Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: The F-Word

In her book, The F-Word Mita Kapur takes the reader through an amazing culinary journey, which is a treat for any food lover! The book should be compulsory reading for all foodies worldwide.

This is the story of a woman who loves her food and who also loves to feed! The book is a madcap account of a working woman who spends all day -and sometimes, most of the night juggling family, friends and food. Along the way she introduces the reader to her family and friends and every recipe is preceded by an equally interesting episode. The book takes the reader on an exciting food trip from Lucknow to Thailand, from Rajasthan to Europe. It has an interesting mix of recipes, while some are her experimentations in the kitchen the rest are, from India and around the world. The F-Word is packed with some very interesting recipes to suit every taste, however conservative or weird.

The author’s narrative is so appealing that the reader can almost savour the taste of the food she is cooking up! So whether it is the kebabs & chats to her interesting soup & salad recipes or her awesome desserts they will all leave you hungering for more!

This book for sure comes from the author’s heart no wonder she has managed to do full justice to it! She makes the entire experience of cooking food so effortless and the experience of enjoying food delectable.

The F-word manages to take the reader into a lovely, fun, interesting world of food.

A book for people who live to eat and absolutely not for those who eat to live!

About the Author:

Mita Kapur runs Siyahi, a literary agency based in Jaipur, which also conceptualizes and directs literary events. She writes for various newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from women’s rights to lifestyle and food.

Review: Inside Central Asia

Inside Central Asia is a political and cultural history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran. Besides maybe Turkey and Iran, the other countries have for years have been clubbed as one single entity in our psyche and not much has been written about them. Dilip Hiro through this book tries to bridge that gap.

These former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal and richly cultured area. Yet they remain poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. They have experienced tremendous socio-political change since their inception. But despite the growth of oil wealth, the arrival of western tourists, and the competition for influence by the US, China and Russia, the spirit of Central Asia has remained untouched at its core.
Not many have paid attention to the various ethnic groups that exist and who have now formed separate nation states post the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The author traces the history of these ethnic groups like the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Turks etc over the past 2000 years. The link that Central Asian countries share with the Indian subcontinent goes back almost five centuries. The Mughal Empire was founded in India in 1526 by Zahir Uddin Mohammed Babur. He was born in Andijan (the 4th largest city in present day Uzbekistan), he then went on to become the ruler of Fergana, and seized and lost Samarkand twice. Samarkand is today a thriving Uzbek metropolis. The author explains how India, because of its shared history, is at an advantage vis-a-vis other countries to build strong, mutually beneficial trade and Industrial links with these countries.
The author traces the history of these countries in the last thirty years. He also analyses the present-day politics, economics and peoples of Central Asia and its neighbouring areas in an international context. In the 70 years of the Soviet rule atheism was the central philosophy but post Independence the people of these countries are re-discovering their religion. Most of these countries are Islamist and in the near past have been battling with the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in their country.
Considering that not many books on these countries have been attempted before this book makes for an insightful reading for someone who is interested in Central Asian history. The author through this book proves his in-depth knowledge and understanding of these Central Asian countries

About the Author:

Dilip Hiro is the author of more than thirty books, including Blood of the Earth and War without End. He contributes regularly to the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post and the Observer, and is a commentator for the BBC and CNN.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Beautiful From this Angle

We have read some interesting debut books written by authors from across the border. HT Brunch had a very interesting cover story about writers from Pakistan. Here’s the link . So Maha Khan Phillips’ debut book Beautiful from this Angle was in the must read list!

The basic premise of the book is of three school friends and BFF who are as different from each other as can be! Amynah Farooqui is a columnist who writes an anonymous gossip column about Karachi’s page 3 crowd and exposes the life of drugs, sex, alcohol, sleaze of these very people. Totally opposite to her are her two friends Mumtaz who is a drug baron’s daughter and Henna who is a leading politician’s daughter. Amynah herself is totally unapologetic about her own life of casual sex, booze and drugs. Maybe if the author would have concentrated on this angle this book would have been a super read. Honestly the book was unputdownable till the story was busy exposing the uncovered truths of Karachi.  But the story is not about the swish set there is more to come.

