On Books & Reviews

There are always two sides to a story…

Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started this book with zero expectations, got intrigued by the brilliant introduction by Francis Wyndham and was hooked till the last page. The blurb says the story is about the ‘mad’ woman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, however, I felt its a narrative on the post-liberalisation White life in the West Indies. It’s about broken promises, zero compassion and heartache and love for the sake of money and love for the sake of liberation from one own’s lot.

The contrast between the beautiful, serene place and the conflicted, spiteful people just leaves you thinking how can somebody be so hateful and hurtful. Jean Rhys somewhere makes us understand that it’s not a single event that drives someone mad, it’s circumstances which continuously push her to lose her mind and finally all it takes is one trigger.

I now want to read Jane Eyre and see how Mr Rochester defends his actions. There are always two sides to a story, and I’m glad Jean Rhys wrote this side out.

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On Books & Reviews

Warning! This book won’t let you sleep.

Miss Laila, Armed and DangerousMiss Laila, Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d picked this up last year before setting out to Kolkata Literary Meet 2018. Had started with it and then shelved it after returning to Bombay. It’s been on my mind for a bit and then over the weekend I crash read it. I say crash read it because I steeled myself from the constant panic attacks I was going through. Most of the storyline is located inside a 30ft deep tunnel where the protagonist Akhila Iyer is crawling in and out to save a man buried under debris from a building collapse. Writing about it is bringing back the jitters. If I keep my claustrophobia aside, I loved the book.

I haven’t read any other work by Manu Joseph so won’t be able to compare his style or tell his readers whether the style of writing was very much him. For me, it was a satire on modern India at its best, much like what Shashi Tharoor tried to achieve with his The Great Indian Novel. Funny, forthright, yet sensitive, the book, in the end, leaves you with hope. It tells you when to lie low and when to raise your voice. How can you make a difference when your voice is constantly quelled. You wait. There is a paragraph which is repeated in the book about the baffled face of an Indian when he is shocked by the most logical outcome of his actions. I think I would face the panic attacks again to just read that in context all over again.

Have you read the book or any other by Manu Joseph? Let me know what you thought.

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On Books & Reviews

Some books you just have to review!

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot EnsuesMy Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading My Life with Bob last week on my flight back to Bombay. I didn’t know what it was about. I thought it was about a library or a girl searching for books. I hadn’t heard of Pamela Paul earlier (yes, shoot me!) and I didn’t know what I was in form. In the Introduction when Pamela introduces BoB and tells us about him I was thrilled. I went back to the first scribbled page and read it again and I was like wow! wish I had kept a book like that. I would know the name of that RL Stine book I read so many years ago whose story I remember so clearly but not the book. There was a phase post Roald Dahl Summer where I read every RL Stine book not Goosebumps but Fear Street and every Sweet Valley High the neighbourhood library had – Funspot. It had a collection of Nancy Drew’s and Hardy Boys as well but I couldn’t get myself to read any of those but I devoured one Fear Street after another and one Sweet Valley High after another. I now realise it was ok to have grown up not reading Enid Blyton. It doesn’t make you less of a reader.

Somehow the book validated me as a reader. Was I looking for validation or was looking to know that I was not alone. Pamela here tells us the story of her life until now through the books she has read, so is it an autobiography, yes it is. It a book about books, yes it is. Do you want to read this book to just note down the books she mentions to keep it for a rainy day when you feel exactly that miserable or that adventurous, hell yes!

I never highlight books and couldn’t stop noting paragraphs or just names of books in this one. I guess I’m just having a lucky year. This is literally the fourth book in the year which makes me want to feel so good about having read it. I just feel miserable that I hadn’t read it as soon as it was realised or knew about it before!

I’m currently in the phase where I would give up my flourishing enterprise easily if I knew there was someone out there who would pay me to read. Pamela tells me it’s possible to turn your passion into a reality. Yes, there is only one New York Times, and there is only one Pamela Paul, but she gave me hope and that’s why I would cling to this book for my life.

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A book worth experiencing…

Cobalt Blue Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there is one English word to describe how you feel while reading this book it would be inexplicable.

Cobalt Blue needs to be experienced. It can’t be read, can’t be spoken about. The book blurb mentions that a paying guest becomes a part of the Joshi family and overturns the life of two siblings after he vanishes. It’s more. It takes you on the journey of how one copes with grief. What are the defence mechanisms one uses? How does someone recuperate or not? What pain is? What shock is? What does it feel to be deserted?

These inexplicable emotions that often goes unexpressed have been penned down with immense clarity by Sachin Kundalkar and have been translated with equal brilliance by Jerry Pinto. You feel like the writing has done justice to the emotions on display.

If you are going through a rough patch. Do pick up the book and give it a read. If nothing, it helps you reason with yourself and gives you the support that you are not alone.

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Starting with why

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you have been motivated to pick this book after hearing Simon Sinek’s inspiring videos, by all means, go ahead, read it and re-read it at a later date and save it as a reference book or simply just download his videos!

After being hooked on to his videos for the last three months, I found the book terribly boring and repetitive. I was hoping for something new, something more all along till he came to his own story. His story is an everyday business guy story, someone you can relate to and learn from and perhaps that’s the only reason why I gave it three stars and not two.

However, if you just want to read about the concept and don’t know who this Simon Sinek guy is – then you have come to right place.

It tells us why we relate to some brands and why not the others, gives examples of business leaders and large corporations who have to stuck to their why to achieve what they have and what are the repercussions when we lose the why and concentrate on just how and what of running a business. It differentiates between being successful and making money and explains how the human brain reacts to different companies.

All in all, an interesting starting point if you feel that you just can’t move forward in your business. Further, a good read for marketers and advertising folks who need to understand why consumers respond to brands the way they do in a simplified way.

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An army-style love story

Combat SkirtsCombat Skirts by Sahana Ahmed

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being from Calcutta, this book brings a lot of familiar places to mind. A journey of a college student finding love and herself makes for a fun light read.

Saba is an army girl out to carve an identity for herself as she steps away from home to pursue law (or her dreams) in another city. It’s about her finding love and losing it and finding it again in other places. An average life of a college girl well-blended with the topography and history of that period (1998), this book is a good read if you are into romantic fiction.

Way better than what we have around, in either case, the book is a good read.

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Simply unputdownable

Leila: A NovelLeila: A Novel by Prayaag Akbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sensitive, warm, fuzzy, scary, painful. The entire book is a roller coaster of emotions. If you read it over days, you would want to immediately go back and start again lest you missed something in the beginning which was telling of the end.

An emotional journey of a mother searching for her daughter in a dystopian world which seems so close to reality that it’s almost disturbing. Shalini, the main protagonist of the book, takes us back and forth in a crumbling world where freedom to love, marry and live life on your terms is looked down upon. Where in the name of culture and tradition families are torn apart and live in fear of being torn apart. The entire fabric of society seems so fragile in this world that you tiptoe into the next page fearing that your ‘democratic’ world isn’t suddenly destroyed.

At times you feel is this where your country is eventually headed to with all that is going on in terms of moral policing or do you think better sense will prevail. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where Shalini, Laila and Riz can’t be together, but you need to read the book to find out more.

All in all, it’s a must read and I promise you it’s not disappointing.

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