Category Archives: Westland Books

The Sialkot Saga by Ashwin Sanghi

The Sialkot Saga by Ashwin Sanghi Title: The Sialkot Saga
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher: Westland Books
ISBN: 978-9385724060
Genre: Thriller, Indian Fiction
Pages: 588
Source: From the Author
Rating: 4 Stars

I remember reading “Chanakya’s Chant” a couple of years ago and being completely taken in by the book. There was nothing that I did not like about it. I mean here was an Indian Historic thriller that finally did justice to the genre. I could not stop reading the book and finished it in a day. The same happened (well more or less, given the size of this one) while reading ‘The Sialkot Saga’.

‘The Sialkot Saga’ has one of my favourite Indian authors back in the game (I was not a fan of The Krishna Key and some others written by him, to be honest) and how! The book spreads across decades and centuries, till it reaches present day India and will sure have both historic and thriller readers in for a treat.

What is the book about you might ask?

Well, the book is about power – the race to it and it involves two people – Arvind and Arbaaz, both raised in the wake of partition of India and how their lives merge, collide and intertwine at every given step – whether they like it or not, both personally and professionally. They are adversaries – so there is a lot of blood, moments of corporate politics, of anger and in all of this there are moments of humanity, grace and kindness, which take you not by surprise but more like you expected them at some point or the other. Arvind and Arbaaz are characters that won’t easily let go of you and when the book is over, there is this lingering sense of sadness that stays with you and you cannot help but think about the people whose lives you have been a part of as you read through this magnificent thriller.

The historic angle of the book starts from Emperor Ashoka’s reign and ends in today’s time. The book is a tome but you never think of it that way. The pages turn rapidly, all thanks to Ashwin’s seamless and racy plot. Calcutta and Bombay (as known in those times) are vividly described, so much so that I felt I was taking in the Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta of the times before the 80s when I was born.

Sanghi’s writing is crystal clear. Of course he shows but there is also a good mix of showing and telling which I think works wondrously for this book. At no point, did I want to close this. At no point, I felt that there needed to be heavy-duty editing done. It was fine. It is fine the way it is. I would strongly recommend it.

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7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik

7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: 7 Secrets of the Goddess
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Westland Books
ISBN: 9789384030582
Genre: Mythology, Religion
Pages: 270
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Whenever Devdutt Pattanaik writes a book, it is to be marveled on. Not because of anything else, but because of the way he makes mythology readable. In fact, according to me he is perhaps one of the first mythological writers who made readers, go out and pick up books on The Mahabharata or The Ramayana.

And this time he is back with his latest book, “7 Secrets of the Goddess”. This follows in line with his earlier books, “7 Secrets of Shiva” and “7 Secrets of Vishnu”. This time it is about the Goddess. It is about all of the Goddesses and this is what led me to read the book. I loved the concept of it not being restricted to one Goddess, after all each of them is a manifestation of the other, so there cannot be one without the other anyway.

Devdutt explores mythology and religion differently than how his counterparts do. While the book is heavy on the names and incidents, the reading is lightened by the fact that not at one single moment, you feel that the writing is pedantic. What the book also manages to do is reveal the sides of humanity and nature. There is always a balance there or perhaps it should be there and that is what is hinted at throughout.

“7 Secrets of the Goddess” has all the nuances of Devdutt’s writing. From his illustrations to easy-to-understand narrative, the chapters break-up in fact help the reader comprehend the book better, without it seeming to be an academic read. The book speaks of male and female domination. It explores gender quality and rituals of Hindu Mythology like never before. To a very large extent, this read will not only open your mind to mythology and its various aspects, but perhaps will also make you see humanity in a different light.

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Book Review: Tamarind City by Bishwanath Ghosh

Title: Tamarind City – Where Modern India Began
Author: Bishwanath Ghosh
Publisher: Tranquebar, Westland Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-81626-33-7
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 315
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

What comes to mind when one thinks of Chennai? The heat. The Marina Beach. The food may be and nothing beyond that I guess. Chennai has been a different universe for most who do not belong to it. One cannot relate to it easily if one hasn’t lived there. I think that applies to every city, however as one of the metros, Chennai gets the most flak.
Bishwanath Ghosh has brought Chennai to readers in a different light. One that is beyond misconceptions and shatters perceptions. The book “Tamarind City” (Apt title considering the city he is talking about) is all about Chennai – from when it was Madras to present times.

Ghosh talks of the city as a muse at times, as a lover and sometimes an indifferent friend. He takes the mood of the city (so to say) and travels with it – from people he meets along the way to talking about Tollywood (the Chennai film industry) to the local cuisine and places surrounding it, Ghosh takes the critical and unbiased perspective.

