Tag Archives: Book review

Book Review: Story of a Brief Marriage

Author: Anuk Arudpragasam
Publisher: Fourth Estate (imprint of Harper Collins)
Pages: 193
Price: Rs 499

Dinesh is a young man who has survived the civil war in Sri Lanka and escaped the eyes of the establishment that has sent every fit and healthy man to fight the war. He has also survived the daily shelling that kills and maims many. While living in a temporary camp near a clinic, he is approached by a man with a strange request — strange for such turbulent times.
bookThe man asks him to marry his daughter Ganga. The young girl, who lost her mother and brother to the war, also lives in the camp and volunteers at the clinic to tend to the wounded and help the staff, just like Dinesh. And so begins The Story of a Brief Marriage.

The author, Anuk Arudpragasam, gives away the tone of book with the title — ‘brief marriage’. It is a very unlikely term for an upbeat story. However, the word ‘brief’ translates into a day in the book and is explained in great detail. Every incident, every act  — something as basic as a scene of a man taking a bath — runs over many pages. For an impatient reader, it might seem like a never-ending description. For a reader who loves to explore every detail of an act, the surrounding, the past and the present, this novel is a piece worth treasuring. There are times when the detailing overtakes the storyline and it’s difficult to reconnect if you are not reading this book in one sitting.

And that is where the author has shown some bravery, because not everyone can take a risk like that. Arudpragasam’s ability to portray human emotions and behaviour has brought the two characters to life in a very natural way. You would think you know Dinesh and Ganga for ages, the way they would react or what they would say next.

Overall, this book is that kind of a novel that l
eaves you with an after-taste of the character’s life — secretly wishing there was more to this ‘brief marriage’ and in happier shades.

This book review has also appeared in Sakal Times, February 12, 2017’s edition. Click here to go to that page on their website. 


Book Review: Solo in Singapore by Tanushree Podder

Solo IN SingaporeWhat is the first thing you feel like doing after a break-up? Party like there’s no tomorrow or go a dramatic haircut? Well, Munmun Menon, a journalist, takes it one step further. She hops on a plane to be ‘Solo in Singapore’.

And that’s how the journey of a 30-something woman unfolds in a foreign land who tries to bring her life back on track. Munmun realises the horror of relying on google when she enters a dingy hotel, only to check out the very next day and bump into a breezy Australian girl who becomes her friend.

They explore Singapore on a budget, end up renting a part of an apartment from a local old woman and that’s how a journey of a confused woman coping with heartbreak and trying desperately to “not be” penniless grabs our attention for the next 200-odd pages.

Even if the first few pages remind us of Kangana Ranaut in Queen, the resemblance quickly vanishes as Mummun not only sets out to find a job, but also her father, who had disappeared from her childhood many years ago.

The amazing travelogue-cum-chick lit is authored by city-based seasoned traveller and author Tanushree Podder.
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She refuses to label her work as a travelogue, but there are clearly some generous glimpses that she offers of the different culture of Singapore. The credit for it goes to Podder’s daughter, who lived in the country for several years and also for the extensive travelling that the author undertook, not just in Singapore, but also in other countries.

“Being an intrepid and passionate traveller, I feel that travelling has amazing healing powers. It widens your horizon, gives you confidence, opens up new windows and helps you find your feet, especially if you are travelling solo. I, for one, feel that nursing grudges or heartbreaks is difficult when you are travelling,” Poddar confesses.

It seems the idea of travelling has also helped the protagonist of the book. What sets apart Solo in from other chick lits is that there isn’t too much emphasis on finding “the one,” until the end.

Grab Solo in Singapore for that popcorn break when you need something light and witty to lift your mood. It can be your weekend buddy this month!

