Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Forgotten Affair - Kanchana Banerjee

breezy romance thriller with a woman centric plot.

My India trip was filled with treats this time around. I had a set of books waiting for me at home - a prize I had won in a competition. Banerjee's book was part of the set and came as an interesting well structured read.


Sagarika loses her memory in an accident - that is what the doctors tell her when she wakes up and finds her husband by her side. She tries to piece things together but finds it deeplyunsettling. There are some triggers that nag her consciousness: a scent, a word that fills her wit inexplicable emotions. Her husband waits on her hand and foot and yet she feels uncomfortable around him. Why? She struggles to find out her past, so far away from home, where her husband whisks her away to convalesce.

What works:
  • The characters. Sagarika and Rishab are well etched. Their behaviour are in sync with their back stories. 
  • Also the introductory chapters - they are swift, set the scene well and pull the reader straight in.
  • The story moves at a good pace. Sagarika's struggle to piece together her life, as she takes the reader along with her is a fascinating journey.
  • Although the cover jacket screams romance, there is suspense and intrigue that keeps the story moving.
  • The story is structured well and the narrative strong and smooth.
What doesn't:
  • Loved the pace of the story and also the way Banerjee chose to end the story. However, the the finale or the showdown seemed a bit abrupt. The build up was so good that the reader goes in expecting action and ends up feeling a bit shortchanged. 
  • It would have been great to more about the peripheral characters, Deepa and Amrita. They were interesting personas and a subplot would have done them more justice.
A fast track read, good for that rainy day weekend.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

No Safe Zone - Adite Banerjie

photo courtesy:
A refreshing story in a marketplace dominated by mythological fiction.

Every time I visit India, a favourite hobby is to scan the local bookshop shelves to look for latest releases. Of late, all that seems available is mythological fiction. There is a rich source of characters in Indian mythology and it is fascinating how talented writers give them a contemporary voice and perspective. However, it does leave you wishing other genres exerted their influence too.

I won this book as part of a competition hosted by the author . It was a lovely surprise to receive this signed copy and an absolute delight to read the book.

It reiterated the fact that Indian writing does not need to be diasporic or booker prize type material. It can have a mass market appeal and offer its own level of enjoyment and adventure.


Qiara Rana comes from London after her NGO is in trouble for receiving money through a fraudulent patron. She comes to New Delhi and finds herself framed as a murder suspect. Chance also brings her face to face with her ex boyfriend, the reason why she left Delhi all those years ago. Events bring them together as they get on a dangerous trail that carries a curious link to their past.

What works:
  • The narrative is compelling and sucks one in right from the beginning. It races through from the first line. 
  • The story takes the reader to Delhi, and to the interiors of Rajasthan. It is great to read a thriller based on an Indian city rather than European or American ones. The fast paced action never dulls and is a rollercoaster read.
  • The book goes on to show how great stories can be based in the Indian setting. As a lover of Indian fiction, this story offers the same quality of the enjoyment and adventure of any English thriller. 
What doesn't:
  • The books claims to be a romance thriller and it delivers. I only wished the characters' backstories were fleshed out better. There are some great subplots there and they could have been developed offering a more holistic view of the story. But I reckon they would have digressed from plot and the onus here seems to be a tight grip on the narrative.
There is action and romance and somehow at times feels a tad filmy. Perhaps because of the romance element. But for me it works well as a thriller too. It is a well written story and a welcome read in an era where mythological fiction rules the roost.

Overall, a good, fast track read.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Leicesterwrites - A collection of diverse ideas

It is a fantastic feeling when a secret burning desire manifests into reality.

It happened with me last week, when I attended the book launch of a short story anthology that carried my story in it.

I had submitted the story as part of the Leicesterwrites competition and was thrilled to have made the longlist. I had been writing stories only for a year and therefore imagine my delight to have learned that. 

Attending the launch was a beautiful experience. It was humbling to meet other like minded souls some of who, have been writing for years. They read their stories and it was amazing to watch how diverse and imaginative their ideas were.

The judges and the organiser of the competition Farhana Shaikh, talked about the judging process and how they filtered through the entries to select the longlist and the winners. It was amazing to hear what they looked for in a short story and tips to write a good one.

I remember how as an undergraduate, we learned about the short story form as part of our course. It was great to be able to recall them as a short story writer. As a 17 year old, I never thought that one day, I would be looking at a short story with my name under it.

Today, looking at it, it feels as though it was always meant to be. 

And the journey has just begun.

Whatever You Love - Louise Doughty

A brutally emotional story.

I love Apple Tree Yard - both the book and the TV series. Doughty's writing style draws you in, her characters have a way of making their way into your head and win your sympathy. Besides, her strong female characters are another reason why I like reading her.

I was keen to find out about Doughty's other books and when this one came by, the premise, like her previous one was really intriguing.

Laura's daughter Betty has died in a freak accident while on the way to a class from school. It tracks a distraught mum's frame of mind and while shedding light on her imperfect life, it then takes on a thriller like roller coaster ride to show how she deals with her loss.

What works:
  • The writing is amazing. It is straight and hits bulls eye with the reader. The story starts with Laura's receiving news about her daughter and then traces her life back and forth to her choices and her present life. The writing is razor sharp filled with some great lines.
The lines that resonated with me were: 

We fill our lives to the top of the cup with routine so brimming routine that routine is the whole fabric of life, its meat and material.

Strange, the way little things get to you, the way they slide in like acupuncture needles and like acupuncture needles have disproportionate effects.
  • The characters - Laura, David, Toni are beautifully etched. They live and breathe human frailities and this adds various shades to their personalities and reactions to situations.
  • The narrative - It is quiet and understated. The pace is great and although there is a point when it falters a bit, but it still ends on a spooky note.
What doesn't:
  • The first half moves at a beautiful pace but the second half of the novel is a bit disappointing. It is slow and suddenly does feels a bit disjointed and a let down from the first half.

 But reading Doughty is a pleasure, her dark thriller like stories are beautifully structured and keeps you hooked. Thriller fans will love it.