When Monty Mohsin, another page 3 regular starts raking in the moolah producing a reality TV show called Who Wants to be a terrorist? (An attempt at satire as to how the western media wants to portray a one-sided view of Pakistan) Mumtaz decides to cash in on the trend of Pakistan bashing by making a documentary on violence against women in Pakistan. She manages to pull in her other two reluctant friends too in the plan. Amynah manages to find in Nilofer (Henna’s childhood friend from the village) a perfect subject for the documentary. Things starts going haywire as soon as filming begins, it becomes obvious that each of them has their own agenda including Nilofer, who is not as helpless and innocent as she claims to be. The stress of the project, the pressure from Henna’s dad, draws the friends apart leading to a heartbreaking end.  

The book could have been a very interesting and compelling read only if the author would have stuck to one story rather than multiple sub plots. In the end the book comes across as a mish mash of Karachi’s swish set, fundamentalists and feudalists leaving the reader very confused, unfortunately.

The book, though, manages to successfully give us a peek into the contemporary Pakistan and also attempts to debunk a lot of media created myths about the country.

About the Author:

Maha Khan Phillips was born in Karachi in 1976, and attended Karachi American School. She moved to London in 1994 where she works as a financial journalist. She has a BA in politics and International Relations and an MA in International conflict analysis from the University of Kent at Canterbury. In 2006, she graduated with a first class degree from City University London’s inaugural MA in creative writing programme. T he novel was written on that course. Maha is married and has one son. She divides her time between London and Karachi, and is the author of The Mystery of the Aagnee Ruby.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Forever Vigilant

I came across a book called Forever Vigilant (Manika Lal, Times Group Books) recently. It explores an interesting mode of story-telling which is to delve into many what-if scenarios. Meena is a character that we have all encountered in our own lives (at least a certain section of us have) or in this age of television soaps, on screen. A young woman in a small town where friends bide their time after finishing school to get married, making her something of a trendsetter even in going to college. An indulgent, loving father, a matriarch of a strong mother, a brother that she has practically brought up as her own baby. Small pleasures and great sacrifices. Marriage soon after to a man who is dry and boring, bright and successful. His rages and his fury. The shrinking of the violet some more. Years and years spent in this lifeless life till the man in question finally meets his maker. As some point the reader starts to feel that this may be getting a tad too regressive. This is where the author pulls her little trick. She starts to go back and forth in time looking at the different possibilities that her protagonist could have encountered. A job as a school-teacher for a couple of years before marriage. Better life-skills, equipping her to take on what life has to offer. An attempt to understand her husband, the family, her new house, the search for alibis in the household. Discussions with her family, their unequivocal support. Making friends with the spouse.  

The book has other stories to offer. There is Nita, trapped in the daily demands of domesticity till the vivacious Aditi comes along and teaches her to look for happier consequences in her life by taking control over it. Anu, the reincarnation of poor, young, lovely Bano, a servant-girl from the era of the Nawabs. The secret garden becomes a metaphor for 'the happy place' that psychiatrists often urge their patients to visit, a place where all is beautiful and a strong male figure is there to take over life's burdens from them. It struck me at the time that while the book may be based in an Indian setting, the desperation of these quiet women is what we see in Lynette, Bree, Susan and Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives or in the dutiful wife of the sixties in Mad Men. At the same time, there is a strong urge to change things, to fulfill one's destiny. 

And then there is Sankalp, a four year old who'd rather not go to school, thank you, causing quite a flurry in the household. His family has to jump through hoops before a solution presents itself. We also meet Suprabhata, the small girl, trapped between warring parents, a father's outdated ideals of what comprises a happy life and a mother's unfulfilled ambitions. Here the school teacher is the wise counsel even as she herself learns to look for her own place in the sun. 

The characters are all quite believable and the narrative interesting throughout. A good read.

(This book is reviewed by Parul Sharma. Parul is the author of Bringing Up Vasu: That First Year, her second book By the Water Cooler will be in stores soon! She blogs at

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review : Girl Plus One

Rhea Saran is the Associate Editor of GQ India based in Mumbai. Her debut book ‘Girl Plus One’ seems to be inspired by it, as we have the protagonist, Laila who also works with a popular men’s magazine Guyzone. The book has it all- boys, gal pals, luxury brands, shopping, gossiping, drool worthy men and parties….In short all that we women love!

Laila is a single and good looking girl who has moved back to Mumbai after a stint in New York. She manages to land herself a fabulous job as a features editor and (hold your breath…) a sex columnist! The book carries some of her sex advice as a columnist and that in itself is very interesting to read!

