Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Revolutionary's Life: Bandi Jeewan

Bandi Jeewan Bandi Jeewan by Sachindra Nath Sanyal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book which according to a British secret report sent "more young men to the jails and gallows than any other book" is a first-hand account of the revolutionary movement in India during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Sachindranath Sanyal, who was awarded the life-imprisonment twice by the British authorities in India gives a vivid account of what it meant to struggle for one's freedom during the colonial rule. It also details the often-negative attitude of the Congress top-leadership towards the revolutionaries. An interesting read though the Hindi of the first volume is a little tough to understand at times.

*

First Line: Kisi samaj ko pehchanane ke liye us samaj ke sahitya se parichit hone ki param avashaktya hoti hai, kyonki samaj ke pranon ki chetna us samaj ke sahitya mein bhi pratiphalit hua karti hai.

Ed. Pt. Satyanarayan Sharma

Pub Details: 1922. ND: Sakshi Prakashan, 2015
Pages: 368


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Review: A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement

A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement by Verney Lovett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A biased, often condescending look, at the freedom struggle of India.

*

First Line: An accurate knowledge of the conditions of the past is necessary for a right understanding of the problems of the present.

Pub. Details: 1920. ND: Vishal Publishers, 1972.
Pages: 303.
Other books read of the same author: None.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Ghost in Pearls: Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost Among the Living Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Random thoughts after reading Simone St. James' Lost Among the Living, a book listed on 50 Most Suspenseful Novels:

1. Who makes these lists???????

2. Why am I sucker for such lists??????

3. If you are going to introduce the supernatural in a mystery, take some tips from John Dickson Carr. To use it as deux ex machina is pathetic.

4. The protagonist is madly in love with her husband but at the first whiff of suspicion, the missing spouse is suspected of not only being a traitor but also a murderer!!!! Is this what love is all about?

5. The protagonist feel betrayed as certain things were not revealed to her and is unforgiving about the whole issue but in the course of the same conversation she says that if the things were such great secrets than she she should have been kept in the dark even now. Make up your mind, woman.

6. Two stars (rather than one) because I liked Cora and Martin and hope they live happily ever after.

*

First Line: By the time we left Calais, I thought perhaps I hated Dottie Forsyth.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Waste of Time: The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

The Cry The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Do people really like such books? Peopled with unsympathetic character; alternating narrative by hysterical women; it being thrust down our throats that in an extra-marital relationship, the man is the villain - not the wife, not the mistress who, poor things, are nothing but victims and given a chance can actually like each other and be friends; the supposedly BIG reveal turning out to be a damp squib, something that you had guessed right from the beginning; Philosophical posing such as 'we cannot build our happiness on somebody's sorrows' but can apparently get away with murder.....

Oh God! I just want this book out of my system.

*

First Line: It was the fault of the airport security.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Women in Translation: Shadow Sister by Simone Van Der Vlugt

Usually, I don't enjoy modern mysteries because I feel the world intrudes too much. Racism, sexism, pedophilia, dysfunctional families become the foci of the novel rather than the murder. However, while reading Simone Van Der Vlugt's Shadow Sister, I was surprised when I became more interested in the problems that a teacher of a school faces rather than the suspense about the killer.




Lydia, one of the narrators of the novels (the other is her twin sister Elisa), is a teacher at Rotterdam College, a school where plenty of students are from Turkey and Morocco. Caught between the cultures, neither integrated nor even fully welcome in Holland, the students can be extremely volatile at times. But even Lydia is shocked when one of them threatens her with a knife. This to her tastes like a personal failure because she has taken the trouble to get close to her students - doing overtime, visiting their homes, attending inter-cultural coaching sessions etc.

This involvement with her work has brought many positive results and the students have started opening up and discussing their problems with her but it also has a downside: her husband, Raoul feels that she is neglecting their little daughter Valerie and would rather have her working part-time in his software company. This has caused quite a bit of friction between the two. Thus, it is to Elisa that Lydia turns for comfort. But is Elisa the right person to turn to?



The novel switches between the two narrative voices and what I loved was how much is revealed through the two voices. Neither of the women is what they assume they are and it is both creepy and funny as the reader gets a glimpse into their personalities. This makes for a very interesting read but the last few chapters feel forced and the identity of the killer is a big let-down.

That disappointment aside, I loved the narration, the sibling relationship, and the description of the problems that can beset a multi-racial institute. I will definitely look for more books by this author.

*

First Line: All of a sudden he's got a knife.



Original Title: Schaduwzuster
Original Language: Dutch
Translator: Michele Hutchison

Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2010
First Published: 2005
Pages: 282

Source: Bought @Delhi Book Fair, 2016.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Forgotten Book: Gossip to the Grave by John Burke

Luke stared up at her. “Running off to construct a dream lover? That’s the way. The only way. Build him yourself.”



Jenny Clark is what we would call a Page-3 reporter in India, somebody who covers parties thrown by the frivolous rich, adds spice and gossip, and hints at scandals. When the novel opens, she is in the doldrums having been jilted by her lover. A throw-away remark by a colleague as to what would be her specifications for an ideal lover makes Jenny not only imagine a man -who is witty, smart, sophisticated, handsome, and fond of P.G. Wodehouse and James Thurber - but also feature him in her gossip columns. She has no idea that the man- whom she names Simon Sherborne - will become the talk of the town and all the women will be dying to invite him to their parties.



“Track him down. If he’s anything like you make him out to be, he could stir up some fun among those corrupt innocents of yours. Somebody,” said Chris hopefully, “might get hurt.”




Things become rough for Jenny when her editor demands a photo of the mysterious Mr. Sherborne and instructs her to take a camera man along to the next social event she covers. Jenny begins to think of taking on a new job or moving back to her parents when at the party a man comes over to her and introduces himself:

She turned. The man from the saleroom was standing above her — six inches above her, that widow’s peak, she estimated...

 The man smiled a slow, broad smile and held out his hand. As she took it she said quietly, to help him: “Actually I’m Jenny Clark.”
 “Ah, yes. My best press officer.”
 “Yours?”
 “I’m Simon Sherborne,” he said.


But unlike the lover whom Jenny had conjured up for herself, this man is more interested in an heiress, Annabel Wager, and pressurizes Jenny to introduce him to her. What game is he playing and how far will Jenny go to keep up the charade?




The novel begins well but soon meanders into forgery, fraud, inheritance issues and loses its way.

Still it was nice to read a novel where there are no mobile phones, where people are not texting or taking selfies of themselves 24/7, and where it is really difficult to contact a person and one has to search for call-phones which have now virtually disappeared.

Also there was this line which I absolutely loved:

She was surprised he didn’t present her with a shorthand pad and four newly sharpened pencils and ask her to take detailed notes of what the police had to say.








It brought back my growing-up years when I'd see college-going bhaiyas and didis with the pads, the yellow-black striped sharp pencils, and Pittman's Shorthand instructor earnestly trying to improve their skills and earn a diploma in shorthand while getting a college degree as it'd give them an edge in their application for government jobs. When I reached college, however,  the shorthand colleges and typing schools were all on their last legs and soon were to close shop forever...

*

First Line: Jenny Clark invented Simon Sherborne one rainy evening in late April.

First Published: 1967
Source: Borrowed
Other books read of the same author: None

*

Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books @ Pattinase. Please head over there for the other entries.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review: The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It seemed to me as though the writer was trying too hard: to have every small day-today action assume a philosophical hue. Expected better from the author of The English Patient.

First Line: HE WASN'T TALKING.
Source: Bought in 2014.
Other books read of the same author: In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient.

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