Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Second Time Around - Mary Higgins Clark ( 2003)

I am a die- hard fan of Mary Higgins Clark. What I like about her is the gentle way of narrating a story. I think she is a writer who does not believe in gory descriptions to make her stories more thrilling. Still, there's mystery and suspense that can put you on tenterhooks right from the first page.

Her narrations lack artificiality. Perhaps, it might be because she finds clues for her story from the newspapers - in other words, incidents that happen in the normal lives of people and the reader can relate to the story, easily.

Nicholas Spencer, the head of Gen - Stone, a company which is developing medicine against cancer disappears without a trace. The wreckage of his plane is found but not his body, raising many eyebrows. What if he has staged this accident? Maybe because he was aware that the vaccine is not going to work.  Lots of people whose dear ones are being victims of the deadliest disease have invested their whole money in the Gen- Stone stocks - Ned and Marty being two among them. After the news of his death starts doing rounds, Nick's bungalow has been set ablaze by someone. Lynn, Nick's wife had a close shave.

Carly Decarlo who writes financial advice columns is now a journalist in the Wall Street Weekly and her first assignment is to do a cover story on Nick. Carley has met Nick personally and for her, he has come across as a genuine person. She too invested her money in his company. Apart from it, Lynn
  is Carley's stepsister. After her father's death, Carley's mother got married to Lynn's father. As the story progresses, Carley feels that Nick is murdered. Her doubt is intensified when Dr Boedrick who bought Nick's house where his father used to do experiments meets with an accident just after he passes on to her the information that he has handed over the record of experiments to a red - headed guy.

I have read many thrillers. But I could not figure out who was behind the murder though there were many explicit clues. That's the beauty of her craft and maybe because of this I might have immersed myself in the story rather than interrupting my reading thinking who is the culprit. This book might not be her best but it's worth reading.

- by Shalet Jimmy

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Belated Happy Birthday - Anita Desai

" Reality is merely one-tenth visible section of the iceberg that one sees above the surface of the ocean- art remaining nine-tenth of it that lies below the surface. That is why it is more near Truth that Reality itself. Art does not merely reflect Reflect - it enlarges it"

Anita Desai, the acclaimed writer from India was born on June 24, 1937. This is to wish her belated Happy birthday.

My personal favourite is Fire on the Mountain. But I am sure as I keep on her reading her books, the list would increase too.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai

“Isn't it strange how life won't flow, like a river, but moves in jumps, as if it were held back by locks that are opened now and then to let it jump forwards in a kind of flood?”
― Anita Desai

Someone who wants to write should make an effort to write a little something every day. Writing in this sense is the same as athletes who practice a sport every day to keep their skills honed.
- Anita Desai

I aim to tell the truth about any subject, not a romance or fantasy, not avoid the truth.
- Anita Desai

My style of writing is to allow the story to unfold on its own. I try not to structure my work too rigidly.
-  Anita Desai

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nobody Killed Her by SABYN JAVERI

Book : Nobody killed her
Author : Sabyn Jhaveri
Publication year : 2017

I chose this book to meet the ' kickass heroine 'and whom I found was an unapologetic heroine with little hypocrisy. Now, that stirred my interest. Prior to it, I had hardly any experience with South Asian thrillers though I was a huge sucker for mysteries and suspense fictions.

Javeri's book prompted me to turn my attention to South Asia and I ended up reading Kalpana Swaminathan and Ashwin Sanghi. Needless to say, it was a good experience. Reviewing these books gave me immense pleasure for there were many serious issues to ponder upon. Javeri's debut novel was no different.

When the story opens, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Rani Shah was assassinated and her confidante Nazneen Khan ( Nazo )was held accountable for the murder. For, she was the one who was with Rani during her last hours.

 “ Who killed her?”

The story which was narrated in the course of courtroom proceedings was unputdownable. A pacy thriller with a maze of elements – treachery, gender equality, corruption, politics and what not.

