The Hunger Games Trilogy: Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games Trilogy
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy it from: Flipkart, Amazon Kindle Store
The first part has been made into a film of the same name and has been released in 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy is a series for young adult readers. The first of the Trilogy ‘The Hunger Games’ published in 2008 turned out to be very successful and  has sold around 26 million books in print till date. The two sequels ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’ also received enthusiastic reception making Suzanne Collins the bestselling kindle author of all times. What is the root of this huge success? Why has a YA series taken readers of all ages by storm? The answer I think lies in something very basic – the story. Suzanne Collins can tell a good story, a story which can grab your attention with the first words and keep you hooked till the last.

This particular story is of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager from the dystopian world of Panem, a world ruled by the all-powerful Capitol and served by the twelve surrounding districts. The citizens of the Capitol lead a decadent and frivolous life while the people from the districts face desperation and poverty. An attempt at rebellion had been made in the past, but it failed and resulted in the complete annihilation of district 13 and the beginning of the cruel Hunger games. The Hunger Games, held annually, demand the sacrifice of two children from each of the districts. The children are pitted against each other in an arena for a fight to death, where there can be only one survivor – the winner. Katniss finds destiny leading her into the Hunger Games and from thereon into the political tug of war between the districts and the Capitol. Whether she can come out alive from the games, and extricate herself from the unfolding mayhem, from the position of power she is thrust into must be read in the captivating words of Collins.

Collins has found a neat balance between the fast paced action and the seriousness of the subject matter. What seems like a gruesome game eventually starts to feel very virtual like a video game. This also makes the series an easy read. Katniss Everdeen is a very well written character; she is a thinking, responsible and independent person. It is very easy to root for her even though she commits mistakes at times. The other characters are also engaging and propel the story ahead. The romantic angle in the story blends in smoothly with the main storyline and is a compelling motivator to many of the plot turns.

In conclusion: The Hunger Games series is fast paced dystopian thriller that will keep you in its grips till the end. Go for it! 

Book Source: Self

Private-eye Anonymous: Tejas Modak

Title: Private-eye Anonymous The art gallery case
Author: Tejas Modak
Publisher: Westland
Buy it from: Flipkart

Private detective “Anonymous”, with a flair for the dramatic, an immense affinity towards good humour and good food, is the protagonist of this fun graphic novel. He is of course accompanied by a sidekick, Chiki, a not-so-sharp but serendipitous guy capable of knocking off hurdles unwittingly. When this duo is enlisted on a quirky case involving a set of precious paintings, they have to put together all their wit and all their luck together to crack the mystery and come out victorious. 

Who doesn’t like a good mystery? Especially a mystery which is illustrated with stylish drawings and peppered with good and intelligent humour? Modak’s funky graphic novel has all of this with a nice plot and eccentric characters thrown in the mix. 

The private detective “Anonymous” is very clever. He can think out of the box, deduce logic admirably, and be very philosophical at the same time. Consider his thoughtful ruminations on the nature of his cases:

“But not all cases are the same. Some cases are like chicken-pox. They pop out of nowhere, without invitation, and you always get them sometime in your life”


The other characters promise equal fun. A painter named Van Gaur anxious to protect his strange paintings, a cool Inspector who doesn't get perturbed easily, and a fiery Doberman make their appearance in the course of the case. It is much fun to go on an entertaining ride with them all and see the unraveling of the mystery.

The illustrations themselves are fantastic and complement the story beautifully. They have the same sense of humor that fuels the story. It is as much joy to peek into each of the illustrated pages as it is to read the prose.

 

Tejas Modak is a young author/artist living in Pune, India and this is his first novel. It is beautifully conceived and executed novel and it is heartening to see it being created in India where the genre of graphic novels is not as popular as it is elsewhere. I must also mention the excellent quality of the printing which gives ample justice to Modak’s wonderful illustrations.

In conclusion: 'Private-eye Anonymous' is completely enjoyable graphic novel and I will recommend it highly for its quirky sense of humor and its terrific illustrations. 

