Monday, 23 September 2019

Book review of Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup

I finished reading this book a few weeks back but struggled to articulate a review. How do you define a book which is so poetic in itself? I was in dire need of words that would explain this book perfectly well. But, perfection is a myth. No? Every word that I put across felt uncertain and unjustifiable to the beauty this book brings with itself. This is one to challenge your imagination, stretch it out and satisfy you with a prose beatific, to say the least.

We go about exploring this book, reading stories through the geographical topography of islands, faultlines, valley and no mans land(snow desert) which is the area between India and Pakistan.In four parts, the stories are like novellas with some characters making an appearance in the next. The book comes full circle as the last story feels like an amalgamation of the first which was the most impressive part for me and the one I loved the most.

The mystical aspect of the book is enhanced by the lyrical writing. Complementing it are the wonderful characters. It was a task of ultimate effort and joy to visualise the scenarios through a character’s eyes and mind. The reading journey almost feels like a time travel; one instant you are in Andaman Islands attending to wandering ghosts and speaking tree's gradually moving to Karakorams exploring the Buddhist territory in colonial times. At various other instances the hunger to know more about the characters faded them to a blur and how I wished I could read more about their lives and about them.

Majestic, imaginative and layered, strewn with idyllic words which give company to the picturesque topographical locations is Latitudes of Longing for you. It is an example of what admirable craftsmanship looks like. The writing does take its time to seep through and one must be patient in that phase of uncovering the literary prowess the book has to offer. Once uncovered, it flows like a creative saga.

I withheld my review of the book because I was unsure if it was the most opportune moment to write about it with the new JCB titles doing the rounds. This was a gem of a book from last year's list and one that was and is most loved by readers across. Such books are rare and reading them provides us with an opportunity to experience something beautiful and potent. However, I made my peace with- there is no wrong day to talk about an incredible book and it’s reading journey. Highly recommended.

My rating:


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Book review of Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale

"Bombay" isn't a word but an emotion. An emotion which is a keepsake of all the years passed by and of its transference to "Mumbai". While for some the city remains the same, there is always an ongoing debate, a series of questions mulled over its ironic changing and constant stance. We all reminisce our growing up in 90’s very fondly and why not, it was the era which brought with itself a newness. Primarily the new economy, internet boom and chat room craze. Mahale’s Milk teeth will make you rekindle those times while allowing you to see and wonder over the shifting paradigms the city of Bombay has gone through. The blurry space when it transpired from being Bombay to the Mumbai we know now is evocatively described in these bound pages.

We follow the life of Ira and Kartik in their building Asha Nivas, Matunga. A close knit neighbourhood, a building which is to go into redevelopment and the residents weighing their chances when it does. Their childhood is like a fond memory and peek into our’s. Ira is a journalist with civic beat and her story gives way to Kaiz, a very interesting character who sways in and out of the plot. His vision about the city of Bombay form the most impressive parts to read. And then there is Kartik, struggling with a job he is pinned by but also dreaming about a fancy life in Mumbai.

Revolving around dextrously crafted characters is a story which pulls you in with contemplating conversations, heartfelt and forbidden love, nostalgia and a vibe of warmth which encompasses it all. The analogous writing ties it all together. Mahale’s words flow with a sense of assurance, only making you delve deeper in the book.

The book brings to life the essence of Bombay; tea at Irani cafe’s, stroll on Juhu beach, lanes of Colaba, never ending BMC grumbles, a quintessential middle class family life and memories of bygone events such as the Babri Masjid. Merging societal taboo topics with references, historic and prevalent, the author brings to light a view of the city which has withered it all, always developing and always letting the inhabitants dream.

Milk teeth proves to be satiating. Every wave of word, an insight, a marvel.

My rating:

The book has been longlisted for JCB prize 2019 and the love that the book has been gaining in such short duration is proof of it securing a position in the shortlist as well. I can bet all my money to see this one make it through.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Book Review of Sula by Toni Morrison

Sometimes we are quick to decide if we loved a book or not so much. But some books trick their way into your heart and mind. They just give you a momentous adjective to remember them by but sink in much later and for longer. Sula was one such for me. I always felt reading a Morrison would be pleasing. I was pleased to read her but her work is something more extravagant than being called “pleasing”.