Javeri had put the narrative in the unreliable hands of Nazo and this made the maze more thrilling.

What I liked about the book was that Javeri had left no stone unturned to depict the real life situations and it shunned hypocrisy to the core. The author was right when she said she was tired of suitable South Asian heroines. Even many of us were tired of that. She had torn apart those false faces which hardly existed and it's a big relief.

Jhaveri's character would make us think twice before we put every woman under one category when it's pertaining to topics like women empowerment, gender equality and feminism. The reasons for misinterpreting these words were mainly because we often tend to forget that there are different kinds of women with different circumstances with Nazo and Rani being the perfect examples.

There are a good number of women who have manipulative skills to get what they want. I liked the way Javeri left her characters ( Rani & Nazo) without judging them. They are at times strong, sometimes vulnerable and they get disillusioned too.

When Rani was born into an affluent family of politicians and everything had been offered to her on a platter, Nazo's family was murdered in front of her eyes by the General who was ruling Pakistan. Strangely, even such a strong background could not help Rani to wriggle through the maze of politics. But Nazo once determined had pushed the envelope and told us the story of survival. 

She was a refugee and Rani was Nazo's icon, God, lover and everything. She offered her at Rani's feet thinking that only she could save the country from the treacherous role of the General. But she was wrong. The moment Rani got the power her ideals quickly started changing. Mysogyny was prevalent. But with her hard-earned power did Rani do anything to change that? She comfortable placed herself where her society wanted her to be in.

The book created headlines even before it was released owing to Rani Shah's sharp semblance to the late Benazir Bhutto. It could not be denied but what amazed me was that even with a similar backdrop as of Mrs Bhutto, Rani Shah, all through the book hardly showed any traces of the late former premier. Now, that is something to be appreciated.

Once you finish reading the story, you will understand the quote mentioned by Sabyn Javeri at the outset of the book.

“I think you can love a person too much.You put someone up on a pedestal, and all of a sudden, from that perspective, you notice what's wrong - a hair out of place, a run in a stocking, a broken bone. You spend all your time and energy making it right, and all the while, you are falling apart yourself. You don't even realize what you look like, how far you've deteriorated, because you only have eyes for someone else.”

― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Going to read her short story.

by Shalet Jimmy

Sunday, June 18, 2017

GREENLIGHT by Kalpana Swaminathan

It began when a six-year-old girl from Kandewadi, a small slum near Andheri in Mumbai goes missing. Pinky was the first to go, then Jamila followed by Mary, Sindhu and Tara.

Panic grips the slum when these children are returned as mutilated and raped corpses. Lalli takes charge of the investigation with police officers Savio and Shukla and her niece Sita who is also her accomplice. Written from Sita's point of view, Kalpana Swaminathan's latest book slowly opens to an unimaginable cruel world of crime and put forth several questions to ponder upon.

The book has dealt with issues like brutal child abuse, politics that can sell and buy anything, the helplessness of the officials who are not corrupt, pseudo feminism, etc. Though crime fiction written especially by Indian authors highlight several issues and makes the reader ask pertinent questions, there’s often a tendency to dismiss fiction noir as mere 'pulp fiction'. It is unfortunate.

If you put down a list of serious crime novels, Kalpana Swaminathan's ' Greenlight' will be the first in the category. It is her sixth book in the Lalli series.

Let's see who Lalli is? She is a retired police detective who has ace shooting skills. She is in her sixties and is ruling the roost in a world dominated by men. If there is a murder, Lalli is the last resort even for the police.

The book is unputdownable and a great relief that Indian writers can create novels in this genre that can compete with the west.

To speak further on the book, it throws light on the bizarre mindset of the people. On one side when the rich believes in committing horrendous crimes just for the sake having a thrill and also inflicting cruelties on children from slum purely, because they do not consider them worthy of living in this world, there are slum dwellers, on the other side,  who refuse to show any empathy to Tara's mother who is a sex worker even after Tara is abducted and killed. They even pray to take the life of Tara in exchange for their daughters' lives just because her mother is a sex- worker and they think she deserves it.