Book Source: Self

The Four-Pools Mystery: Jean Webster

Title: The Four-Pools Mystery
Author: Jean Webster
Buy it from: Flipkart, or download from Amazon Kindle store for free

I had read ‘Daddy Long Legs’ and ‘Dear Enemy’ a few weeks back and had enjoyed it. Then another friend recommended ‘Just Patty’ and ‘When Patty went to college’ and I liked these books too. So I googled for more of Webster’s works and found that she has also written a murder mystery. Now mystery is my most favourite genre ever, so I downloaded ‘The Four-Pools Mystery’ and got to reading it right away. It has Jean Webster’s playful style of narration combined with a solid mystery plot-line, and I loved it a lot!

This story takes place at a South American plantation where Colonel Gaylord and his son Radnor live and look after their large farmland. Things are not amicable between the father and the son, the Colonel being very controlling and young Radnor headstrong. To add to the troubles a ghost has made an appearance at their house, sometimes pilfering trifles and sometimes things of great value. Soon enough tragedy strikes and it is up to a sharp eyed New York reporter to unravel the mystery and set things right.

Jean Webster has created a nice and tight plot for this little mystery. Her characters are endearing and the novel is generous at heart. Webster is a fun author to read and the simplicity and innocence of her stories really reaches out to you.

In conclusion: I loved ‘The Pour Pools Mystery’ and I am sure you all will like it too. It is a great book to pick up on a rainy evening and I recommend it for its fun and easy narrative style. 

Book Source: Self

Swimming Home: Deborah Levy

Title: Swimming Home
Author: Deborah Levy
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Buy it from: FlipkartAmazon Kindle store
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012

A peaceful family vacation in the sunny Nice, away from the wars and economic crises, is not really going well for the two holidaying families. Jozef, a famous poet, rich and successful, is married to the tough Isabel, a war correspondent and they have a teenage daughter Nina. Mitchell and Laura run a shop in Euston selling African jewellery. There are rifts in the relationships and there are financial pressures, and the swimming pool with its cloudy water has spat out a beautiful girl in their midst. Kitty Finch, mysterious, young and depressed, more like a missing piece in everybody’s life, has gatecrashed into their holidays and their lives.

The novel progresses on the edge of turmoil. The disintegrating state of the world, the gory face of war haunt Isabel, while Jozef’s eerie childhood, his own stints with depression have taken him to a very fragile place. Their teenage daughter Nina is herself going through a delicate phase, looking for an emotional anchor, slightly jealous of her own mother. Mitchell and Laura have their own problems too; their shop is steadily going downhill. Kitty Finch arrives at the villa in the middle of these tensions. Kitty has written a poem, which she calls a conversation with Jozef. Her whole existence seems to revolve around the poem, and her single minded obsession with getting Jozef’s views on the poem. But Kitty’s poem titled ‘Swimming Home’ perhaps is not a poem at all; it is a question she has posed for them all, a challenge waiting to be accepted. As Laura and Mitchell find a support for their failing finances, Isabel lets go of her control, and Jozef finally answers his own question, Nina finds her vacation take a completely unnatural turn.

Swimming home is a complex story. It is not a simple linear, narrative. In fact, timeline does not seem to be crucial to the story. We are offered glimpses into the minds of the characters, the long standing hurts and their final culminations. Levy’s writing is lucid, beautiful, and she creates a powerful collage of emotions in this novel.
But, even though I loved the prose, I was not completely happy with the novel as a whole. It felt incomplete. Levy has created some very strong characters, and weaves intense themes, but these themes seem to lead up to a rushed ending. Levy is clearly a talented writer and I felt a longer novel would have done justice to the story she wanted to tell.

In conclusion: I will recommend this novel for its unusual narrative style, and powerful prose, but unfortunately the novel as a whole left me somewhat dissatisfied.

Book Source: Self

Things that happened this monsoon

The monsoon is almost at its end. I barely got to blogging while the rains delayed and then came back in torrents. I did read some fun books in this time though: "Daddy Long Legs" and "Dear Enemy" recommended by two of my dear friends. I also bought some books, both of the paper and e-paper variety.

Then I helped Debu (my artist husband) shift to his new studio space. It was hugely exciting!

Things got even more exciting when we bought our new car, our super cute Volkswagen Polo!

