Tag Archives: romance

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

The Heavens by Sandra Newman Title: The Heavens
Author: Sandra Newman
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 978-0802129024
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

The Heavens is the kind of book that gets under your skin only if you allow it to. In the sense that you have to be prepared for it, read it slowly, take in what Newman has to offer, and then be enthralled by its worlds, characters, and their lives. I don’t even know how to categorize this book – what does one call it? Historical fiction? Contemporary? Fantasy? Come to think of it, I shall not call it anything but a novel that will charm, beguile, and leave you a little bit breathless.

I hadn’t realized Sandra Newman had written more books before reading this one. So, long story short: The Heavens is about the power of dreams and what they can do to your world. It is the year 2000. Ben (Debendranath – yes, read the book to find out more) meets Kate and they fall in love. Kate loves love. Ben loves Kate.

Then there is the question of Kate’s dreams that she’s been having since childhood. The dreams where she lives a second life as Emilia – the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England. But what happens when dreams impact reality? Kate begins to understand that her actions in her dreams alter her reality on waking up. Incidents that she doesn’t remember anymore, people she hasn’t heard of, neighbourhoods that have sprung up on their own, and something more is at play which she has to stop, or so she thinks.

In all of this is Ben – always wondering what’s going on with his partner. From a family with its own demons, all he wants is a simple life, and tries very hard to understand Kate and her second life as Emilia. And but of course you have to read the book to find out what happens next – what occurs and what doesn’t. In all of this, Newman introduces their friends – Sabine – free-spirited, gossipy, and absolutely silly (at least to me), Oksana (you just have to read about her), Martin, and José to name a few. The reason I speak of them is they are as integral to the story as Ben and Kate.

Newman’s writing reminded me of Alain de Botton’s style to begin with, till I got used to her voice and it was only her writing that mattered. Her prose strikes you in so many places – the struggle of Kate and whether or not she is losing her mind. Newman makes you believe in both worlds equally – in both characters – Kate and Emilia. Not for once did they strike me as the same person, till of course dreams and reality merged.

There is also a surprise element of who she meets in the year of the plague in England. The technicalities of time travel are spot-on – they never bog you down as a reader. In fact, you want to know more about that era and what transpired. What I loved the most is that Newman gets to the point. There is brevity in its 272 pages and no rambling at all.

The Heavens could also not be for all. It worked for me on several levels – of love, friendship, dreams, and what may come in the future. But it may not work for you if you are the sort of reader who wants to find meaning and purpose in everything you read. Sandra Newman is one author whose works I will be devouring a lot more.

 

Dark Things by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

dark-things-by-sukanya-venkatraghavan Title: Dark Things
Author: Sukanya Venkatraghavan
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-9350099223
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Pages: 360
Source: Author
Rating: 4 Stars

Not a lot of people write fantasy fiction in the country and that to me was perplexing at one point, till it became clear. A lot of readers don’t read homegrown fantasy fiction. It could work either way, but the point being – there have to be more authors and readers of the so-called Indian fantasy fiction genre only because there is so much to explore, given our rich mythology and stories we have been hearing from our grandmothers on a cold winter’s night. With this thought in mind, I am glad that I got the opportunity to read ‘Dark Things’ by Sukanya Venkatraghavan and also interview her at the Halloween event organized by Books on Toast.

It would be quite safe to say that you wouldn’t have read anything like “Dark Things”. I would also be very candid and say that initially I thought I would not be taken in by a book like this, about Indian demons and monsters, but all it took me was two chapters to be hooked in to the world of Atala, the lives (I think I can say that) of Ardra, Hera and Dwai. Also, at this point, might I add that the book’s plot is inspired by a Keralan temple legend (which again to my mind is innovative and draws from its roots and should be done more often) and also manages to merge with modern times in a rather kick-ass manner.

Now to the plot of the book – Dwai survives a supernatural attack on Earth by Ardra. Ardra’s world is literally thrown into a series of questions and confusion at this incident. I was more clued in to the character of Hera – she is evil and that kinda made me want to know more about her and where she comes from. Everyone loves the hero so to say, but I was more piqued about this anti-hero. She is brazen, wild and doesn’t let emotions get better of her. This is the world of Gandharvas, Apsaras and Yakshis and you need patience to get into it.

I think to a very large extent, the plot being so simple helps reading this book. That way what tends to happen is that you can focus on the characters and what’s going on with them – in the sense a true balance between plot and characterization is struck. There is also a lot of romance in this book but let me also tell you that this is far from the usual paranormal romance. There are more layers to it which only come to light once you are further in the book and have been able to connect one with the other. All said and done, should you read Dark Things? Of course, you should. Should you perhaps pester the writer for a sequel right after finishing it? You bet your ass you must!

