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

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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: 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

Book Review: This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab (2017)

THIS House of Clay and WaterThis House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forbidden Love – A diktat in itself, unleashed on unsuspecting hearts like an ouroboros where forbidden swallows love and yet appears whole, showing no signs of damage. No one knows the pain except the latter that is now usurped by the former. But it is when the opposite happens, that the tale transcends its meagre form and turns one for the generations.

Nida comes from a sophisticated family of high-ranking politicians and is married too, to one from this fraternity, but none of that sophistication and power has healed her wounds inflicted by her little daughter’s death.

Life is exacting and cruel. Death is calm oblivion. Life betrays everyone while death, without fail, always finds us.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (2017)

51chitfapol-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

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

How does a lament sound? Like a distorted sonorous wave? Hitting the crest with a shrill cry and falling to quietude with mangled whimpers? Or like a prolonged stream of soiled garble, comprehensible only to its beholder?

I don’t know on which note of the spectrum this book might fit in, but I do know that this book is a lament – lament on the daily struggles for (dignified) survival borne by the scarred populace of war-torn Kashmir, which unfortunately I can’t talk of in past tense, and the marginalized of the society (taking the transgender as the pivotal link).

The book, from where I see, is about two characters – A transgender, Anjum and a riot victim, Tilottama. Anjum, born Aftab in Old Delhi but discarded by her family for socially- unacceptable biological makeup, is adopted by a whore-house. Continue reading

Book Review – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)

the-brothers-karamazovThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

I finished reading this book at precisely 0205 hours a week ago. The night still lay majestically over the impending dawn, and in its blackened stillness, swayed the echoes of this imperious book. The walls of my room, at once, turned into a fortress for Dostoevsky’s army of thoughts, and I, right in the middle of it, found myself besieged with its diverse, haphazard but mighty blizzard.

I am no stranger to this rambling Russian’s precocious visions and forbearance and yet, and yet, this work, swells much beyond even his own creator and spills over…. well, almost, everything. Continue reading

Book Review: Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

12948Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

I often embrace the notion of writing being superior than plot to the extent of salvaging a lackluster body of the latter, very close to my heart. And it is stories like these that realign my reading meter in that direction.

Henry James’ story has no flaws per se; instead, has a pollen bearing promise to turn into a full feather. A series of apparition that haunts the governess of a house, driving her to cast her net of suspicion across all the residents, primarily the children, makes for a premise worth pursuing towards an exciting journey. But its blooming is excruciatingly contricted amid the very many winding, endless sentences, almost binding the book like a curse. I am not troubled by such literary joints, especially when they coalesce to elevate the meaning to the surface, if not make it clear to the reader. But I found myself, repeatedly in the midst of verbose blah-blahs that did nothing to advance the story; worse, stalled the little progress it had already done in first few pages. Continue reading