Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I picked up this book at a bookshop in Calcutta (sorry, Kolkata) when I was there a weekend back for a friend's marriage.

The marriage went well; I finished reading Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup there and I began reading A Spot of Bother on the flight back. I picked it up incidentally with Satya, who bought Umberto Eco's In the Name of the Rose. We were both waiting for "Twilight New Moon" to start and had a few hours to kill, so we each bought a book and sat in Barista waiting for our show timings. We had to get on the metro and get back home as well. Yes, the Empire Theatre it was.

But I digress.

So in this book, George is going to suffer a nervous breakdown and is slowly losing his mind. His daughter will embark on a second marriage with a man she may or may not love, his wife is having an affair with an ex-colleague and his son is an out of the closet homosexual.

I don't know why they said this book was funny - I really only liked the last few chapters. They were really quite funny, particularly the marriage scene. The rest of the book was a bit scary and there was one chapter where I had to put the book down - I was so worried for George. In the end, all went okay - I shouldn't give away the ending though.

I don't think this will be made into a movie. It isn't that bad a book to read though. 3/5 overall I'd say.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Six suspects by Vikas Swarup

The second of Swarup's books, this one is following on from the radical success of Q&A. Funnily enough I had reviewed Q&A for my local journal, and it was an interesting read. The film I thought was a good adaptation, with the necessary twists and turns that the big screen requires.

Six Suspects makes for a fast read. The ending isn't too great though, so I warn you in advance. You'll get caught up in the characters, but I thought that towards the middle it became a bit too dragging. I read this book standing in the queue while boarding my Indigo flight to Kolkata, so you can imagine how much concentration the book really requires. I think that it's one of those books you can read on the trainride/metro ride to work.

It's a sad commentary though on our times. Here politicians run rampant, a murderer goes free for lack of evidence and the world of tinsel town gets exposed for its murky worst. There is a Onge tribesperson who comes up from the Andamans only to have a glimpse of the sad state of affairs on the mainland, which the author calls "India". Made me think, what is the Andamans all about then?

Not too much is made of the life of the Onge on the island though. It seemed like all the new generation did was drink and make merry, with the old customs slowly disappearing. The corrupt nature of the welfare people was also brought out.

All in all, an interesting read. I recommend it to one and all. On a scale of one to five, I'd give it a three.

I think I'll stick to my Salman Rushdie. Though in the interim I'll finish a few more novels first. I find that Rushdie takes me a long time to finish.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Bronte Project by Jennifer Vandever

Bought on Mehrauli Gurgaon road, this was a purchase I thought well made.

It tells the story of Sara Frost, a young research scholar working a the University trying to find her way in the Academic world of literature through her search for lost letters from Charlotte Bronte.

I didn't know but Charlotte Bronte only wrote three novels - Jane Eyre, The Professor and Vilette. I (am sad to confess), have not read any. I have seen Jane Eyre on television; but not read any of the novels. Wuthering Heights was apparently Emily Bronte's only novel - but that too I have not seen. Anne Bronte is best known for Agnes Grey.

I do plan to rectify this situation though. The Brontes were undoubtedly talented but led a sad life. Their mom died at a very early age and one by one, so did all the siblings. They grew up in an environment which was hostile, full of death. Their talent was not encouraged and at that time, not recognised.

The Bronte Project I didn't like so much. But what I did like was the independence of the lead character. The book loses its way sometimes and the plot, which was the chief reason why I didn't warm up to it. I didn't think that her life (Sara Frost's) was in any way similar to Charlotte Brontes' - nor could I see how reading her letters was a source of inspiration for Sara Frost. The connection was tenuous and in some places forced.

Why Mr Emmot I still can't understand? Was it like a play on Mr Darcy? Bizarre.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I know I know I know... how typical. What can I say? I am a Dan Brown fan!! So it only makes sense that I went out and bought the latest Dan Brown over Diwali, sat and read it as fast I could.

Let me just say that the pace of the novel - was good. I would seriously recommend it to anyone and everyone. It would help if you've read Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code - just so that you get to know Robert Langdon a little bit better.

I think Tom Hanks does a brilliant role as Robert Langdon and he's so effective that when you're reading the book, you just picture him. I think that is a great way for an actor to progress.

So this one is set in Washington DC. I liked that city and I could relate to a lot of the places mentioned in the book. Some inane ones will most likely become crowded tourist spots after this book. And after the movie, who knows?

One thing that disappointed me was that I got the twist even before the latter half of the book began. That got me thinking that either I've watched too many films, or I've gotten used to his writing style. I don't ever think that I even guessed the twist in Angels and Demons (which btw the movie did not bring up at all); but this one was easy peasy...

So no great surprise - except the last bit. What exactly is the secret that the Brotherhood is trying so hard to hide? This mysterious group of Freemasons, which even George Washington belonged to.

I won't give that away.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I came across this book a year back at the Delhi Book Fair at a stall that was selling second hand books. It looked interesting; and without knowing quite what it was about, I picked it up.

Recently on my trip to Uttarkashi, we were shown the TV movie of Into Thin Air. I watched a bit of it; but then I went back to my tent to sleep since I was really tired. But I vowed that when I would get back to Delhi, I would sit and read the book.

I finished reading it this morning and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in mountain climbing and sports.

In a nut shell, the book is about a group of ill fated climbers who make a treacherous ascent up Mount Everest but face a terrible storm on the way down. What happens on that 1996 trip is something that shows what will happen if you put a group of not-so-experienced mountain climbers on Mount Everest, a mountain that has claimed many lives of highly skilled climbers. I still cannot believe that some people who went up there didn't even know how to rope up properly.

I feel bad though that people lost their lives. It's unfortunate that the respective governments - i.e. China and Nepal don't issue more stringent passes. Nor are they concerned about the high levels of pollution that exists due to the oxygen gas cylinders that lie up there. Even the condition of the Sherpas who aid the climbers on Mount Everest is quite appaulling. I'm all for free enterprise - but it's not good to play with people's lives; exploit the low pay scales or give people false assurances.

If anyone has the TV movie DVD/VCD - can you please send it to me?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

There are some books that leave you with a bit of a scary feeling inside. Not because there's something particularly horrific. But some of the views expressed leave you feeling very empty. Like the life of the people you're reading about may not be altogether together.

I don't know. It's his surreal style. Whether it be a recently employed guy looking for his lost cat, or a lady discovering herself and divorcing her husband, or an elephant factory that makes real life elephants, or a dancing dwarf that actually reminded me of Rumpelstiltskin.

I've read Kafka on the Shore by Murakami as well. It's also wierd; and the life and the characters he creates are quiet, yet stay in your memory.

I don't know why, but I like reading his stories. I recently got to read a few on a trip I'd taken in Himachal and it was actually lovely, sitting all cosy in a nice room with a beautiful view of the Kandaghat valley, lying and reading the collection of short stories. I would recommend that resort to anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet from the world.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

It took me a long weekend to finish this novel. Set in the time when Bangladesh was fighting for its independence from Pakistan, the novel is well thought out and planned. Rehana and her two children, Sohail and Maya, get involved in the Resistance Movement. What follows is how they survive the age of war.

Some parts don't make much sense though. The prose is good; but in some cases didn't make much sense when put together. Why the kids had to be separated for a year - is beyond me as well. It holds your interest, but then, it all seems a bit too contrived.

Some passages are weak; I felt like an English teacher when I read them. I guess one has artistic license, so I can't really say much. But I have a feeling that too much was packed into one book. Even Mom didn't think too much of it.