Friday, January 30, 2015

January 2015 Reads

Right now I am juggling too many things and so am resorting to a monthly reading review. 

Individual and Society was my first read. Here are the other books read this month:

THE TWO SISTERS by H.E. Bates (1926)

The first novel of British author H.E. Bates chronicles the life of Jenny Lee who lives with her father and three siblings - Jim, Luke, and Tessie - in an isolated farmhouse. Attached to her mother who dies when Jenny is just in her teens, Jenny finds herself becoming increasingly lonely. A sensitive stranger, Michael Winter, enters her life but Tessie too falls in love with him. Neither the characters nor the plot really held my interest.

First Line: Running through these two Midland towns, Harlington and Bromsweald, some outskirting streets of which mingle with each other on a hill between the boughs of adjacent trees, is a road that lies white and comparatively empty from Sunday to Thursday.

Publication Details: London: Panther, 1958
First Published: 1926
Pages: 192
Source: H.M.L [F.B.A 74]


INSIDE INDIA by Halide Edib (1937)

Halide Edib was a Turkish nationalist (she was at one time a comrade of Kemal Ataturk), and a novelist. In 1935, she visited India to deliver a number of lectures at the Jamia Millia Islamia. Finding India 'to be nearer to my soul-climate than any other country not my own', she wrote this book. Starting from Bombay (now Mumbai) she travels through the length and breadth of the country: Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Lucknow; meets people about whom we read only in our history books: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Dr. A. Ansari, Dr. Zakir Husein, Kamla Devi Chattopadhya, and of course Gandhi. Throughout her journey, she observes the changing social milieu of India especially as it pertains to the zenana. 

A few factual inaccuracies aside (the main temple in Varanasi is devoted to Lord Shiv rather then to Lord Vishnu as the author states), this is an engrossing telling of a nation in transition. Professor Mushirul Hasan provides a lengthy introduction to the volume detailing Turkey's history and the importance of Edib. The only quibble that I have with the book is the inclusion of a piece on Gandhi by the author published in another book. As the unedited version of the same thing is in this book, I fail to understand the reason for its inclusion. With a considerable part of the book already devoted to Gandhi this is nothing but an overkill. However, overall this is a book anybody interested in India's past should read.

First Line: Tales had three ways of beginning in my country....
Publication Details: ND: OUP, 2002
First Published: 1937
Pages: lxxix + 272
Source: C.L [954.0309 E 41 I]


SANSMRITIYAN by Shiv Verma (1969)

Another book which relates to India's past. The author Shiv Verma was a comrade of Bhagat Singh and was sentenced to Life Imprisonment in the 1929 Lahore Conspiracy Case. Reading his reminiscences regarding Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Yatindranath Das, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Mahavir Singh...who had all sacrificed their lives so that India could be free is a moving experience. The best part of the book is that he doesn't present these legendary figures as super humans but rather as the young men they were with all the frailties and heroism of youth. They fought, monkeyed around, discussed books and ideas, took care of each other, went without food, died for their convictions. I think it was in 2002 that I read this book for the first time and I simply did not want it to end. Reading it now after a gap of a few years, I had the same feeling. I just wanted it to go on and on...

First Line: Kuchh log zindagi mein bagair bulaye apne aap aa jaate hain aur phir sari umr kabhi peechha nahin chhodte.
Publication Details: Delhi: Lok Prakashan Grih, 2002
First Published: 1969
Pages: 167
Trivia: Awarded the Soviet Land Nehru Puruskar
Source: Bought @ WBF 2006.


AUTHORISED MURDER by Issac Asimov (1976)

For a long time, I knew Issac Asimov only as a writer of sci-fi. It is only when I started blogging that I came to know that he had also written mysteries. My first mystery read of the year has turned out to be Asimov's Authorised Murder. Dedicated to his friend, Harlan Ellison - whose brightness of personality is exceeded only by his height of talent - the book details a murder that takes place during a book convention. The protagonist Darius Just (modelled on Ellison) investigates the murder of his one-time protege, Giles Devore. The mystery is good enough but it is the humour in the book that is its mainstay. The footnotes between Just and Asimov (who appears as a character in the book) had me giggling. Also there is a debate between Asimov, Carl Sagan, Charles Berlitz, and Uri Geller in the book and since I remember Sagan from his T.V. series Cosmos (telecast in India many years ago) and read Berlitz just last year, it was like meeting old friends. If you like mysteries with a good dose of humour (albeit a little risque) than this is the book for you. 

First Line: Trace back the violent death of a friend and see how it happened.
Alternate Title: Murder at the ABA

Publication Details: London: Granada, 1979
First Published: 1976
Pages: 240



  1. Is Sansmritiyan written in English, or translated somewhere? I'd love to read that one.

    1. I can't tell you how touched I am Freda that amongst these books you want to read the one about Indian Revolutionaries - people you perhaps have little idea of.

      The book has been translated into many Indian languages and I have heard that it has been translated into English too. I am searching the Net. As soon as I have more details, I'll let you know. It's a real gem.

  2. Neeru - I really like the variety in the books you've read. And I'm glad you included the Asimov. Most people think of him as mostly a science fiction writer, but really, he was talented at crime fiction too.

    1. Thanks Margot. I too thought of Asimov as a sci-fi writer but after having read this book I am keen to read more of his Mysteries.

  3. Planning to read "The Two Sisters"

    1. Don't blame me if you find it tough to finish it. :)

  4. Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov is a great blend of a detective story with science fiction

    1. Thanks for letting me know Rishi. I'll search for the book.

  5. Finally tried reading it and gave up. Should have paid greater attention to your comments.