The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale Title: The Toymakers
Author: Robert Dinsdale
Publisher: Del Rey, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1785038129
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 480
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

It might feel that you have read something like this before and some might also say that this book is like “The Night Circus” but don’t be fooled by that. “The Toymakers” is really perhaps nothing like what you might have read before (apologies for using the word might a lot). I remember constantly turning the pages and staying way through the night to finish this one and yet reading it with caution, should it finish too soon.


“The Toymakers” could also become a drag in some places but then it also picks up pace very quickly and stuns you. I doubt you can go back and reread it (given the genre and the fact that some of the mystery that is in the book ends eventually) but when you are reading it, you will for sure cherish the experience.

The book is set in a toy shop, taking place in 1917 and traversing some years in the past and in the future. The book ends in the 1950s. Cathy, a young girl, pregnant and single, runs away from home in Leigh-on-Sea to London and comes across a rather odd advertisement in the paper. Cathy becomes winter help in Papa Jack’s Emporium – a toy shop which is most extraordinary and also eerie at times.

I will not tell you more about the book. There are secrets, there are wars, scars from those wars, loss, of parents and children, brothers and sisters and how one finds solace in what one does. Might I also add that the magical element of the book will surely take you by surprise.

Dinsdale’s writing is smooth at times and at others, he just oscillates between the past and the present and I loved the book for it. The language is immensely poetic, the experience immersive and your imagination will be tested on almost every page. A novel not to be missed out on.


Indira by Devapriya Roy and Priya Kuriyan

Indira by Devapriya Roy and Priya Kuriyan Title: Indira
Author: Devapriya Roy
Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan
Publisher: Context
ISBN: 978-9386850683
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I am not a fan of some ideologies of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and yet I find her life extremely intriguing and to a very large extent, am in awe of her for sure. I guess it has a lot to do with being told stories from her life as we were growing up. She was almost an idol then, till of course, we made our way into the world and got to know her political aspirations and the means she sometimes used to achieve them. However, that is not what I should be talking about right now.

Right now, I want to talk about the graphic novel (interspersed with a lot of text as well) “Indira”, beautifully illustrated by Priya Kuriyan and written just as well by Devapriya Roy. I remember discussing this book with its publisher at Jaipur Literature Festival this year and being very excited to read it. I finally did and I loved it for so many reasons.

At the same time, there were times I felt that this book felt short in terms of chronicling so much more. I guess they also had to stick to the story of the other Indira and her coming-of-age in contemporary India. Also, kudos to Devapriya for not idolizing Mrs. Gandhi but showing her just as she was – another human being with very strong talents.

Kuriyan’s illustrations are simple and yet breathtaking in so many ways. The detailing is strong and complements the writing tone. The writing is simple and at so many places I loved the meta angle to the book which totally works to its advantage (you will know when you pick it up and read it).

We need more books such as “Indira” to reclaim our past and history, given so much of it is at stake in current times. Lest it be forgotten. Books such as these will remain proof of what happened, why and how.

The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Misfit's Manifesto Title: The Misfit’s Manifesto
Author: Lidia Yuknavitch
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1471162329
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

We are all misfits in one way or the other, or so we would like to believe. What about the ones though who really are misfits? Where do they go? How do the broken, the damaged, the ones who perhaps do not belong, fit in ultimately? Or do they fit in at all?

Lidia Yuknavitch not only presents her version of who “misfits” really are, but also allows different misfits to talk about their lives and what being a misfit means to them and how by and large that affects their relationships and who they are. The fact that this book is multi-voiced makes it all the more interesting and dynamic.

Yuknavitch grapples with her losses, her mistakes and how it is being a misfit, weaving her past and present beautifully (and sometimes tragically as well), thereby lending brevity and a lot of clarity to her prose.

To those who have read her earlier, this book is way easier to read than “The Chronology of Water” of “The Small Backs of Children” and easier to bear as well. We all know about misfits, and yet it feels so new when Yuknavitch brings her perspective to it, with anecdotes and so much empathy.

