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Thread: Book Reviews - Contemporary Fiction

  1. #11
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    Uncle (@ 202.*) on: Thu Jun 21 02:07:19





    Shard et al

    >>You grow up with one idea of India and come here to find something vastly different... something like the foreigner who comes looking for snake charmers in every street corner<<

    I have an australian born Indian niece whose first (when she was old enough)visit was when she was eighteen. She must have taken at least a dozen photos of me posing along with my office car driver and also of my wife with the old ayah woman. I was laughing for days afterward when she told me of how she would show off to her friends that her uncle back in India was a millionaire!!

    Regarding her views about the lack of toilet paper habit in India the less said the better. I used to have tremendous if somewhat vicious fun arguing with my fuming child how paper could never, never, never, never work as well as water!!

    Incidentally her parents (asian born) speak, according to her, "curry english".

    There is more than mere geography separating my child and me, I guess.





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  3. #12
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    Udhaya (@ 63.8*) on: Mon Jul 30 16:57:43




    Review of Michael Ondaatje's, “Anil’s Ghost”
    Returning to his Sri Lankan roots, Michael Ondaatje explores the fate of the Sri Lankan public caught in the crossfire between the Fascist government’s oppression and the retaliation by the revolutionary guerillas. Mass killings, kidnappings and disappearances seem rampant, yet nobody seems willing to acknowledge the victim or the enemy. Anil, appointed by an international peace force, is in Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission. Returning to a country that has grown wildly different from her memories of it as a teenager, Anil is forced to face her precariousness as a woman, a visiting expatriate, a foreigner with international clout and an object of unanimous contempt. Her supposed ally is Sarath an archaeologist she teams while suspicious of his alliances.

    Those expecting the grand romance set against the war, as in “English Patient” will be disappointed by the relentless accounts of suffering, torture and doom. At one point in the story there’s an abandoned bungalow away from the war torn city with several disparate characters in it, but there ends all similarities to “English Patient.” Yet, the poetic Ondaatje touches are unmistakably there: the ease with which he traverses the intimate and the universal, his profound knowledge of the human psyche, and the personal mythology he invests in each character as they rummage through the rubble excavating their own existence in a place as pointless and hopeless as Sri Lanka in the 80s and 90s. Ondaatje’s purpose here isn’t to assign political blame by singling out anybody, he mourns ravaged souls and lost love as much as he mourns the loss of life.

    Though the pacing is uneven and the narration occasionally episodic, I found “Anil’s Ghost” to be tremendously satisfying on a spiritual and aesthetic level.





  4. #13
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    Udhaya (@ 63.8*) on: Tue Sep 25 18:50:42




    Review of Pankaj Misra’s “The Romantics”
    Misra, though not as overwhelmingly literate or wise as some of my esteemed favorites, is definitely one who delivers emotional integrity in his characters. By exploring the intimate with egoless sincerity, he probes the universal dreams and dread.

    Samar, the narrator is a bookish young man who moves to Benares in the late 80s to prepare for his Civil Service exams. Samar’s exposure to the outside world begins with an English neighbor, Miss West, who further paves the way for his first pangs of love. With confessional intimacy and an eye for detail, the narration won me over early. The narrator being a focused-yet-passive, intelligent-yet-na´ve, young man works handily into the novel’s machinations. The psychological insights the Misra gets for each character’s actions and hang-ups are so real and touching. And the object of his love, Catherine, haven’t we all pined for someone like her at least once in our life?

    Though the narrator is a romantic to the core, the novel doesn’t spare the reality of the classes, politics, students, terrorists, the desperation of youth, and the gulf between the east and west. The transition in Samar seems natural and gradual. Misra sensitively fills every page with youthful longing that a sense of bittersweet melancholy resonated in me long after the novel was over.





  5. #14
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    Siby (@ 203.*) on: Wed Sep 26 06:45:22




    Recently I read Disgrace by JM Coetzee. 1999's Booker Prize winner. The narration has an easy flow with a steady and single stream. Not much use of imagery or heavy allegory. Simple and straight in presentation. One cannot miss the contrast between the love life of Byron as sketched by the character David and the love life of the character himself.
    It's a small piece of fiction and a very easy-to-read one at that.





  6. #15
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    Udhaya (@ pool*) on: Thu Dec 13 12:21:53




    Review of David Baldacci’s, “The Simple Truth”
    I have a habit of going to a thriller or crime novel after every 3 or 4 literary novels just to change things up. Usually I read the likes of Walter Mosley, Jim Thompson or Elmore Leonard as my genre breakers. I became interested in Baldacci after watching his speech/interview on Book TV several months ago. Though I saw and hated the movie, “Absolute Power” based on his book, I decided to give Baldacci’s novels a try because he had mentioned in the interview that the movie had skipped key plot points and characters. I would like to add that I’ve only read Scott Turow from the lawyer-turned-writer genre (if there is such a genre).