So Laila has everything going for her a good job, a good life, good gal pals Karthika and Maya…what she doesn’t have is a good boyfriend though tons of interested men! Besides a couple of them, there is Neil, her boyish and charming photographer flat mate, her ex-boyfriend Rahul who still has the hots for her. These she can still deal with but her life turns topsy- turvy when Sameer, the suave CEO of Luxor enters her life. Sameer is many years her senior but there is an instant attraction and she realizes that she seems to have finally met her match!

What happens when the tables are turned and Laila loses her heart in this unpredictable game of love? Are Sameer and Laila meant to be or is their relationship doomed? This is one book which should definitely have a sequel. A series is not a bad idea too!

The book was an enjoyable read. Though at times while reading could not help but draw comparisons with Sex and the City’s Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda and Mr. Big!

A good, fun, wicked, sassy and interesting read! Girls go for it.

About the Author:

As the Associate Editor of GQ India, based in Mumbai, Rhea Saran spends most of her time immersed in the world of luxury travel (Sigh!), food and drink – whenever she is not behind the wheel test-driving sports cars (double sigh!) for the magazine, that is. Prior to this, Rhea studied and lived in Manhattan, a place she still considers home, and took her first tentative steps into the big bad world of magazine publishing, promptly falling in love. This is her first book!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Launch : Sonia Faleiro's Beautiful Thing

Sonia Faleiro will be launching her book Beautiful Thing: Inside The Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars in Bombay. Here are the details

At Crossword, Kemp's Corner
On: Wednesday 27th October
Time: 7pm
Shobhaa De will release the book

At Crossword Juhu- Dynamix Mall
On: Fri, 29th October
Time : 7 pm
Namita Devidayal will be in conversation with the Author

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Mister God, This is Anna

There are some books which do not need a review. They are just brilliant in itself. Mister God, This is Anna is one such book. A book that will make you laugh, cry and make you think, rather rethink, all that you think! As Vernon Sproxton in the introduction to the book calls it an Ah!Book. As per him Ah!books are those which induce a fundamental change in the reader’s consciousness.

The book is Anna’s story. Anna was only four when Fynn (Sydney Hopkins’ pseudonym), the author, who himself was just 16 years old found her wandering the streets of London’s docklands. Anna who had been neglected and abandoned by her parents readily agrees when Fynn offers to take her to his home. From then starts a journey of friendship, love, life!

The impact of this extraordinary child on Fynn’s family and his neighbourhood friends was to be immense. Nobody who met Anna could remain the same: this intelligent, lively, precocious little chatterbox would completely disarm adult preconceptions with her innocent world view. Her outpourings on life, mathematics, science and her mentor, Mister God will leave you spellbound, making you sit back and wonder at her genius.

Anna proves to be extraordinarily wise at her age. Some pearls of wisdom from the little girl will surely move you. Here are just a few

‘You see, everybody has got a point of view, but Mister God hasn’t. Mister God has only points to view. . .viewing points

Mister God can know things and people from the inside, too. We only know them from the outside . . . So you see, Fynn, people can’t talk about Mister God from the outside; you can only talk about Mister God from the inside of him.‘ “

. . . [P]eople can only love outside and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can love you right inside, and Mister God can kiss you right inside, so it’s different. Mister God ain’t like us; we are a little bit like Mister God, but not much yet.”

This 30th Anniversary edition brings together Mister God, This is Anna and Anna and the Black Knight for the first time. The book has been translated in more than 30 languages! Such is the story of Anna. It is a story which will move you, touch your heart and show you the world as you have never seen before.

A book which should be read by one and all. Rather should be compulsory reading for everyone.

Highly recommended read. If you haven’t read the book already please go grab your copy right away and let Anna take you into a beautiful journey called Life!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Learning To Learn

Book Review on “Learning to Learn”

The author of the book “Learning to learn”, Claire Odogbo clearly proves through her book her excellence as a professionally trained consultant in creativity and learning methods.

Claire demonstrates scientifically how every human being is born with a good measure of creative ability. The key message she conveys is Quote “Understanding yourself, your creative ability and how to use it correctly, is the secret of effective learning at any level of study.” The book makes one learn how to use various tools to gauge their potential and shows through various real life examples to convert them into achievements. The tools which the author advocates are Personality Types, Learning Styles and Timing Preferences for Biological Clock.