What I also like about the book is the innuendoes on pseudo- feminism. In a meeting called by Seema, the journalist who is following the Kandewadi story, women easily forget the atrocities and rape and easily shift their attention to take it as a platform to indulge in their own selfish interests – some writes articles, poem, etc. One has killed her feotus and has written a poem on it justifying her actions that she aborted it to save the fetus from the world. She has taken the decision after reading the Kandewadi incidents.

Sita who could not bear this hypocrisy comes out of the meeting and thinks to herself that “ I had lacked the courage I might have had five years ago to tell those women what a misogynystic bunch of voyeurs, they were, what pathetic human beings they were, if their only response to the pain of others was to trot out sorry tales of their own. I wondered what they would have said, or done, if they had seen Tara in her empty hut.

Calling ' Lalli', a ' Desi Miss Marple' will not do any justification to the round character Kalpana Swaminathan has created. Even the author has clarified once that Lalli is not like Miss Marple. There are no similarities barring the fact that they love sleuthing. Like Miss Marple of Agatha Christie, Lalli has her own identity.

One thing that could have been avoided is the gory description of the brutalities committed to the children. It's horrendous. This reminds me of books written by a renowned Crime writer from the West, Tess Gerritsen. Perhaps it might be their background as medical doctors which enable them to write precise description though a bit gross.

When the story ends Swaminathan also puts across a question to ponder “ The Cry, How can I bear that someone should use my body like this? Is usually read as a woman's outrage. But isn't it equally a man's? It is men who should protest against rape, and not women.”

- Shalet Jimmy

Friday, June 16, 2017

Quotes - Jhumpa Lahiri

“That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

“There were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her. But she knew that this was an illusion, a mirage, and that the distance between them was now infinite, unyielding. ”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth

“And yet he had loved her. A Bookish girl heedless of her beauty, unconscious of her effect. She'd been prepared to live her life alone but from the moment he'd known her he'd needed her.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

“It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life. And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, “Listen to me.” 
― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Pack a pillow and blanket and see as much of the world as you can.You will not regret it.” 
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mr and Mrs Jinnah by Sheela Reddy ( a short introduction before the review )

When Mohammad Ali Jinnah fell in love with Ruttie Petit, she was 16 and he was 42.

She was the daughter of a rich Parsi baronet and Jinnah's good friend, Sir Dinshaw Petit.

After her marriage with Jinnah, she was ostracized from her community and a year later Jinnah was thrown out of Congress, says Journalist Sheela Reddy who authored the book. MR AND MRS JINNAH.

Very soon, the marriage hit rock bottom. A thoroughly disillusioned Ruttie committed suicide when she was just 29.

Though the book is all about Mr and Mrs Jinnah, it also says about the interplay of politics.
Gandhiji was completely against such marriages. He firmly believed in his stand and voiced his opinion against inter-religious marriages through his newspaper - Harijan.

Reddy says since he was a prominent figure in the country, people were forced to accept his view. Some of his followers had differences of opinion with Gandhiji regarding the same. But they never aired it in public.

Jinnah’s equation with Nehru was not great. It was an open secret. Reddy says ‘ Motilal Nehru was a good friend of Jinnah until the former ditched the latter for Gandhi due to his sons. Nehru looked upon Jinnah for reasons as frivolous as like the latter was less cultured and read only newspapers and not books.

SOUNDS LIKE AN INTERESTING READ. Kudos to Sheela Reddy! Even though, the availability of resources to delve into the emotional and personal life of Jinnah and Ruttie was scant; she came up with an interesting read.