Attachment by Florence Noiville

Attachment by Florence Noiville Title: Attachment
Author: Florence Noiville
Translated by: Teresa Lavender Fagan
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 9780857422330
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages:128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A young girl and an older man fall in love. She is all of seventeen – not yet an adult. He is close to fifty and her professor. She loves him and he loves her. He is but obviously married and that is how the novella is played out – between the two – not to forget her daughter, who after years is trying to make sense of her mother’s life, her affair and what love really is in the larger scheme of things – if it is anything at all.

“Attachment” by Florence Noiville is a stunner of a novella. It is epistolary – letters written by Marie (which her daughter chances upon) to her lover H and that is how the novella opens to the reader.

The book explores the obsessive nature of love – how it can resurrect you and how it can ruin you completely. It is also about that one thing inside of us that makes us attached to people whom we shouldn’t have approached to begin with.

The writing is crisp and to the point and that is what I guess any reader will love first and appreciate about the book. The book doesn’t go on and on without any end. To a very large extent, credit must also be given to the beautiful translation by Teresa Lavender Fagan and the ability with which, the translation is able to stick true to the aesthetics to the original – or so it seems, given the flow and the meanings that emerge.

“Attachment” to me is an immensely powerful novella – that very skillfully manages to integrate pasts and presents of people alive and dead. Honestly I would give this book to anyone who has ever been in love or is in love as of now, just for the poetry of prose that it has to present.

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There’s something about you by Yashodhara Lal

Cover Artwork Title: There’s Something About You
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9789351771999
Genre: Romance, Fiction
Pages: 268
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Fiction is definitely more interesting when you have someone to relate to in the book. Reading Yashodhara Lal’s “There’s something about you” reminded me of the fact that I could still relate to some characters while reading a book. In this case, it was the protagonist Trish, though my life is not as bad, but most aspects I could get. I will get to the story later, but don’t you think of characters time and again after you are done with a book? Don’t they stay with you? When that happens I feel so weird and yet it feels like I have reached home. Now to the book.

“There’s something about you” by Yashodhara Lal is about Trish. She is a twenty-eight year old woman. She is overweight, snarky and single. She is also now jobless. Sahil on the other hand is your almost perfect, thirty-five year old geek who wants her. Trish does not want anyone in her life. Sahil will not give up that easy. That’s when the fun begins and the rollercoaster ride called life has just begun for Trish. Okay so this is the story. It may seem this simple, however it is not. Also, let me add at this point that I enjoyed this book a lot.

The book is a light read. At the same time it speaks of modern relationships and love so accurately that you can almost read your life as you turn the pages or at least some incidents from it. The story is fast-paced and what I liked is that the secondary characters have as much a big role to play as Trish and Sahil.

I normally do not read breezy or so called chick-lit fiction but trust me this book is not that. If anything, then to me it falls in the genre of literary romance and that is a great relief from what gets churned out these days. I would recommend this book to you for a lazy monsoon read and before you know it you would be done with the read and a very satisfying one at that.

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Us by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9780340897003
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There was a lot of buzz around “One Day” when it first released in 2009. I remember all the hype around it and decided not to read the book at all. I had of course bought it, but somehow did not want to read it or could not get into it, because of all the acclaim and the fact that almost everyone was reading it. The movie released in 2011 I think. I watched it in Bangkok, all by myself and hoping there was someone to share the experience with. “One Day” was a brilliant film according to me and then I read the book and was wowed by it in more than one ways.

Last year I received an uncorrected proof of “Us” and could not wait to get into it. With work and other matters pressing priority, the book took a backseat so to speak and I managed to read it only this month. And boy oh boy, did I love it! “Us” is written in vintage Nicholls style – with humour, some tragedy and also profundity in so many sentences that shine through the pages.

“Us” as the title suggests is about a couple and the story of their lives, quite literally from the time they met to when Connie Petersen announces to her husband Douglas that she wants out of their marriage. This is after three decades of their strong relationship. They have a moody seventeen year-old son Albie who clearly is more inclined towards his mother than his father. Connie has already planned a month-long tour to some European capitals. The timing is terrible but Douglas hopes that this will rekindle their relationship and things will change.

“Us” is a book full of hope, humour and one man’s attempts to save his marriage. The writing as I mentioned earlier is quirky, a little bit sad and told from a perspective which moves into the past and present and absolutely heart-breaking at times. “Us” is the sort of book that will make you look at your relationships differently and also make you want to work on them a little harder. The story could belong to anyone. It is because of this universal appeal that the book works on so many levels. Nicholls’ eye-for-detail is absolutely stunning. He makes you see the setting differently and the dialogues that are plenty do the rest of the work. “Us” is a heart-warming book to be read on a Sunday with lots of hot chocolate.

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Us