Thursday, November 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE SECRET OF GOD'S SON (PRADYUMNA: SON OF GOD)BY USHA NARAYANAN

Name of the Book: The Secret of God's Son
Author: Usha Narayanan
Rating: 5 Stars

The Story
When you get to review a book penned by an author whom you admire a lot, to read the book and review it becomes a joy. The Secret of God's Son is one such book which will not only remind you of our great heroes and how they became a hero through their trials and tribulations but will also keep you grounded and away from vanity, especially when you read about the Achilles’ heel that every hero from our past had. Such narrative not only makes you take pride in our literature but also reminds you that no one is invincible and every hero had to remember this to achieve great heights.

Ms.Narayanan’s The Secret of God’s Son introduces Pradyumna, the son of Krishna, in his pacifist avatar who eases into his destiny as the story progresses. 

Along with his wife, Maya, he not only is a propagator of self-righteousness but also believes in solving most of the issues without resorting to violence. But his half-brother, Samba, who is the augmenter of the Kali yuga, would not let him live in peace.

Pradyumna might be a peace-loving man, but when it comes to protecting his family, his real persona surfaces to fight back.

The Background

Watching actors acting in the serial and painting the scene of  The Mahabharata is something most of us are used to. But to paint that same scene with words is not a small feat. To some of us, what are folklore and stories becomes a way of life to many Indians. The nucleus of our culture. Many incidents in this book will tell you where certain thoughts and culture has its roots from. 

Maya, in this part of the series, is not just a shadow of Pradyumna but becomes the voice of the future generations of women. Why did Sita tolerate such injustice and why did Draupadi have to bear such a heavy cross of obliterating a whole clan? Why was the responsibility of continuing a saga lying heavily on the shoulders of a woman?

Beautiful thoughts that satiated the feminist in me. 

The Research
I am a lover of mythology but in all my readings and research, the influx of names that Ms. Narayanan has studded this novel with is remarkable. Incidents, where the souls of the Kurus come to visit their loved ones, will bring a lump to your throat. Ms. Narayanan made me cry over Duryodhana too. Now who would have thought that? :)

There is no doubt that a lot of research that has gone into this book. And not only research but also analysis. This book is not just a fiction of what the author thinks could have happened. Nor a make-believe world where Pradyumna, like Shiva in Amish Tripathi’s novel, is born to be a man. But questions like why Ravana was born as a nemesis of Rama and Samba of Pradyumna. Each character was following the Karma Chakra, unknown to them – they all played a role in welcoming the Kali Yuga.

Gandhari’s curse which seems so dominant in the beginning of the novel is but a small drop in the ocean of tales that this novel brings to a reader.

The Oomph Factor
As the story progresses, there were many times I raised an eyebrow thinking I can prove Ms. Narayanan wrong in her research. Ah, that’s the small game I always play with myself. Thanks to ‘google chacha’, there is nothing you cannot find on the net. Except for one. Who exactly is Pradyumna’s? Kama? Vama? Or…? I am still getting goosebumps in the analogy that Ms. Narayanan has drawn regarding this. A must read only to understand this fact. 

What I liked
Maya definitely tops the list of my likes in this novel. The warrior princess. The woman who was the real ardhangini of Pradyumna. A woman on whom the future generation can look up to as a role model.  How many of us can truly say that Sita or Draupadi are our role models? I have no intention of walking on the fire pit just to please my husband and ah well Draupadi .. ah well. 

But Maya has that oomph factor. The fiery princess who can face any challenge. Pradyumna and Samba form the perfect good vs. evil in this part of the series. And for once, I saw Krishna as a human. A father caught between two sons. A beautiful thought. But yes, if he could have turned Samba into a lizard, many problems could have been solved. 

What could have been better:
The beginning. I have to mention this here for I want readers to go past the first few pages. The first few pages have too many introductions to characters and situations. Sometimes you might feel you are on a roller coaster ride but just hang on for the first 10 pages – after that, you will not regret it. Especially with the introduction of Kali, this book becomes ‘unputdownable'.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

A definite yes. A must read for all mythological lovers.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE ORPHAN BY S.R. NAIR

Name of the Book: The Orphan
Name of the Author: S. R Nair
Rating: 4 Star

I am no stranger to Mr. Nair's writing. His style is quite interesting. I won't call it unique but interesting. He seems to have this habit of going straight into the topic. Plunging a reader directly into the plot without much padding. After reading the blurb I did get the insight where this story was leading. I was excited to know how an author visualizes what could have happened the night the 'accident' took place. Did it change the life of the individual or did he carry on the burden, which might have got diluted as he rose to his stardom? I will not deny that Mr. Nair has made a great attempt in delving into the minds of individuals and the psychology of the Indians in dealing with foreigners and the elite class.