    The Simple Truth was a curious read. The novel races from page to page true to its genre, but there’s also more remorse and regret in its characters than found in most such novels. I found the parallels between Mike and John Fiske as well as the contrasts between the brothers Harms and the brothers Fiske very interesting. A character such as John Fiske could’ve been the narrator of the story, his back story is that rich and promising, but Baldacci never explores this beyond the surface perhaps to stay true to the plot which is the driving force in these novels.

    Baldacci displays his strength when covering the legal arena, the politics of the Supreme Court, the Military, etc. But this is not a novel steeped in the legal proceedings either, I mean, this is not a legal thriller in the true sense of the term, there are no courtroom battles. There are scenes where the judges wrestle, lobby each other on challenging precedents about the law that were insightful but seemed part of a different novel altogether. Atleast, the way Baldacci introduces a key judicial debate seems intrusive to the story’s flow since the reader is set up to expect the next step in John and Sara’s investigative trail.

    As far as characterization goes, much of it is done through backstory fed through conversations and the ones that benefit the most are the Harms brothers. The Harms come of as live, breathing characters because they experience the extremes of sin/redemption, punishment/reprieve, condemnation/celebration. They are also the characters that noticeably go through a transformation. John does too, but his is more inferred than shown. Maybe some key scenes could have had more emotional undertones or sharply written dialogues, something poignant to underscore John’s jealousy, his stoic resolve. While the novel concerns itself with Sara and John’s romance, their affection for each other seems more a plot conceit than reality. The novel loses emotional integrity from the way someone like Sara throws herself at John. This is not a judgement call, it just doesn’t seem palatable or normal for Sara to act the way she does around John from the start. That their relationship takes the course it does also plays out like a different kind of story than the one I’m reading. The arguments between John and his father and some of the tiffs between John and Sara seem forced.

    The plot itself is very well conceived and pays of well at the end. The two or three twists towards the end were worth the wait. Especially, the one involving an FBI agent was a total surprise. The dyslexia anglewas also a nice touch. I wish Justice Knight’s reaction wasn’t given away earlier in the game, it undercut the surprise in the revelation of one of the bad guys. If you are a reader who loves twists and enjoys a fast pace, then this novel won’t disappoint.





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    Udhaya (@ pool*) on: Wed Jan 16 20:08:07




    Review of Jose Saramago’s, “All the Names”
    Jose Saramago, a Portuguese writer, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. After reading about his novels, I decided to try “All the Names” for it seemed the most peculiar of the lot. Let me start by saying that Saramago is probably an acquired taste for many; especially those who expect direction from their authors. Saramago must hate indentations and quotation marks and probably punctuations for the most part. He blends in dialogues, monologues, thoughts and narration together. Even though this seems ridiculous, when you read him you don’t notice the lack of said structure. Whether that is Saramago’s intention isn’t clear, but he succeeds with this aberration nonetheless.

    The story follows a tremulous clerk who works at the Civil Registry, a bureaucratic monster, where he records the names of the newly born, the dead and updates the transitions of the living. As a hobby he secretly follows the lives of famous people of his own selection from the registry. One day he accidentally comes across the card for a normal citizen, an unknown lady. Inexplicably Jose’s drawn to the lady’s life and sets about gathering data about her whereabouts. His quest to find the lady’s identity is the novel’s story.

    Senhor Jose, the main character, could easily be seen as a hybrid creation of Kafka and Borges. The same can be said about Saramago. The metaphysical imagery, tortured monologues, the wistful way chance and circumstance play with characters, the crushing machinery of life and the unforgiving exaction of the workplace are all part of the picture that Saramago paints with magnificent leaps in narration with concern for the absurdest feelings in man.





  8. #17
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    Venki (@ prox*) on: Tue Jan 22 14:36:16




    Penguin India CEO David Davidar writes his first novel 'The House of Blue Mangoes'.

    http://www.the-week.com/20dec24/life7.htm

    http://www.newstodaynet.com/21jan/ss1.htm





  9. #18
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    mukesh kumar (@ ac80*) on: Fri Jan 25 07:57:32




    guys read the book 'the web of silk and gold'
    penguin current best seller by south indian babe shakti niranjchana. acc to me fine novel by a young genius





  10. #19
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    shaila tirupathinath (@ acad*) on: Fri Feb 1 13:18:37




    hey read that book. enjoyed it. By author shakti niranjchana . The style was fantastic. nice story frank book





  11. #20
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    Ramji (@ 205.*) on: Wed Feb 20 10:59:54




    Jose Saramango's( Nobel for lit 1998) "Tale of the unknown island"

    Written like a fable. It is so intriguing and mind boggling, I can only feel my reaction, can not articulate it. Remember Udhaya had reviewed his "All the names" recently?

    It is a very small book and can be read within fortyfive minutes.





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