Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Love in the Time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

28th Book of 2023

With this one, I am done reading 3rd book in row written by Indian female authors. After Koral Dasgupta and Preeti Shenoy, I tried my hands on Shunali Khullar Shroff’s “Lovein the Time of Affluenza”. This 292-pages book published by Bloomsbury is a wonderful take on the life of riches living in the prominent societies of Mumbai. It is always a fascination to know what happens with people who live in abundance of money - how is their life different from ours and what kind of struggles they go through. This book talks about the protagonist- Natasha and all the other characters closely associated with her.

 

Shunali, through her protagonist, speaks about the challenges that every person has to deal after marriage. We always discuss about how divorces have become a regular phenomenon and don’t take a minute to blame it on the rich society living around us for making this as common as having babies after marriage. The book discusses about how Natasha falls into a dilemma when she finds her best friend, Trisha, cheating on her husband. She wishes to break the news to Trisha’s husband- Nakul as well as to her husband- Varun as both the men are friends as well as business partners. She decides to maintain silence but the whole scenario makes her question about her own life and marriage. Here onwards, Shunali has been able to make us relate with her at all twists and turns. Natasha takes almost the same decision that any person would have taken but its impact makes us think about our own perception of what we had done in her situation.

 

Shunali makes us think about why marriages become boring after a point of time. She speaks of how women are expected to take efficient care of both – home and work together without faulting whereas men, conveniently, choose to be busy at work without giving much prominence to their family. She also raises a concern about how parenting is expected to be a full-time job for a mother whereas father is unapologetic for not being in touch with his children and their basic needs. She highlights how a man is always sandwiched between his wife and mother and has to balance off the situation between both of them. She has also highlighted on the responsibilities of a man to be a good-earner which is often taken granted by housewives.

 

I am glad the way Shroff has discussed about extra-marital affair in her story. Initially, it does sound immoral even from the way the protagonist of the book perceives it but author makes no mistake in signifying how it becomes the only choice for the person who is not even receiving bare minimum from their partner. This part of the book makes us a little uncomfortable but makes us question the reality of our modern lives where it’s so easy to find a new person to enjoy the missing part of our marriage with them or even end up falling in love without any guilt or shame. Authoress has also managed the Natasha’s part here onwards and didn’t let the story end up on the predictable path but gives it a good turn and make us feel good as a reader.

 

Shunali’s writing style is interesting which is filled with appropriate ingredients of detailing and specifications that helps us understand the ambience and aura of a scene and imagine everything as it’s happening with one of our acquaintances. The characters are nicely crafted as it helps us relate with all the protagonist’s friends and family members. We are able to understand their mindset and personality quite easily to know how they would interact in any scenario. This helps the book become a perfect page-turner as we wish to read how they’ll react and respond to Natasha when she’ll discuss certain scenarios or happenings with them. I wish if author could have avoided mentioning few characters in the initial pages of the book who didn’t have much to do with the story as it consumes our mind in remembering their names and references.

 

Shunali’s humour and sarcasm are the USPs of her writing as it is really wonderful and heartening to read about certain self-talk that the protagonist does with herself and her expressions when she deals with moments where she finds herself not responding in an idealistic way. Even the dialogues written while the characters converse with each other in light and tough situations are scripted mindfully as it makes us smile while reading them. I am impressed with the way Shunali has spoken about a married woman’s ordeals who belongs to a rich society - without being preachy or imparting modern woke feminism which is thrown everywhere these days - where even wrongs of a woman is always right whereas a man is wrong even for raising his voice on a legit concern.

 

Overall, this is indeed an entertaining book. I will rate it 4.5* out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Thursday, July 20, 2023

When Love Came Calling by Preeti Shenoy (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

27th Book of 2023

 


Some books are like those feel-good movies where you know what will happen in almost every scene yet you like watching it because the director has shot those scenes in a way that it tells you a lot than just the scene itself. The last book I read named “When Love Came Calling” by one of my favorite authors, Preeti Shenoy, is exactly that. It speaks so much between-the-lines that you feel a life coach is talking to you. This is a simple love story about two individuals who are brought up in two different countries – India and Britain, meet on one of their solo projects and eventually fall for each other. The story then speaks about their individuality, their love for each other, the challenges that arises in their life, their separation, perception and a lot more.

