Month: October 2013

I Played A Game With Life, by Richardson Susairaj

When you read the following words on the back-cover “A girl enters when he least expects her to,” you expect something surprising. You want to know why was it least expected? What happens? 
But, there is a saying, “No surprise in the author means no surprise in the reader.”
I Played A Game With Life by Richardson SusairajThe characters: Lack depth. The story has been told from the narrator’s perspective. But that is all it remains. No character is explored fully; neither through dialogue nor through the narrator’s descriptions. They enter and leave the story (for example, Lucky) just to serve singular roles or to say one meaningful, enlightening line. Sam, the narrator sounds like a thinly veiled version of the author himself. A character in a book is for a reader to understand through his actions or words. But Richard explains every mannerism of Sam’s. It sounds, at times, that he is putting his own behavior on paper and trying to justify his behavior.
The language: swings between Chennai colloquialism and dialogues picked up from English sitcoms. There are some phrases, like “I did my UG…” While in Chennai, UG is the accepted term for college education, a better phrase would have been the more widely accepted “I completed my graduation.” “UG” in some parts of the country implies something totally different! (wink!)
There is an excessive usage of unexplained short-forms. The above-mentioned UG is one such example. Also, while terms like “I’ve”, “I’ll”, “Won’t”, “Can’t” etc. are acceptable in dialogue, it is not a norm in the narration itself. In the narration, it is always better to expand these to “I have” etc.
There is redundancy in some descriptions, e.g., “A shirt maroon in color.” Maroon is a color; it’s redundant. “Maroon shirt” would have been enough. Similarly “She followed me like a dog follows its owner.” This could have been “She followed me like a dog.”
The dialogue: tends to get lengthy in places. Nearly every conversation moves at the pace slower than real conversations. Every single dialogue in a conversation need not be put down on paper. Also, not every dialogue needs to be explained (e.g., “I said “What’s up” and sounded like a guy on a New York subway” or “He is an Anglo, so he suffixes every sentence with a “Man””) These are commonly used phrases, that need not really be explained. They are not restricted to subway guys or Anglo-Indians.
The technique: The author has a good sense of humor, which is clear from some parts of the book. But, he appears heavily influenced by sitcoms. He makes various references to these here and there.
At times, you feel the author is a little too “testosterone-y”. The chapter “Squeezing Toothpaste” seemed totally unnecessary. Plus, the next chapter talks about him checking out female models on TV. Right, so we get it, that’s what guys do, but should it be emphasized on every page?
The pace is a little slow. We keep waiting for the surprise element (“when he least expected her to”) but it does not quite arrive.

While some books suffer due to lack of proper content, this one suffers from too much unnecessary detail. Rating: 2/5

Note: This book was sent to me by the author for review. This review is not influenced by anyone in any manner.

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

The book is more like a collection of background stories, all interconnected by a thread, or perhaps more than one thread. They are stories of the various characters in this book, and are told from different points of view.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled HosseiniThe characters: Pari and Abdullah: Siblings with whose story the book starts. A great deal is said about the love between the two. Not a vivid description of their separation is given; however, the poignancy with which their love is described, the reader does not require an explicit description of the separation. Saboor and Parwana: Father and stepmother respectively of the siblings. As a couple, they are characters who remain in the background who appear only as required in the stories of the other characters. Individually, Saboor is described as a storyteller and Parwana’s life is described along with her sister’s. Masooma and Parwana: Twins, one favored over the other, as in many stories, with the neglected one eventually getting what she desires most by committing a heinous act. The reader cannot judge Parwana; at least I could not. For some reason, you tend to develop a sympathy for her, resulting in you wishing that she succeeds. Nila and Suleiman Wahdati: The rich family that “bought” Pari. Nila – supremely rebellious in some ways, intelligent and loving in others. Suleiman – A man who married to prove a point to his family. Nabi: Brother to Masooma and Parwana. Employed by the Wahdatis. His love for Nila made him suggest to his brother-in-law that he sell his daughter. However, it was for Suleiman he stayed on in the residence. Idris and Timor: Cousins who lived across the street from the Wahdatis, whose families migrated to the US when they were young. They come back to Kabul, years later and here the story is told from Idris’ point of view. He is “severely human”. I do not know how else to describe him. Markos and Thalia: Their story seems to have some parallels with that of Pari and Abdullah. More appropriately, parallels may perhaps be drawn between Thalia’s mother and Nila. While all the characters are in different countries, they are all interconnected forming this one perfect tale.
The language/technique: It uses a series of “point-of-view” narratives and multiple flashbacks and flash-forwards. The prose is, like Hosseini’s other works, marvelous. You do not feel a stark rawness of language, and yet, the points are as straightforward as they can be, beautifully arranged and served.
If I were to compare this to his other works, I would still be biased towards A Thousand Splendid Suns. But in itself, it is a moving story and a wonderfully written book. The way in which the seemingly disconnected stories are connected, it gives the reader the “it’s a small world” feeling, like a movie with an ensemble cast. 4.5/5!