I am yet to read this book. Looking forward to it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Almost Single by Advaita Kala

Be it Bhatinda or Kerala, the mothers of single women nearing 30 speaks almost the same language. They want their daughters to get settled. But the daughters are not ready just because they fear that they will have to compromise their independence ( not making a generalisation here. I wrote it just because this is the point on which 'Almost Single' rotates)

To my surprise, ‘ Mama Bhatia ‘, the mother of Aisha Bhatia, the protagonist resembles my mother too strongly that there are times I had to pinch myself to make sure that it was not my mum speaking.
I chanced upon this book in a bookstore which I frequented just because it's a bookstore. I did not have the intention of buying anything. When I am a bit flurried, usually a library or a book shop calms my mind. The title ' Almost Single' was catchy.  and the price was so low that I thought I would give it a chance.

To speak about the book, I would definitely not call this a masterwork or great piece of art. It is a book which has been written in a simple language and absolutely apt for casual reading. There is no plot as such. It is the story of Aisha Bhatia from Bhatinda along with her two friends who are on a groom hunt, to be precise, it would not be wrong if I say ‘ NRI groom hunt’. ( One friend just got a divorce from her husband and the other is on a search ).

Unlike her friends, she did not want to flow with the age old tradition of groom hunting whether it be through social networking sites or by conventional methods. Her faith eventually triumphs at the end as she falls for Karan, an NRI. The story concludes with hero and heroine coming together just like a typical Bollywood movie.

It would definitely grab your attention till you end it. That's it. There's nothing to ruminate and not my kind of book. But you just can't ignore a book which has made you sit all through.

If you are somebody who needs food for thought after reading a book, Almost Single is just not for you. You won’t get anything serious out of it. Keeping all those seriousness aside, if you need a light reading while you are travelling or mired in depression, this could be a perfect remedy.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood ( 2014)

YEAR :  2014
(American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall)

American Sniper can be easily categorized into a war – movie, but with many underlying layers to it- emotions, faith, duty and certain viewpoints which are of course debatable.

Based on the real life story of Chris Kyle, acclaimed as the most lethal sniper in the US military history who had 160 official killings to his credit, the film solely speaks about ‘ Chris’, though the war is the backdrop. Nevertheless, through him many perspectives come to the fore, the first one being the definition of ‘Evil ‘which is no doubt, Iraq. If we keep aside that particular aspect for a while, the film is worth watching for its sheer display of emotions – a man caught between his duties towards his country where he has to take lives to protect his people and the humanity in him.

When the movie opens, Kyle is on his first operation at Fallujah, Iraq. He is on the rooftop of a building aiming at his enemy. His first target is a woman and a son. The woman, presumably his mother hands over a grenade to the little boy and he is about to throw it towards the convoy. One single shot - the boy is down. Chris is unflinching in his duty but is sad without remorse that he has to gun down the little boy.

It’s the lesson taught by his father that he should be a sheepdog who protects his flock, makes him one of the best snipers. When he guns down his enemy, there’s no remorse written over his face. He is clear – the evil should not thrive. The humanity in him is intact, but that does not deter him from taking over his enemy irrespective of who it is. But when he is away from the war - front, the gore and the violence consume him. As the film progress, we could see the real man whom he has subdued for a while. The scene where he struggles with himself when he has to aim another little boy who picks up the weapon dropped by a terrorist who has been shot by Chris clearly reveals his dilemma. When the child drops the weapon without firing, he heaves a sigh of relief.

Bradley Cooper is at his best that we could never find a trace of him in his character. Sienna Miller, though her scenes are a few, her acting made her presence felt all through the film. Her scenes throw light on what the families of the soldiers go through.

Chris might be the ‘legend’ as everyone calls him, but, when he’s home, we can see a mentally torn Chris struggling with the conflict that’s brewing inside his mind. But he refuses to acknowledge it. Besides, it is also the protector image which is ingrained in his mind right from the inception of his childhood aggravates his dilemma. He feels that when his buddies are dying in Iraq, he is with his family unable to save them.

