didn’t know what to expect, but the blurb was promising.
The unlikely friendship between Sundeep (yes, seems like a numerology-compliant choice) and Swami, that progressively blows up into professional conflict, peppered with jealousy is realistic to some extent. Natasha and Kalpana, the respective wives, offer a realistic feel to the personal lives of the two protagonists.
The sleazy underbelly of couch politics that plays out in some corporate setups is showcased in detail through Naresh and some minor but crucial women characters along the story. Aditya as the mentor is almost too good to be true, especially at the end.
There are also a large number of characters, some of them included along the way, which might confuse readers who return after a break in reading the book halfway. I would recommend readers to finish the book in as few sittings as possible to avoid this possible lapse in memory.
Having read that the author is an alumina of IIM-B, I expected the setting to capture a little more of Bangalore within the pages, but the focus of the action is mostly Mumbai. What I found interesting and intriguing were the inner workings of the cutthroat banking industry.
What I really enjoyed reading was how the multiple nuances of corporate politics have been captured within the story. More importantly, I appreciate the brilliant ways that depict sexual harassment at workplace, a common reality that most organisations in India still choose to turn a blind eye to. Also, the realities of the North-South divides within corporate workspaces that lurk just beneath the surface are brought out through the dialogues (Madrasi, etc.) and the thoughts.
I especially liked the moral innuendoes that the story puts forth without being preachy or moralistic. Money, fame and power may be obtained without being unscrupulous or ‘morally flexible’. The triumph of a solid CHILD – Commitment, Honesty, Integrity, Leadership and Dedication is the best takeaway of the book, although many may argue that the real world allows little opportunity or growth for such sticklers of ‘Gandhism’. The way the novel ends somewhat justifies this theory, because one wonders if justice has really been served to the key culprit in the story.
Another important lesson to be gleaned is how effective leadership rests on a foundation of integrity sans pressure fueled by greed for fame and fortune. The book showcases that humane approaches to team management ensure better performance and enriching working conditions. Deceptive appearances juxtaposed with frill-free value systems display the disparity between individuals pitched together in a typical corporate set-up.
The fag end of the novel made me wonder why only India is shown to have the issue of gender inequality, corruption and couch politics in the corporate sector. We are well aware of these foibles being present in American companies as well, not to mention the rampant racism that lingers just below the surface. It would have only been fair, if this aspect would have been acknowledged somewhere in the novel.
The narrative is smooth, easy-going and has a good flow. Dialogues are peppered with some minimal Hindi, which is not a problem because translations are provided as part of the narrative itself.
Also, some portions of the detailing of long banking processes /methodologies and some jargons could have been reduced along the way.
I rate the novel 4.3 out of 5. Extra points for pointing out the importance of having a system that offers safe working spaces for women, free from sexual favours and harassment undertones. Also, for showcasing that ultimately, good always triumphs over bad, in the classic old-fashioned way – through modern storytelling.
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My 14th read of the year is also a collection of short stories – four stories, each one entirely different from the other. In fact, they may be charted into completely different genres by themselves. This is my first read of this author and I’m certainly looking forward to more.
Kalyani is heart-rending. I do not want to risk giving away spoilers, so it’ll suffice to say that the story deals with one of the most crucial issues plaguing society today. Kalyani’s innocence and the subsequent end makes us loathe as well as believe in humanity. I like the way the quiet strength and unity of the villagers have been portrayed.
Shreeja the Invisible is completely unlike any story I’ve read before. Just when we begin to think something has changed in her monotonous life, the story takes a turn of surrealism and leaves us wondering, till the end. Psst, I love the characterization of the guy – intriguing and oozing charm.
The Compartment is unique in the way it juxtaposes the beauty of a book with the realistic movement of a train. The wordplay in the descriptions are delicious and rich with visual imagery.
The Old Age Home and Flat no. 4 is mind-blowing in its twist, especially at the end. The amount of suspense this short story builds up is amazing. A goos psychological thriller, this one.
I was bowled over by the author’s excellent vocabulary and classic narrative style. It is indeed rare to find Indian work that is free from the highly common mother-tongue translation-based Indianisms that plague the writing. We, as Indian reviewers understand the backgrounds of our authors and comprehend the effort that goes into writing. And thus, we end up rating books with even mediocre vocabulary with four stars.
It is indeed a complete joy and pleasant shock to find work of high standards, especially when it pertains to the language and wordplay.
A special mention to the editing skills of the author / editor who has done a commendable job in ensuring minimal typos or errors in the book. I know how tedious, boring and back-breaking it can be, and it never seems to be enough!
A clean 4.6 /5 for this book (amounts to a five). My only grouse? I wanted to read more, it ended too soon for the avid word-devourer in me.
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Wednesday, 10 February 2021
I liked the sheer variety in the stories. The settings and characters are different for each one of them although all of them have a common thread of human relationships running through them. I liked ‘The Bookstore’ and the last one ‘The Tsunami’ more than the rest.
