In the country of deceit

Quick Data

Author: Shashi Deshpande

ISBN: 978-0670081981

Devayani decides to live alone in the small town of Rajnur after her parents’ death, ignoring the disapproval of her family and friends. She works as an English teacher,loves creating garden of her own,and is a very low key person living in her own world.One day she meets Rani, a former actress,who has  settled in the town with her husband and three children. Within no time Rani and Devayani share a strong bond of friendship or womanhood.They too aren’t sure but the relationship between them creates this need of meeting daily and sharing things.

Rani’s entry in Devyani’s life brings in Ashok Chinappa too,who is Rajnur’s new DSP.After few meetings with Ashok and lot of contemplation with self,surprisingly Devayani finds that she has fallen in love with Ashok..something contradictory to what she had thought that she would never get married and would always live alone-independent!! Ashok too falls in love with her,despite the fact that he is much older and married!!! Both of them painfully acknowledge & accept right from the beginning that this relationship will take them nowhere.

Adding the lines presented as the summary on the back cover of the book :

Why did I do it?

Why did I enter the country of deceit?

What took me into it?

I hesitate to use the word love,but what other word is there ?

And yet,like the word “atonement”,

the word love is too simple for the complicated

emotions and responses that made me do what I had done.

Ultimately,I did it because he was Ashok,

because we met.

That’s all.

Shashi’s writing tracks the suffering, evasions and lies that overtake those caught in the web of relationships.
There is no sepcific ending to the story,no one wins at the end..it does not carry the ‘everything turns out to be perfect because it’s the end of the tale’ attitude . This is a tale which is compassionate,spells nature of love,loyalty,deceptions and yet is rooted to the ground.

Shashi is one of the great Indian English fiction writers..though most of the times people might feel her novels are dark,which they are indeed,but I always feel they are rooted to the ground realities of life and work as a showcase of relationships,feelings and emotions for the readers

My rating for this book is 4

Front Cover Friday – 13

There was something about this cover that was extremely eerie for me. The cute little kid. The homely background. The title seemingly implying the same. Full of innocence. And yet, there is a ripped up teddy bear on the floor. Which to me implies that not all is as perfect as it seems.

Then I read the synopsis which justfied my initial perception.

According to Borders:

Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.’ Blueeyedboy is the brilliant new novel from Joanne Harris: a dark and intricately plotted tale of a poisonously dysfunctional family, a blind child prodigy, and a serial murderer who is not who he seems. Told through posts on a webjournal called badguysrock, this is a thriller that makes creative use of all the multiple personalities, disguise and mind games that are offered by playing out a life on the internet.

This synopsis has definitely intrigued me. And I’m going to look for this book the next time I’m in the library. I hope it lives up to the expectations.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

The Opposite of Me

‘The Opposite of Me’ by Sarah Pekkanen looks at the lives of a pair of fraternal twins: Lindsey Rose and Alex Rose. The book is from 29 year old Lindsey’s point of view. Lindsey has always lived in her twin’s shadow since they were young. The reason: Alex is drop-dead gorgeous. And always has been so. In order to compensate for her lack of looks, Lindsey has always pushed herself academically. The result is that at the age of 29, she is a workaholic in a New York advertising agency and is on the verge of being offered a vice-presidency. Alex on the other hand, has never really excelled in studies as Lindsey has and is currently still in their hometown engaged to marry the guy of her dreams (read: drop-dead gorgeous and filthy rich) and is working as a news reader (read: does the celebrity section) and model.

Fate however has other things in store for Lindsey. All that she has worked for over the years comes crashing down on one night. And embarrassed and humiliated she flees New York and returns home under the pretense that her employers sent her on work purposes. It is a massive blow to Lindsey’s self-esteem. It also means that once again, she is back in the shadow of her twin. To make matters worse, Lindsey finds that the person she is falling for is the same person her engaged twin is also having feelings for.

Whilst dealing with the pain that her far more beautiful sister is attracted to the same man, Lindsey finds a new job. One that is completely different to what she has been used to. She is now working in a dating agency which, unlike online dating sites, involves her and the owner interviewing people and setting up those they think are compatible. It doesn’t pay as much. It doesn’t involve long hours. And Lindsey surprisingly finds herself enjoying her job. She also discovers a new image…she realises she doesn’t have to wear boring suits and can actually accentuate her looks with the help of make-up and clothes.

But then a family secret is revealed which leads both Lindsey and Alex to question who they are and their identities and their lives in general.

