Tag Archives: penguin

Book Review: Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar; Translated by Jerry Pinto

Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar Title: Cobalt Blue
Author: Sachin Kundalkar
Translator: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN:
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages:
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are books that you read sometimes and do not know what to make of them. There are stories that are close to you and they emerge through the pages and the writer has just touched a nerve. You know it. Perhaps you do not even acknowledge it, but you do realize that the book has made an impact and there is nothing you can do about it. You let yourself go. You become one with the prose and then you just feel something so deep that you want to share the experience with the world.

My review of “Cobalt Blue” is an experience of reading, which I want to share. I never thought once before picking this book a long time ago. This time around it was a reread – a third time reread at that and I knew it would wrench the life out of me and it did and I loved every bit of it. There is no other way to read this book. It will overpower you at some point if you let it, that is.

I have the regret of not reading this book in Marathi – the language it was originally written in but I know for a fact that Jerry has kept the translation intact. You can feel the words and the senses merge and that is proof enough. I also remember hugging the commissioning editor of this book, for making this book happen in English, for making it available to thousands and millions of readers.

“Cobalt Blue” is about love. It is about strangers who break and heal hearts. It is about love and it’s longing. It is about the sensation of not getting what you want. Of getting it but not getting it completely. How do you then define those emotions? Do they have a voice at all? Tanay and Anuja are siblings. Both smitten by the tenant who comes to stay over. The tenant who is nameless throughout the book. He is the sort of person who will only break your heart. You are aware of it and yet you want to be loved by him, in whatever capacity. There is another brother in the family. There are parents. There are relatives and yet all attention is wanted only by that stranger.

The book had me from the first page. It is narrated by the siblings and the commonality they share. The dread, the eventuality, the similar feeling and yet they do not communicate with each other. Nothing is said. The pain is hidden or just invisible – it is not known to the reader. It is for the reader to decide.

The translation shines. Jerry’s prose mingling with Sachin’s emotions takes you on another journey. The effect is heady. I knew the book would not let me be. I also knew that I would end up crying all over again and yet I had to reread it. There was no other way. Jerry has tact – he says and translates and also lets the reader feel and of course it is true, that the text is doing most of the talking and that is Sachin’s magic. There are no hush tones to homosexual or heterosexual love. Love is love after all and that is the essence of the book. It seems that the book is the canvas and there are endless portraits, possibilities of colour, of tones, of palettes and of intermingling sensations. It is there. Raw and exposed and sometimes we all have to take our chances to see where we fit, where we belong and where we truly feel loved.

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Book Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Egmont Books
ISBN: 9781405242356
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 576
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Dystopian novels and those that speak of the distant future somehow do not excite me that much. I mean I will give it a try, however there has to be something of unique value to make me want to turn the pages and hold on to the plot. There has to be something more than the usual humdrum that goes about. With this thought in mind, I started reading “Gone” by Michael Grant and it sure didn’t disappoint me one single bit.

“Gone” is about a time when everyone over the age of fourteen mysteriously disappears. There is no one in the town or well rather country or the world over the age of fourteen. No one knows what happened or why. There are only kids present and everything is at their disposal. What will become of the future? Will there be a future at all? What is worse is that some of the children have developed mutant powers and they are all set to rule the world without adults.

I literally got the goose bumps while reading this book. The future in the book seemed very scary and looked extremely bleak. There is a lot that happens in the book that will leave you disturbed – however the way it is written by Grant is what matters the most – it is non-emotional and yet hopeful, not sentimental and yet rings with faith at some level. The characters are as ruthless as one could be in a situation like this and yet there are some which are more humane that balance the book.

The book did remind me of the Lord of the Flies, however at a more brutal level. Like I said, it is one heck of a disturbing read and yet enjoyable. I cannot wait to get my hand on the others in this series. It is a series you cannot get more of.

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Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

Title: The Newlyweds
Author: Nell Freudenberger
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670921843
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When people from two different cultures marry each other, there is a lot at risk. The knowing that adaptation would have to be the order of the day at some point is very difficult to come to terms with. Not only that, but also the everyday living becomes a herculean task, which then becomes something to deal with. To make a life together is something that one needs to think of as top priority. This is the theme of Nell Freudenberger’s book, “The Newlyweds”.

The book is written more from the perspective of the wife than the husband, but then I am sure the author had her reasons for doing so. The plot: Amina and George are not your typical American couple. Amina is a Bengali woman from Bangladesh, flying to Rochester, New York to marry an American she met online. She will go to any lengths to bring her parents to America to live with her. From the first page the action in the book begins and lasts throughout with immense force, depicting not only cultural differences but also emotional ones.

