What’s with the writing scene in India? If Singh’s ‘Can Love Happen Twice’ was the worst written book I read in a long time, this one is the most insipid. Zoya returns from London to Delhi for a friends’ reunion and shows us how the hi-society life in Delhi works. But that’s it. There is practically no story. Exaggerated (and sometimes not so exaggerated) description of the life styles of the rich and famous don’t quite add to a novel. The writing is cliché ridden – though not so bad as Singh – but there are many repetitions of the same phrases over the entire length of the book. By the time I ended, I was sick of LV, Gucci and Jimmy Choo. The climax is perhaps the worst part. First, the readers are told about why Reema is the bitch she is – which doesn’t shock the reader (thought it seems to shock the writer alright) and secondly, everything gets resolved in the last three pages. There is so much telling (as opposed to showing) that the book seems like a description of each character’s feelings poured in inappropriate words.
Recommendation: Don’t even think of it.
The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
This time, Jhumpa Lahiri has stepped out of her comfort zone of telling an immigrant story and has even flirted with the naxalite movement. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. At least for me. The novel traces the lives of two brothers – Subhash and Udayan – and the different paths they decide to pursue. The book starts disappointingly – Lahiri on the unfamiliar territory of Bengal’s naxalite movement – but gains credibility soon thereafter when Subhash moves to US. In her comfort zone, Lahiri is superb. Subhash’s loneliness, fascination with US, constant comparisons and longing for India – is captured beautifully. And the beauty of the writing persists when Udayan’s wife Gauri married Subhash after Udayan’s death and follows him to US. Their daughter Bela’s journey back home to India is equally fascinating. And the most amazing thing about Lahiri unfolds here: she has told us this story many times – in Namesake and her short stories – and yet it is fresh, moving and powerful. Her USP continues to be her ability to tug at hearts without being melodramatic. There were at least two occasions when I cried. First, when Gauri leaves Subhash and Bela comforts him and second, when Subhash goes to the local farmers’ markets because the folks there remind him of Bela. What doesn’t work is the portion in India on the naxalite movement. Under Lahiri’s pen, it doesn’t hold you or jolt you. What also doesn’t work is the story meandering a bit, particularly towards the end. Nonetheless a master story-teller is a master story-teller. Like I say, if there is one writer who I would want to write like, it would have to be Jhumpa Lahiri.
Recommendation: A must read.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling
The overarching impression that I left with after reading the book was that Mindy Kaling is a nice Indian girl who makes only appropriate jokes. Sadly, as a result, she is funny in a limited way. Some of ‘The Office’ episodes she wrote may have been laugh out loud funny (I don’t know which ones she penned but it was indeed a hilarious sitcom), but the book is only mildly funny. It starts out strong – her accounting of her childhood is great – but then onwards its chic-lit all the way – funny but only Bridget Jones funny. Somewhere along the line, Mindy lets me know that I am not quite her target audience. But it is still fun to read about an improbable celebrity and her real self. I ended up liking Mindy Kaling, the person, better than the book.
Recommendation: Chic-lit lovers should certainly go for it.