Tag Archives: bloomsbury

She Will Build Him A City by Raj Kamal Jha

She Will Build Him A City by Raj Kamal Jha Title: She Will Build Him A City
Author: Raj Kamal Jha
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9789384052423
Genre: :Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I was young. I was struggling with my sexuality. I did not know what to do with my life. I had no one to turn to but books and that’s exactly what I did. That gave me the much needed solace, the balm to my pains. And that is the time I read Raj Kamal Jha’s “The Blue Bedspread” that made a big difference to my existence. I think that some books do that to you. They change your world and you are forever indebted to them. The book was not a bright book. It was not a happy book either. It was raw and real and that helped me, like no other book at that time.

And he is back again with his new book (though there have been two more since The Blue Bedspread), “She Will Build Him A City” which has all the hallmark elements of his writing style – pathos, irony and depiction of the “real” India.

It is a story, running on three tracks and how they merge and blend beautifully into one large landscape of a tale. In Delhi, a mother spins a tale for her daughter, now grown-up. She wants to make her daughter whole again, who is broken and she doesn’t know how to do that.

In another part of the city, a new-born is left outside an orphanage and his story begins from there. On the third side, a man is out on a mission to kill and dreams of murder.

These are the three threads that merge exquisitely in this book. The writing will take your breath away and want you begging for more. I think what Jha does so wonderfully is make things as real as they are. There are no frills and at the same time you know that there is redemption for these characters – these creatures of circumstance. Every scene is an imagery that is conjured by the mind and to me that is great writing. Anything which can make me imagine or think of the characters’ lives and what they might be doing as of now.

“She Will Build Him a City” does not move at a fast pace. The book is not supposed to. It takes its time and as a reader, it makes you patient as well. This book will make you see India in a different light. It will also make you see love and all its forms differently.

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The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman Title: The Sleeper and the Spindle
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408859643
Genre: Graphic Story
Pages: 72
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Another Neil Gaiman that I read this month and loved it as much as “Hansel and Gretel”. This one is called “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, takes on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. This one I found better than “Hansel and Gretel”, maybe because I have loved these two fairy tales most as a child. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” is again fascinating because of the illustrations by Riddell and the tales weaved by Gaiman.

“The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a fun read. It is not a light reader but neither is it as dark as “Hansel and Gretel”. The stories are just the same with some twist here and there, but what really will make you want more as a reader are the illustrations of Chris Riddell. They are stupendous and beautifully drawn.

Neil Gaiman’s storytelling is inventive. The stories merge together and as a reader you are just fascinated by the writing style and narrative. This one is also creepy but not so much. There are a couple of minor changes but that is passable in the name of creativity. It is a dark and innovative spin that you must read and reread for the illustrations. A short read for a lazy Sunday.

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Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman Title: Hansel and Gretel
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Lorenzo Mattotti
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408861981
Genre: Graphic Story
Pages: 56
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We have all read and loved “Hansel and Gretel” when we were growing up. Everything about fairy tales was fascinating and intriguing. Nothing could take away the beauty of a good fairy tale, so much so that its macabre underlined meaning was lost on us. Neil Gaiman’s “Hansel and Gretel” does not drift away from the real story at all. It stays true to it and yet there is something about this version that both your dreams and nightmares will be made of.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 1

“Hansel and Gretel” tells the tale of a brother and sister and yet there are so many layers to it – of poverty, the parents’ role in sending the children away, the witch but obviously and the children with their intelligence and wit. What makes this edition so unique of course are the wonderful illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti. They are dark, brooding, and melancholic to the core. They are of course wonderfully done. And while others might say that it is too dark, it is really not that dark.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 2

The book delivers creepy fantastically. The images are in black and white, so that is another twist to it. “Hansel and Gretel” is a delight to read, even if it is just fifty-six pages long. There is something redeeming and at the same time something so unforgiving about this tale, that it will make you think over and over again. We have all heard it in our childhood, but I feel that for most stories, different versions are always welcome. They somehow change your perception as well, over time and years to come.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 3

“Hansel and Gretel” is a work that is beautifully reproduced by Gaiman and Mattotti and a definite read for both children and adults. Also, please ensure that the children have read the earlier Grimm’s tale as well, more so for literature’s sake.

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Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles

Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles Title: Love in Small Letters
Author: Francesc Miralles
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781846883354
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 281
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“Love in Small Letters” by Francesc Miralles was the second translated book I read this year and it came to me just by sheer chance, as most of the incidents take place – by chance. This book will make you believe in love and everyday magic. It will make you a hopeful person if you are not and a more hopeful person if you are. The book spoke to me like all the other books I have loved immensely. I picked it up because it had been lying around for a week and I really wanted to read it, so there you have it: A book that made me smile, think and also cry at the end.

“Love in Small Letters” is about an ordinary man, named Samuel. It is about a New Year’s Day and how it changes everything for Samuel and the life that he has known is about to go elsewhere, in another direction – in a more serendipitous direction. It all begins with a cat that came unannounced on his doorstep and he fed it some milk; a neighbour who he has never met makes an appearance and he starts caring about him, another stranger at a bar with a manuscript under his arm at all times and how he gets to know and help him, and a girl he loved when he was a child and when he sees her unexpectedly at a traffic signal.

All of the action takes place in a span of week. Everything is surreal and sometimes it is good for us to know as humans to let it leave it to faith or a higher power. More than anything else, the story is set in Barcelona, which gives it its own charm.

