Thursday, January 25, 2018

Future intent and authors

The year has started on the right note. I have already read two authors whom I had not read before and almost fell for twh Japanese Keigo Hagashino. So that got me thinking about new year resolutions which I haven't made in years. So here is a list of authors that I would like to sample this year.
1. Manu Joseph
2. Pico Iyer
3. Anthony Horowitz
4. Margret Atwood
5. Toni Morrison
6. Chimamanda Adiche
7. Jo Nesbo
8. Neil Gaiman
9. Terry Pratchett

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Kiego Higashino

The title of the book is enough to let you know that this is not a book belonging to the romantic genre. 

It is not even a murder mystery per se because by the end of Chapter 1 the stage is set for murder and in the very beginning of Chapter 2 the deed is done right infront of your eyes and you, the reader, for sure knows who did it. But then I don't think it is right to not label The Devotion of Suspect X as "not" a thriller or a mystery. So where do we put this part suspense and part philosophy novel by the Japanese writer Keigo Higashino?

The story revolves around a single mother,  Yasuko Hanaoka, an ex-night hostess now working in a  shop selling boxed lunches,  and her next door neighbour Ishigami, a high school maths teacher.

The book begins with him leaving house to go to the shop to buy lunch. Here we are introduced to the city they live in and quietly to an other important character in the book- the surroundings. This is also where the author's immense talent lies but of which you remain oblivious till the very end of the book.

Anyhow, Yasuko is one night visited by her ex husband Togashi who is a loathful creature and is bent on extracting money from his ex-wife. Her daughter Misato hits him with a vase when he is putting on his shoes after taking the money and making offensive comments about Misato and he goes charging at her. In an attempt to save her child, Yasuko looks for a weapon and reaches for an electrical wire and ends up strangulating Togashi.

Ishigami steps into the picture just a while later, having heard commotion from his neighbour's apartment and he takes on himself to save the women. He plans everything and gives them detailed instructions on their alibi and what to do going forward.

We are gradually introduced to the genius of Ishigami through an ex classmate and Physicist Yukawa, who also likes sleuthing and has also previously helped Kusanagi, the detective on this case, crack other cases. In fact, the whole truth comes out via Yukawa and when it does, it will take your breath away as you realise the extent of the devotion of suspect X, as Ishigami is referred to as, maybe once or twice, in the whole book.

I can't say I was very happy with way the book ended but after mulling it over in my head I think that that was the most logical conclusion like in our hindi films where no wrong goes unpunished.

I liked this book for its subtelty though I can imagine it  getting a bit slow as far as action is concerned. It is a peek into the everyday lives and activities of these characters and their surroundings, and it is very easy to loose interest in ongoing description of road, stations, river, shanties and homeless people living there.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Book Review: Faraway Music

An engaging novel which hardly sags or ebbs. Beautiful, lyrical and warm, it makes for a perfect weekend read. 

(I met Sreemoyee Piu Kundu recently at a Women Writer's Fest organised by SheThePeople  at the Saturday Club, Kolkata. I asked her what would she recommend out of her three published works. She asked me what genre do I like and then went to to recommend this as well as Sita's Curse, an erotica. After she left for the podium for her talk, I bought Faraway Music.)

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, an ex journalist, debuted with Faraway Music in 2013. Partly biographical, Faraway Music is the story of acclaimed writer Piya Choudhury. It meanders through the bylanes of Kolkata, soaks in the rains of Mumbai, rubs shoulders with the Dilli ki Sardi and races towards end via a posh NY penthouse before finally coming home to Kolkata. Piya tells her story to another journalist on a long flight and this play of time and action - past and present- given the novel a lovely movement.   

The writing and the story both seem quite real. A romance novel, this book, has some really sweet and some sensuous-leading-to-toe-curling moments. A journalism intern at a newspaper Piya, makes waves after she manages a great story with a recluse music director nominated for Grammy's. After tasting success here, she moves to a bigger platform where she meets and falls hard for her editor. Knowing the newspaper scenario, Kundu, uses it very well to bring an imminent twist to her plot. A major news story on drugs by Piya and her friend and another important character lurking in the book TT, is stopped by the boyfriend editor Abir after he is told off by the newspaper owners for jeopardising his relationship with the paper's biggest advertisers. She leaves him and the industry and enters PR where she meets an artist and marries him. He, David Cicconi, encourages her to find herself and looking within she finds short stories and then a novel which is met with huge success. But then as always happen, the good time gets over. She and David begin to drift apart and her mother tells her about the decision to give away their house to an NGO. This brings Piya back to Kolkata after ages. To know what happens here, you must read the book.

