Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review #46: Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran

Name: Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran
Author: Alfred Assolant, Sam Miller (Translator),
No. of Pages: 231
Genre: Fiction/Adventure
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
It is the time of the Great uprising of 1857. India is in turmoil, Captain Corcoran, a french sailor who has roamed the world, arrives with his pet tigress Louison. And so begins the adventure of his life, as he and his tigress join hands with a Maratha prince and his beautiful daughter Sita, to fight the British.

This fast moving story, with dramatic twists and turns, combines romance, humour and edge of seat suspense.
Alfred Assolant is a French man born in 1827. He started his career in teaching and became a freelance writer and journalist later. He wrote over thirty books over thirty years, but Captain Corcoran was the only successful one. He died a pauper's death in 1886.

Sam Miller was born and brought up in London, but has spent much of his adult life in India. He is a former BBC journalist and author of Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity and A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes.

I found the cover of the book very attractive. A handsome hero, a beautiful princess and an exotic tiger, with a view of a palace. The book contains illustrations are typically old-fashioned, which are actually a reflection of the referred times.

I am really surprised to find out that Captain Corcoran and Louison are actually very popular and famous in their own country. But what was more surprising is that it took almost two centuries for a English translation. This book was published way back in 1867 and is the only successful book of the French author, Alfred Assolant. For at least fifty years of Assolant's death in 1886, the book was widely read and translated into varios languages like German, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Polish and Russian but never English, most probably because of its overt Anglophobia.

The story is fast-paced and indulgent. It has humour, adventure, action and romance and a vintage charm. Even though the Indian prince, Holkar, is not shown in the best of light, it was not really offensive. Holkar is depicted as an arrogant as well as a royal fool. Holkar chooses to go on a hunt when there was an impending threat on the kingdom. The English are the true villains, and Captain Corcoran is depicted as the saviour of the Indian kingdom. Well, the book is written by a French author, the protagonist is a French character. So of course, everyone else will play the supporting parts.

Louison, the tigress, steals the show though. She is the life of the story and the true hero who saves any day. She is brave, she is naughty, she is intelligent and she is playful.

There are several mismatches in the story along the way. At one point, a certain staircase was said to go downstairs. And after sometime, it was going going upstairs. The book Captain Corcoran is searching for, also changes name a couple of times. May be the author was in a hurry to finish the story.

Nonetheless, it was a very entertaining plot, that keeps the reader hooked.The book has all ingredients to become a entertaining Hollywood movie. And I really hope that it will someday made into one.

I give "Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran" 4 stars on a scale of 5.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review #45: The Failure Project

Name: The Failure Project-The Story of Man's Greatest Fear
Author: Anup Kochhar
No. of Pages: 194
Genre: Inspirational
Publisher: Body & Soul Books (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Failure destroys lives. It damages confidence and crushes the spirit. Throughout our lives we endeavour to manage our thoughts, actions and results so as not to be branded as failures. However, despite our best intentions, life does have a way of throwing curve balls and surprising us. Things do not always go the way we planned or wished for. Failure happens. And it will continue to happen.

For most people failure is akin to a dreaded disease that must be prevented at any cost. Certainly it can never be admitted to. Failure is like fire – it has the power to singe or destroy completely. Few of us remember that failure can also be harnessed creatively. All that it requires is a different perspective.

What do we know of failure? More importantly, how much do we know about it? The first step to overcoming our inherent fear of failure is to know the enemy – inside and out. This amazing, comprehensive and compassionate book helps us understand the anatomy, psychology and management of failure – the greatest, and often the most secret, fear of Man.
From medical school aspirant to finance has certainly been a hell of a journey, with some spectacular failures. Each milestone provided me with insights into why we fail, how we fail, and the need to get up, learn and move on. It has involved direct encounters with more failures than successes. I have been mauled I must admit, and every encounter left its mark. Looking back, I feel those encounters were necessary. Certainly no one sets out to fail, but failures do happen. Every failure was a lesson that came in handy in the next venture. Every one of them happened for a reason.’ Anup can be reached

Everyone wants to be successful, in every sphere of life. Since childhood, we are taught that we have to come first. We are rebuked when we score lesser marks, when we don't get prizes in competition, when we don't want to participate in sports, and so on. The foundation of fear of failing is laid in our childhood itself. Then there are related aspects as to why such a foundation is laid, societal expectations, legacy, expectations, notions of happiness, etc.

The book is an attempt to state that it is okay to fail, that there are positive effects of failure on the human psyche. The fact that some of man's greatest discoveries and inventions were founded on failure testify this.

The book is divided into seven parts:
  1. Failure Hurts--Talks about how it hurts and feels when one fails
  2. The First Encounter--Examinations are probably our first encounter with failure. This part talks about how the changing education sector and the criteria of success is effecting the concept of failure.
  3. The Failure Factor--Failure and success are the two essential sides of the same coin and go hand in hand.
  4. The Anatomy of Failure--Talks about the different aspects of failure, what it is all about.
  5. The Psychology of Failure--Why succeeding is so important to us, why do we fear to fail.
  6. Teach Failure-The Need to Fail--Children should be taught early in life that it is okay to fail, that failing doe not mean that we are good for nothing. Small doses of failure can teach us life lessons and values.
  7. Managing Failure--How we should manage failure; instead of being bogged down, how we can use it to our advantage.
I really liked the book. I feel it is wonderful book for young people, including students and professionals.It can guide parents as well as to how to teach their wards about failure and make them successful human beings.

This book is also thought-provoking and makes us question our education system as well as the value system of our society. Are the standards and criteria that we have set for success or failure really correct? Is our educational model really practical and does it prepare our kids to face life?

Only one thing about this book disappointed me and that is the way it has been presented. I feel the book and its contents could have been presented in a far better and structured manner.
I give "The Failure Project" 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.

You can have a peep at this book here.