Thursday, 21 March 2013

PD James - A Certain Justice

courtesy: bookand 
This author was a surprising discovery when I picked up the book randomly at the library. Reading a couple of utterly compelling chapters was enough to pique my curiosity to look her up. Well, I realised how much ignorant I had been, to discover that she is one of the doyens of British crime fiction, an OBE and has a solid fan following. However, there was also another minor detail that brought me great delight; such a talented and celebrated writer shared her birthday with me! 

The reason for my heightened excitement is that, well at present, I have a low patience threshold with writers unfamiliar writers. A
shattered mother sitting up half the night for my baby, I often quit reading "new" authors mid-way. But once I picked up this book, it had me hooked, forcing me turn just one page before setting it aside for the night.

A Certain Justice is about a high flying, unsentimental and ambitious female lawyer at the height of a very promising career in a cut-throat male dominated profession. So when she is discovered dead in her office, there is no dearth of enemies as suspects. This sets the scene for the entry of Adam Dalgliesh (quite an unusual name!), the detective who then solves the case with the help of his subordinates, Kate and Piers.

However, what was most impressive is James’ writing style; very instructive of what good writing is all about. The way she paints verbal pictures, fleshes out the characters, endearing them to the reader before they set out to commit actions is truly remarkable. It reminds one of Elizabeth George but then James (now hitting her 90s) has been around long enough be an inspiration for George instead of the other way round.

The only downside as such is her rather “meticulous” approach to introducing the story. Perhaps it can be interpreted as a slow introduction of the background of characters before getting to the plot, but then this reader is used to modern writers who, marred by insecurity, launch into the murder right away.

James’ mystery is well paced with twists and turns keeping the reader guessing till the very end. Even the violent scenes are described with panache, illuminating the dark side of human nature. However, she has tendency to justify human actions, often found in the dialogue of case-solving detective. But then this is my first Dalgliesh novel and I am curious to see how the detective’s character pans out in the other novels especially since he is said to be a poet detective, the evidence of which was missing in this one.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Ruler of the world by Alex Rutherford -Book review

English writers have a lot to say about their rulers and the monarchy and there is a slew of works in historical fiction dedicated to their stories .

I would think, "Why can't Indian writers in English come up with stories about the Indian monarchy particularly since we have a whole variety to choose from: The mughals, chola dynasty etc."

I was pleasantly surprised to discover  this book at our local library and picked it up when the book cover said that this was the story of Akbar. My knowledge of Akbar stems from our history books in school and  popular Hindi films like Mughal-E-Azam and more recently, Jodha-Akbar.

The book which is a fictionalised account of Akbar provided with an interesting insight into his conquests, his mindset which had consequences on not only his kingdom but also his family. It also helped me dispel some notions;  unlike what Jodha-Akbar claimed to portray, theres was no love story but  a political alliance. Jodha  always maintained anti-mughal stand against Akbar which in turn transferred into her son Salim who turned against his father eventually. Even the Salim-Anarkali romance was more a case of Salim stealing her away from Akbar's harem, after she was brought into the court for the Emperor's pleasure.

I wasn't sure how true these accounts were but the author has an acknowledgement note which clearly indicates the research that has gone into creating this work and I feel that he has been more authentic than Ashutosh Gowarikar (director of Jodha akbar) or K.Asif (director of Mughal-e-azam).

Rutherford has a whole new series of the mughal rulers and although the narrative is a bit dry and too crammed up in places, (it cannot be easy to sum up a ruler's life scan in a few hundred pages), it still made for some very interesting reading.

Would  greatly recommended for those who would like to know about the mughal dynasty, in easy-to-read fictionalised fashion.

Custody - Book review

enjoyed Manju Kapur's previous novel Home, and was looking forward to this one with anticipation. Custody is set in the 1990s economic boom era when multinational giants swooped down on India and ushered in various cultural and economic changes.
In such a backdrop, custody deals with the implications of divorce and the way it cuts through families, relationships and mindsets.

The book is essentially about Shagun and Raman, their disintegration of marriage and how it affects their relationship and more importantly their relationship with their children who have to bear the brunt of their parent's separation.

The story is very well told, and Kapur shows a good insight into the intricacies of the family fabric, the social implications of the extended family (in-laws) and the perception of a divorcee in the Indian society. Her sensitive handling of the shift in relationships following a divorce, how the dynamism of the relationship with "in-laws" changes following an acrimonious separation is commendable.

To me, this is what true India is about, walking the fine line between tradition and modernisation. An era where the young generation is well caught up with demanding jobs, luxurious lifestyles, courtesy the side effects of a westernised society. On the other hand, the concept of joint families is still prevalent where every decision has rippling effect on each family member, not to mention the societal pressure of justifying the decision among friends and neighbours.

For anyone interested in India, this book comes highly recommended. Instead of looking for India in its slums and villages and many writers do, this is the India that I have lived in and can identify with. It surely struck a chord with me for its great storytelling and at the same time for providing an insight into the modern Indian family.

Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie may have ushered in a new era but it is writers like Manju Kapur who  have shown that Indian writing has matured with changing times and has come of age.

Plus points of the book: A good narrative and well developed characters that shows what the modern Indian family is all about.

Great read. Highly recommended.