Various methods have been encouraged principally for a student to gain specific skills of effective learning. The book rules out various myths about learning methodologies like Note taking, Reading, Research, Class participation and showcases them in a new light. The reader is forced to shed his inhibitions and wrong habits at academics by simple practical approaches.

The author has done commendable work by not only emphasizing on the effective Learning Skills but by propagating how to process these skills and use tools like Mind Maps to utilize the 100% of brain capacity.

Reasons have been illustrated with graphs and data to show what causes decrease in recalling power. Eloquent methods have been shown to prepare for tests and crack the code of getting A+ in papers. There are things which are so obvious and in front of our eyes yet we overlook them casting a shadow on our success. The book is great effort to overcome such shortcomings in our academic life and it mentors you till the end by making sure you know how to handle success along with failure.

Author intelligently shows that when writing an exam one should answer the questions presented to them not what they think the question should be by advocating the six degrees of difficulties determining the level of questions which must be mastered by a student in the area of learning.

It is truly said that Brain like any other muscle needs its food too for proper functioning. The “Personal Development” section of the book caters to this need of the brain by giving accentuating, quote “Things you can do to exercise your mental faculties and stimulate them to healthy development and creativeexpression”.

This book is a unique attempt to entwine all the factors responsible for maximizing human potential and thus can be benefited by people from various strata of work force. The publishers “Cinnamonteal Publishing” have made the right move to put together the book in the best possible outlay and have marketed it well with its price rated at Rs. 315/- A good collection to be sought for by Libraries, schools, universities, students and individuals.

About the Author:

Claire Odogbo is a freelance consultant in creativity and learning methods. She hasover four years of experience in the use of the whole brain technique.

She has facilitated several “unleash the genius within” training sessions at schools and organizations. Claire is ACCA qualified.

Odogbo currently resides in Doha, Qatar with her husband and daughter.

She is a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and currently works as a Senior Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Qatar.

(This book is reviewed by Sweta Lal. Sweta is an Engineer turned Writer, passionately follows this profession as a freelancer and is chasing her dreams now.)

The Unfulfilled Pleasure of “The Pleasure Seekers”

Dissatisfied. In a strange way, that is how I felt after finishing Tishani Doshi’s brilliant debut novel, “The Pleasure Seekers.” How is it possible to feel ‘dissatisfied’ about something you loved so much? Well, when you read the last line of the book and wonder, “What theeee...???” in a despairing kind of way and not an angry kind of’s a compliment to the author. It means you didn’t want the book to end. You want to know what happens next. You feel as if you’ve been violently torn away from a loving, caring foster family and put out to soak in ice-cold rain. It means you hope that there is a sequel in the future.

“The Pleasure Seekers”, in the author’s own words, is a “love letter to [her] parents”. This gem of a book was inspired by the enduring romance and real-life love story of Doshi’s Welsh mother and Gujrati father.

In the book, when Babo first meets Sian in London, he falls for her and he falls hard. The good Gujju boy and the lovely Welsh girl soon become lovers and soul-mates. Forced apart by Babo’s conservative parents, their love for each other is put to the test by a trial separation for six months. Their story, their gargantuan love, their undying devotion to each other is central to the book. It is their story that the other characters in the book, want to live. That sparkle, that jhimak-jhimak that they radiate, the jhil-mil of their smiles as they look at each other adoringly, the sha-bing sha-bang sessions that hold them together...everybody wants that (hell, even I do!) and that’s what they all set out to find for themselves. Whether it’s Babo’s younger brother Chotu, who looks for love in all the wrong places; or Babo and Sian’s elder daughter Mayuri, who believes she has found it in the arms of their gentle neighbour, Cyrus; or whether it is their younger daughter, Bean, who sets out to discover herself and to star in her own epic love is the shadow of Babo and Sian’s relationship that sets the bar for everyone.

Tishani Doshi is a genius new voice and we can expect more masterpieces from her. She knows her craft well and her writing has that enviable quality of poetic lyricism about it which makes her works a gentle yet powerful read. Her words, images and characters stay on with you days after you finish that last line.

And hence, that dissatisfaction. Of wanting more and knowing that you can’t get any.