Book Review: House Spirit by Palash Krishna Mehrotra

OUT OF THE BOTTLE…and, into our homes. Palash Krishna Mehrotra talks about our drinking habits through his anthology — House Spirits, Drinking in India. Hic on…

“Our attitude to drinking is the same as it is to sex. We do it all the time. And some States, it seems, do it more than others.” Palash Krishna Mehrotra opens House Spirit, Drinking in India with this preface. And, it’s clear that this delightful cocktail of stories, poems and essays is not going to beat around the bush, or specifically the bottle! House-Spirit_Front-websitejpg-480x698

Brought out by Speaking Tiger and edited by Mehrotra, the thrust of the anthology would be on drinking in India — snazzy upper class bars, thelas and in theatres etc. So seasoned and new writers have come together in the book — with their shots; some are super smooth, some are hard-hitting and some leave that burning sensation in your throat, once you reach the rock bottom. The stories are on drinking, and not about the drinks and where you can find them. They reveal the fun side as well as the dark shadows lurking beneath your glass.

A couple of pages into the book, and you go up. But soon enough, you come crashing down to harsh reality.  Reading House Spirits… is like a sine curve. “I wanted to cover both sides — the merry part and the not so merry part of drinking,” explains Mehrotra, who has a reputation for liking the bottle. That and the experience of editing an anthology in the past, set the ball rolling for this book.

“I decided to focus on drinking in India, which has not been written about. We think of it as something transgressive, something naughty.

Indians drink outside their homes because it’s not acceptable to our families. So I was looking for people who write entertainingly, rather than just cover ground. They could write personalised copies or about the places to drink like thelas which offer local booze or the gay bars,” tells Mehrotra from his Dehradun residence.

So the anthology has stories from Haridwar, Kerala, Delhi, Kolkata, Dehradun, Bengaluru and Gujarat (yes, you read it right), revealing a tantalising tip of the iceberg.

Little surprised that Goa does not feature much in the book, we asked Mehrotra about it. He calmly explains that one story does brush over Pune’s favourite booze destination, but after all, an anthology is about “Commission and Omission”.

With such variety of topics — hilarious poems, bone-chilling rehab stories, family secrets and strained relationships — the language and tone of the anthology is earthy and refreshing. None of those glass-clinking and air kissing, alcohol drinking janata makes an appearance in this anthology. It’s about aam aadmi. And aurat about whom Kanika Gahlaut talks through her essay, ‘When Nights Turn Into Decades’.

Then there is a generous tadka of Bollywood with ‘Booze, Bollywood, Bombay and I’ by Mayank Shekhar and ‘Permit Room: Drinking In Hindi Cinema’ by Sidharth Bhatia.

“We didn’t want the articles to be a very upper class thing, as drinking in India can be a very expensive affair. We have included many personal essays. For instance, Pawan Kumar Jain writes about coming from a family where alcohol is a taboo. Or Amit Chaudhari talks about being a non-drinker. Samanth Subramanium talks about his love for toddy, while Mayank Tewari writes about the Brahmin from Haridwar who drank too much for his own good,” says Mehrotra. DSC_0016

The USP of the book is its down to earth, sometimes dirt-covered approach to a sensitive issue. “Some of the pieces are very honest and confessional. The ‘Rehab Diary’ is brutally honest. We are in a society where we sweep things under the carpet. We don’t talk about it much. It’s not very easy to write either. In that sense, the writers of House Spirit have not held back anything,” he adds.

Definitely, a one of its kind anthology, House Spirit would make an excellent addition to your friend-who-loves-to-drink’s collection. It would be a welcome change from that bottle of French wine you keep gifting him thrice a year!

Out of the bottle

This book review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune, Sunday June 19, 2016. 

Book Review: Thicker Than Blood by Munmun Ghosh

Thicker than blood

Book: Thicker Than Blood

Author: Munmun Ghosh

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House

Price: Rs299

Thicker than Blood is essentially a book about a typical Indian housewife’s struggle to experience the joys of motherhood. When everyone in cities is acutely aware of how many working women are intentionally delaying marriage and motherhood, this book comes as a whiff of fresh air. So women whose ultimate goal in life is to become a mother — a successful mother — still exist.

