The Time Traveler’s Wife
Source: A gift from my friend Nik Thakur, because he is awesome that way.
I rate it: 5/10
Six word summary: Time traveling mutant does nothing awesome.
I’m reviewing this on a re-read, which is strange, because the first time I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I never supposed I would want to read it again. But, after finishing Yan Lianke’s disturbing and depressing Lenin’s Kisses, I felt a hankering for an unadulterated love story, and I do not have a substantial stock of those on my shelves.
Henry DeTamble has a genetic disorder that makes him slip physically away from here and now to some other time (and place) in his lifeline and that of his wife, Claire. He cannot help when he goes, or where, or how long he stays there. Also, nothing that is not a part of his actual body goes with him, so he always lads up buck naked, without ID or money, often in crowded place and occasionally in sub-zero temperature. Continue reading
I rate it: 8/10
Six word summary: murky conundrum in NZ gold mines
Any reader who takes a book of more than 800 pages in hand knows that there is a 70% chance that she will lose interest midway. This says nothing about attention deficiency in the reader, or lack of skill in the writing, it is merely the nature of the beast. A really long book, whether it is a saga or a murder mystery, will sag at points, will over-elaborate, and will generally not know where to sensibly stop. We know these things through many years of reading experience.
Eleanor Catton’s Booker winning marble slab of a book defies most of these things we know. It weaves a complex storyline, occasionally baffling even the most perceptive readers, but not once in its 832 pages does it lose pace or become boring.
Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand, in January, 1866, to discuss and get to the bottom of some extremely peculiar incidents that have been taking place in the mining town in the past fortnight. A penniless recluse has been found dead with an enormous amount of pure gold in his keeping. A prostitute has attempted suicide or been poisoned. A very wealthy young man has gone missing. And each of the twelve men in the gathering have been implicated in some way or the other. Each has something to share and something to hide, something to explain and something to understand, some prejudices and some bafflement. Walter Moody, fresh off the boat and grappling with recent horrors, stumbles upon this assembly quite by accident, and becomes entangled in the events that are causing such turmoil in the tiny township. Gleaming in the background are trails of blackmail, betrayal, lust, villainy, black magic, and murder most foul. Continue reading
Love and Death in the Middle Kingdom
I rate it: 7/10
Admit it, readers who have heard of this book, you thought it was a dark fanfic about hobbits.
No? Just me then?
Anyhow, the Middle Kingdom is not another name for Middle Earth. The Middle Kingdom is Vijayanagara in the 16th century, in full bloom of prosperity. In this city lives Devdatta (incidentally, the lady who sent me the book is also called Devdatta. That is too interesting to be a coincidence). Devdatta is a courtier, the blue-eyed boy of the king and the ministers. He is married, expecting a child, has a mistress, and is more or less in the process of making it in the world. Then one day, he befriends a Persian traveler and is drawn into an intoxicating love affair that threatens to destroy his world. For this traveler, Farjad, is not only of a different faith, he is also a man. Continue reading
Six Word Summary: Bengali first world problems. Again. Headdesk.
I rate it: 5/10
Brothers Udayan and Subhash are inseparable while growing up in a working class family in Kolkata, but adulthood takes them down different roads. The outgoing and bold Udayan joins the militant Naxalite movement spreading like wildfire in East India in the 70s. The quiet, measured Subhash chooses to move to the US to do his PhD and ends up staying there. Then Udayan gets killed by the paramilitary, and seeing that there is nobody to take care of his heartbroken pregnant young widow Gauri, Subhash offers to marry her and take her back with him to Boston. Gauri accepts in order to get away from the trauma and to give her unborn child a secure environment to grow up in, but can marriage and parenthood that comes from so much compulsion ever be a success?
Jhumpa Lahiri is an exquisite writer, the words flow from her pen like honey dripping from a comb. Her English is smooth and fresh, she can surprise you with the way she chooses to describe something mundane. She has an eye for details, and amazing observation skills.
But. Continue reading
Six Word Summary: Epicurean ophthalmologist combines interests, eats eyeballs
I rate it: 6/10
Dr. Amadeus Kaine is one of the world’s leading eye surgeons. He is also a member of an elite epicurean club that delights in cooking and eating obscure, often disgusting dishes, such as sea slugs in brandy. Then, during a visit to a (fictional) Asian country to treat its despot ruler, Dr. Kaine is treated to an exotic pastry that is simply the best thing he has ever put into his mouth. You’ve probably already guessed where this is going. Continue reading
Kafka on the Shore
Six Word Summary: Talking cats. Falling fish. Frigging crazy.