(This book is reviewed by Baisali Chatterjee Dutt. Baisali blogs at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Finkler Question: Man Booker Prize for fiction 2010

Howard Jacobson’s novel The Finkler Question was named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2010 on Tuesday 12 October at a dinner at London's Guildhall.
London author and columnist Howard Jacobson has been longlisted twice for the prize before, in 2006 for Kalooki Nights and in 2002 forWho’s Sorry Now, but has never before been shortlisted.

The Finkler Question is a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Said to have ‘some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language’, The Finkler Question has been described as ‘wonderful’ and ‘richly satisfying’ and as a novel of ‘full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding’.

Sir Andrew Motion, Chair of the judges, made the announcement from the awards dinner and Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of Man, presented Howard Jacobson with a cheque for £50,000.
Andrew Motion commented, ‘The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize.’

The judging panel for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was: Andrew Motion (Chair), former Poet Laureate; Rosie Blau, Literary Editor of the Financial Times; Deborah Bull, Creative Director of the Royal Opera House as well as a writer and broadcaster; Tom Sutcliffe, journalist, broadcaster and author; and Frances Wilson, biographer and critic.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
‘He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one...’

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other–or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.

Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment. It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses. And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30 pm, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.

Funny, furious and unflinching, The Finkler Question is an extraordinary novel that shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

Bloomsbury / Special price in India Rs 499

About the author
An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F.R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and the highly acclaimed The Act of Love.
Howard Jacobson lives in London.

The Finkler Question is published by Bloomsbury who are represented exclusively in India by Penguin Books India.

Review: Mumbai Fables

Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables traces Mumbai’s lineage from the 16th century Portuguese occupation of the islands to the Mumbai of today. It is a well known fact that that the Portuguese had given away Bombay as dowry to the Britishers. The city gained prominence in the 19th century as the commercial capital as well as the most important port of the British Empire in India. The book takes you through the development of the maximum city.  

Shedding light on the city’s past and present, Mumbai Fables offers an unparalleled look at this extraordinary metropolis.

Starting from the catastrophic floods and terrorist attacks of the recent years, the author reaches back to the 16th century Portuguese conquest to reveal the stories behind Mumbai’s historic journey. He looks at Mumbai’s 19th century development under the British rule, and its 20th century avatar as a fabled city on the sea, to examine its emergence as a symbol of opportunity and reinvention.
The book gives a lot of facts and history of the city but falls short of being able to keep the reader interested till the very end. The author’s style of writing is that of an onlooker hence fails to get into the spirit of the city.

The book is a good read for Bombay lovers who want to know more about their city’s history.

About the Author:

Gyan Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of Bonded Histories (Cambridge), and Another Reason (Princeton).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Women's Web 'My Favourite Female' Contest!

It's raining contests on our blog today! Women's Web has a very interesting contest 'My Favourite Female' on their site . The winner of the contest stands to win vouchers from Flipkart. For more details follow the link below :

So go, go,go write to them since the contest ends on 22nd October!

May the best entry win!

By The Water Cooler Contest!

Parul Sharma's latest book 'By The Water Cooler' is going to be launched soon . But before the launch she has an exciting contest lined up, and you,dear reader stand a chance to win an autographed copy of the book. Do follow the link below for more details :

Go for it people! Let the best story win!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Lovers Book Club Meet with Sathya Saran

Hey sorry in delaying this post by a week. But here are the details and pictures of our Book Lovers Book Club meet with Sathya Saran. First off, very big thanks, to Sathya for coming and reading from her fabulous book on Guru Dutt, ’10 years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey’. The book reading was accompanied by film clips which made the event truly magical and beautiful.

 It was an honour to have you amongst us, Sathya, and here’s wishing you all the very best for all your upcoming titles.

The meeting this time had fewer numbers. Many regular members were missing in action. Hoping that for the next meet we will see higher numbers and also the new members who sent in a request to join the group will attend too.

The members who were present discussed Steig Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and the unanimous view was that Lisbeth Salander was one of the most interesting and memorable characters of the book. Rohini had managed to finish the entire trilogy before the meet and her opinion was that Steig Larsson’s 2nd and 3rd books only get better. A pity he didn’t live to see his success and the sensation his books have managed to create worldwide. So the books should be on everyone’s must read list!

Our next meet is scheduled for 14th November at the same time 2.30 pm. We will post venue details shortly. The book of the month is Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’.