Munmun Ghosh’s story is about one such young woman, Mayuri Mehta, who feels her true calling is in being a doting mother. She is in her mid-20s and coaxes her reluctant husband into starting a family. However, nature is not so benevolent to Mayuri, who has to struggle through multiple doctor visits and tests because she cannot conceive naturally.

It just makes her life less difficult when she finds out that she and her husband both have minor biological shortcomings that are adding up to this problem. Women in India are aware of the torture they undergo when people blindly pin the blame on them alone — the bitter truth remains that they are considered baby-making machines.

Mayuri takes the help of technology, and baba, tantric, homeopath, alternative medicine, and almost everything under the sun that is suggested by her friends and relatives. Years pass on, and a now 30-year-old Mayuri seems to have accepted the fact that it will take a super human effort to get pregnant. Needless to say, it takes a toll on the husband-wife relationship as well.

The author has touched a subject that is increasingly becoming common among urban women. The complexities of life in a joint family, the predicament every bahu faces, the battle of sexes in which the wife is blamed for everything that goes wrong and the male ego refusing to acknowledge the fault in their stars has been beautifully brought out by Ghosh.

Full credit to her for writing a book about this turbulent phase in a woman’s life. It was long due. We can tell you the story in 25 minutes, but it would be rather enriching to read the 250 pages of this book filled with pure human emotions and love of motherhood.

A little more effort into the cover page would have helped. Overall, a good read to sensitise men and women about this issue.

The review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune edition, dated April 24, 2016.



Book Review: Runaway Writers

Name: Runaway Writers
Author: Indu Balachandran
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Pages: 296
Price:  Rs 299

Three women, who have quit their regular jobs to become writers, meet in Greece, one of them desperately tries to figure out intricacies of love — that’s Runaway Writers for you in 140 characters (well, 144 to be precise). That is probably how Amby — the main protagonist of this book and a Twitter expert — would have described this book.

Runaway Writers

The story of Amby is something many of us can relate to. She has the potential to make tons of money through a banking job. But is currently doing some creative tweeting for a famous movie star, in the hope to become a famous writer herself.

As the book repeatedly emphasises, we are all looking for the second best job in the world — something that is creative, satisfying and pays decently. Which is why Amby wants to go to Greece to attend a writer’s workshop, so that she can quit the ghost-tweeter job (yes, that’s a job, as Amby repeatedly explains) and start writing that bestseller she is destined to write. She is joined by two more women, equally eager to pursue their dream of becoming a writer, on this trip to Greece.

The book is a chick-flick, a travelogue, a writer’s “how-to” guide, and a love-story all rolled into one neat package. Divided into two sections — Before Greece and After Greece — the book focuses on Amby’s life in a typical Chennai family.

She has a secret crush on her boss, the movie star, but is torn between the mixed signals she keeps getting and the match her parents are pushing her to consider. The new guy is a well-settled Tam Brahm living in Finland, and after a couple of online meetings convince Amby that he is truly Mr Eligible.

Meanwhile, Amby’s pursuit of her dream of becoming a writer kindles the spark in her boss to chase his own dream of becoming a chef and opening his restaurant. And so, Amby is confronted with the question: Who is a better option? Mr Eligible or Mr Edible!

The author’s wit and ability to connect with the new-age reader has made this book a good read. Runaway Writers is that kind of book which will instantly lift your spirits. Writers — anyone who writes, reports, tweets, posts and pitches — in particular will instantly connect with the book. The details of the writers’ workshop are simply awesome, almost made me quit my job to look for something similar in some exotic land.

We cannot help but wonder if author Indu Balachandran, an advertising veteran who became a travel writer and columnist, has written her own experiences of this journey of chasing the ‘second best job in the world’. But if that is the case, then there is hope for many of us who are still stuck in our ‘best jobs’.

Do not feel disappointed if the cover illustration gives you an impression that it’s a story of three writers. Though the other two runaway girls are at best bridesmaids in this delightful read, you will find enough in Amby’s life (whose real name is Ambujakshi, by the way) to chuckle, smile, love and take inspiration from.

This book review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune, on February 14, 2015.