 

This 270-pages book is published by Srishti Publications with whom Preeti started her career as an author more than a decade ago. The story is spoken in the first voice of the main protagonists and whenever needed; author has also made the other characters speak directly to us. This is one of the best ways in which Preeti is able to narrate her stories. This time, again, she has been able to weave magic by letting us know what each of the characters were feeling at every moment they shared with each other. This helps us to understand both- Arush and Puja as much as we know about our best friends. Both the characters are very likeable and even in the scenes where one of them is not being pleasant with their responses, we still support them knowing what they’re going through in their mind.

 

Preeti has a rare skill of philosophizing in her books without actually philosophizing. You navigate through the story but there’s so much spoken between the lines that you start relating everything with your life and realizations start hitting you. When I started reading, I felt young the way protagonists explored their life. Gradually, I could sense the difficulty around the phase in life when we aren’t doing great in academics and get confused about how to lead life ahead – majorly in our 20s and 30s. Lastly, the book made me think what kind of a person I am and what do I exactly need personally, professionally, socially, spiritually and in almost every aspect.

 

Author throws light upon the young phase when we find the person and feel genuine love for the first time in our life. Preeti also emphasizes upon the fact that how tough it becomes to maintain the love-relationship considering the challenging educational and professional scenario in our country along with the strictness of our parents. The parent-child relationship is spoken about descriptively on how parents never try to understand what their child is as an individual. She also focuses on how children are forced to be a certain way just because their parents think that’s the right way to live even if the child is dying inside every moment. The modern family set-up where all the members are ambitious is nicely explored which tells about the mental challenges for a child who is not able to do great in life like them.

 

Preeti also displays how siblings who are meant to be a moral support for each other can become the biggest hurdle in someone’s life due to their cold behaviour towards the other or regular comparisons between both the child by parents, neighbours, relatives, teachers and everyone around in vicinity. Love is also described beautifully and makes you feel romantic. If you have a partner, you will start giving them more time and importance and if you don’t have them, you will want to have a companion to share the emotions generated after reading this story. I liked how Preeti has balanced the immaturity of the protagonists along with the matured insight on the effect of love and relationship in one’s life. She describes wonderfully - majorly in the end – on how someone’s presence in our life can lead to value-addition in the way we see and perceive ourselves and our thoughts.

 

There are many instances when the book made me feel lump in my throat and by the time I reached the last 50 pages, I just couldn’t stop shedding tears. Preeti should apologize to me for making me feel embarrassed in the Mumbai local train for wiping my tears in front of all the people who take the same coach daily. The way pre-climax is treated is one of the most powerful aspects of this book considering that every sentence has enough power of directly reaching our heart. That section made me think a lot about how I would have responded to a cold behaviour after doing something very dramatic and out-of-my-league for someone. Shenoy also gives a very big lesson on forgiveness which will stay with me for a long time through this story.

 

The climax eventually gives a good and perfect closure to this book without disappointing anyone- either the characters or the readers. The book also taught about accepting someone being very different than us or even a complete failure in life. It tells that eventually some key moments impact a person and it might happen at some point of time with everyone. Until then, we should be supportive of our loved ones and stand by them rather than ridiculing them every now and then. This book is also a very big lesson on modern-day parenting regarding how to handle kids when they are struggling with their relationships, competitions, failures, confusions etc. along with their own career and ambition. This is one of the most emotional and heartful story I have ever read. Preeti Shenoy has always been on top of my list and will stay there forever. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Monday, July 17, 2023

Summer Holidays by Koral Dasgupta (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!