It draws our attention to a universal issue – the trauma experienced by the soldiers all across due to their exposure to wars. Whether they are being addressed is the burning question. The scene in a bar where Chris spends time before going home after the war-front is a perfect example of that. As the audience are immersed in his dilemma, the scene cuts to another shot which is the last shot where Chris is seen enjoying with the family and goes out with a war veteran who later kills him. It seems as if the issue has been abruptly cut rather than delving into it a little further.

For a foreigner watching the movie, the answer to the question ‘ why did the war veteran kill Chris’, will be ambiguous, leaving him/her to rely on Google. When you search, you will figure out that he was killed by a psychopath who was affected by the sheer violence he had to see while he was deployed.

Eastwood and Jason decided to cut the final scene after a request from Chris Kyle’s widow – Taya Kyle. The team of American Sniper came up with five different endings once Kyle’s widow informed them that “ This is going to be how my children remember their father, so I want you to get it right.” The film ends with the ‘real funeral scene’ of Chris Kyle.

When every intention of Clint Eastwood was to portray war as something that annihilating, there’s another side to that portrayal – Dehumanisation of Iraq

Though not explicitly, Eastwood has shown it as an evil that has to be obliterated which makes the story one-sided.The explanation on why ‘Iraq’ became one of the ‘axis of evil’ is glossed over conveniently. Iraq is completely dehumanised in the movie.

Barring this single aspect, he deserves every appreciation for making one of the best war movies which is also the highest grossing war movie ever made.

Interestingly, the release of the movie ran parallel with the trial of Eddie Ray Youth who was guilty of murdering Chris Kyle.

The movie was nominated for six Oscars including best actor for Bradley Cooper and best picture. It won several other awards including Academy Award for best sound editing.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Minal Sarosh ( Indian Author ) Interview

It was in 2015, I read and reviewed Minal Sarosh's début novel ‘Soil for My Roots ’. She started her literary career as a poet writing in English. She won the commendation prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2005 organised by the Poetry Society (India) Delhi.  Her poems on the city of Ahmedabad was published in ' The Grand Indian Express, Poets' Travelogue.

Nevertheless, I began reading ' Soil for My Roots' with much trepidation. There was a time when most of the books written by new Indian authors in English failed to piqué my interest. Call me prejudiced, I would not deny it. At the same time, some books were a real turn off. To my pleasant surprise, Minal's book was an exception. It portrayed emotions so beautifully and with depth that I let go of my prejudice and enjoyed the book.

 Writing its review became an easy and joyous task because I could connect with the characters. I  love those writings which could paint a picture with words. Hers was one such book.

You can read the review of her book here Soil for My Roots

She is currently working on a novel which brings out the malaise of our society of the half-educated or the dropout students, who sometimes are not able to transform their lives and take unfair means of livelihood.
Thanks, Minal for this wonderful Interview...

 Minal, tell us about yourself?

Well, first and foremost, I am a poet, at heart, and by interest and of course writing! This is because even as I worked in a bank, and worked for many, many years, I did not give up reading and writing poetry, and finished my post graduation in English Literature, too.

Then, when I happen to leave my job, writing fiction which lay latent at the back of mind for so many years, happened! So, I have published one novel, so far.

How did you get into the world of writing?

     My writing started with poetry, the emotional outbursts kind, which I didn’t show anyone. But, one day, just on a whim, I sent a poem to a fashion magazine called ‘Flair’ and surprisingly they accepted, and I was overwhelmed and overjoyed on seeing my poem in print.  That was the trigger that made me take writing more seriously and intently and began sending out my poems to magazines, journals and newspapers.  

      And after I won an award in a poetry competition held by the local Times of India, newspaper, there was no looking back.

Tell Me about your book ‘Soil for My Roots’. Every meticulous detail has been taken care of in this book - emotions, details of the places etc. What made you write such an elaborate book? How long have you have taken to write this book? 

Well, ‘Soil for My Roots’ is my first book. It’s about living in a multicultural society like India. And it has many characters and situations which bring to fore the consequences of such a social fabric in terms of relationships and social adjustments.