My take on the book: It was so-so. It was a light read and one that was pretty quick. But it just didn’t do it for me. The family secret was almost an anti-climax. The ending was anti-climactic as well where everything fits neatly and perfectly. And I got thoroughly annoyed with the whole “without looks you are nothing” message that seemed to be underlying it all. The author did try to have sections where it is mentioned that looks don’t matter but on the whole with Lindsey transforming herself and getting noticed and feeling better about herself kind of negated that bit.

I give it a 2.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Front Cover Friday – 12

Isn’t this beautifully mysterious ?

and the second one ?

From the reviews I gather it is another heart breaking , political and soul-searching story set in Montreal and Cambodia. It is both beautiful yet painful at the same time.

The Book Description reads

After more than 30 years Anne Greves feels compelled to break her silence about her first lover, and a treacherous pursuit across Cambodia’s killing fields. Once she was a motherless girl from taciturn immigrant stock. Defying fierce opposition, she falls in love with Serey, a gentle rebel and exiled musician. She’s still only 16 when he leaves her in their Montreal flat to return to Cambodia And, after a decade without word, she abandons everything to search for him in the bars of Phnom Penh, a city traumatized by the Khmer Rouge slaughter. Against all odds the lovers are reunited, and in a political country where tranquil rice paddies harbour the bones of the massacred, Anne pieces together a new life with Serey. But there are wounds that love cannot heal, and some mysteries too dangerous to know. And when Serey disappears again, Anne discovers a story she cannot bear. Haunting, vivid, elegiac, The Disappeared is a tour de force; at once a battle cry and a piercing lamentation, for truth, for love.

Interesting ha ? The first look at the cover made me think it is about India. The way the cover is done induced that thought probably. I am definitely looking forward to read this one.

The Help

…by Kathryn Stockett.

The novel, set in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, is about the lives of African American maids who work for white women. The book particularly revolves around three people – Aibileen, a maid, Eugenia (aka Skeeter) a want-to-be writer, and Minny, another maid.

Skeeter graduates from college and dreams about becoming a writer. After college, she moves back home with her parents, and takes a job at the local newspaper. Hoping to write a book, Skeeter comes up with an idea to interview black maids that work for the white families in Mississippi and chronicle their experiences in the pre Civil Rights movement era. Even after realizing all the risks associated with the project, she goes forward and takes up the challenge.

How Skeeter gets Aibileen to do the interview for her and how Aibileen and Minny manage to make other maids come forward; what challenges they go through during the project; how the maids react to talking to a white person about their white employees; what all ugly truths she faces during the time; how she copes to get a dozen interviews; what risks she and the maids take to put all this together; how Skeeter’s family and friends react to her rather rebellious views; what happens in the town after the book is released; whether or not Skeeter goes on to find a new job in New York – all this and more is answered in this well woven tale about the intricacies of compassion, love and relationships.

This amazing debut novel by the author kept me engrossed from the first page. What I’ve said above is just a gist of the story…you will have to read the book to know how gripping it is. As serious as the central theme of the story is, there are pieces here and there that won’t fail to make you smile and chapters that will leave your eyes misty. All three main characters get a voice of their own to narrate their life – exasperation, anxieties, joys, dreams – and that’s a good way to get the readers to relate, I feel. The need for the main characters to do something to make a difference, even if it means greater risk to their own/their family’s well-being, is something that sends a strong message. And that makes the book a very compelling read.

The fear that the main characters experience once they start working on the secret project, the ups and downs they go through during the journey, the dynamics of the relationships between the maid and her employer – with all this, the story had the power to move me every so often. What I found particularly interesting was the bond that the maid and the employer’s child/children share – with the maid doing everything for the child, from cleaning to feeding, from playing to storytelling, day in and day out, they eventually come so close that the relationship goes on to evolve into something beautiful. The attachment is evident especially when the maid is fired, and both the child and the maid are in tears as they realize that it’s time for final goodbyes. It will touch a chord, no doubt.

Overall, this is one of the riveting novels I’ve read and I would highly recommend it.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

Birthright

Quick Data

Author: Nora Roberts

ISBN: 978-0-7499-4042-3

Website: http://www.noraroberts.com/

At a housing construction site, in the small town community of Woodsboro , a worker unexpectedly digs up some human bones. This causes the Antietam Creek Project to come to a sudden halt. It has been said that the plot already holds that part of the land in dread because of the haunted pond called Simon’s Hole.The bones are found to be more than 5000 years old.Lana Campbell, a widower with a young son,a city lawyer & the member of Historical Preservation Society , releases a court order to stop further construction on the site. First to arrive on the scene is the famous archeologist Dr. Callie Dunbrook, and her arrival brings in many other university grads and undergrads, including renowned anthropologist and Callie’s irritating but irresistible ex-husband, Jake Graystone.Forced to work together on the project, Callie and Jake set aside their mutual differences temporarily, and intend to discover what the bones of people long gone have to say.Since lot of people’s living depends on the construction site they don’t like these archaeologists digging the site and interrupting their work and hence decide to make life hell for these diggers.