Then we went on a short but wonderful road trip into North Karnataka. We saw some beautiful temples and had great rides on the rainy green roads in the Sahyadris.

I changed the header of my blog, and now I am back to reading more and blogging more too. The festive season is here with more holidays and I hope to find more time for reading.
I am going to try and read some of the Booker shortlisted books before the winner is announced on October 16. It is a fun goal and also a motivation to read more in the next couple of weeks. Happy reading to all of you too!

Man Walks into a Room: Nicole Krauss

‘Man walks into a room’ is the first novel by the very talented author Nicole Krauss. This novel was critically acclaimed and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. In this novel, Krauss tackles very complex subjects, memory and love.  Krauss is an accomplished poet and we can see the same lyrical quality of her poems seeping into her prose. She uses unusual plotlines to explore the themes and creates a very thoughtful and emotional account of love and the loss of the memory of love in this beautiful novel.

Samson Greene wanders into the Nevada desert, unaware of how he reached there, oblivious even to his own identity, and with a tumour pressing against his brain. When he is picked up and taken to the hospital, there is some possibility that his life could be saved, but whether his mind could be saved, his memories be retained is not clear. Anna, his wife of ten years, is by his side when he undergoes the surgery and comes out alive, but without twenty four years of his memory. He cannot recognise his wife, his beautiful house, and the rows of books that he had lovingly collected and read. It is a difficult situation for Samson, who feels like a stranger in his own life, and for Anna to see her husband separated from her by the chasm of oblivion. As Samson and Anna try to come to terms with their new life, some of their questions are answered, the others are left unresolved. To understand his new self, to find a meaning for his new life Samson has to go to the desert again.

Krauss’s prose is beautifully rhythmic, dipping in and out of the conscious thought. Most of her story takes place in the mind; the brain is her real setting. She ponders on the relationship between memory and emotion. Is true empathy impossible without the memories of pain? Can a memory be transferred from one mind to another, and would such a transfer somehow connect the two people in a novel sense?  Krauss is absorbed by the mystery of the mind and she employs her story for delving into these questions.

The plot is slow paced, as is common with Krauss’s other novels. The characters a little less formed, less complete as if left off in mid-thought. Perhaps it was not her intention to paint them fully, but having read her excellent novel ‘Great House’ which is very strong on the characterization, ‘Man walks…’ felt a little lacking in that aspect. ‘Man walks…’ is also interesting in another manner; it throws some light on the thinking process of the author herself. The motifs that appear in Great House make a brief entry here; the writing style which is a little unsure in this novel turns magnificent in the later novel.   Nicole Krauss is one of my favourite authors and it was wonderful to see how her two novels compared.

‘Man walks into a Room’ is an engrossing novel and Krauss’s beautiful writing gives it a dreamlike quality. It is the first novel of a very talented writer and it is interesting to see how Krauss has treated her debut novel. It is a thought provoking work of literary fiction and I recommend it for these qualities.

This novel can be bought from Flipkart in India.

Book Source: Self

How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position: Tabish Khair

Here comes a fresh novel from Tabish Khair called ‘How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position’. Well this long sounding name might disarray you if you look at the first half of the title, and it might arouse a feeling of an entirely different kind when you come to the second half of it! If you are picking this book after reading his previous ‘The Thing about Thugs’, be assured that you are about to read yet another fantastic novel by Tabish Khair. Khair presents here a novel with a great sense of humor which deals with the complex contemporary religious scenario in the world.

Three men from the Indian subcontinent, a motley lot, share a house in the very orderly city Aarhus in Denmark. The three could not have been more different from one another - one being a Pakistani Muslim, another Indian Hindu, and the third an Indian Muslim. Very frequently it is seen that people from the subcontinent find it easier to develop camaraderie once they are outside their region of geographical origin. These three men develop a friendship and share important events in their respective lives while sharing a house with each other.