Another notable factor about the stories was the unpredictable ends in some of them. They differ from the norm and are unusual, although the storylines may be based on commonly witnessed situations in society around us. A little tighter editing by the publishing team would have made the experience even better for readers.
Overall, a good short read, especially between hardcore thrillers.
I rate it 4/5. Pick it up for a showcase of Indian relationships and society.
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My twelfth read of 2021 is yet another short story collection. This one is smaller than the previous one I read, with 12 stories in it. A short read, hence a small review.
I liked how each story is woman-centric and dealt with a theme of something that’s relevant to current society.
‘The Daughter’s rights’ brings out the hypocrisy of men in general and chauvinists in particular. It brings out the helplessness of women as well. ‘Good Girls’ is brilliant, in the showcase of humanity over what the hypocritic society perceives as good or bad. The story of the singing beggar is another favourite. It is touching and heartrending, again showcasing callousness of the world, albeit some true humanitarians in it.
Overall, a good book, absolutely readable. Rating it 4.2 /5. Extra points for focusing on women, about time more writers did that.
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I chose to read non-fiction as my 11th read of 2021: My Sleepless Nights : A Story of Victory over Insomnia by Manohar Grandhi.
This is one of the few non-fiction books that I was enticed to read. I am not a fan of self-help books since they seem repetitive. However, this being a tiny book of only 60 pages, read was different because it didn’t read like excessive preaching or unnecessary exaggeration.
Moreover, I was able to identify certain behavioural traits that I am guilty of from time to time. Although I have never had real insomniac issues, there have been times when I have been unable to sleep , especially when I have begun a suspense thriller. Being an avid reader, I have read all night or late into the night on many occasions to finish the books I have begun reading.
I have also worked night shifts, particularly graveyard shifts for a couple of years in the past and I can vouch that it was the worst period of my whole working life. I absolutely hate losing sleep for whatever reason and such experiences taught me to treasure the value of a good night’s sleep.
I believe that sleep is the single most important luxury in life, more crucial than food or sex. Thereby, I was able to identify with the author’s struggle with insomnia.
The narrative of the book is smooth and easy going. What I found interesting was the inclusion of stories from Google. Although I have read or heard most of them, it was nice to read them again and see how they were connected to the issue under discussion.
Most of the quotes were commonly read ones and I would have liked to read more rare gems that I’ve never read before. Also, I’d have liked the book to have been slightly longer than it is. The author has pointed out all the reasons that contributed to his struggle and also the techniques, assistance and practices that helped him deal with it.
A good book, I rate it 4.1 out of 5. Extra points are for the unselfish mention of all the names that assisted the author in his journey of progress and success.
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Wednesday, 3 February 2021
One realizes even before reading that this is going to be an autobiography with a difference. This is not the kind of story that idolizes the protagonist or shoves incidents that may be perceived as unpleasant or shameful under the rug. Her no- holds barred approach is evident in her poetry and is expected to flow over to her novel as well. However, I did not find anything that is worth the frenzied controversy, perhaps because I belong to the current age where social media has made everything passé. One does realize multiple reasons that irk certain factions of her community and family alike, thus warranting the criticism.
Isn't it a fact that most promiscuity wears the garb of 'searching for love'?
The story is like a normal one, of any woman, albeit a promiscuous one. Except that Das admits to all her affairs with neither remorse nor concealment. Despite the nature of the said incidents, there are no sleazy descriptions or uncomfortable innuendos.
It is ironic that while the society was shocked by her admissions of erring, it is conveniently forgotten that there were umpteen men (especially old and middle-aged ones) who constantly tried and hoped to be favoured by her promiscuity. The book is as much a mirror to the endless lust of men as it is about her yearning for intimacy.
One wonders why Das links the men she gets involved with to the blue-skinned deity, Krishna in her mind and words. It is a classic spiritual twist to the degradation of morals laid down by society. Also, her equation with her husband is curious – the open marriage kind, with his bisexuality playing a role as well.
One feels sorry for her especially when she suffers sever ill health ever so often. Her musings about writers and poets are deep and insightful.
The narrative is smooth, easy to follow and simple. The chapters are labelled according to the key events at any given point of time in her life. Short sentences keep the story-telling crisp and on point, while disclosing just enough information to know what’s going on in her life without divulging unnecessary or unsavoury details.
Beautiful metaphors make the narrative rich with poetic language and pleasing vocabulary.
The second half includes her poetry at the beginning of each chapter. Some of her most popular poems precede the chapters that go on to elaborate the essence of the verses.
I rate the book 4.3 out of 5. There are considerable doubts about the authenticity of the autobiography. One can never tell whether certain incidents are mere fictional creations passed off as reality, solely to garner attention or create controversy.