'The Orphan' is a story of a young boy, Sid Westin, who is orphaned twice over. His fight against the corrupt system in India as a foreigner forms the backbone of this story.

“Mahatma Gandhi— a grandfatherly man with a benign, toothless smile— looked on from a framed picture that hung on the wall. In the blinking light, it appeared that Gandhi was winking wickedly in incongruous contrast to the beatific smile.”

 The above line summarizes not only the gist of the novel but also the thoughts of the author. What kind of life are we leading in India? Has our conscious been totally corrupted by our greed?The opening chapter of Mr. Nair starts with a very thought provoking message. Is the law and order of our country just a plaything in the hands of a corrupt few?

After the death of his parents, Sid finds himself a multi-millionaire and he goes to India to do the last rites of his parents according to the Hindu religion, as were the wishes of his parents. He gets to know the truth behind his parent’s death and meets the dashing Sanjay Khan.

After this point, the story becomes a narrative about Sanjay Khan – about his Bollywood achievements and his philandering ways. Mr. Nair is no doubt influenced by the SK accident and you can see many actors and producers hidden behind veiled references.

Throughout the story, the author shows the readers to the battle between the classes. The elite vs the commoners. Though the author tried to give us a balanced view of the incident but one cannot deny where his inclination lay.

Though the incidents have been presented well, I only wish the author would have diverted from the reporting style in his writing. As a fiction reader, I would have loved to have these incidents shown to me rather than reported to me. While the story of Sid had a lot of emotions, Sanjay Khan’s story sadly lacked that. Whether pride, anger or lust – I needed to be shown that to connect me to the characters.
But all in all a good read with many page turning incidents.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

A one time read definitely. Especially if you are an SK fan or hater. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: NO SAFE ZONE BY ADITE BANERJIE

Name of the Book: No Safe Zone
Author: Adite Banerjie
Rating: 4 Stars

Mysteries have a tendency to wither away if there is too much built up before coming to the point. No Safe Zone by Adite Banerjie plunges the readers straight into the nucleus of the mystery and Ms.Banerjie's Qiara Rana lands up in front of a dead body, runs into her ex-lover and has many shady characters chasing her right from the beginning.

Qiara is a London-based social activist who is furious when investigating officers try to blame them for human trafficking. Qiara is still reeling in shock, when their benefactor is accused of being involved. But when she goes to find out the truth, she faces many more unanswered questions.

And a dead body!

Landing up in a wrong situation at a wrong time can be killing, but soon she realizes that there are people who are following her and she has no clue as to why and what they want from her. And in this journey lies my first peeve with the story. Her adventures had some very easy escapades. She is tough no doubt, but every time the timely arrival of Kabir stops her from being a firebrand that was part of the charm of Rayna from Trouble has A New Name, another novel written by Ms. Banerjie.

But where Qiara lacks in the feistiness, the chain of events that always follow her makes this story an interesting read. One of my favorites in this chain of unfortunate events was the broken wing butterfly tattoos. Here Ms.Banerjie uses symbolism to depict many small things. A child separated from her parents, a child marked for sale and a child yearning to know her past. This part of the novel has some major twists that would make a reader go back a few pages just to make sure they have not overlooked any clues. 

Kabir simply became a cry in her heart she never could get rid of.

Such a beautiful line and just a small example of how lyrical Ms. Banerjie’s writing is. Along with that, she has depicted a few social issues and all the while weaving the chemistry between the two protagonists. All along as a reader, I know that Kabir and Qiara had a past. But a man of Kabir’s character leaving a girl cold and dry suddenly did not make sense. I had to know why he had done such an act. 

So questions like why were these people after Qiara? And what was the picture of her father doing in the victim’s tablet and the relationship between her tattoo and a few missing girls – they sure will keep a reader turning the pages of this novel. 

WHAT COULD HAVE WORKED BETTER FOR ME:

Keeping a balance between mystery and a romance in a romantic thriller is like walking on a double edge sword. Either the mystery element dominates or the romance subdues the “aha moment” of the treasure trail. Ms. Adite has done justice to a great extent, but as a romance reader, I wanted more interaction between the protagonists. Their relationship had broken up earlier. I wanted to feel that pain hidden in their heart. I wanted to see how, despite that, they could not stay away from each other. I wanted a few more butterfly moments. Greedy me :)

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

Of course, I would. A very well written book with impeccable language and plots and subplots that will leave you with a few nail-biting moments.