Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wings of Silence: Book Review

When I began reading Wings of Silence by debut author Shriram Iyer I didn’t expect to be glued to it so intensely that I would finish reading it in four days (I’d sneakily read a few lines whenever I’d get a chance- on the commute to work, during a five minute coffee break, or the during the last ten minutes of the lunch break).

Iyer’s gripping debut novel begins with war veteran Akshay Sethi, a former Air Force officer who is captured and imprisoned by the Pakistani army during war and how he escapes and crosses the border after being shot in the leg- a feat for which he is awarded the Veer Chakra by the Government of India, after which the family relocates to America (a former Air Force officer moving to America was a tad hard to believe).  Akshay Sethi is a man who believes in duty and discipline and can’t stand failure of any kind. What comes as a rude shock for him is when his older son Raj is born deaf. Something Akshay Sethi refuses to accept and instead invests all his time and ambition into his younger son Saurav , who is a teenage prodigy and gifted in academics as well as sports. While Saurav succeeds in academics and achieves fame as a promising young tennis star, Raj is sinking into a quagmire of depression, to the point of becoming suicidal. This is when Saurav decides to give up his own successful tennis career and help Raj realize his wildest dream- to win a gold medal in the marathon at the 1980 Moscow Olympics!

Wings of Silence is a heartfelt tale of family and relationships and the bonding of Raj and Saurav is in itself a moment of victory. The narrative is fluid and keeps you glued as you see the plot play out before you. A promising debut, Wings of Silence portrays family bonding in a time overshadowed by war, hostility and challenging times, along with the grit and determination of the Sethi brothers. Recommended! 

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Clockwork Man: Book Review

The great thing about reviewing books is that you get sent a lot of books-for free! But then there are also times when you get sent a book you think you wouldn't enjoy. This is exactly what happened with me when I received a copy of The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky for review. The book falls into the science fiction genre, a genre I've never really been a fan of and hence my initial apprehension. But a few pages into the book and I realized I couldn't have been more wrong by judging a book solely on the genre it falls into (I'm gradually learning not to take categories books are slotted into seriously).

The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky is essentially the story of Ernst, a man made entirely out of clockwork, by master clockmaker Gruber in Germany in the late 19th century. Ernst lives and serves Gruber and his two young children and even though he’s made out of clockwork, Ernst is more than just an ordinary automaton and is educated by Gruber to be a gentle and caring soul. Considered a marvel of the 19th century, Ernst soon earns himself a host of admirers, many of them being heads of state and foreign dignitaries. The book is in the form of journal entries by Ernst and we soon learn that Ernst has developed a deep love for Gruber’s beautiful young daughter Giselle, and just as their relationship beings to get intimate a tragic incident takes place and the family is torn apart. Ernst is now abandoned and because he knows no other life, he winds himself down in a kind of suicide. A hundred years later, Ernst wakes up in a strange land, with the world and life he has known long lost. Ernst soon finds himself in the company of a slightly eccentric, yet well meaning homeless man Greeley, with whom he spends time living and hiding on the streets of an unfamiliar city, still haunted by the century old tragedy that refuses to let him go.

The Clockwork Man is a layered and gripping tale of love, loyalty and human emotions and even thought it centres on a clockwork man, it is essentially a human story. The narrative is deep and leads you on consistently, drawing you in so powerfully that you will forget you’re reading fiction and will begin to believe that Ernst really exists, wishing he really exists.

My involvement with Ernst and his tale was so intense that I felt an immense sense of sadness when I turned over the last page and would like to applaud Jablonsky for his effortless way with words and this exemplary portrayal of human relationships that will stay with me for a long time.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kitnay Aadmi Thay? Completely Useless Bollywood Trivia by Diptakirti Chaudhuri: Book Review

Growing up in India, one invariably grows up under the shadow of Bollywood and it’s not uncommon to see crazy movie fans line up outside theatres to watch the “first day, first show” (thought now you can conveniently book your tickets on the internet), memorizing dialogues, and challenging friends with who knows more about Hindi films and their actors. Despite Bollywood (a word now added to the Oxford Dictionary) being such a driving force in this country, surprisingly I’m not much of a movie watcher. Yes, I watched all the Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna super hits on TV while growing up, but even today ask me to go watch a film at a hall and eight times out of ten you can be sure, I’ll make an unpleasant face.

So when I was asked to review Diptakirti’s book on Bollywood trivia, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I started, it was hard to stop. In his book, Diptakirti has meticulously come up with 50 lists and 500 entries of interesting trivia, which can only be the work of an avid movie watcher and a true fan- in short, a Bollywood fans wildest dream come true!

Kitnay Aadmi Thay? spans Bollywood right from the 1950’s to now and gives you juicy nuggets of information that makes you go “really!” What I most loved about the book is Diptakirti’s writing style, which is hilarious and ensured that I laughed (out loud) my way thought it. The book touches topics like the Ten best movies to have not been made, Films within films, The (much stereotyped) portrayal of mothers, fathers, siblings and friends in Bollywood, and my favourite, Brand placements in Bollywood- where Diptakirti has mentioned hilarious moments from well known films-making me burst out laughing, thanks to which I got curious looks from colleagues at work, while sneakily reading the book in office.

I would highly recommend you read Kitnay Aadmi Thay?- Crazy Bollywood fan or not, given Diptakirti’s infectious love for cinema and the detailed and passionate research that has gone in, bringing to you a gem of a book on all things Bollywood.

Westland Books organized a meeting with Diptakirti at Zura, a lovely bistro and bakery in Gurgaon where we got a chance to interact with the author over lunch, where we learned about his love for Hindi cinema and how he had watched Sholay in bits and pieces over the span of a few days as a little boy. Lunch was a leisurely, sit down affair at Zura, and apart from providing us excellent food, had a wonderful relaxing ambience which was just perfect for such a gathering.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Broken News: Book Review

Broken News is broadcast journalist Amrita Tripathi’s debut novel and tells the story of M (whose name as we find out in the end is Meera), an overworked and paranoid journalist with a news channel who is on the verge of losing control of her life and facing a nervous breakdown. Broken News is essentially the story of a young professional whose life has been taken over completely by her job and whose problems have begun to get bigger than she can handle.  The book follows M’s journey in the news world, generously sprinkled with the predictable; cigarette and coffee breaks, profanity, bitchy and competitive colleagues, being overworked and the death of a close friend.

The book starts with being a monologue of sorts by M and I was seriously missing more characters and most importantly, dialogue. A few characters come along as the story progresses, but nothing deep really. It’s difficult for me to give you a quick beginning, middle and end of this book because to be honest, it was hard for me to find one while reading it. Broken News barely skims over the surface of M and the other minor characters in the book and really does nothing deep in terms of plot and character and the reason I found this a tad disappointing was because as an insider, Tripathi could have easily added more depth and flavour to this book.

The one point in this book on which I would like to congratulate Amrita is on having brought up the issue of mental illness and stress in the Indian context, considering how most such problems are conveniently brushed under the carpet and what a taboo it is in India to visit a counselor!

All in all Broken News isn’t exactly an earth shattering book, but if you’re looking for a light and not very complicated read, then pick up a copy.

Westland Books gave us a lovely opportunity to interact with Amrita Tripathi over coffee and delicious finger foods at the very lively Fresc Co at Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj. It was wonderful to talk to Amrita about the book, her experiences in the news industry and what she's working on next.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)