By way of a review, all I can say is that this book is like a great recipe, with loads of flavors and layers of taste. It will evoke almost every emotion that you are capable of, just like a great recipe pokes at all your taste buds.
It is more than a 1000 pages, but un-put-downable. There were days, when I was sitting in my office and staring at my monitor, with all thoughts on what is going to happen next in the book. And, I finished it in a spurts of reading, 6-7 hours together to breeze past 300 pages, and feel sad that there are 300 pages less to read of this most engrossing book.
Almost immediately as I finished the book, I have elevated it to the top-5 books that I have ever read.
And, I have a nagging feeling, that the next time I am going to read this book (and I am sure I will read it again), it is going to affect me in a totally different way, and that is because the book grapples with lots of issues, and lots of different characters in different phases of maturity. Depending on your emotional status when you read the book, different characters are going to tug your heart and evoke different reactions to the same events.
The first time, my heart went out to Maan, just because he was totally lost for direction in life.
The Zoya Factor
You cannot ask for more from Desi Chic-Lit. It was a breezy read, and am sure, will come out as a movie in a cinema nearby very soon. I have never read a chic-lit book before, but now, I kind of see why people like to read them…
The Peacock Throne
This book blew hot and cold. It is about politics in Chandni chowk, and the story pushes itself through disaster days of Indian history- The ’84 riots, Mandal commission, 6th December and a demolition drive in Chandni chowk in ’96. If for 500 of the 700 page book, you don’t see the story develop, and what keeps you reading on is the blurb on the backpage. The anticipation of how he would make the blurb happen was what kept me reading through writing that was becoming progressively banal. And to make a laborious 500 page read even worse, was the lame ending in the last 50 or pages. The intricately entwined threads in the story add to nothing.
Laborious book, ambitious story, which could have been better executed. The outstanding part was the ’84 riots chapter. It was almost as-if someone else took over the book after that.
R.K. Narayan Omnibus
He is definitely the master. No doubt. I had been sporadically introduced to him before, the story about the mailman in the 10th standard English books, the T.V serials (that were brilliant, almost bringing Malgudi to life), and then a collection of Malgudi days stories.
It was his brilliant but under-rated novel, “Waiting for the Mahatma”, that made me wanting more of him. But, that was not to be, and the next R.K.Narayan book that I picked up was “The English Teacher”.
I did not know about the autobiographical references in The English Teacher, much after I read it, and the second half (of his spiritual quest to understand the loss of his wife) was quite lost on me, but the first half, stands out, and the picture of the idyllic life in Malgudi, the care-free bachelor days, his efforts to make something out of his education (other than teaching), the adjustment to married life, the happiness of the couple, will always stay with me.
His writing says so much, paints such a detailed picture, and is yet so simple. Personally, RKN’s writing is the exact opposite pole of Sulman Rushdie, but they seem to achieve similar results: transport you into the world of the book so efficiently.
The omnibus that I got had the novel “A man-eater for malgudi”, the novella “Talkative man” and a collection of malgudi stories (including the famous astrologer story). All the three parts of the book, had the same thread: simplicity, and a story out of everyday people, the ones that you are likely to meet on the road. The manner in which the printing press owner, Natraj, jumps to the worst possible outcome, in the most logical way, reminded me of Amma, and also that, thinking like that is so human. It made the charachter Natraj human for me. And, I loved the almost anti-climaxical ending, because anything more dramatic would have stood out of the book, it ended as ordinarily as the descriptions of everyday life that it painted for most of the book. Absolutely brilliant.
The settings got simpler and the story even simpler (if that could happen), as the talkative man accosts the strange suit cladded Dr Rann, and contemplates his moves when he has proof to beileve that Dr Rann is duping a local girl. This novella, highlighted the best thing that I love about short stories. You do not have to lay out the charachter, the threads of the story, tiny happenings, 40 years before, to finally uncover the main theme of the novel. You jump into a life, and observe the story in the short story. And, the ambiguity of the remaining life of the charachter, of how she got into that situation, of how his life is going to be changed beyond it, is the magic of the story.
RKN precisely, gets that charm working perfectly in the short stories. From the highly acclaimed Astrologer story to the farmer who sells a statue to an American thinking he sold his goats, to the vocalist controlled by Mohan, to the story-teller who loses his voice. Each story is a gem, and as with The suitable boy, you wanted the book to be never-ending.
Tales of the unexpected
Johnny Depp’s Willi wonka and the chocolate factory, made me make a mental mark that I will read up Roald Dahl. My friendly neighborhood pirated book store owner, gave me a short story collection, and a delightful little book called “The BFG”. Children’s stories have a separate charm, and makes me feel almost the innocent kid lost in world of fairies and giants. On coming to Madison, I was pleasently surprised when Vandana said that Dahl writes serious dark adult stuff.
This India trip, while browsing at Blossoms during my Bangalore leg of the trip, Pydah and I chanced upon Dahl’s adult writing by this title. Currently, this book is my nightly read before lights off, and it has kept me hooked. The stories are like Jeffry Archer’s ” A twist in the tale”, but much darker. Dahl sets up the story brilliantly, slowly building up the tension and anticipation, and finishing it up with a bang. The story about the homicidal wife with the lamb meat creeps you off in the end, leaving you with disbelief. I cannot wait to finish this book.
Also reading/ in transit
My name is Red
The Guide (RKN)
Of Mice and Men
Flowers for Algeron