Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: A Tangled Web- Jammu and Kashmir

In India everyone and their neighbor claim to be an expert on Jammu & Kashmir. No Indian state is as debated as this state. And yes for obvious reasons. It is a state that has been in conflict since Independence. A state that while trying to create its own identity by moving on from the past is also finding it difficult to shake off its past. And it is definitely a conundrum hard to get out of. What gets worse is the judgment people have already passed on it. There is no middle ground. Due to which J&K continues being a tinderbox waiting to explode at any slight provocation. Sad but true.

A Tangled Web is an excellent resource for people who would want to read myriad perspectives about the state. It is not just that but the articles and pieces gives the reader an excellent insight into the conflicting views on the history of the state, its problems and examines the various political, social, cultural and economic issues at play there.

The book tries to bring in as many voices as it possibly can.  All these collected essays from eminent writers as well as voices of people who have suffered the brunt of violence in the state. So one can read well written articles by Parvaiz Bukhari, Suhasini Haidar, Jagmohan, Meghnad Desai, Nitasha Kaul, Sonia Jabbar and more…

It is indeed sad that the place which is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and the most strategically located too is in a perpetual state of conflict. But yet this year has been good for the state and let’s hopes ensuing years follow the same pattern too. Karan Singh writes the foreword for the book and starts off the book with the right note and tenor. Ira Pande has edited the book.

This book is an important contribution to the various literature available on Jammu and Kashmir, do read it if history and current events interest you

Review: Noon

I recently read Aatish Taseer’s latest book called Noon. Let me be upfront and honest here and say that I haven’t read his previous works (yes I know you just went hawww!). 

After having heard a lot of good things about his books I was sure this would be a great read too. Well it just barely made it to my list of good books to read. That’s the review in a nutshell.

So Noon started off rather well but just mid way through the book I was left wondering what was it that the book set out to say in the first place? But then in the end it got better, but just slight. The book though written in the fiction genre is inspired heavily from some incidents from author’s own life.

The book is stark at some places and at places it is saddening too.  The protagonist of the book Rehan Tabassum  is brought up by single handedly by his lawyer mum and his grandmother. As he grows up with questions in his mind about his father he discovers that his dad is a big man across the border. He goes to spend some time with his father and his extended family.

Rehan comes across as an extremely astute and sensitive human being. But then Rehan’s story is very disjointed, jumping from one place to another and you can see Rehan is a very confused person who is oddly looking at everything from an outsider’s perspective, totally disconnected.

That is exactly my problem with the book. If Rehan was trying to make a point about his life, or the changes around him in India or Pakistan, I as a reader definitely missed the point.

So all in all if someone gifts this book to you do read it, if not you can skip.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review : The Lovers

Reviewed by: Ananth

John Connolly is an exemplary writer and I am a fan boy. Period. There is no one who writes with a blend of the supernatural intertwined into regular sleuthing crime fiction and what ends up as the sum of all the parts is a tour de force - an utterly intriguing and outlandish tale that is at once believable and strangely charming. Charming, some might say, is far from the right adjective to use for the eeriness that inhabits John's world but rest assured there is something irresistible about the Bird that always leaves you wanting more - for me, that in itself is more than enough credentials to establish something as charming.

Lovers is the seventh in the Charlie Parker series where Charlie 'Bird' Parker, for a change, is servicing himself rather than one of his clients. Following Unquiet which left Charlie being stripped of his PI license, the Lovers see Charlie delve deep to unravel the mysterious circumstances under which his father killed two teenagers before taking his own life. Sparked by the Collector's (one of my favourite staple feature of this series) comments, Charlie digs deep to make sense of these events that have haunted him his entire life. Amidst this personal turmoil a series of murders are waiting to be linked to his investigations and it is not before long that all events blend into one promising a chilling finale.

The underlying bleakness that seems to pervade Charlie's life is more than present here with Charlie confronting the horrific truths of his parentage. As the pieces fall together and facts fall into place it is almost as if Charlie is the only kind of person who can deal with the kind of curve balls that life has to throw. He seems to have this phenomenal appetite for catastrophes and destructiveness which he seems to handle in an All-In-A-Days-Work style. With an array of characters each in their own way furthering Charlie's quest, the Lovers is a book that is a sad yet poignant and fulfilling read. (Not to mention the fact that it might make you go double check that the doors have indeed been locked!)

What has always pleased me and still does is the way John's characters play on your mind - they are so well etched and fit so snugly into the plot, it is almost unbelievable. You are left journeying with Charlie and it is a horrific journey indeed yet there seems to be the driving hand of destiny that seems to propel him further. John's research is top notch and this complements the super natural theme very well making for a very credible account (the Costa Rican parasitoid wasp whose host is the spider Plesiometa argyra forms an actual basis for introducing the bizarre). Charlie seems to inhabit a parallel world where anything is possible and he is forced to confront the strangest of adversaries - in this world the dead still manage to make their presence felt and shadows that lurk have their own agendas.

While people starting out with John would do well to get to read the series in order, Lovers is still a stand alone piece of work though the prime movers that impel Charlie are buried in his past. Though open to interpretation, the para normal aspects of John's work take stronger root here - I would think that as excellent timing given that we have had six novels where this world was being dabbled with. Though disquieting and full of despair, John always manages to triumphantly weave hope and beauty into the otherwise starkly dark world of Charlie - that  is what keeps me coming back for more since I just cannot resist knowing what is new with Charlie and his world.

(Ananth is a software engineer from Chennai who loves reading but loves even more the dissecting that follows the read.)