          The book has turned out elaborate because I wanted it to be a mirror of our times, how everyday living and thinking has gradually changed. I did this, maybe, to preserve for posterity, hence the detailed descriptions of the way people live and the places.

        As I said, fiction also remained with me all through the years when I worked in a very different non-literary environment, so the theme and plot of the novel were always there. Hence, when I actually started writing, it took only 3 months to complete the first draft.

What are bottlenecks you had to face (if there’s any) while writing and publishing this book?

It took up almost 5 years to find a publisher, maybe because I hadn’t written any fiction before, not even a single short story. So, that was very frustrating and needed a lot of patience.

And while writing, apart from the physical stress, more so because I am a polio survivor, everything else fell into place smoothly.

 I have said this in my review of your book ‘Soil for My Roots’ that “Unraveling  Sarah would have offered the reader many a revelation.” Do you have any plan to come up with a sequel concentrating on Sarah? I would love to read it.

Yes, Sarah is quite intriguing at times and takes very bold decisions in the novel. This is because she is placed in very unusual circumstances. She is my favourite too, because the main theme of the novel being the effects and consequences of living in a multi cultural society is aptly revealed through her.  But no plans of exploring her future life, as of now!

 What was that ‘feeling’ when your work got published for the first time?

Yes, it was a very happy feeling, indeed! Thanks to my publisher who reposed faith in my work and gave me a break.

What do you think about current scenario of Indian writing in English?

      The current scenario is like a kaleidoscope, I think.   There are different colours and hues, I mean all types of work are being published, and each genre has its own readership.

Tell us a bit about your interest in poetry.

Well, as I said poetry is my first love, and will continue to be so. Maybe this is because the poetic inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. The creative impulse is all prevailing and gives such wonderful moments of joy and surprise as you write a poem. So, poetry gives me a lot of freedom, and I have written poems on various themes like nature, relationships, the urban ethos and poetry itself.

 Are you currently working on anything?

Yes, I have finished working on a novel which brings out the current malaise of our society of the half educated or the drop out students, who sometimes are not able to transform their lives and take unfair means of livelihood. There is a suspense hidden in the novel too. The novel is set in the city of Ahmedabad. 

Do you have a favourite genre? If yes, does your work belong to that genre?

No favourites, because now I read anything and everything which engages my interest and attention.

But, in my growing up years, I had a preference for detective and adventure stories of the Famous Five, Perry Mason and the likes.

Did you ever explore the Indian writing in English from other parts of the  country. I have noticed that writers belonging to the metros get a lot of attention though there are many good works from places especially like North East India etc. What is your take on this?

Of course, in a way every book has a distinct flavor of the place in which the story is set.

Absolutely true, more authors from metros are being published, maybe because the authors from non metro places are at a slight disadvantage since all publishing and literary activities take place in metros.

Yes, there is untapped potential especially from the NE region and am happy to see many authors from there being published now.

Who are your favourite authors and why? Any contemporary author/authors who caught your attention recently?

My current favourite authors as far as fiction is concerned, contemporary and non-contemporary together, are O Henry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Manu Joseph, Kushwant Singh and Arvind Adiga.

Do you have a library in your home? If yes, how many books are there?

Oh, my library at home is stocked by my husband and son as well, so it has all kinds of books!

 Your 10 favourite books and movie

Well I read more poetry and the  works of Emily Dickinson,  Robert Graves, A K Ramanujan , Imtiaz Dharkar  and Jeet Thayil are  my favourite to dip into again and again for those moments of revelation, joy and learning.

About movies, for some reason, I never tire of seeing the James Bond series.

- Shalet Jimmy

Thursday, June 1, 2017

'Murder On The Orient Express' Official Trailer (2017) - Johnny Depp, Jo...

The die-hard fans of Agatha Christie fans will have to try hard to forget the David Suchet's Poirot and accept Kenneth Branag's 'Hercule Poirot'. Loved the background score..

' Murder on the Orient Express 2017 version trailer is out for Agatha Christie fans out there....

also starring Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer