Saturday, October 25, 2014

Read Review: Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Paperback, 333 pages
Published 2009 by Random House India (first published January 1st 2008)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The stories of Unaccustomed Earth focus on second-generation immigrants making and remaking lives. loves and identities in England and America. We follow brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and lovers, in stories that take us from Boston and London to Bombay and Calcutta.

Blending the individual and the generational, the exotic and the strikingly mundane, these haunting, exquisitely detailed and emotionally complex stories are intensely compelling elegies of life, death, love and fate.

My best friend gifted me this book on my birthday this year. I am a fan Jhumpa Lahiri, like thousands others, and this book had been on my TBR list for quite some time.

I absolutely loved the stories. The book is divided into two parts. Part One consists of five individual stories--Unacustommed Earth, Hell-Heaven, A Choice of Accommodations, Only Goodness and Nobody's business. Part Two tells the tale of Hema and Kaushik in three chapters.

Like her other stories, the protagonists of these stories are essentially Bengali immigrants as well. I have always found the author's story-telling is detailed, intricate and mesmerizing. And this book did not disappoint me at all. A truly amazing read.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review #20: The Bluest Marble

Name: The Bluest Marble
Author: Vipin Kumar
No. of Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction-Urban Life
Price: Rs. 249/-
Published in: 2014

The blurb of the book says:

Aditya is known as Ram Kumar 125 – a name given to amnesiac patients in a ‘Mental Hospital’. He doesn’t have amnesia; he just doesn’t want to go back to the world he knew before. His inmates include: UT – the brilliant former CEO, Rajesh – software engineer and Jacky – Doctor in theoretical physics. Amongst these ‘crazies’ Ram Kumar 125 discovers himself, the true Aditya, and the secret of happiness. He finds the mysterious and precious “bluest marble” he has been unconsciously looking for all his life.

With portraits that both touch and disturb, corporate politics, Mumbai night life, Dalal Street, lower-middle-class Delhi and psychological “illness”, The Bluest Marble is a sensitive exploration of young urban aspirations and angst in the age of economic turmoil.

About the author:
Vipin Kumar is a guy you wouldn’t really notice in a crowd of three people. His ability to be extraordinarily ordinary combined with his astute observational sense makes him pick the most mundane people existing in our lives and tell their extraordinary stories. His passion to tell an ‘honest story’ can be adjudged by the fact that he admitted himself in a hospital to write the hospital scene in this book. He was an active participant in dramatics during college. He co-authored award winning plays and acted in the best ever drama produced in the history of IIT Bombay called Déjà-vu which dealt with IITian’s loneliness and rising suicide cases within the campus. Prior to this book he has written numerous short stories (unpublished) and poems (in English, Hindi and Hindustani; unpublished). He has an acute interest in psychological disorders which he has harvested to come up with a new disease in the book. His friends of each kind; those who like him and dislike him, have told him that his writing style reminded them of O’Henry and to some extent S H Manto. This is his debut novel.


Cover: The cover shows a tree bearing a marble as a fruit.

Writing: Written in simple English but the author plays with the words which makes it an interesting read.

Story: The story is about Aditya who has a lucrative job but an unhappy personal life. After losing his job due to office politics, he is eventually abandoned by his friends too and then he goes back to be with his family. But when he finds out that his father doesn't really trust him with his business plan he loses all hope and tries to commit suicide. He ends up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital where he pretends to have lost his memory. It is there that he finally realizes what he really wants from life.

To me, Aditya seemed be a confused person who is too harsh with himself. He seemed like a person who is impatient and lacks insight.His father, an old man, agrees to put at stake his home so that Aditya and his brother can put up a business. But he has his doubts which is quite natutal I feel. But when Aditya learns about it, he is devasted and tries to kill himself. I mean where is the maturity here! I feel the story is not very compelling but it is an enjoyable read. 

I give "The Bluest Marble" 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review #19: 5 Soul-Searching Short Stories

Name: 5 Soul-Searching Short Stories
Author: Shailesh J. Khatri
No. of Pages: 115
Genre: Fiction: Short Stories
Price: Rs. 95/-
Published in: 2014

The blurb of the book says:
Five stories with five critical messages on life… Five situations with the protagonist making a decision that changes his life... Five circumstances that show you that life is never fair and yet… one needs to make the critical decision.

1. Amar, a promising stock analyst, gets the job of his dreams. However, circumstances lead to his failure. What does Amar do?

2. Uma is looking for the purpose of his life. He wants to give up the luxuries of life to find the truth. Does he eventually succeed?

3. Ravi loses his job one fine day and befriends those who tell him that the rich should sacrifice for the poor. He believes them. Does he benefit?

4. Vikas is shocked and annoyed when his parents decide to take him to their native village instead of Switzerland. What does he learn?

5. Pratap, a gold medalist in law, gets the job of his dreams in a well-known law firm. He faces a trying case. How does he respond?

About the author:
Shailesh Khatri is a practicing Advocate turned full-time author and comes from a family of Judges and Lawyers. After graduating in Science from St. Xavier s College, Mumbai, he joined the Government Law College, Mumbai to study Law. On passing Law, he practiced in some prestigious chambers and then set up his own practice. The author also taught Business Law for a few years to commerce students at Bhavan's Hazarimal Somani College at Chowpatty, Mumbai. His hobbies include reading, writing and listening to music. He has also written a book titled Reflections which is a book of essays dealing with what is ailing contemporary society today.


Cover: The cover shows the fingers of a person trying to hold some particles of light.

Writing: Too simple writing and portrayal.

Story: There are five stories in five different situations. You can already learn from the blurb about the plot of the stories.
Simple plots wrote extraordinarily make great stories. But the stories in this book are nothing like that sort. These are ordinary plots portrayed ordinarily. It could have been an amazing book if the characters and writing were given more depth and zest.
I finished the book in a couple of hours long metro rail ride. And nothing in the book appealed to me.
I give "5 Soul-Searching Short Stories" 1 star on a scale of 5.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review #18: Beyond School

Name: Beyond School
Author: Chitra Anand
No. of Pages: 201
Genre: Reality Fiction
Publisher: Frog Books (An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price: Rs. 125/-
Published in: 2014

The blurb of the book says:
Beyond School centres upon the weeks leading up to 17-year-old Shail s final board exams, as his world becomes a pressure-cooker and the weight of preparing for the exams sends him fleeing rebelliously in the other direction. Along with Shail's journey from boyhood to manhood, Beyond School vividly weaves between the narratives of four main characters, seamlessly uniting the past and present of Shail, his parents-Urmila and Sushil and his mentor-Gladys, in a story that is honest, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately, incredibly human.

About the author:
Chitra Anand was born in Mumbai. She is a postgraduate in Physics and holds an Education degree. Beyond School is her first novel inspired by her journey as an educator.

Cover: The cover illustrates the simple elements of school, a blackboard with a duster, books, pens and a football.

Writing: The writing is lucid yet engaging.

The protagonist of the novel is Shail who dreams of becoming a world famous footballer and decides not to sit for his twelfth grade board exams. Then there are his supportive parents who have their own reasons of raising their the way they do. Finally there is Gladys, the school's student counselor who is entrusted with the job of convincing Shail to sit for his upcoming board exams.

The story is sweet, simple and deals with the dilemmas of teenage lives. The changing behaviour and mannerisms of teenagers, their emotional needs and dilemmas their fickle ambitions, parents' and teachers' roles in their lives; the novels covers all of these. There are also the background stories of Gladys, Urmila and Sushil told parallell along with the ongoing life of Shail.

My only negative observation is that the last chapter called "Dubai Connections" is misplaced. It should have been placed much before when the story needed that part. In my view, the second last chapter called "Exam Result is No End" is the rightful concluding chapter.

In short, the novel is a believable story, rightly called reality fiction. A recommended read to students and parents alike.

I give "Beyond Scool" 4 stars on a scale of 5.

This review is a part of the Readers Cosmos Review Programme. Thank you Nimi (from The Readers Cosmos ) for sending me the book.