I rate it: 8.5/10
Goodreads describes Kafka on The Shore as “a tour de force of metaphysical reality”. I’m going to confess I have no idea what the word metaphysical means, or tour de force, for that matter, so I’m just going to say that Kafka on the Shore is a pretty crazy book. It’s like Alice in Wonderland, except with more incest, disembowelment, and talking cats… oh wait, no, we had talking cats in Alice. Continue reading
The Doll’s House
Six Word Summary: Serial Killer Conventions for the win!
I Rate It: 9/10
I started the Sandman Journey on Rivers I Have Known last month with Preludes and Nocturnes, and left off with a promise that things are about to get even more awesome. The Doll’s House lives up to that promise delightfully, with a complex storyline, amazing artwork, and an unforgettable narration. Continue reading
The Guardian Angels
I rate it 7/10
The Guardian Angels is a love story. Between a rich boy and a middle class girl. Many of you are going to switch to a different tab right here because there are enough bollywood flicks to take care of your hankering for rich-boy-poor-girl romance, but if you haven’t done it already, please wait. Guardian Angels is also significantly more than your average run of the printer love story.
For one thing, it’s well written. Gore knows how to write good English, which is sadly much more than what most recent Indian writers writing in the language can claim. You will not be haunted by heinous grammar crimes or clumsily drafted sentences. So far, so good. Continue reading
Preludes & Nocturnes
Six Word Summary: Dreams are cool! Death is cooler!
I Rate It: 8.5/10
Egged on by other fans of graphic novels in general and of Neil Gaiman specifically, I started a journey recently to cover the whole of the Sandman series. I expected my mind to be blown, because it’s a graphic novel written by Neil Friggin Gaiman, and it grows around the theme that there are immortal beings called the Endless who control almost every sphere of human life, and these beings interact with people while looking like goths. To tell the truth, my mind was a little bit blown just reading the wikipedia page. Continue reading
Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam
I rate it: 7/10
Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam was one of the most respected and popular presidents of India. He was (is, sorry) also an eminent aerospace scientist, and was involved in the development of the ballistic missile and launch development. He has written several books, mostly inspirational, including his autobiography Wings of Fire. It was a deep honour for me when Rupa Publications approached me to review his new book- My Journey.
Having said that, I must confess I was less than thrilled. I have the sort of mind that gives a wide berth to inspiration and makes a beeline for the cynical. And while ex-presidents have all of my respect, I cannot think of anything more dreary than elderly gentlemen telling me how to rise above my adversities. Which is why it was such a relief when I finally got the book and found that it was a collection of anecdotes and memories rather than a dispense of knowledge and advice. Continue reading
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
Six Word Summary: Shitty dads-begotten by shittier dads
I rate it: 8.5/10
Jimmy Corrigan is one of the most difficult books I have read, graphic novel or otherwise. The book is shaped landscape rather than portrait, making it awkward to hold. The frames on each page are oriented every which way, however, so you have to frequently keep rotating the book. Some of the frames are stamp sized, some take up two full pages, some are exceedingly sparse, some are so busy with details that you have to study them for several minutes. The book has three different storylines which are interspersed randomly, beginning and leaving off without notice, and the main characters in all the storylines look and dress exactly alike, even though they are separate individuals (ancestors and descendants in fact), so you have to learn to figure out whose story you are reading Continue reading
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Jennifer Cody Epstein
I rate it: 7/10
Before I start the review, please allow me a moment to gush about how wonderful it feels to get a free hard cover book straight from the author, with a tastefully done cover to boot. That almost never happens. Hardbacks are so lovely I’m almost completely ready to love the story inside, no matter what it is or who tells it. Yay for hardbacks!
That’s not to say I wouldn’t have liked Jennifer Epstein’s The Gods of Heavenly Punishment if it hadn’t been hardcover. The story is engaging, the characters are interesting and real, if a bit exotic, and you never stop wanting to find out what comes next. Most of the story is based in Japan during the second world war. A young Japanese girl who is watching helplessly as her parents drift apart, loses everything and everyone in the Tokyo firebombings of 1945. An American pilot with a pregnant young wife is taken prisoner by the Japanese. A photographer returns to Tokyo after decades, and learns to find the courage to accept his own identity. These three characters have very little to do with each other, but their lives are intertwined by fate, and by war. Continue reading