Friday, January 27, 2017

As Sweet as Honey - Indira Ganesan

Fiction
Verdict: Good Time pass

Set in a vague south Indian island, A Taste of Honey follows the day to day life of a family. 

There isn't much of a plot line to speak of, but it's interesting enough to follow along and not an overly long read.

Becky

A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipul

Fiction
Verdict: Meh....

For a book that came well recommended, I had a hard time getting into this one. Set in the Caribbean, this novel follows a Caribbean Indian named Mr. Biswas, from his birth to his death. His childhood is not easy nor particularly happy. After he gets married, he is forever hen pecked and at odds with his wife's family in a fight to not be absorbed by them and become like them - a thing he finds detestable. 

He's not a likable protagonist. Flawed, stubborn, and not overly smart, I found it hard to like him. I also found the Caribbean Indian angle difficult to understand, as the cultural references, and back story aren't ones I understand. I found the novel to stretch out interminably at certain places, caught in the mundane everyday interactions that left me wondering why I needed to read yet another of the same fight.

The much touted humor in this book left me wondering where exactly it was. I never did find it.

Becky

Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh

Fiction
Verdict: Read it

Amitav Ghosh is another author that I am become extremely fond of reading. Sea of Poppies has taken two very different characters and placed them next to each other and you can't help but contrast them. 

One character, an orphaned white woman, leaves her adoptive home due to unreasonable restrictions. She comes from a place of privilege, sanitation, and servants. 

The other is a woman from the central plains of India. One that still covers her head, but had the courage to run away with a man after he foiled plans for her to be burned on her husband's pyre and is hunted there forward.

Both women find themselves on a ship headed to Sri Lanka in the hope that working on a plantation will bring them safety and a comfortable life - more comfortable than the one they are running from. 

Set in a time when Britain was present in India, the language is stunningly confusing to understand at first. It's a bastardized mix of English and Hindi that apparently was common and popular among the English when they colonized India. As someone who understands both languages, it's a confusing ride for a while. Once one catches on, it's very amusing as well as horrifying to watch both languages being butchered so badly with so much arrogance. 

Read it.

Becky

Cuckhold - Kiran Nagarkar

Fiction
Verdict: Read it


To be perfectly honest, with a name like Cuckhold I was expecting something much.....smuttier than I discovered. I am so glad I did, not that I don't like smut - I do - but because this was so much richer and deeper and more satisfying to wade through.

A long novel, Cuckhold is a historical fiction. In a land of arranged marriage and an almost comical obsession with finding love in spite of arranged marriages, Cuckhold addresses when married couples don't necessarily gel well. Not in a violent, argumentative fashion, but simply because priorities are different. In this case, royalty and a devotion to god get in the way of developing a relationship that is meaningful and satisfying for both of the partners. As in most cases, there is no option of divorce and obligation reigns supreme, creating a huge sense of resentment as well as desperate need to connect with the other person. 

Not at all a sentimental or romantic work, Nagarkar fills the novel with feudal mindsets and war of kings of old. This doesn't detract at all, and helps avoid the usual cliches of romantic novels. The battles, schemes, and royal angles to the book are well done and a very much appreciated break from the futility of pining for someone that is so in love with God.

Do read it.

Becky

In Other Words - Jhumpa Lahiri

Nonfiction
Verdict: Read it if you have any interest at all in language

This was a different type of work from Jhuma Lahiri. Everyone is familiar with her brilliant novels. This is definitely not a novel. It's a peek into her personal life and her journey to move to Italy and learn Italian. Not superficial street Italian, the kind where she can read,  write, and be truly fluent.

As someone that has spent 6 years slowly wandering around learning Hindi, as well as moving to a different country, I found her manifesto on the joys and frustrations of mastering a new language very familiar. Her refreshingly honest look at how long and difficult it is to become fluent and competent in a language makes the reader contemplate how difficult communication can be when the familiar words are taken away and one is left floundering to find the correct word to express one's feelings - an essential thing for any writer. 

This probably won't appeal to everyone, but for those interested in Language, writing, and communication, it's well worth the time for this short work. 

Becky

Before We Visit the Goddess - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Fiction
Verdict: Read it

I'm a huge sucker for stories that follow families for generations and highlight how success is both found and lost based on decisions that people make. The author has done this very well with this book.

A new Authoress for me, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has rapidly become a favorite of mine. Delving into ambition, success, and the price it can extract from human relationships, it's a thoughtful piece. Jumping back and forth between time periods highlights the difference in priorities, definition of success, and the expectations of personal relationships. This novel follows the rise and fall of a family that develops a very successful sweet shop and wealth, which then ebbs. Cross generational secrets and mental health issues are also examined,  much needed subjects to be breached in India. 

Do read this. I look forward to reading more things from Ms. Divakaruni.

Becky

She swiped Right into my Heart - Sudeep Nagarkar

Fiction, Romance
Verdict: Not if your life depended on it.

So I rarely trash writers or pieces of work because I find it cruel and unnecessary. As my mother always said, if you can't find anything nice to say, shut your mouth.

That being said, I cannot believe I wasted an hour reading this. Terrible plot line and even worse writing. That's all I shall say on this book. Ugh.

Becky