Tag Archives: Book review

The Fault in our stars

The  fault in our stars

I don’t remember on whose recommendation I ordered this book. But whoever (if a person) or whatever (a website/ newspaper/ blog) it was, I thank them for this lovely suggestion. This 313 page story by John Green has all possible emotions one can think of – love, pain, humour, empathy, sympathy, anger, tragedy, helplessness and what not.

<Spoiler Alert – The review below gives the plot away>

The book is about Hazel Grace, a terminal cancer patient on an experimental drug who doesn’t know for how long would she be around, and about Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor in the sense that he has had no evidence of cancer detected in a long time after his treatment, yet.

They meet at a support group that neither of them seem too inclined to attend and bond over a fiction book to which both of them can relate. What follows is beautiful romance between the young couple joined together not by a disease but inspite of it. Their conversations seem so real and touching, their reactions so very natural. It is impossible not to root for their beautiful love story and wish with all your heart for a happy ending. But that is not what the author has in mind. When Hazel has been trying to avoid being a ‘Grenade’ which can explode anytime and leave all around her who care and love her hurt, it is Augustus who turns into one but not before fulfilling Hazel’s wish of wanting to meet the author of her favourite book on a foreign land on a trip which leads to the discovery of their love for each other. And I for one could never have thought such a beautiful story being told against such a background, of ‘eulogies’ like ‘love letters’ and of ‘okays’ as ‘always’.

The emotions portrayed in the book have a quality about them, of demanding to be felt, much like the pain that the protagonists talk about in the book. You can almost sense the worry of the parents, their wanting their child to have a normal life, the hesitation of the patients to get too involved with friends and family, the pain on being diagnosed, the excitement of a dream coming true and the helplessness and futility of the disease that takes all away.

There are some beautiful one liners in the book, and some poignant quotations, which remain with the reader for a long time even after the chapter has been finished, so to speak.

Highly Recommended!


Dying for a Living

Dying for a Living – A Jesse Sullivan Novel

Author: Kory M Shrum

Dying for a Living

The title intrigued me. Though I had never heard of the author before, it seemed an interesting topic, both literally and metaphorically. And so, I started to read. The book had me hooked from page one.

Dying for a Living is a sort of science fiction thriller, which talks about Necronites and AMPs, people who can get up from being dead with no more than a minor loss of their brain so to say, and people who can sense and perceive things to be, based on magnetic fields, sort of like psychics.

The protagonist is Jesse Sullivan, a typical teenage girl, but for the fact that she dies for a living, quite literally. She is a Government approved death replacement agent, that is, she dies instead of other people for a fee in consideration. Other than being a Necronite or a zombie as she likes to call herself, she is a normal girl with normal issues and characteristics – rebellious attitude, romance, family, money and so on.

On her nth death replacement, things begin to go wrong, with a “mortal” attack on her. There are many suspects and motives – The Church, The Government, Colleagues, Personal Vendetta, Morality and Ethics being a few. How she figures this out, with numerous things from her past resurfacing and future allowing a few glimpses, with help of friends she didn’t know she could count on, makes for a fast paced thrilling read and ends at a cliffhanger.

All in all, its a good thriller, recommended for a curious and open mind!

The Wreck

Author: Rabindranath Tagore

Price: Rs. 195/-

The Wreck

Being a Tagore Book, I expected “The Wreck”, translation of his creation “Naukadubi” to be an extremely complex book full of similies and metaphors and complex words and characters difficult to comprehend in general. I know pre conceived notions aren’t good to have but that’s what you get when you are picking up a book by a Nobel Prize winner in literature! So it is with these feelings that I started turning the pages of “The Wreck”. However, what I came across was a 350 odd page dramatic yet simple narrative, enlightening in its own sense.

The book is divided into 62 short chapters, very fast paced, so much so, that you keep turning the pages without realising that you have reached the very end.

The story revolves around four characters – Ramesh Babu, Hemnalini, Kamala and Dr. Nalinaksha. Fate works in mysterious ways and causes a mix up in the possible combinations in which these four people could be made into couples. One by one they all come to know the truth which is both sad and good. Sad because when the first one came to know partial truth, he could have told the others and saved all including himself a lot of trouble, to some extent. Good because it is ultimately this truth which comes to their rescue, to some extent.

In a very subtle manner, Tagore has interspersed the story with the difference of caste and creed prevalent at the time. What strikes the reader (or at least a reader like me) apart from the ingenious plot and brilliant writing is the beautiful relationship of Hemnalini with her father, Annada Babu. In times of today in a country like ours it comes as wonderful surprise to know of a father daughter relationship so beautifully open and deeply meaningful.

All in all, highly recommended but for the last page, because it reads, when you don’t want it to – “The End.”

