The Solitude of Emperors By David Davidar

Cross posted at Bookreviews at Bookrack.

This was once again a book, that came recommended by several in the blog world. I wanted to read The House of Blue Mangoes first, but got hold of this one first.

Vijay is a young man, in a small town K— in Tamilnadu, and is desperate to escape from the small town living. His father encourages him to write about the rise of religious fundamentalism in India, after their family servant Raju ran away to help build a temple. He wrote an article, which was partially made up and edited with his father’s help. It got rejected from most newspapers and magazines, but managed to catch the interest of Rustom Sorabjee, who was the proprietor and founder of The Indian Secularist.

Rustom Sorabjee is passionate  about the Indian method of Secularism, where we learn to live by and tolerate those of other faiths and he is also very concerned about the rise of religious fundamentalism which threatens India’s seclarism. He is impressed by Vijay and is given a job in his newspaper in Bombay. Vijay grabs at it, only too happy to escape from his small town life. He is having a happy, normal existence in Bombay, when in his fervour to report on the riots in Bombay, he witnesses some gruesome scenes, almost loses his life and is badly affected by it.

Rustom Sorabjee, in an effort to help him recover from his ordeal, sends him to a tea plantation in Nilgiris, where he also wants him to cover a story on a Christian Shrine which has some Hindu-Christian dispute related to it.  Vijay meets an enigmatic character Noah, who is very different from anybody he has met before. His ideas, his philosophy, confuses Vijay, and yet, he seems to trust Noah, on some plane.

Vijay is very keen on preventing any sort of religious clash, that might impact the shrine. He manages to gather enough information that leads him to believe that there is some sort of attack planned on the shrine. His warnings go unnoticed, or dismissed by most of the prominent personalities in the village.

Getting personally and emotionally involved, he sets into motion some things, which could not be reversed.

It was an interesting read, although I felt the that the book lost momentum in some places. Noah’s characterization was done very well. The author does a beautiful job in showing how circumstances and conditions motivate different people, in different ways.

It was a very thought provoking read and I would give it a 3 on 5.

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The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

Cross-posted at BookReviews at Bookrack

I first came across Thrity Umrigar’s name somewhere in the blogworld. Swaram recommended the books too, so when I found The Weight of Heaven in the library, my happiness knew no bounds.

The story is set in Girbaug, a small town in India. Frank and Ellie Benton, after having lost their seven-year old son, to a sudden infection, have moved to India, in an effort to put the past behind them. Frank and Ellie, college sweethearts who had been extremely close, had been having a tough time keeping their marriage together after Benny’s death. In India, Ellie, a therapist,  manages to find a purpose in life, make new friends and starts to feel at home. For, Frank, however, it is a different India. It is an India, full of corruption and complications. An India where he feels like an outsider.

The company Frank works for, Herbal Solutions, seems to have antagonized the local people, when they bought the land with trees having medicinal properties. The local people depended on it for several decades and now, do not understand how the company could have bought the trees that were theirs. In addition to this, there are trade union issues which Frank finds difficult to handle.

The only bright side to Frank’s life in Girbaug, is their housekeeper’s son – Ramesh. Frank is captivated by the little boy’s smartness and charm. He spends hours teaching him, going on picnics together, playing basketball with him, buying extravagant gifts. So much so that his parents,his father, in particular starts resenting Frank’s involvement in his son’s life.

Things come to a head when certain complications force Frank’s boss to call him back to America. Frank then takes a decision, which changes the course of a lot of people’s lives.

The book is beautifully written. The pain that Frank and Ellie are going through comes across very clearly. The author also gives a very vivid picture of life in a small town in India. The difference between Ellie’s India and Frank’s India are beautifully brought out. The struggles of an American couple in India is well etched out, especially given the fact that in a lot of situations, they are made to be apologetic for their government’s actions in different parts of the world.

I would give it a five on five rating. It was a brilliant read. I could not keep the book down without completing it.

The White Queen – Book Review

The White Queen

By Philippa Gregory

The first Philippa Gregory I read, was The Other Boleyn Girl and I was hooked for good. I read all her other books, mainly on the Tudors.  They were all fascinating reads and the best part was that the books were always written from the point of view of a woman. It gave a rare insight into what might have gone on, with the women, behind the scenes. The women who were responsible(in a way) for the formation of the Church of England. It also piqued my interest in the history and I read up a lot of history, in an effort to understand what was fiction and what was fact.What fascinated me was that most of what Gregory wrote was based on facts. And the dimensions she adds to her characters are wonderful.

When I saw The White Queen in the library, I just had to pick it up. In this book, she moves on from the Tudors to the dynasty before them – the Plantaganets. The book starts off with Elizabeth Woodville, a Lancastarian widow who stops the King Edward on his way, to ask for justice and for her lands to be returned to her. It turns out that Edward falls in love with her and marries her in secret. In the backdrop, there is also the suggestion of witchcraft. Elizabeth and her mother are shown indulging in witchcraft.  Soon, she is accepted as the Queen of England, but not without her share of enemies who believe that she tricked the King to marry her. It does not help matters that her family is given a lot of important positions by the king.

As the story develops, with treason, treachery and conquests, it is fascinating to read it from the queen’s point of view. Of her ambitions and hopes for her children.The choices that she makes, the life that she lives.  I especially love the fact that she shows all the blacks and the greys as well as vulnerable parts of the queen’s character. As I said earlier, it shows the important role the women played in aspects of governing even in those days. I have not read up the history yet, but I definitely found it very interesting.

My recommendation is that if you like historical fiction, go for it, otherwise keep away.

Handle with care – Book Review

Handle with care

By Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s writing always captivated me, even if I could not always agree with some of the protagonists.  Handle with care was no different. She picked up another sensitive issue and made it a very interesting read.

Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe after a lot of trying, conceive and they find that the baby, Willow, has a rare condition called  osteogenesis imperfecta. She is born with broken bones. And it can only get worse as she grows. A child who can break a bone if held incorrectly, who cannot be hugged, cuddled, unless with great care. A nurse manages to break a bone, right after she is born, by handling her wrong.

As Willow grows older, the stress on the family increases. Charlotte has an elder daughter Amelia, from a previous relationship, who feels the pressure of have a sibling who is so sick.The family’s finances are stretched and the circumstances have begun to take a toll on all of them.

Having had so many broken bones, it is mandatory for Willow’s parents to carry the certificate from her doctor which certifies that she has osteogenesis imperfecta. They forget to carry this to a trip to Disneyland and they are suspected of abusing their daughter. Having so many broken bones can only mean abuse.  After the disastrous Disneyland, Sean is all set to sue Disneyland and the hospital for the mental torture, when they are told that they have another option. They could sue their ob-gyn for not recognizing Willow’s condition early enough so that they could have opted for termination.

This would mean that Charlotte would have to sue her best friend and would have to stand up in court and say that she wishes that Willow was never born.

It was a very moving book to read. The kind of pain that Willow has to go through. The feelings that Amelia has to go through, having a mother who has little time for her, though she loves her wholeheartedly. Knowing that everything could go wrong with the slightest mistake. The stress that Charlotte and Sean’s relationship goes through. There are a lot of times when Charlotte comes through as rather mercenary, but again, I guess, someone in her position might just become that way.

It was a gripping read, which kept me absorbed till the last word – like all of Jodi Picoult’s books. It was a book that made me cry, made me thankful for all that I had. The simple pleasures of hugging a child, teaching her to walk, letting her fall, things which we take for granted, might be things which some may never be able to experience…