Category Archives: Granta Books

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill Title: Dept. of Speculation
Author: Jenny Offill
Publisher: Granta books
ISBN: 978-1847088734
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Very few books manage to evoke those emotions in you which you never thought a book would manage to bring out. It happens nonetheless and you fall in love with the read. There is more to it though. You know that this read will not be like the others. It has now become special.

“Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill did just that to me. It is now one of those special reads and I know I will keep going back to it again and again and again. The format of the book feels weird to begin with but when you get into it and it grows on you, then it is something else.

It is the story of a wife and a husband and the breakdown of a marriage. It is the story of the woman’s previous lovers and the husband’s lover for whom he is leaving the wife. It is the story of their child and the life they have built together. What’s there not to love about this story? Is it clichéd? Perhaps it is.

A large part of any novella or novel is in the storytelling and this is what makes this book different. The book has no answers to any problems that a couple might face in their marriage. It is not meant to be that, but the snippets of truth of a relationship are brilliantly touched on.

“Dept. of Speculation” to me is one of those rare masterpieces in literature that need to be taken notice of. It is edgy, on the brink of things, unpredictable and something that you will perhaps relate to. There is wisdom, poetry, humour, heartbreak, and some fun facts as well to give you an overall perspective. All said and done, it will make you think and make you cry as well. Go. Read it.

Book Review: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read them by Elif Batuman

The Possessed by Elif Batuman Title: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Author: Elif Batuman
Publisher: Granta Books, Penguin
ISBN: 9781847083142
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is something about Russian classics which has always been quite of a challenge for me to read. It is a different thing that I have grown to love them over time, however getting acquainted with them was a bit of a challenge. The dreariness of plots, the numerous characters in almost every big Russian novel and I guess that is why I did not learn to appreciate it at the beginning. At the same time, there are other Russian books which are not as well-known or authors who have not got their due, however that I will pick up sometime later and devour them, page by page. For now, I must talk about “The Possessed” by Elif Batuman.

“The Possessed” is unlike any other book I have read. Going by the cover, I honestly thought that it would be a serious book on Russian classics and the people who have read them, however I was in for a surprise. “The Possessed” is a funny book. It is not direct humour; however there are moments of extreme laughter, and joy that come across quite unexpectedly. It is sort of a love affair of Batuman with Russian classics and how along the way she interacted with people who loved those classics as well. At the same time, there are undertones of politics (but of course) and personal opinions to people and how sometimes art imitates life and vice-versa.

There are times I felt the book to be more of a personal memoir and less of a book on Russian literature, however that opinion changed as I went further into the book and turned the pages. The references that are most close to me in the book were the ones made to Tolstoy (well there is a whole chapter on him and with good reason) and Pushkin (I guess almost every Indian child born in the 80’s grew up on his fairy tales). The writing tends to get a little academic to begin with, more so with the chapter on Babel; however it eases into the book and converts to being simple as the chapters run along.

The book alternates between Batuman’s perception and the incidents that took place with her during the course of meeting people and knowing more about the Russian masters. “The Possessed” is a good start to familiarize yourself with the Russian classics in bits and pieces if you do not know anything about them. The other part which I loved the most in the book was the summer the author spent in Samarkand – it is a pretty intriguing read. There is a lot to learn about cultures in the book and the context in which they can be sensed or used. The book was an eye-opener for me to learn more about my favourite Russian authors and in context to human nature more so. I would only recommend this read if the long gone and not-read Russian Classics interest you. The book is then almost written for you.

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