Book #4

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Book Title – Such a Long Journey

Author – Rohinton Mistry

Publishers – Faber & Faber

THE fuss that Aditya Thackeray raised over the supposedly insulting lines about the Shiv Sena in Rohinton Mistry’s novel seems silly if you’ve read the book. After all, the book is far more critical of the Congress and one of that party’s holy cows, Indira Gandhi, than it is of the Sena. There’s just one passage in the book where one of the characters dismisses the Shiv Sena as ‘goons’. But then, perhaps that was the problem for young Mr Thackeray. Born and bred in a family that feeds on the hubris generated by the adoration of a few brown-nosers, the young heir, could not digest the fact that anyone could give the Congress more importance. Of course, I may be stretching this too far – but really, I don’t see what the fuss was about.

I also don’t think this is as fine a novel as people make it out to be. It’s purely a personal feeling – and you’re free to feel offended as you read this – I don’t think Mistry is quite as accomplished as most people make him out to be. He’s a great narrator, he draws intricate and engaging plots and fleshes out his characters, but he lacks a certain je ne sais quois which separates the great from the merely competent.

But I did enjoy the book while it lasted. It’s very imformative about a certain period in Mumbai, and India’s, history and a wonderful insight into the life of the Parsi community. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t completely feel for the characters and their losses. In parts, the verboseness really bogged the prose down; for instance, I found myself speed-reading through the portion in the Chor Bazar where Gustad Noble reminisces about his family. And frankly, I didn’t think much of the sub-plot involving Major Jimmy Bilimoria. It was too far-fetched and contrived for my taste. In fact, I much prefer the way Mistry dealt with the Congress and Indira Gandhi in A Fine Balance. There was a sense of humour in that book, which is lacking here.

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Book #3

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Book Title – A Room of One’s Own

Author – Virginia Woolf

Publishers – Penguin

Pages – 111

YOU may already know that A Room of One’s Own developed out of a series of lectures that Virginia Woolf delivered at two women’s colleges in Cambridge University, Girton College and Newnham College in 1928. The topic was the rather ambiguous ‘Women and Fiction’ and it’s during these lectures that she famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” It’s a common sense assertion, of course, but it’s shocking how I never really thought of creativity in this light. Of course a woman needs to be free of financial worries and household chores if she is to do something creative. By that I don’t mean that women who hold a fulltime job outside the home or even those who work at home can’t be creative. But they need to have enough freedom to be able to have a few hours all to themselves and their creative efforts. And this doesn’t apply just to women – Woolf was to later deny that she was consciously delivering a feminist argument – anyone who has to worry about their day’s three meals can’t really be engaged in writing great literature. That requires a commitment of a sort that they can’t really have.

Book #2

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Book Title(s) – They Do It With Mirrors, After the Funeral, The ABC Murders

Author – Agatha Christie

Publishers – HarperCollins
I’m on vacation. I’m allowed to indulge in some Agatha Christie.

UPDATE: I gave in to temptation and read two more Agatha Christies. It’s an old weakness of mine. In all fairness, I suppose they should all be considered as one book and so I’m putting their details here as well. Still, no regrets.

Week 1, Book 1

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Book Title – The Robber Bride

Author – Margaret Atwood
Pages – 700
Publishers – Random House Canada
ATWOOD is one of the most reliable authors I’ve had the pleasure to read. Whether it’s good intellectual stimulation you’re looking for or a thrilling page-turner, you can rely on Atwood to deliver a story unlike anything you’ve read before. With her off-kilter perspective on fairy tales and unapologetic feminism, she tells her stories straight, with little sentimentalism and plenty of imagination.
The Robber Bride is the story of three women – Tony, Charis and Roz – and their life-changing encounters with the beautiful, smart, seductive and devious Zenia. When the book opens, we see the three friends meet for their monthly lunch at one of Toronto’s trendy restaurants, The Toxique. One by one, they spot Zenia – a shock, considering that they’d attended her funeral only a few years back. She’s clearly upto no good and the women are in a tizzy about what she could possibly want now. Because, in the past, Zenia has systematically stolen their men, money and peace of mind after first befriending them and they stabbing them remorselessly in the back.
Pick up this book if you want to read a story with an unforgettable villain. It won’t offer you a clear, clean end. It’s finale is satisfyingly murky and you leave the book puzzling not only over Zenia and her machinations, but also over the nature of her relationship with Tony, Charis and Roz. Considering that Zenia is seen through the eyes of these three women and never through Zenia herself, you wonder if she is all that evil. And given all the lies she’s spouted through the book, no clear picture emerges about her motives and her past – even her present. This is certainly one of the most satisfying books I’ve read in a long while and I’m glad I started the challenge with this one.

Last Ditch Attempt

>As the title of the post says, this is one last ditch attempt to keep my blog running. In this space, which is currently weeding over due to neglect and is a victim of my unbounded laziness, I will document my self-imposed project of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. The 52 Books, 52 Weeks challenge is a fairly popular one with book bloggers, and it’s an idea that I’ve been toying with since I stumbled upon the concept sometime last year. I liked it instantly, because given the erratic reading habit I had built up over the last couple of years, I was really struggling to enjoy the one thing I’ve enjoyed all my life – reading books.
In the last few months of 2010, I put in a good deal of intensive reading and once I took an inventory of the books I had read that year, I notched up a decent 27 books. I’ve got the pace going now – I’m reading almost a book per week – and I think this is a challenge I’m going to enjoy. The plan, so far, is to try and read a book every week of the year. The ‘one book per week’ thing is merely for convenience. I’m not a complete idiot and I realize that certain books do take longer to read than others. But the point is that at the end of the year, on December 31 2011, I will have read 52 books.
I intend to blog about each of the books that I read. A picture of cover, the name (of course), number of pages and publishing house will all be part of the post. I’ll also try and write a little bit about how I feel about each of the books that I read. I’m currently reading The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (I finished my last book of 2010, Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna on the evening of December 31, on my way to my New Year’s Eve party, so I think this bodes well for my project).