The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: Twists of Fate by Priyanka Naik

Blurb: As kids, we thought grown-ups had so much fun. How we wished we could grow up fast. If only we knew what we were wishing for.

Three pieces of a soul, they'd call themselves soul sisters and this is their journey, a journey through the lives of three best friends who accidentally reunite after a decade long disconnection. A round of startling revelations later, the three realize that life is indeed unpredictable. However, in this world of uncertainty, there is just one thing they can still be sure of their friendship! 

With secrets confessed, pain shared, tears shed and troubles discussed, they help find answers to each other's problems, just like old times. 

Each has a lesson to learn from the other, a story to tell, a reason to say 'I'm sorry' and a reason to say 'Thank you'. Has destiny brought them together to complete the picture? 

Will they succeed in finding the missing pieces? 
Can every twist of fate be interpreted in just one way? 

Join Sharvari Joshi, Parizaad Sethna and Nandini Mazumdar in a nostalgic journey from girlhood to womanhood. 'Twists of Fate' promises to be a roller coaster ride of emotions that will captivate the reader's heart and leave him pondering on life, fate and all its conspiracies. 

First of all, let me praise the author for not choosing the done-to-death mushy romance genre- one that makes me roll my eyes. Let me also congratulate the author for a fantastic debut. Writing a slice-of-life novel instead of the usual Durjoy-Ravinder-Nikita-Sudeep style is a bold choice; and getting the book right the first time signals talent and genuine effort. 

TOF is a slice-of-life novel about three girlfriends who grow up together in the megalopolis of Mumbai. Okay, I confess that I have a thing for novels centered around women characters. So that's the first thumbs up for TOF. 
I like the characters- rebellious, middle-class Sharvari who has ambitions beyond what most of her peers can even imagine. She's one of those liberalized, emancipated women who don't think marriage is the only meaning to their lives; who are strong, independent career women with an identity of their own. She's my kind of gal. Needless to say, I loved her father's supportive, liberal outlook and hated, vehemently, her mother's bigotr and neo-patriarchal outlook, and the way she discriminates between Neil and Sharvari and cares more about what society thinks than about how her daughter feels. Neil's character is okay- what a wuss. 
I loved both Parizaad and her mother- both women struggling to make it through life with a smile on their faces, both so positive and warm and decent and accomodating. I loved how Mrs. Sethna always called Nandini and Sharvari over to her cafe and fed them coffee and dessert. 
Nandini is also great- her body image and self-esteem issues have been captured very well. Since it's my personal experience, I can relate. Needless to say I didn't like her parents either.

One of the best things about the writing is the way the author captures conflict. That also shows how she has built complexity into her characters, as opposed to the one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs in contemporary romance novels. 
The conflict between Sharvari and her mother and sibling, and later on her spouse, is captured well. As is the way the relation between Parizaad and her mother changes. Nandini's heartbreak, and how she copes with a bad marriage and builds a new life as an independent woman is depicted well. 

The plot is good, and the author has maintained the timelines- from adolescence to middle age, very well. The pace of the story is maintained well and the tone is sustained- the author doesn't lose the rhythm for a second. The suspense is well-maintained and you want to keep turning the pages. This is not something all writers can handle. 

The prose flows well and is of high quality, the language is good and the grammar is perfect to the T. In a scenario where most 'authors' don't care to work on their language and grammatical skills, the author scores brownie points for being meticulous. 

My only problem with the book is the exposition built in between paragraphs- the philosophical ruminations. They signal authorial intrusion into the story and are redundant and jarring- and they take away from the story as well. If you must make a philosophical point, you do it through the characters or the events. They must be in between the lines- as subtext. Subtext is subtle.
 You do not insert sudden bouts of deep exposition in between the story. It's overt and irritating- the reader feels they're being preached to. 

To sum up, TOF is an important novel. This is writing that endures, this is writing that has subbstance and relevance. These are the kind of books that should be on bestseller lists- and not the incipient tripe dished out by Chetan Baba and his ilk. 

I wish the author all the best for her next book.

If you want a break from the tripe being dished out as 'Indian literature' and want to read a well-written novel with succint characters, go buy the book here: Twists of Fate

Monday, 14 March 2016

Review: Pandora's Box by Tushar Sen

Blurb: Pandora's box is a collection of tales that have woven reality and fiction together to serve to the reader spine chilling narratives and jaw dropping climaxes. most of the stories are inspired by real life incidents and characters – like saddam hussein's cia connection, the secret army of the indian prime minister, hitler's biggest mass murderer, strangest rains where frogs fell from the sky, heroism of mold of, terrorist funding in columbia, nasa's controversial moon landings and so on. some stories are inspired by characters around you who touch your lives in so many ways yet go unnoticed. some climaxes will urge you to read the story again with a new perspective. if imagination is more powerful than knowledge then here is a book that invites you to join the author in the most powerful imaginative endeavors you may have ever undertaken till now . . . in a literary environment of course. 