  

26th Book of 2023

 


After letting the pages of this book turn yellow, I finally picked up Koral Dasgupta’s “Summer Holidays” after four years. This is the first time I read a book where the pages have turned yellow but the kind of story I got to read made me feel completely nostalgic and emotional. This 250-pages book published by Rupa Publications is a plot based out of a family and the love-hate relationship that goes hand in hand with it. The story talks about two cousins who are separated from each other for 16 years due to a feud between their parents. Rishi’s mother and Mira’s father are siblings but due to a rough argument and ego clashes, they don’t communicate with each other. After few years, when their children grow up and find each other on social media, they meet and share a great camaraderie with each other. As obvious, they plan to bring their parents back together and repair the damaged relationship.

 

This is the first time when I have picked up Koral’s book after knowing and regularly following her book updates for years now. I liked how she has been able to make us feel a part of this story because all of us have seen our parents distancing themselves from their siblings due to some or the other issue. More unfortunate are the incidents where the cousins who share great bond between themselves have to get separated from each other for life. I have personally gone through such events where I have not met my cousins since more than 1.5 decades now. Reading this book brought back all those emotions and memories back. The way Koral has captured the essence of both- sibling love as well as cousin love is beautiful. She is able to highlight the love and distance both these kinds of relationships endorse.

 

The narration is perfect where we are able to flow with the story without getting disturbed with the multiple characters the story has. There is a suspense throughout and as a reader, we keep on reading the book in fast pace to know how the siblings would meet each other eventually. Even though the plot makes you know what’ll happen in the end, you still want to go through the process of reading 250 pages. This speaks everything about the kind of justice Koral Dasgupta has done with the story. Even the other characters such as love interest of both the protagonists and other characters from their childhood whom they meet later again are given good backdrop which makes us connect with them as well.

 

There are many philosophical aspects that Dasgupta shares about life, love and relationships which actually makes us think about our opinion about the same and realize if the broken relationships in our life are justifiable or our ego has killed it prematurely. There are several conversations between the characters of these two different generations which leaves you teary-eyed. There is innocence, truth, realization, love, liking, acceptance, regret and what not in the words characters speak in their vulnerable state with each other.

 

Author is able to make us understand the importance of love that we can feel only with family. She makes it clear that even if separated, fought or never met for decades, blood relations still find just an excuse to get back with each other. This book is relatable to all the generations because of the set-up and premise Koral has created which is relevant with everyone. Also, this is going to be a great gift you can share with your cousins and siblings and make them realize how important they are for us. The only drawback that made my excitement drop has been the pre-climax and climax. I was expecting some drama in the end but author keeps things quite underwhelming without extracting plethora of emotions, tears and love from her characters and their reactions and loses a great opportunity. That’s the only reason why I have to take away half star away from what I had decided to rate the book. I rate it 4 stars out of 5. Recommended!


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WRITING BUDDHA


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Lion of Kashmir by Siddhartha Gigoo (Book Review: 2*/5) !!!

 25th Book of 2023

I generally avoid reading books based on Kashmir as I remember reading Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night when I was about 20 years old and couldn’t understand anything about the state. I was too na├»ve to understand the complexity of this place which has recently been removed from its special status – a journey which has not been very easy from country’s point of view. Somehow, I believed that after all these years following news and current affairs, I must have got aware of the complete situation and picked up a fiction book named “The Lion of Kashmir” written by an award-winning author, Siddhartha Gigoo.

 

This 260-pages book published by Rupa Publication is typically about the relationship between a father and daughter who are primarily from Kashmir but staying far away from each other. Unfortunately, one day the father goes missing and from here onwards, the daughter Zooni’s character has been developed giving us a bit backdrop into her past so that we can know her better. Author has been able to keep things easy in terms of making us become friends with the characters and understand their rare emotions which we might have not gone through it personally.

 

Author highlights the difficult situation in the state and tries emphasizing on the fact of how the local people are divided in two ideologies – where few are pro-India whereas few have taken the opposite and unfortunate path of destroying the people favoring Kashmir being a part of India. The book has been divided in three different parts where I personally liked the 1st and last part. The first part is more about Zooni whereas the last part is more about her father’s emotions about his state and love for his daughter.

