The Far Field… Book Review

#TheFarField

This beautiful debut novel by Madhuri Vijay is riveting in its storyline. It is absorbing and has the power to hold one’s attention till the very last page.

It is disturbing too, at many levels.

It is narrated as a first person account in the voice of its twenty-four year old protagonist, Shalini.

The story takes the reader from the humidity of the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore to the icy heights of a remote village in the mountains in Kashmir, where Shalini finds herself looking for answers to the questions that fill her gaping life.

Never once does one feel like leaving her alone in her journey. One wants to hold her hand sometimes and shake her intensely till she comes to her senses, at others.

The novel is fraught with emotions and experiences that might well stay with the reader for a long time. The power of the author lies in her ability to hold on tautly to her story line as she weaves it deftly between the past and the present.

I was intrigued by the characters as they took shape. Bashir Ahmed, the Kashmiri salesman who arrived at their door step with his yellow bundle of shawls, a weaver of enchanting tales… Her mother, beautiful and eccentric… The entire atmosphere in Kashmir, the sense of foreboding with which one turns the pages, it’s chilling, to say the least.

So, is it a love story or a political potboiler?

You have to read this novel to find out, but one truth stands in stark relief and that’s the Kashmir story… The story of its people… A place remote, for those who don’t live there… Beloved, for those who do… And baffling, for those who merely visit…

A Murder in the Himalayas, Book Review

#bookreview
#murdermystery
#udayanmukherjee

This book comes with a whiff of fresh mountain air. A very welcome change in today’s polluted Delhi scenario 😊!

Every page of this intriguing murder mystery takes one deeper into forests and higher into mountains. This is one of the reasons that I loved reading it as much as l did.

This is also the first introduction by author Udayan Mukherjee to a rather elegant detective, Neville Wadia. Who I definitely want to see more of!

Wadia, an ex- supercop, has chosen a quiet, idyllic life in a small hamlet in the Himalayas called Birtola. But his peaceful existence comes to an abrupt end with the gruesome murder of a friend and activist, Clare, near a bubbling mountain brook, forcing him to don the mantle of being a detective once again.

This event brings the sleepy village of Birtola to a rude awakening and becomes a perfect setting for an unputdownable ‘whodunit’.

What rings true for this book is the love of the author for his beloved mountains. Through his depiction of them, he ensnares us into imagining us being there, walking those narrow mountain paths, making our acquaintance with simple hill people and becoming a part of their life.

The murder itself and the varied characters introduced within the story as possible suspects keeps one turning the pages and second-guessing the writer.

Like Udayan’s previous book, Dark Circles, which was family centric, I found this book, well written though simple in language and vocabulary. It’s almost like he’s testing his writing chops before really plunging into the writer in him.

Personally, I can’t wait for his next book and see where he takes us with his imaginative forays!

Book Review… Girl with a Pearl Earring

#bookreview #fortheloveofart

Remember Steve McCurry’s ‘Afghan Girl’, looking over her right shoulder, remember being mesmerized by her eyes? That expression? The juxtaposition of colours? Well, the cover of this book, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ will do the same to you.

If you pick this book, you’ll find yourself turning back to have a look at the cover, mid-story, stare at mystique of her eyes, fathom her expression, read those lips… As the story progresses and more of her personality is revealed, one searches for the artists genius in her face.

Vermeer is an artist who’s work I have always admired. Reading a fictional story about his life, his family and his approach to art is beautiful.

The real hero of this story, however, is Griet, a sixteen year old who joins the Vermeer household as a maid.

We walk through the entire story holding onto her hand. Her insights and perceptions are sharp and quite often unbelievable in their maturity. She stands apart from the others, mature and independent, as others fumble around, her young life is put in disarray when the artist decides to paint her… How she copes with it and how her life pans out, is what you need to read the book for. It is sure to transport you to another era.

Tracy Chevalier is an author that I wish to read more. All her other books have made it to my ‘tbr’ list 😊

Book Review. ‘Dark Circles’ – Udayan Mukherjee

‘Dark Circles’ comes across as a simple, stark read.

The language is without frills and the dialogues, deceptively mundane.

The author has a story to tell and he goes about doing it with surgical precision.

Even with no life-altering wisdom or deeply insightful commentary on life, this book still had me riveted.

Ronojoy, twelve, and his brother Sujoy, six, are left in the care of their grandparents when their mother moves into an ashram. Twenty – eight years later, Ronojoy is handed a letter along with his mother’s meager belongings, all fitting neatly into a suitcase after her death.

The secret that the letter reveals, however, has the power to derail the lives of many… What should Ronojoy do with it, becomes the burning question.

The letter sheds some light on the events that transpired before and after she shifted. They are gripping and disturbing. The consequent fallout does take one by surprise.

As the story unfolds and finds it stride, one goes along for the ride. The path it takes meanders through the dark abyss of disturbed minds, disrupted during childhood and their fervent effort to come upon some stability in adulthood.