The protagonist, an unnamed Pakistani young man is recovering from a recent divorce. The separation is so recent that he is yet to find a house to live in. After scourging the big and small, expensive and cheap houses in and around Aarhus, he and his friend Ravi land up in Karim bhai’s flat. Karim bhai is a taxi driver by profession and importantly has two rooms to let. It is an improbable situation for the three because where Karim bhai is devout, the protagonist and Ravi have very little faith in any religious institution. But despite these glaring distinctions in their beliefs and lifestyle, they decide to share the house, and it is to their credit that they allow each other the space to live the way they find fit. When Karim bhai holds his Friday lectures on the Quran, Ravi takes a philosophic interest in them wanting to learn more, while our protagonist behaves kindly by keeping his non-believer’s thoughts to himself. Likewise Karim bhai does not interfere in the young men’s way of life, which he most likely sees as wayward and irreverent. A warm camaraderie begins. But unfortunately, the world in general does not operate with such harmony. Very soon the disturbing events in the outside world lay their dark shadows upon these men and threaten to shatter their friendship.  

Tabish Khair has written a very beautifully sublime story of love, faith and life. Though religion is an important theme in the novel, the overarching story is about life itself, the ordinariness and the extraordinariness of it. The characters are very much in love with life. And then there is love itself. Ravi wanting nothing but the best and the most fulfilling kind of love, and the protagonist satisfied with a glass half full keep gyrating within the realms of the disciplined Denmark.  

The novel is written in a deceptively light tone so that the discussions on heavy topics like faith and fanaticism come across in an offhand way almost carrying a tone of ridicule for the seriousness normally attached to these. Khair takes a look at Islam from different angles and speaks of the facets of the religion. He speaks of the thousands of years of culture and tradition that the religion represents and also worries over the fact that the religion is being utilized by fanatics as a basis for violence. In some regards, the novel brings to mind Howard Jacobson’s deep and inquiring novel ‘The Finkler Question’, but where ‘The Finkler Question’ tries to seek the differentiating factors of a religion and people,  ‘How to…’ brings to fore the inherent similarity between people and faiths. The easy preening at religion serves in peeling off the enigmatic aura from religion and making it possible to understand, laud and criticize it at a human level.

‘How to...’ is an outstanding novel, very entertaining and yet very sublime. I recommend this novel highly for the depth of its themes, the easy fluidity of the writing, and for its memorable characters.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this remarkable book.

This novel can be bought from Flipkart in India.

Book Source: Publisher

7 X 7 Link Award

Andrew has very kindly tagged me for the 7 by 7 Link award, and that gives me an opportunity to write my first meme ever! The rules are pretty interesting; I have to answer a few questions about myself and my blog. So here goes!

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody knows.
Well, here’s something which not many of my blogger/ blog reader friends know about me. I am a programmer and I work as a Senior Software Engineer at the fantastic company Autodesk. I am currently working on a really exciting product, Inventor Fusion. It is one of the latest applications introduced for creating 3D models, and I have been part of its founding team, which makes me both happy and proud :)
2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: 
I consider my review of Salman Rushdie’s book 'The Enchantress of Florence' as my most beautiful piece because the book itself is so beautiful! Added to it is the charm of the story unfolding in Mughal India and related by the wonderful words of Mr. Rushdie. I loved the book and loved to write a review for it. I think something of my enjoyment and adoration for the story and subject found its way into my review and lent it some of its charm. 
Most Helpful Piece
I don’t know which post I can list here unless I decide to link to all my posts :). I think book review blogs help in pointing readers towards interesting books, and in veering them away from some others. My blog posts can claim some small portion of being useful in this manner so my answer here is: all my posts!
The most popular post is of course my review for Julian Barnes’s wonderful novel ‘The Sense of an Ending’. The novel deservedly won the Booker prize in 2011, and the interest that the prize generated certainly contributed to the popularity of this post.  
Most Controversial Piece: The Sense of an Ending: Julian Barnes
Well, I have just realized that I haven’t been very controversial on my blog so far. I had no specific agenda while starting the blog and I devoted my time to read and write about those books that I liked. I can consider my post on ‘The Sense of an Ending’ here since it generated some interesting discussions over the novel’s ending.
Most Surprisingly Successful Piece: The Gods Themselves: Isaac Asimov
I think I will name my review of Asimov’s novel ‘The Gods Themselves’. Considering that the novel was written 40 years back, a lot has been written and said about it already. I felt that another review may not interest many, and yet, this post was visited often and was visited mainly though searches. This shows the immense power of Asimov’s novels which can captivate people decades after their being written.
Most Underrated Piece: The crock of gold: James Stephens
I had written about James Stephens’s novel ‘The crock of gold’, a novel I had really enjoyed and whose style had surprised and charmed me a lot. I would have loved it if more readers had given this excellent novel a try, but sadly this post was not seen by many. I hope linking it here might induce some readers to take up this magical Irish tale and discover its beauty.
Most Pride-worthy Piece: The Thing About Thugs: Tabish Khair
I am really happy about my review of Tabish Khair’s beautiful novel ‘The Thing About Thugs’. I am glad that many readers came to know about the novel through my post and decided to take it up. Another thing that really made me happy was that this post gave me an opportunity to communicate with Tabish Khair and discuss the novel with him. Mr Khair is a very talented and charming writer and I felt very pleased when this conversation confirmed that my understanding of some of the finer points of the novel was exactly as he had intended as a writer.   
3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.
Here are seven of my blogger friends whose blogs are always a source of knowledge and joy to me. I hope this meme gives us an opportunity to hear their thoughts as well!