The Chennai that Ghosh takes us through the book is very different from what we have imagined. He cleverly merges both – the traditional and modern aspects of the city, without favouring any. He visits historic sites, neighbourhoods, people and introduces us to varied lives led and dreams dreamed.

The writing is fluid and doesn’t jump too soon from one topic to the other, though it tends to drift a little, which can be ignored given the content. The people one meets in the book are quite different, belonging to different spectrums – from a transsexual to a yoga teacher to a top sexologist. With such people, the anecdotes and stories also get very interesting. In fact there were times while reading the book, when I forgot that it was non-fiction. The voice is casual and doesn’t demand too much intellect while reading it.

All in all, Tamarind City is one of its kinds book on Chennai as a metropolitan city and in some ways still a city that is taking its own time. I would recommend this book to those who want to know more about the city and also to those who know but like I said have a different view.

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Book Review: One and a Half Wife by Meghna Pant

Title: One and a Half Wife
Author: Meghna Pant
Publisher: Westland Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-81626-48-1
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Too many characters in a book sometimes just make the reader lose interest in the narrative. The reader is too caught up in the relationships of characters, and loses sight of the bigger narrative. This however did not thankfully happen to me while reading, “One and a Half Wife” by Meghna Pant.

“One and a Half Wife” may at times feel to be a clichéd book with a plot that is not very unique, however don’t be fooled by the writing that starts off as a simple narrative and then veers into the a little more complicated manner of writing – in the sense the shift between characters and their personalities and how it all interweaves through the story.

The book is about Amara Malhotra and her so-called American Dream gone wrong. She is everything a girl could ask for and has everything a girl could want. Intelligent, spirited and with a strong head, she leads a life worth being envious of, till she marries a Harvard-educated millionaire, Prashant Roy. It doesn’t seem to get better than this for Amara.

Till but obviously the twist in the tale has to occur and it does. The fairytale marriage doesn’t last the way it is supposed to. Amara returns to the place of her birth, Shimla and there starts another episode or rather a series of episodes of her life.

The juxtaposition of the life she had led and the life she would have to given the circumstances is beautifully done by the author. Amara doesn’t know what to believe in anymore – the old is in constant battle with the new and that is not even the start of her problems. She makes new friends; there are new battles to be fought and new territories that need to be explore.

What I liked about the book is that it doesn’t force anything on the reader. The writer says what she has to through the book and leaves it at that. My favourite character in the entire book has to be Baba – the silent, supportive and sometimes someone who speaks his mind nonetheless. Amara is strong, independent and yet sometimes quite not sure of her decisions, which I liked, as it made her only more human.

For me, the book represents the age-old tug-of-war between the old and the new and how much can one or should compromise? Or should one compromise at all?

This is one of my favourite parts of the book: “This is all hogwash, she told herself. All marriages were a consequence of security, tradition, money and beauty. Love was a chance, a lucky coincidence. Its existence was an after-thought, for more serious matters cemented marriage.”

This excerpt is enough to show you the skills of Meghna Pant as a writer – sometimes razor sharp, assured and knows where to take the story and at what pace. I did not get bored reading this book and I am sure neither will you. One of those reads that is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.

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Book Review: The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

Title: The Reluctant Detective
Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Westland
ISBN: 978-9381626115
Genre: Mystery, Humour
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It isn’t easy to write by mixing almost two genres together. It takes not only gumption but also some good writing skill. When I first started reading, “The Reluctant Detective” I did not think much of it. I mean come to think of it, here is an almost bored housewife (well not really bored) and she has the habit of poking her nose in other people’s affairs (but obviously – as the cliché would seem), till dead bodies turn up in quick succession around her and how she teams up with a detective friend to solve them.

So that is the plot in a nutshell. As I however read further (give it beyond the first three chapters), I was taken in into the book. Kay’s (Her name is Kanan Mehra) exaggerations and little vanities add the much needed humour in this one. Runa is the main detective, while it is Kay who happens to stumble on most clues as they go along solving the crime/s.

What I found most fascinating in the entire book, was how Ms. Manral has managed to create a character (interesting one at that you might note) out of the ordinary, whose major problem is controlling her cellulite and being first in queue at the next sale. Kay’s character is well-etched and for one most housewives would be able to relate to her, or at least some parts of who she is. The humour in the book doesn’t let the mystery element get ignored and vice-versa.

The book strings all elements in place – humour, mystery and the events of ordinary day-to-day living. I liked the writing. It is to the point and does not delve too much into descriptions, which makes for a light Sunday read. The Reluctant Detective is a read that I would recommend to almost everyone. It is fast, well paced and will keep you glued till you finish it.

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