Nine Lives – A Book Review

Author: William Darlymple

Price: Rs. 399

Nine Lives

I had been wanting to read a William Dalrymple book for a long time. But the thickness of his travelogues combined with the miniscule font always kept me away. Until, I came across “Nine Lives”. And I am so glad that I did.

Nine Lives is a simple, lucid, unbiased, non judgemental and rich account of a variety of arcane religious cum spiritual practices told through the lives of people practising these, whom the author met in the course of his travels. It is a refreshingly different narrative in the sense that it presents the bare facts but not in the dry manner so as to put off the reader and not unnecessarily embellished so as to render them unbelievable or questionable.

The stories chosen are unique, strange and engrossing, giving the reader a peek into the varied traditions and rituals still being practised in the India rapidly striding towards modernisation resisting the urge and pressure of uprooting them to give way for a newer, “modern” world.

Not being from the nation which he writes about gives Dalrymple an opportunity to stand back, detached from the bias towards or against any one creed, and ask, observe and write from the perspective of a curious bystander. The touch of personalisation through brief but relevant accounts of how the author came to know the people whose stories he writes and how he furthered these aquaintances to allow them to share their secrets with him, give the much appreciated connection between these seemingly unrelated stories.

What stands out in the book is the uniqueness and heterogeneity of the characters and their lives, very much relatable to the ancient and diverse India that all of us have read and thought of, however, it is squeezed in temporally and spatially to an unbelievable existence of here and now, a sort of mirage, only much more real and much more mythical. This is the mirage the reader is led into, to wander, right from the introduction by Dalrymple, of a Sadhu who is a manager by education and of Tapan Goswami, a feeder of skulls and a father of two ophthalmologists practising in New Jersey.

The Nine Lives are those of a Jain Nun, a Theyyam Dancer, a Devdasi, a Bhopa, a Sufi Saint, a Tibetan Monk, an Idol Maker, a Tantrik Couple and a Baul. I read these stories with keen interest and astonishment and despite trying hard, I am unable to chose any one favorite. I highly recommend this book for you to make your own decision about the same. Happy Reading!!

The Exile – A Book Review

Author – Navtej Sarna
Publisher – Penguin Books
ISBN – 9780143068822
Price – Rs. 299


Once in a while, you buy a book by sheer chance, never having heard of it before and therefore, naturally, never having desired it. You exercise such a choice at book fairs, literary festivals, road side stalls or on being seduced by the ever pleasant book covers in the hands of children trying to make a sale at the footpath. And, sometimes, a book bought in such a manner turns out to be beyond expectations; engrossing, enriching and enigmatic. It is what one may call the serendipityof reading. And I happened to chance upon one such accidentaldiscovery in a literary fest. The book in question was – The Exile, authored by an Indian Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Navtej Sarna.

The book, in a mere 250 pages, beautifully narrates the life of the last Maharaja of Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Sing, the youngest acknowledged son of the famed brave Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. Set in the nineteenth century, as a wonderful mix of facts and fiction, it tells the story of the life of the rulers of Punjab after Maharaja Ranjit Singhs reign, the annexation of Punjab and the exile of its former rulers. The plots, politics, schemings and betrayals are woven together to give a coherent and  chronological account of those years.

Divided into five major parts are the five phases, so to speak, of Maharaja Duleep Singhs life. The kingdom of his father, his life at Shish Mahal as a royal prince and then King at the age of five, the annexation of Punjab by the British through their deceptive means and scheming minds, the exile of the Maharaja in England and his life thereof, and the realisation of all that was lost to and snatched from him leading to his rebellion; the five parts are put forward to the reader in form of narration by various central characters of the story. This form of narration makes the story easy to follow and personal to relate.

The frankness, daring and affection of Mangla, the slave girl of Maharaja Duleep Singhs mother, Maharani Jindan, who saw him coming into the world and the the obedience and servitude of Arur Singh, Maharaja Duleep SInghs servant of many years, who was the closest to him at his last time are reflected in a very subtle yet clear way through the written words. As is the reflection of the ways through which Dr John Login and Lady Lena Login (Superintendent of the Maharaja and his wife respectively, sort of foster parents to him) seem to justify all their actions and those of the British Government, at least on the paper. The narration of General Charles Carrol Tevis, who acted as a spy of the British against Maharaja by pretending to be his well wisher and confidant, leaves the reader angry, bitter and at the same time dejected and pitiful. The last two hold true the most for the narration of the Maharaja himself, who has been portrayed to be pitied and cared for, foolishly trusting and yet a royal rebel.

Of special interest are the descriptions of the circumstances which led to Kohi-Noor moving hands from India to England and the conversion of the Maharaja to Christianity.

All in all, the book leaves the reader feeling despair and pity for the protagonist and an indescribable anger, helplessness and disgruntled admiration for the cunning of the British and everybody else who betrayed and humiliated the last Maharaja of Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Singh.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in taking a glimpse in the history of the times when Kohi-Noor still dazzled and shone bright in India.

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