Gillespie and I: Jane Harris

An old frail woman narrates a story from her past about a painter friend and about a very famous trial that she had been embroiled in. She sits at her desk, quietly penning down from her memory, while her two Finches chirp pleasantly from their beautifully carved cage. The story that this old woman, Harriet Baxter, is narrating is very much like that cage, pretty on the outside, but from inside an inescapable trap. Jane Harris, a very talented author weaves a highly captivating, complex tale of friendships and betrayals in ‘Gillespie and I’.

Harriet Baxter is an Englishwoman with a very kind heart. During her time living in Glasgow she saves Elspeth Gillespie’s life which initiates a friendship between the Gillespie family and Harriet. Soon she becomes a close friend of the family and her constant urge to help their betterment makes her very dear to them. Ned Gillespie, the artist and his wife Annie Gillespie become her particularly good friends. But all is not well with the Gillespie family. Ned and Annie’s seven year old daughter becomes wayward and uncontrollable and the relationship between Ned and Annie deteriorates. But the final blow comes with the disappearance of Rose, their younger daughter, and Harriet finds herself caught in the middle of this ordeal in an unexpected manner.  

Jane Harris is a very talented writer. The most striking aspect of this novel is the strength of its characters and its plot. Each individual is carved out in detail and the interrelationships between them are portrayed beautifully. The storyline, which seems like a simple and linear narrative in the beginning, slowly evolves into a complex and intriguing plot. The darkness in the story slips in unnoticed and increases by degrees. Harris’s enigmatic style of writing very skillfully brings out the facets of the sinister. The prose is simple yet beautiful and draws you into the story. Glasgow, where most of the story takes place, serves as an excellent setting. Harris speaks about the famous Glasgow exhibition and the various artists from around that time which adds to the charm of the novel.

I really loved reading ‘Gillespie and I’ and I will recommend it highly for its excellent plot and intriguing characters. It is a must for all lovers of the mystery genre.

‘Gillespie and I’ can be downloaded for Kindle or can be bought from Flipkart in India.

Book Source: Self

On the Holloway Road: Andrew Blackman

Youth is the time when it is very easy to find dreams and passions, friends and loves. The eager energy of youth pushes you to explore yourself and the world around, and be fascinated with what you find. But just as easy it is to find dreams and fulfillments; it is also very easy to find disappointments. Andrew Blackman’s atmospheric novel ‘On the Holloway Road’ speaks of the anguish of being young, of finding friends and of losing them.

Jack Maertens, a writer in his twenties, is wading through the difficult times of creating his first literary novel. His days are monotonous and his writing seems to be going along the same lines. Then one day he meets Neil Blake a fitful young man, an antithesis of Jack. Neil is everything that Jack is not. He has had one too many brushes with crime, while Jack has always stuck to the right side of law. Neil is uncontrollable where Jack is restrained. Jack who had been living a sheltered life on the Holloway road is caught in the whirlwind of Neil’s personality. He does not understand Neil well but a deep curiosity pushes him into a fateful friendship with Neil. Jack and Neil embark on a road trip across Britain and on the way they find some truths about life, some of which are sweet and yet others which are fatal.