A readable book, especially for Kamala Das fans, who like to follow the journey she has chalked out with creative aplomb.
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Monday, 1 February 2021
This book is my ninth read of 2021, my first of this author and was a new experience for me. For one, it allows readers to delve into the delicate churns of disturbed minds. And secondly, it showcases the destructive forces of modern-day addictions that threaten to engulf multiple lives.
The characters are etched out well, letting readers understand the nuances of their feelings and behavior. Jhanvi and Ashray are the protagonists whom the whole storyline revolves around.
All the additional characters, be it parents or friends (Rishi and Kavya) or even the nurse and doctor, play important roles in shaping up the course of the key characters’ lives. I wanted to know what happened to Sakshi and Latika at the end, their stories are lost somewhere along the way.
The modern challenges of balancing work, career, solitude and family while retaining sanity forms the crux of the story.
The storyline is replete with dramatic ironies that are interesting, with some suspense for the reader. I like the simultaneous movement of alternate lives of the two key characters, largely unaware of how their lives crisscross one another multiple times, without their knowledge.
Jhanvi’s social media and vodka addictions are annoying, although they are probably meant to evince opposite feelings. The constant social media checks and especially her abnormal eating (or lack of eating) makes us want to slap some common sense into her thick head.
While Ashray’s love for his mom is endearing, it also showcases him as a complete mamma’s boy. His hyper-sensitivity towards her explains the mental problems that plague him later in the story.
Both the key characters remind us of the many Jhanvis and Ashrays around us who are easily led to destruction if they do not seek professional assistance.
I found the musings of Kavya a little unconvincing, maybe because she seems like an excessively sacrificing type, with no life or personality of her own beyond caring (or slaving) for her friend, despite the insults meted out to her.
The first-person narrations of multiple characters make the read more personalized. The viewpoints take the story forward while offering us a delve into the goings on of the minds of the key characters. The additional perspectives offered by the side characters in the second half (Kavya and the psychiatrist) offer more clarity to the story.
I rate the book a 4.3 out of 5. Extra points are for the multiple, crucial lessons that may be gleaned from the read.
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My eighth read of 2021 is 'One Arranged Murder' by Chetan Bhagat. I haven’t read all of Bhagat's books, but this one kindled my curiosity. While mixed reactions keep floating around the reading community about the quality of his work, I believe that readers must devour all kinds of literature, supposedly good or bad, and decide for themselves.
I admit that I chose to pick it up with zero expectations whatsoever, especially since I hated 'One Night at The Call Centre' for the grossly incorrect, faulty and indecent portrayal of the said industry. I was somewhat surprised by Half-Girlfriend, which I rather liked, as it was a huge improvement from the call-centre one. I read both these books a long time ago.
I did not know what to make of the article in the Times, wherein a Bangalorean lady had filed a lawsuit against Bhagat for plagiarizing her whole work to produce Half-Girlfriend. I’d like to know the outcome of that particular case. And of course, we must continue to read Indian authors and decide their worth for ourselves.
It's refreshing to have two guys as protagonists, instead of the usual couple in love. It's even better to have all additional characters, especially the Malhotra clan adding substantial clout to the proceedings of the mystery. There are ample characters, included as part of a large family, which facilitates the build-up of the mystery behind the murder.
Saurabh proves to be the typical womanizer, even when 'love' is in the picture. The idiocy of a junk food addict is showcased by Golu, while the blow of Prerna's death is somewhat softened by his gluttony.
Typical of some of Bhagat's female characters, at least one of the key women are either chasing men, blowing smoke, doing drugs, guzzling alcohol or all the above. Anjali fulfils all these, and then some.
The story seems ordinary until the first few pages when the murder happens and then catches on with some suspense. The suspense may not seem as much for seasoned readers who read the genre regularly. It may become easier for readers to guess the real killer as some clues are unravelled.
The futile hypocrisies of the so-called elite Indian families are showcased to the last idiotic detail. The bribery-prone police department is not spared either.
This book is so full of mouth-watering food on every other page, it reminds us of the Enid Blytons we devoured during our childhood. It makes us want to reach for junk food every time Golu stuffs himself with yet another goodie.
The process of how the amateur detectives unveil the truth makes for an engrossing read, although the mystery may be deemed rather feeble by thriller-loving readers.
The narrative is simple, straight-forward and easy-going. It is speckled with ample humour and uses interesting techniques to take the story forward. The parts where the interrogation testimonies allow us to understand the minor characters offer a refreshingly different touch to the narrative.
Bhagat cleverly infuses what is termed as 'body shaming' in today's parlance as part of the thought-flow and dialogue of the main protagonist. I had no problem with it as it serves to remind readers to adopt healthy lifestyles in the first place, to avoid ridicule from society and stay fit.
To conclude, I rate the book 4.1 out of 5. Readable, much better than his earlier writes.
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