Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Wounds must not be pitted against each other since it is not their severity but the victim’s reception of them that defines their impact on the body (and soul). So, I must not put together displacement and immigration next to each other for I haven’t experienced either (or so I think). But there is a little elephant in the room of ‘displacement’ that makes its abode more gruesome than ‘immigration’– that it is, without exception, enforced.

The young Saeed and Nadia hail from an unnamed country where the former is a praying liberal and the latter, an atheistic rebel. Their paths, however, meet and after all the dust of doubts and apprehension settle down, they find love. But guns find their town too, and soon, go berserk. Saeed’s and Nadia’s love story might have suffocated and withered under raining bullets and choking curfews and turned into an ordinary one had there not been the ‘door’. A door to exit. Exit West. Continue reading

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Book Review: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (2014)

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Was it necessary to read ‘An Unnecessary Woman’? About a woman in the twilight of her life, a product of rusted times? A woman from a foreign land, and of foreign blood? A woman who offered pursed whimpers amid teeth that reeked soupy yellow? One with a musty room and a flickering temper? A borderline linguist who made peace with the unspoken word? She was nothing more than a drifting sprinkle of dust in this swirling world of men and ambition.

May be, it wasn’t. It wasn’t necessary at all to read An Unnecessary Woman. But I read it. And I read her. And read her more. Every page. Every day. Continue reading

Book Review: Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

 

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

There is something about every life: ripe with memories, rife with punctures, crowded yet distinct, deceptively omniscient but a puzzle to its only custodian. Zadie Smith’s narrator in ‘Swing Time’ attempts to hold this fleeting, substantial thing in her hand and poke it for its secrets over a good 35-40 years.

This is a story primarily about a brown girl in London, whose life arcs diverse places, people and emotions, keeping, somehow, another brown girl, Tracey, at its epicentre. Narrated in first person, she opens her rendezvous with Tracey at the tender age of seven, when all that mattered to the duo was dance, at which, Tracey was much better. Continue reading

Book Review: Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives by Sudha Murty (2017)

Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives by Sudha Murty
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

The book, ‘Three Thousand Stitches’ is much like its title – a couple of events of the same canvas (read Sudha Murty’s life), each adding some value to the canvas that it has helped weave and in the end, giving a texture that is fine and coarse, in parts.

Snippets from the journey traversed by the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, is scattered across 11 stories, each having a message or two to give. The titular story, which is also the opening one, is about the lives of devadasis, or sex workers as they ended up being called by, in northern belt of Karnataka, who became the first subject of work for the young Sudha. Continue reading

Book Review: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)

236219Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

You landed in my world on a calm, dewy evening
And struck was I with a song I was about to sing;
A song that lay hidden in the silhouettes of each letter
That protruded from the cover, all poised to embitter.

But waited I, patiently, under the light of the mundane day;
You see, Mr. Calvino, I had a knack of seeing your way.
Fusing the curious with the depth, and peppering them with some humor too;
All too often, you had served, a world that was both fictional and true.

So, on a fine evening, when all your cities rose, at once, to a noisy chatter,
I exited my world and entered yours, as it was now, an urgent matter. Continue reading

Book Review: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie (2017)

41msjhwrrsl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here.]

The world has turned a cacophony of unrelenting voices, where people in high offices as well as pedestrian consorts battle every day to be one up. The lines have blurred as issues have bulldozed their way, against most conventions, right into our living rooms, and administrative, as well as clandestine, powers are clashing regularly, and vehemently, across continents over the fatal flames of terrorism, corruption, religion and human rights. Bringing together these critical elements under a sprawling tale of love, ambition, deception and collapse is what ‘The Golden House’ is all about.

On one silent day, when Nero Golden, the enigmatic, octogenarian patriarch of a family of four, tip-toes into a lavish mansion in downtown Manhattan, the neighbours’ antennae go up without exception. Nothing is known about the family – its past, its roots, its business, its relations. Continue reading

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

61ug-qlo6nl-_sy346_The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/reviews/review-the-underground-railroad/articleshow/56417934.cms?]

Shaping a work around the theme of slavery and its many tentacles is a bit like shaping a lump of rigid clay into something cohesive and stable. On one hand, excessive pressure on misery squashes the vein of the narrative and on another, a voice too rebellious, hollows out the inherent pain of its victims. Drawing that line which does justice to this divide is certainly not an easy task and that is precisely where Whitehead shines.

‘The Underground Railroad’ is an allegorical tale, spoken through the life and times of Cora. Her grandmother, Ajarry, from Western Africa, was a worker on the sprawling Randall plantation in Georgia, where, eventually, she passed on the tarnished legacy to her daughter, Mabel and granddaughter, Cora. Slave owners measure their success in the amount of tyranny they exert and Randall was not the one to walk against the league. However, 16-years old Cora was made of sterner stuff than most around her and harboured a burning desire, every instant, to break free. Continue reading

Book Review: Centre Court by Sriram Subramanian (2017)

514919ryyrl-_sx333_bo1204203200_Centre Court by Sriram Subramanian
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

 

This is that time of the year when the lush green grass just doesn’t spring to hallowed life but turns sentinels to the unparalleled spectacle of crowning glory in the pantheon of sports – it is time of Wimbledon. It is, arguably, the mecca of tennis, where every player worth his/ her salt wishes to give atleast one winning speech in their lifetimes. And so, what better time to read ‘Centre Court’, this scintillating fictional account of an Indian lad, pursuing his dream at ‘The Championships’, than now? Continue reading

Book Review: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (1924)

41iokieyzpl-_sx310_bo1204203200_Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Tempting as it may appear to wrap the poetic pearls from this collection of Neruda’s heartbeats into a warm shawl of erotic wool, do resist it and pause.

These loquacious verses that assemble at the nape of a lover or ripple playfully across the soft mountains of a beloved’s waist, magnify when viewed through the dual lenses of night and water .

I have said that you sang in the wind
like pines and like masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul.
Continue reading

Book Review: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1940)

94486The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Insane. Insane. Again. Insane.

“Then I resumed my efforts, moving to other parts of the wall. Chips fell, and, when large pieces of the wall began to come down, I kept on pounding, bleary-eyed, with an urgency that was far greater than the size of the iron bar, until the resistance of the wall (which seemed unaffected by the force of my repeated pounding) pushed me to the floor, frantic and exhausted. First I saw, then I touched, the pieces of masonry— they were smooth on one side, harsh, earthy on the other: then, in a vision so lucid it seemed ephemeral and supernatural, my eyes saw the blue continuity of the tile, the undamaged and whole wall, the closed room.”

‘Reasoned Imagination’ – That is how Borges describes this mind-boggling attempt of Adolfo Bioy Casares, in what, that my humble mind can ascertain, is a superlative member of post-modernist, abstract fiction canon. Continue reading