Kundu has given Piya strength of character as well as a fair share of weaknesses. Faraway Music is her journey of discovering herself and meeting life head on. The writing as I mentioned earlier is warm and lyrical and I did not feel like putting the book down before finishing it or passing over some passages/ pages. In fact I wished there was more here. The edit on the novell has been great, keeping it tight and well paced. Unfortunately a typo here and a typo there often are upsetting, if you too belong/ed to the edit desk but yes, in this case, can well be laid on the publisher's doorstep.

Title: Faraway Music
Author: Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
Genre: Romance
Paperback: 338 pages 
Price: Rs 299
Publisher: Hachette India
Language: English
Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review: Tell Tale by Jeffrey Archer

These 14 stories make for an easy read and with their twists and tales are sure to keep you engaged for a good while.


Jeffrey Archer's latest offering of short stories comes after the seven part series called 'The Clifton Chronicles'. This collection of short stories bear all the hallmarks of an Archer short story. They are simple and intriguing. I think what makes Archer tick for me is that very fact. The engaging stories take you from one place to the other at times on their own and on others through the sheer word power of the author.

I was waiting to read this book from the time Pan Macmillan India sent me the cover and a nugget of information that the book had a story with a Calcutta connection. Later through The Telegraph, I got to know that this story (Double or Quits) was told to Archer by his friend, erstwhile tennis player Naresh Kumar.

Getting back to the boo, I have always liked most of what Jeffrey Archer has written and this time was hardly a disappointment. To my delight eight out of the 14 stories have been inspired by real life events so you can imagine what a delightful activity it must have been to read a story and wonder what is fact and what fiction.

The stories range from that of a simple public car attendant who finds a way to make money, a young boy and his transformation post a visit to Nazi camps, and an officer who travels to a village to solve a murder. In a story set in 1930s a woman challenges the best minds at an Ivy League College and yet another collegiate woman gets much more in a hour's ride that could ever be imagined.

Title: Tell Tale
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Short Stories
Paperback: 288 pages 
Price: Rs 399 though I was given a copy by Pan Macmillan India for review 
Language: English
Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Decade of Motherhood: :Lesson 2

Raising a child might be easy for people who have either seen something similar like people with older siblings raise their offspring(s) or people who haven't sleepwalked through their lives. For me having a child for which I was responsible thoroughly has been like roller coaster ride in an adventure park. So far. (But now, with some added experience, I can vouch that nothing is going to change.)  I just got up and took a seat on the conveyor belt without knowing anything about its twists or turns; loops or or having a clue about the time frame of zero-G suspension.

As much harassing as it has been for both of us- the baby and  me- I have gathered a lesson or two at every bend.

I have realised that as is with the roller coaster ride so it is with the child raising phenomenon. You can't do much more once the light turns green. Yes, you can fling your arms and scream your heart out, but you can not get out of the situation, unless you count abandoning your kid. (If that be the case then you can stop reading right

I have also realised the one thing that you can do to make life easier for all the parties involved in the phenomenon- Give IN.

Yes give in to the child. Parenting, I have realised, is not about power struggle. It isn't about thinking if I let my child do this once she will order me around or that she will learn to be self indulgent or whatever else you might think spoiling a kid looks or sounds like.

In any case they are going to have their way. It might take them some time but they get there. How many expressions are dedicated to it, I ask you, like wrapped around her little finger, can make daddy/ mummy dance to his tunes, knows how to get her way, so on and so forth.

Hence, you might as well give in gracefully when asked the first time, ok maybe the second time around. Why wait for the tip of the sword to kiss your throat, I say. In other words tantrums are a real thing in a real world and you can not teach or discipline a child when she is throwing a fit because the message will not penetrate.

In the ten years of motherhood I have realised (albeit later than I would like to admit) that giving in to the child's needs, wishes or demands does not in any way underestimates our own authority over anything. Giving in to our kids just makes our tasks easier or lights up the way better.

Once you have done what they ask of you, they will be easier to handle, coerce or maybe manipulate. There, I have said the M word out loud. Before I fall in your esteemed opinion, pray tell me, if teaching them to count numbers with a handful of sweets, promised to them at the end of the task isn't but manipulation? 

I have come to equate giving in to helping them learn about choices. My daughter invariably turns up her nose to the clothes I have picked for her to wear while going out. As an ignorant mum I would struggle with her and get into an argument that would actually be saying "You, young lady, have to do as you are told". Now I only tell her if the dress she has taken out will make her uncomfortable in the long run or is something in which she might feel cold if we go into a cinema hall.

There is no heartburn this way. Often we go with her choices with a little adjustment here and there. (I have also realised that she is smart enough to carry a shrug or a jacket along if we are headed for the mall, without me having to say so)

So, I say to you give in to the child who asks for an ice cream serving at the breakfast table there will be no whining, give in to the child who wants you to read another story before they fall into sleep in your lap; a sound sleep is guaranteed and give in to the child who wants to run around the park chasing butterflies in their white overalls.

As is the norm, even I forget all about on days and that is when I have seen my children giving in to a whiny mummy.