Cut Like Wound by Anita Nair

I’ve always liked Anita Nair’s writings, and this book that has been on my wishlist for a while. I knew I just had to read it when I saw Wanderlustathome rate it highly on Goodreads.

CutLikeWound

A young male prostitute is found murdered and burnt in one of the many alleys in Shivajinagar in Bangalore. The case lands on the desk of Inspector Gowda and his new subordinate, SI Santhosh. Gowda is distracted, with personal issues crowding him. Not the most social person even normally, Santhosh finds him even more grouchy and grumpy than he expected. As they start investigating, they realize the case is more complex than they thought initially, it has all the indications of being a serial murder. The only clue they have is the modus operandi and a solitary pearl earring that they found on one of the victims. They have to use all their investigative skills and intuition to solve the case, while fighting bureaucratic bosses along with clever criminals.

A page turner, it is a wonderful book. I especially like the flavour of Bangalore that comes through so strongly in the book. It was like Bangalore was another character in the book, genteel and sophisticated at times, seedy and shady at others. Anita Nair’s writing reminds me of Elizabeth George’s crime books. Complex crimes, beautifully interwoven snippets of local life, and complex characters, interesting, and different practices, it was a very interesting book to read. I had an inkling of who the murderer might be, and yet the ending was very impressive. A book that I enjoyed till the last page.

Since this book ‘introduced’ Inspector Gowda, I, for one, am looking forward to more of Inspector Gowda thrillers from the author.

I would definitely recommend this book.

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Intermission by Nirupama Subramanian

intermissionSmita recommended this book on my review of the Author’s first book.

Varun, lives a ordered, boring, not-so-happily married life with his wife Gayatri and teenaged son. While everything looks fine on the surface, there is unhappiness and dissatisfaction simmering under the surface. They are NRIs who have recently recently relocated to Gurgaon. Varun appears to have settled in well, while Gayatri is finding it far more difficult to take to the place and the way of things.

Living in a luxury condominium, they are living an life of luxury, but of unease.In the midst of all this, Varun falls in love with Sweety, a young mother of twins living a dream life of her own. Having recently shifted out of her joint family, Sweety is savouring the joys of nuclear living.

A disturbing as well as quite a possible scenario. The way the story unfolds is quite nicely handled, without making it sleazy or cheap. The frustrations and the challenges that each of them face is nicely brought out. The illict relationship has been handled with sensitivity. And all the characters feel real.

I especially liked the descriptions of life in the luxury condos of Gurgoan – quite relate-able to life in most new parts of urban cities, where sudden development sees luxury and poverty living side by side. Gayatri was the character who appealed the most to me. She was real, she was not perfect, but she was doing the best she could do. I liked the ending as well. It was a realistic ending.

A quick read, a page turner, something which will definitely not bore you.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I never get hold of Jodi Picoults easily. There is a mile long waiting list for them, normally, so when I saw this one sitting in the ‘Just returned’ section, I grabbed it – quick, real quick.

Max and Zoe Baxter are about to have a baby. A much awaited for baby, who came after 5 cycles of IVF treatment, 2 miscarriages, and lots of heart break. Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant, at a baby shower organised for her, when she gets painful cramps, and is rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t find a heart beat for the baby, and she had to be induced to deliver her stillborn son. Heart-broken after the loss of the baby, all Zoe wants is to try for another baby, while all Max wants is a divorce. He has had enough.

The divorce left Zoe depressed, unhappy and with nothing to look forward to, while Max turns to alcohol. An alcoholic, he had stayed dry for a long time, but the loss of the baby and the end of their marriage pushed him over the edge. He discovers God, rather Church which saves him from self-destruction.

Zoe, in the meanwhile, is found to be suffering from cancer, and has had to undergo a hysterotomy and with that loses all hopes of having a baby, until she falls in love with Vanessa. They get married and realize that Zoe’s dream of becoming a mother can still come true. Zoe and Max still had three embryos from their last IVF cycle, and Vanessa could carry the baby, now that Zoe can’t.

Zoe gets in touch with Max to get his permission(both parents’ consent is required) to implant the embryos in Vanessa. To her shock and surprise, Max is a different person now. He has discovered God, a God who according to his church believes that same sex marriages are living in sin. So much so that they end up in court fighting for the right to use the embryo.

Sing You Home has so many aspects covered, Gay and Lesbian rights, the homophobia that is rampant in certain sections of society, the heartbreak that infertility brings.. It brings home to the reader, how difficult things can be to people going through such situations. How fair is it that a gay or a lesbian couple has to fight so hard for things that are considered natural for the rest of us – marriage, becoming parents, living a stigma free life, freedom to love and spend the rest of their life with the love of their life? Does having a different sexual orientation ban a person from these basic rights? Who defines normal?  what makes for a loving family? Can blind belief in religion(or rather interpretation of religion) distort our views?