Andrew Blackman has a very fluid style of writing. The roads of Britain and Scotland come to life under his pen. The despondency of winter, the drudgery of old forgotten towns, the monotony of life comes across powerfully in his prose. The naïve outlook of the young writer Jack is expressed very well. The simultaneous simplification and complication that Jack engages in, while analyzing the world around him, is very interesting. Another fascinating aspect is the development of both the characters in the novel. Neil is idolized by Jack and everyone around him, while Jack speaks of himself in a less flattering manner. But as a reader we do not see Neil in the same shining light; we can see his weaknesses, and it is Jack who we really root for. This is a very finely developed aspect of the novel.

On the Holloway road is an atmospheric tale of the journeys undertaken by two young men in search of their dreams and of themselves. Blackman’s prose is very engaging and makes for an intriguing read. I recommend the novel for the vivid moods that Blackman creates in his novel. 

'On the Holloway Road' can be bought from Flipkart in India.

Book Source: Self

His Illegal Self: Peter Carey

I had read Peter Carey’s ‘Parrot and Olivier in America’ last year, which was released in 2009 and had really enjoyed the dry wit and unusual humor in it. So it was with some excitement and expectation that I picked up ‘His Illegal Self’, a book released in 2008. This novel however did not live up to my expectations and I felt quite unsatisfied with it in the end.

This protagonist of the novel is Che Selkirk, an eight year old boy, the son of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) activist parents. Che lives with his grandmother, an upper class American woman. His activist parents are absent, being on the run from the FBI having been involved in violent activities. Che’s life is comfortable and peaceful; decidedly maintained that way by his grandmother who has kept him away from the television, shielding him from all the disturbing news of his famous parents. But there is one time when she lets her guard down and permits Che to meet his mother for an hour. Anna Xenos an ex-SDS activist and a present day professor of English, volunteers to take the boy to his mother. But what would have been a mildly illegal activity on Anna’s part quickly blows out of proportion and she finds herself on the run with the boy. Anna and Che head to Australia where they are promised support by a revolutionary faction there, but are ultimately left to fend for themselves. 

The narrative is tight and intriguing in these opening chapters. Carey tries to delve into the unstable and traumatic life of the child and succeeds in getting the reader involved in the boy’s emotional upheavels. With the background of the SDS, and the themes of class differences and wars hinted upon, the novel seems to promise a complex and layered storyline. But unfortunately the latter half of the novel flounders and none of the themes are really explored in depth.  We are just allowed a glimpse into these hefty topics but never get a full picture of the effects of these on the characters involved. Additionally the emotional bonding between Anna and Che is also not brought out well and falls flat. 

Though Peter Carey’s prose is crisp and sharp as usual, the novel itself ends up being ineffective due to the flaws in its plot. I would say this novel is not one of Carey’s best and I would rather recommend ‘Parrot and Olivier in America’ if you are interested in reading Peter Carey’s work.

'His Illegal Self' can be downloaded for Kindle or can be bought at Flipkart.

Book Source: Self

Oryx and Crake: Margaret Atwood

Every passing year marks the arrival of a new technology or a scientific breakthrough. But sometimes it is difficult to forecast how a certain technology will apply and evolve in context of human society. The difficulty does not arise due to the nature of the technology but rather on account of the human nature itself. In 'Oryx and Crake', Margaret Atwood takes a keen look at genetic engineering and draws an eerie graph to show how human caprice and greed can culminate into a catastrophic end for our species.

‘Snowman’, who is the last surviving human being, is the protagonist of the novel. The world has been wiped clean of its human inhabitants by a deadly plague. Snowman mourns for the dead world while trying to survive in the dangerous realities of the altered world. He is constantly haunted by the memories of his past life, he pines for Oryx, the love of his life and for Crake, his best friend. While the unbridled nature is taking over the cities and reclaiming its domain, Snowman attempts to piece together the sequence of events that led to the annihilation of his species.

