Tinderbox: M. J. Akbar

41yPdgpyVXL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg41uj9R4j7SL._SY600_.jpg

A remarkable account of Pakistan’s history – starting from the Mughal times to the present .  Akbar’s knowledge of the history is excellent and he presents it in an engaging way.  The book doesn’t start too well – it seems a rambling of facts in no serious order – but towards the end it all comes together to close on the tinderbox Pakistan has become.

Read.

The Woman in the Window: A.J.Finn

 

519iQ0ZzduL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgl2s3218_45_gi_675733336-concrete-wall.jpg

A well-written book that goes through a few peaks and troughs.  An intelligent, but agoraphobic woman, is confined to her home and witnesses a crime.  The book starts amazingly, centered on the woman’s life – that is both intriguing and informative.  It dips mid-way when the crime gets committed, and the book becomes just another whodunit.  It picks up again, three-fourths of the way, when our narrator is shown to be unreliable.  But then dips again.  The ending was disappointing.  Neither satisfying not believable.  What worked for me particularly was the writing – very today and now.  Interestingly there were shades of ‘The Woman on the Train’ in the novel (It’s not just the title that is similar) – an incident only the narrator was witness to, poor credibility of the protagonist and so on.

Read.

Pachinko: Min Jin Lee

51Ecu+fgnWL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgminjinlee.jpg

Pachinko is a beautifully written saga spanning five generations of a poor Korean family that moves to Japan.  Lee does a great job on many fronts.  The protagonists change as the story progresses, yet she does a remarkable job in keeping the characters distinctive.  She introduces the readers to Korean culture and the depressingly realistic picture of Koreans living in Japan.  Despite using an omniscent narration, she is able to let the readers  look into the characters’ heads.

A must read.

Lilac Girls: Martha Hall Kelly

51+eJFxRr4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg61lxXvHvSkL._UY200_.jpg

Another WWII story, Lilac Girls, traces the lives of three very different women affected by the war.  Kasia, a Polish young woman, spends the best years of her life in a Nazi concentration camp.  Caroline, an American philanthropist falls in love with a French Actor and tracks him down in Paris only to lose him again.  Herta, a German doctor of humble origins, carried out horrific acts on the prisoners, without as much as a prick of conscience.  The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps: the indiscriminate killings, the medical experiments on prisoners, and the inhuman living conditions of the inmates are captured in their ugly nakedness.  I believe I have read too much of WWII to be shocked any longer,  but the story still touches you nonetheless. What I thought would be the strength of the book – the narrative continuing after the end of the war, including the Russian occupation of Poland – turned out to be the weak link.  The characters, particularly Kasia’s – gets a bit mixed-up and irrational.  The writing is not very attractive but the starkness of the story reigns supreme.

Read, if you are not saturated by WWII books.