The book also has a musical score with it. Zoe is a music therapist, and each chapter has a musical score we can listen to while reading – I did not read it with the music. I plan to buy the book, and read it again with the music. Picoult explains quite a bit about music therapy so that we, readers get an idea as to what it is all about.

Another wonderful book by Picoult. Her books never disappoint. I will certainly be reading it again. All the characters are well thought out and well etched out. Zoe’s wonderfully eccentric mother, Max’s conservative, super successful brother, the fanatical Pastor Clive..

Another book which will stay with you. Your heart breaks with Zoe’s, empathize with Vanessa’s insecurities and worries,  you understand how Max is caught between his faith and his doubts about right and wrong.. A book that I will definitely re-read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes Jodi Picoult books – another gem from her.

The Death of Mr Love by Indra Sinha

I keep a look out for Indian authors or authors from the Indian subcontinent. I don’t get as many books here in the library, as I would have liked, so I pick up whatever I do chance upon.

The Death of Mr Love is based on a real life incident, the Nanavati murder in the late 1950s. The blurb says.. The reverberations from the notorious Nanavati society murder in 1950s Bombay – the fatal consequence of an affair between an Indian playboy and his married English lover – were so great that the reached the offices of Prime Minister Nehru and irrevocably changed the face of the Indian justice system.

The author weaves a fictional tale using the backdrop of the murder case. Bhalu, in modern day London, meets his childhood friend Phoebe, whose mum, Sybil and Bhalu’s mother, Maya were great friends when they were both growing up in India. Bhalu’s mother had just passed away, and reading through her documents he comes across several documents which puzzles and interests him.

Meeting Phoebe results in more revelations and the two of them travel to India in search of the truth. They believe that there is a second unpunished crime which got hidden in the uproar of the murder case. A crime that destroyed 2 families, and exiled them to far-off England. A crime that still seems to be capable of creating an impact in Bhalu and Phoebe’s lives.

The story spans 5 decades, two countries and a bunch of very interesting characters. It feels to believable, so plausible, and makes you wonder – what if that were in case the fact.. The author also transports you to the places(Ambona, Bombay) with some wonderful descriptions. The story also traces the political situations in India, and how old friendships get changed, modified with time and circumstances.

As for the characters, I felt sorry for Bhalu, while Phoebe just evoked irritation in me. Somehow, despite the life that she had, she as a character, did not evoke much sympathy, probably because she remains quite a mysterious figure till the end. Other characters like Maya, Jula, Katy(Bhalu’s wife) are quite well fleshed out.

Would I recommend it? I certainly would. There are places where the narrative gets a little slow, and you almost want to give up, but all in all, it is an interesting book. I was fascinated by how well fact and fiction were interwoven. An interesting, but bulky book.

In the Kitchen by Monica Ali

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I had read Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, some years ago and had loved it. When I chanced upon this book, I grabbed it.

In the Kitchen starts off in a smart London restaurant, which is run by Gabriel(Gabe) Lightfoot, managing his kitchen workers from all over the world. Gabriel is hoping to open his own restaurant and has a steady girlfriend, Charlie, settled life, more-or-less.

His life is turned upside down with the discovery of a death of a porter in the basement of the restaurant and with the appearance of Lena, a mysterious immigrant from Europe. Gabe also learns that his father is suffering from cancer and his grandmother, from dementia. The book is mainly about Gabriel and his reaction to the deal that life dealt him.

The book touches upon multiculturalism in Britain, the various underlying emotions, related to immigration that seem to plague most of the characters using the restaurant kitchen as an interesting setting. After Brick lane, I think my expectations were rather high, and sadly the book, kind of, fell flat -for me. The characters did not appeal, their motives felt rather flimsy, and make believe, although I did enjoy the part where Gabe went up north to his childhood home.. His Nana was one of the few vibrant characters in the book.

It was a book that I struggled to read. There was something definitely missing about the book. It was a book with too many things, and they just did not work well together. All in all, a disappointing read. Especially after Brick lane.

Promises, Promises by Erica James

Every now and then I need a good chick-lit to cheer me up, to soak in the warm,warm feelings, and to read,  without thinking.. knowing that everything will indeed be fine at the end.. Erica James’ Promises, Promises fit the bill perfectly.

Ella has just stepped out of a seven year old relationship after realizing that her partner’s daughter would never accept her, no matter what she did. She is determined to stay single, and promises herself to not let her heart rule her head, ever again.

Maggie is married to a man who does not appreciate her at all. She run around earning money working as a cleaning lady and is treated like dirt by both her employers and her family. All she wants is to stand up for herself and she promises herself that she would be more assertive and stand up for herself.