Lessons in Forgetting, by Anita Nair

Lessons in Forgetting by Anita NairIt took me some time to write a review for this. Mainly because when I finished reading it, I couldn’t praise it in full sentences. That’s how struck I was with this book. It is an excellent piece of writing (goes without saying, it’s Anita Nair after all!) There are strong shades of feminism in the tale, themes about midlife crises and an undercurrent of a mature love story of two middle-aged individuals.
Without giving away any plot details, I would like to admit that Smriti, the sufferer of the unfortunate “accident” is so strongly etched in my mind that my heart bleeds for this girl. And the anger I feel for the antagonists – the villains who did what they did to her – is just volcanic. Whenever I read about characters who have the “ooh-iam-a-man-and-this-is-my-world” attitude, it makes me foam-at-the-mouth angry!
What I love about Anita Nair’s books is the little background stories that her characters narrate. It gives them more depth, makes them more real. People who do not just exist within the dimension of the book, but those who have existed and lived lives before the tale of the book began. Kala’s little tales were good.
I do not think this review will in any way do justice to the book, but I strongly believe that this book will not disappoint any reader. While I enjoyed Mistress more than this, I do admit that this is probably a better written book. I am partial to Mistress judging solely on the basis of the two stories.
Rating: 4/5

Cut Like Wound, by Anita Nair

Cut Like Wound by Anita NairI remember the first time I saw this in my regular bookstore. I put it back on the shelf cos police thrillers are not something I enjoy reading. But it was an Anita Nair book after all, so two week later I went back to the store and bought it.
All her books seem to be connected somehow by some common threads. And still, each story is refreshingly different. In the case of ‘Cut Like Wound’, midway through the book, I figured out the ending, but perhaps the author meant it to be that way…? Not sure. I did think at some point though, that the characters Urmila and Inspector Gowda’s son Roshan had something up their respective sleeves.
The story is dark… and disturbing in a Patricia Cornwell kinda way. But the dates used somehow did not seem to coincide the events. There seemed to be some disparity there.
From a “psychological thriller” perspective, and considering the author’s previous works, I certainly felt something was lacking. A good (above average, but below great) read, nevertheless.

That Kiss In The Rain, by Novoneel Chakraborty

That Kiss In The Rain by Novoneel ChakrabortyI guess I was too carried away with “How about a sin tonight”, which I have given 3 stars to, but I will probably be taking some points out of it, due to the terrible book that this one is. In fact, how about was also just average, but some of the author’s ideas reflected some of mine, hence the “carried away” feeling.
This one is just an immature piece of writing. In Swadha, I have found a wet tissue paper of a female character, mooning over a married boss waiting for his wife to die. In Pallavi, the author seems to have tried to create a Sydney Sheldon-like heroine, but has failed. She’s neither intelligent nor quirky nor, when required, sensitive like Sheldon’s heroines. Haasil is nondescript, despite being the so-called “main guy” of the story. He’s just another wet tissue paper. And the circumstances in which (ok – spoiler, but who cares, really) his wife was found was pretty laughable. I mean, oh please!
The language/writing technique is lazy. The writer just keeps jumping from scene to scene, and it’s lazy and loose. And really, what is “be rest assured” ? People either are asked to “rest assured” or “be assured”. But what does “be rest” mean?? The metaphors are over the top, just like “how about..” “The tears were given freedom from the fortress that were his eyes” that sentence was an insult even to the worst purple prose!
And note to the author – don’t know what you know about marriages, but no husband and wife ever spent every waking moment in “furious lovemaking sessions”, cos that’s all the very lovelorn Haasil seems to do with his wife. Oh that, and, talk endlessly about love in sad, forlorn, philosophical terms. In fact, the latter is all that Haasil does with Swadha as well. Why exactly?
A lot of the endless, meaningless paragraphs about love and life seem to be coming out of the author’s mouth, rather than the characters’. This leaves them flimsy. Unreal. And they all seem to be cut more or less from the same cloth.
I thought I would be reading the author’s other book as well, but I guess, he would have nothing new to offer.

Accidents Like Love and Marriage, by Jaishree Misra

All right, so that was classic Jaishree Misra! In all honesty, I was terribly disappointed with her “Secrets Trilogy” or whatever she had called that series. But this, this was good. The best part of it was the humor. Serious situations have been dealt with clever wit that lets the reader seep in the intensity of the scene, but also laugh while doing so. It’s an art, really.
The story is pretty much similar to Two States (minus the blatantly insensitive racist comments) or Kardomom Kisses (minus the pointless confusion). This story is interspersed with the sibling and the best friend of the male (Tarun) and female (Gayatri) protagonists. There is a flashback that describes Gayatri’s previous relationship, that is strikingly similar to Neha and Alastair (if I remember his name correctly) from A Scandalous Secret.
Most of Jaishree Misra’s characters feel like they have been cut from the same cloth. You get that feeling fleetingly during the course of the book, but the humor (I just want to keep praising it) erases that out of your mind. As a reader, you hate the venomous Swarn but pity her husband. All characters are more or less believable, except Tracey perhaps.
Overall a good read. You can read it for the language and technique, if not for the plot. Do not leave your brains behind, but do not expect to tax it unnecessarily either.