Monday, 26 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam

The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam 

"The Blind Man's Garden" - the title was what made me read the synopsis of this book and place an order for it. And from here a new literary journey began. As expected I was counting the days till l had this book in hand. I got this book delivered two weeks back and since then we have been inseparable. But this book was unlike others in the sense that I could not connect with it from the very first page. The first 100 pages or so were an ordeal and I had almost given up on it. But slowly and skilfully like a magician this book put a spell on me. It is primarily a love story told amidst the ruins of humanity, a sad but true outcome caused by greed, an intense hunger for power and lack of tolerance towards fellow beings.
The story is set in Heer, a small town in Pakistan. Rohan, a retired school headmaster lives in a beautiful house named the Ardent Spirit with his son Jeo and daughter in law, Naheed. The story is set in the present times where the Americans are in Afghanistan trying to hunt down Al-Qaeda post 9/11,with the support of the Pakistani government and how the civilians are caught between the pro-government and the anti- government establishments. This book emphasises on the extreme difficulties faced by the common man in his very existence both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Aslam takes the readers right in the middle of the war affected zone, when Jeo and his foster brother go to Afghanistan to look after the wounded civilians. The moment they enter Afghanistan, they get kidnapped by the local warlords. The twists and turns in the lives of these two men from the lush greens of Heer, to the hide outs of the Al-Qaeda in the hilly terrains of Afghanistan to the  prisons in America is very harsh but real at the same time. It is very scary and chilling to read how a few powerful men are exploiting the common citizens either to extract money from the Americans or to weaken the partnerships between the local government and the Americans in their fight against Al-Qaeda.
Aslam is a compelling author who weaves a beautiful but hard hitting tale which catches you in its web quite effortlessly. The way he describes the Ardent Spirit is so magically beautiful that it makes me want to live in such a aesthetically pleasing house. Aslam's love for the nature with its lush greenery, sweet smelling flowers, the ripe juicy fruits and the colorful insects abound is evident from the many descriptions. At the same time he doesn't hesitate to write about the cold and heart wrenching reality of the war zone.
As with all love stories this book also ends on a positive note. It stresses on the one thing which inspires man to move ahead in life - Love and Hope. There is a line from one of Wamaq Saleem's poems that Aslam uses in his story which sums up the book. It says, " Love is not consolation, it is light" .

Thursday, 15 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The  Second Empress -- the title of the book seemed interesting to me and without even reading the summary, I placed the order online. And thankfully I was not dissapointed while reading the book. This is the first book by Moran which I've read. 
The story is a fictional account of the life of Marie-Louise Habsburg, the princess of Austria who is forced to marry Napoleon in order to save her father's crown.   The princess inspite of being in love with the brave and handsome Count Adam Neipperg sacrifices her love for family loyalty and agrees to marry a complete stranger who is twice her age. Marie-Louise  has to adjust in a new country with its whole set of new customs, food habits and climate. But over and above this, the major adjustment which she has to endure is having a husband who was very selfish, erratic, callous and unpredictable. It almost becomes a challenge for her to win her rightful place in the Palais Des Tuileries, France where Pauline, Napoleon's sister lived , who was obsessed with her beauty and Napoleon.
Though it's a historical fiction,it's well researched and the main aspects of the book are taken from primary resources. I truly loved the characterisation of Princess Marie-Louise and  at times could relate to her situation. Like the time when she feels an inner turmoil for being happy that Napoleon is going away to Russia to wage a war against the Czar but at the same time feels a righteous indignation for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were forced into a war by their power hungry emperor. Similarly after Napoleon's defeat she flees from France to save her son from Napoleon's open ambition ,while at the same time hating herself for abandoning the citizens of her kingdom at such a crisis.
 I enjoyed this light and interesting read. It was nice to know about Napoleon's later years albeit in a fictional format.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : 21 New Beginnings by Viveik Pandit


21 New Beginnings by Viveik Pandit


A very old n popular saying goes, " Never judge a book by it's  cover." I would like to add here that, nor should one judge a book based on online reviews too.
I was on an online site browsing through books, when I saw this book. The cover of the book was interesting enough but what sealed the deal for me was the reason Pandit gave in the prelude for writing this book.  When Pandit was writing this book a well-meaning friend of his, asked him, "But why women?" And the answer which Pandit gave compelled me to place an order for the book. He had replied, " Women are less corrupt."
This is the second book by the author. His first being, By Mistake. Here, he writes stories where women play the central character. It talks about the hope, aspirations, dreams, courage, strength, creativity, temerity, sacrifice and all those things that define a woman, even with her gray shades.  This book has two sections. The first section is a compilation of 21 short stories by the author himself and the second section is very special and unique. Special because here we have 23 amazing 'closet' writers  whose stories on women are nothing short of brilliance.
The stories in the first section are a mixed bag. Barring a couple of them, I found the rest to be very abrupt, as if I was left hanging. On the other hand there are some stories which were terrific. The story of two friends and their unspoken understanding and communication in The Nook or the chance meeting between two women at the departure lounge of the airport where they discuss about the author of a book in Thrice Lucky. After reading Suite No 308, my reaction was 'Atta girl, way to go!' I could not stop laughing after reading Talking to Alka and was wondering what I would have done in a similar situation.
I loved all the 23 contributions made by the rookie writers. Naina Katoch's contribution is a beautiful verse titled Memsahib which has an excellent end. Contradictions Within by Kavita is another gem. A Mumbai Night by Vandana Nair is very unique. Unique because it talks about how even the bleakest time can bring hope in people's lives. Nostalgic Silence by Shweta Dasgupta, I feel is the best contribution as it is about the unselfish and an encompassing love of a mother for her children. I was deeply moved and in tears by the end of this story.
Overall Its  an average book.