 

Gigoo has become philosophical at many parts and I am glad that he made full justice with this opportunity that the story provided him. I liked few paragraphs a lot where you start thinking about life and the raw emotions shared regarding what one goes through in their tough moments.

 

Talking about the drawbacks, I must say that the book lacks twists and turns. It could have also given book a completely different shape but author doesn’t explore the thriller aspect at all. The book is lengthy and I believe it could have been summed up well in around 150-200 pages itself. Thirdly, the middle section of the book where the character of Zooni imagines things and few characters is such a boring write-up and I had to push myself in not keeping the book aside. It just takes you away from the story and drops you in between of a process which has nothing to do with the tale. Also, multiple to and fro in the timeline confused me as a reader. Author has good writing talent but unfortunately, there are few good points about the book but the not-so-good are many hence I am going with 2 stars out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Fixer by Suman Dubey (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

24th Book of 2023

 


I completed watching the first season of Inside Edge on Amazon Prime just last weekend. Co-incidentally I also finished reading a book named “The Fixer” written by author, Suman Dubey, almost at the same time. I was comparing both of them and I was surprised to realize that even though both the works are based on the same topic/theme but the execution is so very different. I am glad Suman took a completely different perspective while telling a story which speaks of something that’s equivalent to religion in India- Cricket. Moreover, as it has concept similar to IPL on which the match-fixing etc. has been based upon, I am glad that Dubey speaks in a manner that it still makes you feel excited and curious to know what’ll happen here and how.

 

This 290-pages book published by Rupa Publications is a perfect page-turner. It is a wonderful thriller where you wait as a reader to know what’ll happen with each and every character of the story. Author has not talked specifically about the world of cricket - but its more about how members of a dysfunctional family are trying to survive against each other and secure their future. It also dives into how a business family thinks about their business and what are the challenges that they have to go through not only professionally but personally as well. Later, the book explains how when such business gets into a completely new zone such as Cricket, the ideological shift is tough to adapt with which creates more feud among all the family members involved in the business.

 

Hence, Cricket is a by-product of the above themes which are majorly spoken in the book. The character of Neil Upadhyay is so perfectly written that right from the 1st page, you are with him and his thoughts. You feel for his loss every time he fails at proving himself. His role in the 2nd half of the book makes it very interesting and you keep on cheering for him every now and then. The way his conversations are drafted with all the characters are a masterpiece as they give you a sense of how the story takes a new shape as soon as the talk ends. His passion for Cricket and his firmness for his morals and values teach a lot in hindsight. His chemistry and topsy-turvy relationship with Kanika give the story the much-needed glamour and mind-game.

 

The match-fixing part is dealt in a very distinct manner than what we have already seen in movies. All the narrations related to fixing, dressing room, field action, post-match scenarios and the changing dynamics between characters are nicely executed and does justice to the cover page and title of the book. We get an overview on how different kind of Cricketers such as legends, new-comers, out of form players, in form players etc. see their game as. We understand the psyche of why few players go the wrong way without thinking of the future opportunities and after-effect. Similarly, author tries to give us a glimpse of how club Crickets which involves entrepreneurs in the game as well can never be as clean as international formats where countries play against each other. We get detailing on how money and popularity comes over the game in such Club formats.

 

Overall, the book is a power-packed story which keeps you glued to it. The second half gets more fascinating as compared to already interesting and over-the-top 1st half. The way author tries to give a backdrop and importance to every character involved in the story is a brilliant execution. We are able to empathize and understand the mindset of every character. Similarly, author doesn’t confuse us with multiple characters considering that even the players are a major part of the story. Somehow, we are able to remember their role in the story even if we read the book in different sessions. The struggle of a rich and insecure family is given prominence where reading about siblings and their view about each other makes you understand how selfish we, as human, get at times. The pre-climax and climax are a good closure to the story. Suman is a wonderful writer and I am wondering why he has still not come out with another book yet. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


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