Tushar Sen's debut book is proof that Indian publishers must not be afraid to accept and nurture debutante short story writers. Kudos to Leadstart for taking on this writer with great potential. 
For, as I have learnt from experience, short stories are a great way to begin practicing and honing the craft of writing- they lubricate and expedite the writing process and mentally prepares a budding writer to undertake the writing of a novel- a much bigger and arduous project. 
Tushar Sen's short stories have two major aspects going for them: 
1. Themes: The themes in these stories range from domestic terrorism in India to how militant groups in Colombia are funded by multi-nationals to CIA to soldiers fighting in Siachen to the conspiracy theory about NASA's Apollo mission to talking about Hitler's most dangerous minion- Amon Goethe. I appreciate the range of the writer's imagination and the research he has done for his stories. 
2. Endings: The writer stays true to his words and has ended every story with an unexpected, jaw-dropping climax. This is a craft in storytelling that not many writers have. Most can write an interesting story, but few  can end it with a climax that is completely unexpected and shocking. 
This will help if the writer decides to go for a novel next. 
However, as a reader I have some issues with the editing. 
1. While the language is okay and the prose is of good quality, the use of big words, suddenly and often, in the wrong context, prove to be a jarring experience. What can be said in plain words should not be complicated unnecessarily. While the grammar is okay, the use of complicated words crammed in between lines of simple prose distract from the reading. At places punctuation is missing.
2. There is need to improve the sentence structure too. Sometimes sentences are too long, sometimes two sentences have been joined together, making the prose clunky. The latter is a problem that pervades throughout the book. Sentences should melt into one another, rather than being crammed together by a comma where not necessary. Each sentence presents a single line of thought or information, so we should be careful while clubbing two sentences together. 
Still, I would say that Sen's work is important in its very substance and deserves to be read for the sheer art of good storytelling at work here. I hope the writer goes ahead with publishing more short stories and novels on more disparate and intriguing themes. 
If you love good short stories with jaw-dropping climaxes, go buy this book here: Pandora's Box

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Review: My Dream Man by Aditi Bose

Blurb:  don't know if I can do a story like this once again or not. Ajopa Ganguly, a struggling writer, is reeling from the pains of her manuscript having been rejected by all publishers. She knows that making cupcakes and embroidering handkerchiefs is not her true calling. However, she is scared to write anymore and is losing focus. Aniket Verma, is the professor of economics who was also Ajopa's tuition teacher once. Despite their twelve years age gap, with time, they forge a special bond of friendship. Then a misunderstanding! Now Aniket is back and it feel just like old times. With a challenge of finishing a new manuscript in record time and a promise that he will help her to get it published if she does, he asks her to meet him at the publisher's office two days later. Does she write? Does she go to the publisher's office? At what moment does their friendship change? Do they fall in love? My Dream Man, a let-me-tell-my-friends and I-need-to-finish-this-now story, is an insightful examination of how forces beyond our control help us make decisions. As Ajopa says, it is all about 'deep choosing'

I think there is something to be said about the author's merit when you finish their book in one sitting.

Aditi Bose's second novel is like a breath of fresh air.

First of all, this is not like the mostly sub-standard, poorly written gooey romantic nonsense that is flooding the market these days.

Ajopa Ganguly is an excellent character. She's educated, liberated, independent and knows her self-worth. She's sassy, feisty and knows how to stand up for herself. She finds a goal and she goes ffor it.  She's not afraid to know and express her sexuality. She tries out different occupations even as she struggles with rejections from publishers for her manuscript.

I liked how, in Ajopa, Bose has etched a portrait of a modern, liberated, self-assured woman. She's not the horribly regressive sati-savitri types who bows down to a society still largely patriarchal except some liberated pockets. I like how she makes her own choices and sticks by them. I like how she's not dependent on a man for validation, and doesn't believe in living by what society expects of her. A woman who knows her mind.

I like how the author describes Ajopa's teenage pining for Aniket- an unconventional hero. And how that pining turns to true love later. Not all teenage relations are puppy-love driven, hormonal fleeting affairs.

That said, I also liked Aniket's character- such gallantry and sincerity, the way he protects Ajopa instead of taking advantage of her. I liked the scenes between Ajopa and Aniket- and some parts where she embarrasses herself in front of him made me laugh.

I also liked the character of Ajopa's father- liberal, supportive and understanding. If more women have fathers like him, society can actually see the true emancipation of the better half.

I liked the confident, original and eloquent  voice, the style and the crisp narration. The language is simple without being pedestrian and the prose flows quite well. The plot is crisp and well-done. The characters are complex and colorful.

There are no major issues with editing except a few typos here and there.

I have an issue with the cover though- it could have been better- more colorful. This one is a little off-color when compared to the lively, colorful story inside.

We need honest, original writers like Aditi Bose to fill the market with quality work.

I wish her all the best with her next book and hope that she will keep writing.

If you want a light, feel-good weekend read to go with your Sunday morning coffee, go buy this book here My Dream Man 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Review: Rukhsat The Departure- Sujit Banerjee

I think it is a major feat when a writer can compress an important message within a few pages of a short story. And Sujit has that ability- that rare talent to package a deep meaning within a short piece in an engaging manner. Short stories require a very careful development of plot and character. Incomplete character sketches or half-baked plots can prove off-putting.

But Banerjee's prose and skill has that rare quality of being able to say a lot in a few words. 26 stories based on the 26 alphabets of English. The writer covers everything- unrequited love, dementia in old age, unfulfilled longings, words left unsaid, feelings left unexpressed, depression caused by miscarriage, sexual abuse and incest, homosexuality, love and hate, how we humans being hurt each other, words and actions that rankle for years. The stories range from sad to dark to reflective, but each one packs a solid punch.

The editing could have been better, but to the writer's credit, the typos are minor and in no way takes away from the eloquence of the prose.

Fair warning, this is not for those who like mushy romance and 'light' frivolous stories with no redeeming values. These stories are deep and often dark, sometimes depressing. But the message is beautiful, and so is the close observation of human nature.

I think more writers should debut with short stories. It helps develop both writing skills and the craft of storytelling.

Go buy this book and read a piece of promising new writing.

This book is available here: Rukhsat The Departure