A very big thank you to Crossword and their staff  for managing to ensure the meet went off well and looking after all our requirements.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Churchill's Secret War

A dogged enemy of Hitler, resolute ally of the Americans, and inspiring leader through World War II, Winston Churchill is venerated as one of the truly great statesmen of the last century. But while he has been widely extolled for his achievements, parts of Churchill’s record have gone woefully unexamined. As journalist Madhusree Mukherjee reveals, at the same time that Churchill brilliantly opposed the barbarism of the Nazis, he governed India with a fierce resolve to crush its Freedom Movement and profound contempt for native lives.

Churchill was a confirmed Imperialist and although he is revered by the Britishers as the leader who won them the World War II little is known about his blind hatred of Indian Independence struggle especially the Congress leadership. Churchill executed lots of repressive policies to crush the Indian freedom movement. A series of decisions taken by Churchill between 1940 and 1944 directly and inevitably led to the deaths of some three million Indians. During the WW II India was used as the supply basket for the British war machinery. The Indian industry was expected to churn out war material for the British Army. The Indian agriculture produce was diverted to feed the allied armies and the residents of Britain. This caused an unprecedented famine in Bengal leading to loss of several lives due to hunger and starvation. The streets of Eastern Indian cities were lined with corpses, yet instead of sending emergency food shipments Churchill used the wheat and ships at his disposal to build stockpiles for post war Britain and Europe. Not just that, Churchill in order to divert attention from the famine instigated the divide and rule policy which finally culminated in the partition of India.

The book is very meticulously researched and gives a riveting account of the era. It gives the reader a perspective of what Churchill was to India and India’s role in the World War II. The book does tend to be slow paced at times and also drags at some places, making it difficult for a reader to concentrate and keep sustained interest in the book.

Nevertheless a book to be picked for understanding Churchill’s role in shaping the Indian history and its destiny. 

About the Author:

Madhusree Mukherjee won a Guggenheim fellowship to write her previous book, The Land of Naked People. She previously served on the board of editors of Scientific American. She lives near Frankfurt, Germany.

Review: Shadow Princess

Indu Sundaresan’s  Shadow Princess is an exciting sequel to the The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses. While The twentieth Wife was on Noor Jahan and The Feast of Roses on Mumtaz Mahal this book revolves around Princess Jahanara. It is yet another glorious retelling of life in Mughal India during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. The story starts from the year 1631 at Burhampur in Deccan India that is where the Royal camp of Emperor Shah Jahan is. While The Emperor is busy directing the conquest of Deccan from Burhampur fort in order to gain supremacy in Southern India his beloved queen, 38 year old Mumtaz Mahal, or the Exalted One dies while giving birth to their 14th child in the 19 years of their marriage. That incident acts as a trigger to the crumbling of the Mughal Empire. With the death of his beloved wife, the Emperor slowly loses interest in everything, while his sons conspire and scheme to gain control of the empire.

Shah Jahan who, is deeply moved after his wife’s death, decides to abdicate his throne just three years into his reign as an emperor. More importantly it is a throne for which he had revolted against his own father and killed his brothers and cousins. This decision leads to an intense power struggle amongst his own sons especially 16 year old Dara Shikoh and 13 year old Aurangzeb. They both see themselves as the worthy successors to the empire. This division finally culminates in the year 1658 when Aurangzeb imprisons his father and kills his three brothers to become the king of the Mughal Dynasty.

Princess Jahanara, who is the eldest daughter of the Emperor, is only 17 year old when she has to take charge of the imperial zenana (harem) after her mother’s death.  She becomes the most important woman in the harem and is forced to remain at the Mughal court all her life, caught up in the intrigues and the power politics of her siblings, sacrificing her own desires for the sake of her father. This book is essentially Princess Jahanara’s story. Jahanara was her father’s favourite child and he always felt that she was the most capable of all his children but belonged to the wrong sex.

The author manages to weave the story so interestingly that it manages to give the reader an in-depth understanding of the golden period of the Mughal era and the life of the royal family.

If Mughal historical fiction interests you this book would be the right pick!  A well-paced, well-written story of the Mughal dynasty through a woman’s perspective. Her previous titles are also an absolute must go grab your copy today!

About the Author:

Indu Sundaresan was born and raised in India and went to the United States for graduate studies. She is the author of The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses, The Splendor of Silence, and In the Convent of little flowers. She lives in Seattle, Washington.