Ethan is caught in an unhappy marriage, working a business which is in a tough spot, and his socialite wife and spoiled teenage daughter do not seem to realize that a recession is on, nor do they care about anything he cares about. He promises himself that he will not resort to meaningless sex with other women to hide his unhappiness.

Fate brings all the three of them face facts that might have been ignoring, and forces them into making decisions which they might have never done other wise.

I can’t tell you anymore without all of you guessing the plot, but would recommend it if you like a light,fun and entertaining book. All the characters are well developed, and you can’t help feel for them. As you read the book, you want things to all work out for them. It is a nice feel good book, and it certainly made me laugh out in loads of places. A nice pleasant, fun and predictable read, and I would give it a 3.5/5.

PS: I would not be pestering you all with reviews for a while, I don’t seem to be making a headway in the latest book that I have been reading. I suspect the term break has been having it’s effect on my reading as well.

Darjeeling by Bharti Kirchner

Another book that I picked up, just by the blurb at the back.

The tale of two sisters. Two sisters who do not get along, who have their own set of insecurities which cloud their relationship. Aloka and Sujata have grown up in Darjeeling, with their father and loving Grandmother Nina. Aloka is the older, confident, accomplished sister who is the centre of attention everywhere. She has numerous suitors buzzing around her, while Sujata, the prickly, younger sister is ignored in the general scheme of things. Aloka falls in love with the tea taster and revolutionary Pranab, and the two get engaged. In the meanwhile, Pranab meets Sujata and they fall in love with each other. Pranab ends up marrying Aloka(let me not divulge too many details). They emigrate to New York, and have finally get divorced. Pranab is keen to re-kindle his romance with Sujata, who has been living in Victoria, Canada.

Grandmother Nina, invites all of them to come and celebrate her birthday with her in Darjeeling to try and get them to reconcile. I can’t write any more without giving away the whole story. It is an interesting story, but in a lot of places, I felt it was quite cliched. In some places, I found it difficult to understand what motivated the protagonists to behave the way they did.. I mean, some of the choices seem quite inane – at least to me. Pranab’s character especially felt quite lame.

What I did like about the book was the descriptions, and the way she brings out the feel of the places. It transports you to tea plantations of Darjeeling, New York or Victoria. She did make me drool with the food that she describes. I actually feel like making Channer Payesh, just to have a taste of it.

I would give it a 2.5/5. An easy read -but not exactly something I would buy – I would much rather pick it up from the library.

Committed – A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love last year. Long after all the hype had died down. I kept my expectations low, because a lot of times, I have got disappointed with some of the most raved-about books. This time, however, I was certainly not disappointed. I really enjoyed her writing style. Which is why, Committed has been on my wishlist since.

Now, for the last few months, I could see that my library stocked, it was available, but I would either forget to pick it up when I was there, or would never find it on the shelves(and all the library assistants were bound to be busy). Last week, I decided that I would not leave the library without the book.

At the end of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Liz finds love with Brazilian born, Australian Citizen Felipe. Both of them have survived divorces, and never want to get married again. They just want to live together and enjoy what they have, but the US Homeland Security has other plans for them. They are told that Felipe would not be allowed to enter the US again, because he has entered and reentered it too many times to be with Liz. So the only option they have is to get married, if they want to be able to live in the United States, which is where Liz wants to live.

Faced with this situation, Elizabeth does what she does best, throws herself into research about marriage, to find out everything she can. She went into her first marriage with no facts, with literally no preparation. This time, she wants to leave no stone unturned. She mainly focuses on marriages in the Western context, and there are some really interesting snippets of information of the history of the institution of marriage, and how things evolved to be the marriage of today. It is quite interesting to see how all societies have gone through similar changes in their approach to marriage. The effect of women’s liberation on the institution on marriage.  Her narrative keeps you engrossed till the last page.

She has interesting anecdotes from her life, her parents, and her grandmother’s life. Marriage, and how it has changed over the years. She analyses the factors that might lead to divorce, agonizing over facts that might indicate that she might not be marriage material. Her own worries over getting married is analysed, discussed.  It is very different from Eat, Pray, Love but it still makes a very compelling read.

There were some questionable things mentioned in the book. Apparently in India, May 3 is National Broken Hearts Day! Did you know that? Funnily, I googled, and NOTHING came up!!! And then she mentions that it is common for a woman to be married to all the brothers in the family in Southern India! I can’t help wonder where all this information came from.

Despite the few glitches, the book is a great read. It keeps you engrossed in her tale. There is something about the way she writes, that makes you feel that she is in the room, chatting to you. I think it is this quality of her writing, makes it such a wonderful read. It is more than just a research on marriage, it is her journey, her way of making peace with the concept of marriage. Would I recommend it? Absolutely!