Udayan Mukherjee’s book deals with just that… Layer upon layer of pain originating like concentric circles in a pond after a pebble of a disturbing truth is dropped.

The relationships that are built up are neatly done, their reactions are very authentic…I was left feeling that some more creative risks could have been taken… The story moves around well-known localities of Delhi. It all sounded familiar and sometimes it felt like a friend was narrating a story that could’ve transpired in a neighbour’s house.

I wonder if this colours one’s view of the story as opposed to a fictitious, unfamiliar setting.

The face and name of the author seemed familiar too. Udayan has been on television, hosting shows and giving his valued inputs on the stock market. That he is a gifted writer too, came as a pleasant surprise.

Book Review… When I Hit You

I didn’t think I could start it, I didn’t think I could finish it, but it was done…today.

This is not an easy book to read.

As the name suggests, it deals with an abusive relationship of an unnamed protagonist with her husband, a university professor with communist leanings.

One gets sucked into the chapters and encounters the systematic breakdown of the human spirit as witnessed in a brutal, isolating relationship.

The level of brutality increases with every passing day where the narrator, an aspiring writer, finds every avenue of communication with the outside world unavailable to her. As she sinks onto her cocoon of isolation, the brutality of physical assaults increase. Her husband’s desire to beat her into being an idealized version of an obedient wife leads to situations that are too painful to read through.

This book is an insight into what we read as ‘domestic violence’… Two words that fill the heart with terror about what happens behind closed doors. A secret on one wants to interfere with or know about. The shroud of silence, the hidden bruises the hurting heart are laid bare in this book.

What we are introduced to is also the indomitable spirit of the narrator and the will to live and reclaim her life.

I was in a small lift once and as the doors shut a sense of claustrophobia threatened to overwhelm me… I remember trying desperately to focus on my breathing to calm my racing heart… It was this feeling that revisited me over and over again as I read this book.

The realisation that thousands, if not millions of women go through this ordeal in their relationships on a daily basis, filled my heart with deep sadness.

It’s a difficult book to read but it’s a pertinent one.

Book Review.. Too Much Happiness

#bookreview #shortstories #bookexperience
Alice Munro has the gift of weaving short stories with a very long life.

Much later the skeleton of a story might surface up and you might find yourself becoming completely silent, trying to flesh it out. You’ll move backwards in your mind… Trying to piece a story together. Posing and answering questions in solitude to yourself.

Some of the stories in this collection of ten are quite unforgettable.

I’ll remember ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘Face’. The first for its viciousness and the other for the unconditional love that children have for their best friend. Both stories are intricately built up, immensely readable.

“Wenlock Edge” makes me wonder if things like these do happen… That people take advantage of their money and position to fulfill their quirky idiosyncrasies, taking advantage of the young with impunity.

The peep she gives into people’s lives, makes one feel like a voyeur. It’s ‘none of my business’ I want to say to some stories or ‘get your act together’ to another.

“Deep-Holes” made my blood run cold. Any story, whether fact or fiction involving children disappearing, physically or emotionally, fills me with fear… There’s a helplessness to the situation that seems beyond anyone’s control.

There is roiling emotion, like a heaving sea, behind names and people and their stories. It’s a tremendous ability to capture them and Ms. Munro definitely has that gift.

How does one choose a certain title from a group of short stories, I’ve always wondered. ‘Too Much Happiness’ wasn’t my favourite story but it certainly was the title for which I bought this interesting book. 😊

Sweeping Changes–A life-altering book

This is a life-altering book😊.

It is beautiful to look at, wholesome to hold, a delight to consume and easy to digest.😁

This book was gifted to me in 2002 and has always been in my line of vision, no matter how many new titles were added and subtracted from my library. I have read it three times and underlined more and understood better as I have grown.

It also makes me understand why books are called our best friends… It’s not only because they give us good company but also because they give us good advice and sound, age-old wisdom.

As the title suggests, the book is about finding joy in everyday living… It is about finding something wholesome and beautiful in the ordinary by cultivating an eye and an attitude to recognize it, the Zen way.

There are sentences in here that hold the book together much like the role gold plays in the Japanese ‘Kintsukuroi’ art of increasing the beauty and value of broken pottery. Not that the chapters are lacking in any way…😊

I love the idea of looking beyond the obvious… Giving respect and attention to what we take for granted, like windows, doors, water, cooking, mirrors, rooms, sharing, living, giving, … There is a whole world to rethink about and make new relationships with.

This beautiful book gives hope, urges you to slow down and savour your life from exactly where you are. It encourages one to celebrate what one does as ‘routine’ and finds ‘mundane’ by looking at these tasks with fresh eyes and a mind that is calmly present.

Printed word is powerful and if it is backed by playful joy and lightness, it becomes an instant ally. This book has given me hours of joy, it has helped me be more organised and it is because of ‘Sweeping Changes’ that I have a broom in my studio at all times… One that I truly enjoy using😁!