What I found most interesting about this book is the way broken lives aren’t made out to be different. They are just lives. They are just misfits who fit perfectly well in other places and times and amongst others. So in the sense, Yuknavitch takes the idea of being a “misfit” and turns it over on its head, making the reader think of their own biases and prejudices.

“The Misfit’s Manifesto” is a must-read for all. To learn, to know about the different, to embrace them and in the process learning how to empathize and living life with a lot of heart.


Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Publisher: Harper
ISBN: 978-0061284922
Genre: Literary Fiction, Coming of Age
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

Very few books get me all disturbed and thinking about the world we live in. Yes, most of them are impactful, so to say but none off-late have had the lasting effect that “Speak No Evil” will (of which I am sure). I don’t know what it is about this book that makes you so uncomfortable as a reader that you don’t want to read further. I will not spoil anything for you, but the ending is not what I expected. I was shocked and stunned (but that’s where I will leave it).

“Speak No Evil” can be broadly classified into the literary fiction genre, but it is definitely so much more. It is a coming-of-age book, a book about identity and also a book about being an alien in America, but at the heart of it all, it is a book about Niru, an eighteen-year-old boy who comes out to his best friend Meredith and that’s when things take a turn for the worst.

Niru’s parents were born in Nigeria and immigrated to the U.S to build successful careers and give all the privilege to their sons (who are American-born) which they didn’t receive. Till they discover Niru is gay and all hell breaks loose. His father takes him to Nigeria for the summer to get him rid of being gay and the action takes place again in Washington D.C (where they live), ultimately leading to the end.

The book has two narrators – Niru and Meredith. The bulk of the book is told through Niru – his experiences about not only being gay but also being black (it is always about fitting in, and thinking that when they treat you as the other, it is alright but it so isn’t). Niru’s portion broke my heart so many times. I wanted to reach out to him and tell him it will be okay. I have gone through it and it will become easier with time. But Iweala has to do what he must with Niru and Meredith.

“Speak No Evil” disturbs you because you know all that what takes place in the world and yet we are merely people who standby and do nothing about it. Iweala touches on so many themes through Niru and Meredith – that the subtlety of it all will dazzle you; the writing is powerful, though disjointed at times (maybe that is the allure of this book after all). Niru’s parents’ characters are so strong and yet do not overpower the book. I wish I had known his brother OJ better. There is some vague connect between the brothers but I wish there had been more. It might be all about Niru but Meredith also took my heart away in so many places and overall as well. She loves Niru and feels rejected. There is so much going on with her that she can’t tell and to me the unsaid is always more intriguing, which Iweala has expressed marvelously.

All said and done, “Speak No Evil” is a book that will make your heart sing and mourn at the same time. It may leave you wanting more but also so satisfied. Read. It. Today.

The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette

The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette Title: The Job of the Wasp
Author: Colin Winnette
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
ISBN: 978-1593766801
Genre: Coming of Age, Gothic, Ghosts
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

An unnamed narrator shows up at a mysterious facility for orphaned boys. The world is strange, eerie and everything seems to be sinister, even the Headmaster. He hears whispers at night. His classmates are volatile and always angry and for some reason, the Headmaster is sending him cryptic messages to confess. But confess about what? What is going on? And then beware, because the corpses start showing up.

This is the plot, to put it loosely of “The Job of the Wasp”. I have just given you the gist. There is so much more to this book that perhaps cannot be put into words. This is such a dark book that for most of the time I found myself jumping in my skin as I was reading it late into the night. I have always found myself strangely attracted to ghost stories, even though I can’t sleep a wink after reading them.

“The Job of the Wasp” will make you paranoid even if you aren’t that person. There are layers of what’s happening and why and though you think you have it all figured, the book takes a sharp turn and leaves you breathless. The writing is in the atmosphere – from the facility to its surroundings to the dark characters, Winnette’s skills just show us the chaos of the world and what goes on in people’s hearts.

The book is so many things – surreal, entertaining, witty, and so bizarre, that it not only takes you by surprise but also leaves you gobsmacked and wanting more and more. I wish I could put the brilliance of this novel in more words, however, all I can say is that you have to get up, go to the nearest bookstore, and pick this up. Don’t drop it till you are done reading it.