Little does Callie know that her passion for finding out the secrets of the dead is on the verge of becoming a mission of finding out answers to the questions of her own past. An unknown and distraught woman,Suzanne Cullen, turns up at her hotel room telling her that she is her long lost daughter.This turns Callie’s life upside down and though she is sure that she was not adopted she still insists on finding the truth because it’s her birthright. Jake acts as the strongest and only support in Callie’s mission of unravelling the secrets of her birth,which actually makes them realize that their divorce was a biggest mistake that they made in their relationship.While they are at it and digging the site, the people in their team start dying, one by one.

Is someone out to sabotage the work of the archaeologists or are there supernatural forces at work and haunting the ground? Is Suzanne Cullen telling the truth?

‘Birthright’ no doubt is a superb work by Nora. This was the first time I picked her book and that too on an impulse and today I’m sure I’m going to pick her other works. The novel takes you through lot of twists and turns of the puzzle and in the meanwhile through the relationships that are entangled in love,emotions and questions. How the families come together and the role of each family member is given fair importance and justice. I felt there was no extra character or unnecessary added humour or romance in the storyline.Everything is in place as a suspense thriller. And no matter how hard I tried to guess who’s the culprit I really couldn’t guess it right till the end because Nora did not leave anything easy to even let you reach somewhere near the answers. ! So at the end you’ll be surprised to know who did what and why this story came into being actually ! Yes, it’s a must read.

My rating for this book is 5


The Space Between Us

Ever since I had Thrity Umrigar’s Book “The weight of heaven “  for our front cover friday series; she was on my “must-read” list. So there at first opportunity I ordered her book “ The Space between us”. I had heard lot of good reviews about the book. Boy, I am so glad to discover it. The book turned out a gem indeed , a page turner from beginning. A very good book by Indian Author I got to read after long time.

The story brings us the two protagonist Serabai Dubash and Bhima. Like many Indian households Bhima is  domestic help in Sera and Feroz’s house.  Over the years; Sera and Bhima has developed some bond between them; observing and facing happiness and pain from each others lives. There is this connection yet there is space that divides them. The space that bifurcates their classes and bring in the status of owner and servant. No matter how much Sera cares for Bhima she can never treat her like  part of her own family and for Bhima she will always be the superlative. Bhima gives credit of every good thing that comes to her life to her employer. Each favour by Sera buries Bhima more and more under the weight of those favours.

The plot blooms slowly opening the pages of their lives. Sera’s educated and highly-placed husband has a wild side. Their abusive marriage; the ever controlling mother in law and Bhima telling her mistress not to tolerate the physical abuse. Sera actually get relived after her husband’s death. Dinaz , Sera and Feroz’s only daughter the most sensitive and wise girl. Her double-faced husband Viraf who is unable to handle his very hormonal wife who is about to bring their first child in this world.

Among all the characters it is Bhima who leaves you mesmerized with her attitude and her courage to face the shit called life. She has her own moments of break down but yet she draws hope and power to over come the hopelessness. Despite letting go her son, husband , daughter she still makes way through life for her grand-daughter Maya. Having faced lot of trouble due to being illiterate she wants Maya to learn and do a while collar job. Maya who gets pregnant and shatters Bhima’s dreams. The ever helpful Dubash Family comes to their rescue and helps Maya to get rid of the child.

Some of the high points of the plot would be

  • Bhima’s unspoken connection with the Afghani Balloon Seller; her connection with sea and nature; they are so well sketched that you can almost see them.
  • After living though an abusive marriage; Sera thanks her stars that her son is law does not beat her daughter but they only have verbal fights. That’s such sad state of human mind.
  • Bhima bringing in some herbal remedy to heal the beaten wounds on Sera’s body and advising her not to keep up with the abusive marriage.
  • The face lift of the goody boy Viraf the son-in-law of Dubash family.

So is there really a bond between Sera and Bhima ? When time comes will Sera support her for all Bhima has done for Dubash Family ? Or the space that separates them is the only dark and bitter truth ? You have to read the book to find these answers.

Overall a very good read. Arrangement of domestic help is such a common scene in India. Only issue I feel is people who are not aware of these India Specific  traditions; I don’t know how would they perceive these things. I am not sure if it will make them to bond with equal vigor with the plot like it will do for an Indian. Would love to hear from such readers.

If I have to rate the book it would be 5. Details about our rating scale are here.