Sula is about the mostly black community in Bottom, Ohio which is ironically an up hill area above the wealthier white locality, Medallion. Thriving in this town where National Suicide Day is a thing started by a WWI survivor, Shadrack to combat fear of death and amongst the typical black and white animosity is a thick friendship of Sula and Nel. Despite their contrasting backgrounds they are attached to each other all through their adolescent life. As the story progresses we see the graph of this friendship shifting patterns. The societal norms intervening, shaking and questioning a fond relationship and its beholders.

Morrison very ambiguously talks about good and evil, right and wrong, human morals, emotions and social conventions. In a way she challenges the reader to form opinions of their own about the aforementioned. Her writing backs up the idiosyncrasies of Sula as a character, while she talks of people and their lives, who are constantly caught up in the chains of race and gender.

Sula, as a character is one with whom you form a love hate relationship. You like how she is so non-withered with social obligations, distinct and you are furious and hurt when she tends to not think morally. Nonetheless, as a book Sula is highly recommendable as it explores female companionship unbelievably well, apart from the other elements of family and relationships.

Every page worth the time is Sula for you, concisely.

My Rating:


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Book Review of The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas

I was exceptionally pleased to discover this hidden gem. My piqued curiosity to know how art can form a base for the book attracted me towards reading it. It is a theme I enjoy exploring. The Empty Room is a piece of exquisite writing. It highlights some important aspects needed for a progressive society giving us glimpses of patriarch, dominance and political rifts in a state.

The Empty room is a book set in 1970’s. We are in Karachi, Pakistan and enter a household with Tahira, in which she is newly married. This household fails to mark its first good impression on the reader and what sparks up is inquisitiveness, plethora of questions to ponder over.The story proves to be immersive at its start. It revolves around Tahira adjusting in this family of jeering females and a husband whose character is like a hologram sticker showing various reflective sides. She struggles to make a connection with her work of art until an accident seizes the two pillars of support she always turned to.In her moments of grief, solitude and memorabilia she finds her way back to her passion and creates a series of paintings; which is also an ode to her loss.The book showcases the power of politics,how it can uproot people and their lives and affect a family so deeply.

The hero here is the writing. The kind of writing which carves the characters, eventually making them the driving force of the book. Sadia Abbas takes supreme care to intricately sketch her characters, not very distinct as we often read about a dominating abusive male/female fraternity yet demarcated with a finesse of portrayal. The vision that she brings to you with the mere power of her words is commendable. She makes it easy for the reader to imagine the scenarios which run in the book, pertaining to specific characters. The prose is elaborate,lustrous and poetic; a sublime combination of the three. I had minor qualms with some situations in the plot and wished it were presented a bit differently and didn’t agree to, nevertheless not stealing the light from the positives.

An addition to Pakistani literature which mustn’t be ignored and which certainly needs to see some limelight.

Thank you Zubaan Books for the review copy.

My Rating:

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Book review of I, The Salt Doll by Vandana Mishra

My experience with memoirs this year has been extremely satisfying. With each, I got to peek in the authors life but what’s worth mentioning is the way these have been presented and written. Starkly different and impressive. Vandana Mishra paints a picture of Bombay, one which I have never known, and the charm of reading something which you have never known and know it differently now is unsurpassed.

We meet people who are honest, warm, friendly with humanity ingrained in their characters. Where do we find such people now I wonder? The author traces her life from moving in the city first, her chawl life, struggles her mother took to raise the children up and her first step towards one thing she loved- theatre. Theatre is abundant in this memoir. My feeble knowledge of it didn’t allow me to rejoice it completely but for connoisseurs of theatre, this book is a keeper. The theatre sees her as the rising star, as an established actress stepping down for a better family life and a come back face in her later years.

Vandana Mishra’s writing is simple yet effective. The puns and satire she pulls over the songs made today, over the prices of groceries and nature of people in comparison to yester years is witty and remarkable. I found myself giving her the nod. Apart from the book being a sea of people, it is full of cult movie references and theatre life. I browsed through her life with ease observing the shifting paradigms of Bombay as a city. As the city is very close to my heart, I love whatever is offered to me bound in these pages. The translation from the original Marathi text has been done commendably by Jerry Pinto. The staple and traditional food, culture and typical Marathi household has been very well described, brought me happy nostalgia.

In here is a strong woman, will power cemented in her personality, plaintive and so it seems, with no lines of worry on her face, sailing through the ocean called life.

My Rating:

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...