Miralles’s writing is simple and profound. It does not get preachy at any point. He makes it too easy and so emotional at the same time, without it being too sentimental and boring. The translation by Julie Wark is as simple and enriching. The essence of the book is in its title which comes from this passage in the book, and happens to be my favourite:

“Love in small letters?”

“It’s when some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love. Then, even if you want to return to where you started, it’s too late, because this love in small letters has wiped away all traces of the path back to where you were before.”

This is the essence of this wondrous book. Maybe no one has heard of it. Maybe very few people will. But all I can say is that you have to read this book to feel good about the world and life, about love and friendship, about chances in life and sometimes things we do because they must be done. “Love in Small Letters” is a book that will make you sing. It is a book that will make you believe in the moon, the stars and everything beyond our imagination. It is also a book that will make you see things and people, differently. Read it.

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Congratulations, by the Way by George Saunders

Congratulations by the Way Title: Congratulations, By the Way
Author: George Saunders
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408859346
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

It is a small book. It is something that you will perhaps read in half an hour. It is the kind of book though that will remain in your subconscious forever. It is an essay. It is a Commencement speech given by George Saunders at Syracuse University in May 2013. The speech is about kindness, about what it means to be kind and perhaps the only regrets he has ever had have been those when he was not kind to people.

“Congratulations, By the Way” is a book which will make you reflect and wonder about life and its worth. The book does not proclaim to teach you anything and maybe if you want to, you will probably not learn anything from it either. But I also think that kindness is something which is inherent, and yet most of us fail miserably, at being kind.

The book is simply written and is just about being kind to one another and if possible, also to oneself. We also tend to forget sometimes how important it is to be kind to oneself. I will most certainly reread this book and also will recommend it to people – so that we never forget to be kind.

Here is the video of the speech:

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob Title: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Author: Mira Jacob
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9789384052706
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: Publicist
Rating: 5/5

The past is beautiful and also has the power to be vicious. For it to rear its ugly head and not let go, till the demons have been put to rest. As a reader, I see this theme occurring again and again in books. I think that one cannot ignore it in any art form. The past is a strong element of nature that will not be ignored at all and it will be repeated again and again, just as it plays a central and vociferous role in Mira Jacob’s book, “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing”.

“The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing” is a story of a dysfunctional family, of old ties, of relationships that cannot be forgotten and which honestly, is nothing new in the world of literature. What is new though is the way it is said. The narration is so strong that it made me feel that I was reading a book of a different nature and plot. As it happens in all family stories – this one also has a lot of grandeur, a lot of mess, a lot of fleeting and unsaid emotions, and a lot of past, present and future that tangles itself and slowly unravels the plot.

At the heart of this book is the Eapen family. The novel opens in Seattle where Amina Eapen gets a call from her mother, Kamala in Albuquerque, saying that something is wrong with her surgeon father, Thomas, who is now talking to family members who are no longer alive. This is where Amina flies down to check on her father and the story begins – back and forth between India and America and New Mexico and the Eapen family’s secrets and despair and love and longing are unravelled, chapter by chapter. There is a lot happening in the book and maybe that is what makes it so special, also not to forget that it keeps coming back to the core of the plot.

The family is just like any other family and yet it is not what it seems. As you turn the pages, you are stunned by the language, the tenderness and harshness of prose at the same time, the starkness and as a reader; I was only happy that it was a big read and not cut down. Every character has his or her part etched beautifully. No one is out of place. From Amina dealing with her issues and identity looming large to her brother Akhil who is struggling with his own demons. There is also a lot of humour infused in the book – dry as it may be but it definitely helps the reader get through the complex parts.

Jacob in a very tragic-comic manner talks of an Indian family in America and their past linked to their future. The journey from India to America in search of a better life and the consequences of it, are described in great detailed and told with great empathy. The book is honest and that is most needed out of any book. There are no frills or pretensions around it. There is a lot of food in it as well. There is a lot of drama. There is a lot of love and there are sentences and dialogues which are stunning and will leave you begging for more.

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The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit Title: The Wives of Los Alamos
Author: TaraShea Nesbit
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408845998
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I was way too kicked to read this book. May be this is what happens to me all the time. I get kicked about a book and then somehow it does not live up the way I thought it would, to my expectations. “The Wives of Los Alamos” though surprised me after the first hundred pages or so. I think sometimes, the beauty of reading a book is perhaps not to give up on it. There is this voice that keeps telling you to go with the book and you do, and sometimes you end up thanking that voice.

As the title suggests, this book has got to do with Los Alamos, the military town that laid the ground for the invention of the atomic bomb by the United States of America. The wives of the scientists and physicists also arrive with their husbands to the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico. They start lives afresh, not knowing what is in store, with WWII looming large. They wonder, they speculate, and they cannot figure anything. Their children are brought up just like that – randomly almost, their households just take care of themselves and nothing seems right, as they are away from home.

“The Wives of Los Alamos” starts off slow and ends up picking up pace, right at the end of the book. I somehow got bored mid-way but it was the last part that really got me hooked to the book. Nesbit’s writing is of collective people – the nouns are collective, the wives are together – thinking, feeling and experiencing the same events and agonies and joys.

The husbands, the director and the General are also very strong characters in the book. The Manhattan Project as it was then called is explained quite succinctly in the book. From Oppenheimer the director to the views of the wives and the household help, Nesbit covers every tract of information beautifully. I would most certainly recommend this book to you, if you like history and the events it unfolds.

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