Nell Freudenberger has created a poignant and real drama of how couples live today. The story is mainly about Amina and her dreams. The means and methods used by her to make them come true. I was a little disappointed that George’s character was explored fully, and thought that maybe he had a lot to say and do, which would have only added to the book’s overall experience.

Freudenberger’s world is fascinating to observe. The daily on-goings between the couple and the others who are a part of their lives, are interesting to watch. The Newlyweds is an interesting read. It is a portrait of a peculiar marriage and yet there is so much more beneath that. What do we share? Who do we trust? What secrets do we want to disclose? The Newlyweds is a love story, a story of alienation, a story of wanting it all and sometimes not getting it all. It is a book that exudes emotion on every page and does not get too sentimental about it. A great read for sure.

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Book Review: Capital by John Lanchester

Title: Capital
Author: John Lanchester
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571234608
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 592
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I had not read anything by John Lanchester till I got the opportunity to read “Capital”. It was a great debut (for me) read. First, let me tell you something about the title of the book. Capital derives two meanings in the book – first being money, one of the central themes of the book and second, being London, where most of the action takes place and it being the Capital city of England.

Capital is a big book and has too many characters, close to twenty of them, out of which ten are primary and the other ten are secondary. All of them are connected to one street (Pepys Road), in one way or the other. A postcard arrives in almost everyone’s mail box stating, “We want what you have” and thus the story begins in unusual circumstances.

The story is set in 2007, around the time of banking crisis (hence the title is applicable here as well). The economy is down and everything is haywire. The characters are well-detailed and that is what hooked me to the book. The banker, who is desperate for a £1m bonus to maintain his wife’s and his own expectations of living standards, the Zimbabwean refugee, who is working as a parking attendant and overqualified to do that, the Asian family who own and work in the corner shop – with their own set of tension of love between and across generations, the Polish plumber, in his pursuit of a dream, the oldest resident of the street – an eighty-two year-old lady, coping with her health and the impact of this on her family, and the 17 year-old recent arrival in London, who is fast becoming a premiership football star.

The plot takes place here and like I said, lives are inter-connected (or not) only to make the book reach its fantastic (spoiler, hence not revealed) ending. Now something about the writing style. John Lanchester sure knows how to make almost every character (even the secondary ones) come alive. What works the most for the book is that the premise is global, though set in London. The readers can relate to the hardship, hopes, aspirations, dreams and lives of the citizens on Pepys Road and that for me is a great achievement of this book.

John Lanchester brings the entire novel to life with his writing. The interaction between characters is superlative and fits in brilliantly with the subtle themes. The entire novel has a Dickensian air about it and that only adds sometimes to the bleak narrative running through. The suspense element of the book remains intact right till the end, and shows itself all along. I enjoyed reading the book a lot. There were times I would also laugh out loud and times when I would feel bad for the characters. The book is laced with wit, compassion and above all truth of the situation and the society that we inhabit. Capital is one joyride of a read. I would definitely read more books written by him. As of now, this one is highly recommended.

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Book Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

Title: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
Author: Ben Loory
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0143119500
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 224
Price: $15.00
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a strangely compelling little book. Contained within it are thirty-nine short short stories (one is only three sentences long) and a longer fortieth story, grudgingly appended by the author.

Usually with short story collections I want to read the stories one at a time, to savor them. I couldn’t do that with Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day though. Loory’s stories–the publisher calls them contemporary fables and I think that’s apt–are compulsively readable. They are poignant and unsettling, simple and profound. And I wanted to eat them all up!

So of the stories I liked better than others. For example: The Book, a story that teaches you to use your imagination. The Octopus, a story that shows you that you can always return home. Also there was the story, The End of It All, about a husband and a wife, where the wife is taken by an alien. The man searches all over to find her to no end. Though, the man never finds his wife, he would not trade anything in the world for the time that he did get to spend with her. Of course, there were some stories that I did not like as well. Than there were the dark stories. Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day has a little bit of everything for everyone to enjoy. Don’t be fooled by the title of this collection of stories and the stories can be read any time of the day or night.

I think saying they are reworked versions of age old stories is doing the collection a disservice, but my brain made connections to The Ugly Ducking, The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes among others, enough to feel that Loory was inspired by them.

I suppose this is one of those books you’re either going to love or hate. It brought a smile to my face and I was reluctant to put it down so it’s safe to say I loved it. I’m sure there’s lots of analysis that could be done but I’m going to leave it at that.

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