Oryx and Crake is a very captivating and at the same time a disturbing novel. In its dystopian world, the rampant usage of genetic engineering to make transgenic animals, to create artificial foods, and to improve human bodies has skewed the sanity of the society. This results in sexual depravity, exploitation of the underprivileged, and scarcity of resources for the large population. When the disaster arrives it feels hardly surprising. This world seems too broken to be mended. And this is where Atwood’s prose shows its real strength. Though the events pertain to an alternate world and to a specific technology, it is very easy to draw similarities with our present day world. Atwood speaks in a very concise and logical manner and the impact of her ideas is hard hitting.

Oryx and Crake is an outstanding first of Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy. I will recommend it highly for its intriguing plot and for the strength of its ideas. I am really looking forward to read the next book in the trilogy ‘The year of the flood’.

'Oryx and Crake' can be downloaded for Kindle or can be bought from Flipkart

Book Source : Self

The Enchantress of Florence : Salman Rushdie

The Jaipur Literary festival, the biggest literary event in India, brought the ugliest facet of the Indian democracy out in the open. Salman Rushdie, one of the finest writers that India has ever produced, was not only forbidden from entering the country, but was also not allowed to meet people virtually. This is truly disturbing; another step on the regressive road that India has taken where freedom of expression is curbed and ideas are stifled. 

Salman Rushdie is a prolific writer. His books are thought provoking, a rich expression of philosophy that provides a keen look at humanity. His writing addresses universal themes that find appeal with people of any country, and at the same time it is also deeply entwined with the Indian culture, its geography and its languages. Indian minds find a special resonance with his ideas, and his language. 

But sadly enough, the great merit of Rushdie’s work turned out not to be enough to make him welcome in the country. I am outraged and hurt at the callousness with which Rushdie was prevented from attending the festival. Today I am going to write about Rushdie’s magnificent novel ‘The Enchantress of Florence’, a novel which among other things speaks of being open minded, fair, and tolerant to new ideas which seems especially relevant to India today.

The Enchantress of Florence’ is the story of two journeys, one which takes a willful Mughal princess, Qara Koz, the sister of Babar (founder of the great medieval Mughal empire of India) from her battle torn homeland in the East to the politically churning West; the second journey brings a young man from the West to Akbar’s (grandson of the emperor Babar) court at Fatehpur Sikri in India.  

Rushdie’s Akbar is a magnanimous ruler, a philosopher, an anthropologist and a man of contradictions. He trusts his nine Jewels but he is unable to trust his own sons. He wishes for a young man whom he can trust, and rely upon. And Akbar perhaps has a bit of witchcraft in his blood because when he words this wish to himself in a lonely hour of conjecture, he warps the fabric of time and a young man, bearing all the qualities of a royal heir, arrives at his court. This young man who calls himself the ‘Mughal of Love’ brings with him a secret, a tale of a journey undertaken by a forgotten Mughal princess. 

The journey that Qara Koz undertakes is extraordinary for a woman of her time. She makes unconventional choices and shapes her own destiny; she chooses love over duty, and then again survival over love. Through her journey we get to see the noisy and exuberant Florence at the doorstep of Renaissance. It is Rushdie’s great talent that he can so seamlessly bring together the great events and people of history and weave them into fictional ones. We see Machiavelli write his ‘Prince’ and hear of Amerigo Vespucci’s discovery of the new continent. Queen Elizabeth writes letters to Emperor Akbar and Medicis take over Florence. Tansen sings Deepak raag and Birbal unravels puzzles with his wit.

Rushdie is a master story teller. With Rushdie, no place on earth is unreachable and no idea is untouchable. He juxtaposes two entirely different worlds and uncovers the similarities in their ideas pertaining to civilization and shows how these ideas might have evolved in parallel. He ponders on the meaning of freedom, of individual will, the tenacity of ideas and of passion. Full of wit, humor and generosity, this novel offers a rare opportunity to peek into history and decipher the meaning of the rich human past. 

For those who have already read Rushdie’s novels, they will find his pleasing magical realism rendered beautifully. And for those who have not read his work before, this is a great book to begin with.  

The Enchantress of Florence is a stunningly beautiful novel and I recommend it highly to all those who possess a love for the written word.

Here is a great essay where Salman Rushdie speaks about ‘The Enchantress of Florence’ and the need to defend ideas.

'The Enchantress of Florence' can be downloaded for Kindle or can be bought from Flipkart.


Book source: Self