Books shelved under “India”

23 reviews found

  1. Book cover for A Suitable Boy

    A Suitable Boy

    by Vikram Seth

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Every so often, I consider dropping the star ratings from my reviews. After all, ratings are a convention, not a requirement. Novels like A Suitable Boy confound the one-dimensionality of a 5-star rating system and leave me stymied. This is a 5-star novel. It is also a 1-star novel. Do I split the difference, give it 3 stars? Or do I depart from tradition and leave it unrated? You already know the answer, of course,…

  2. Book cover for Siddhartha

    Siddhartha

    by Hermann Hesse

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sometimes novels are really philosophy tracts in disguise. If you’re Neal Stephenson, this usually turns into an unwieldy doorstopper that uses its tremendous bullk to beat the reader into submission. If you’re Herman Hesse, you write a kind of novella that is also pretty dense yet somehow manages to be simple and light at the same time. Siddhartha is one of those delightful early twentieth-century novels that by modern standards do not work at all…

  3. Book cover for Interpreter of Maladies

    Interpreter of Maladies

    by Jhumpa Lahiri

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sometimes we end up reading an author backwards, like Merlins travelling through literary space-time, always encountering younger, less experienced versions of the writer. I have long enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction, and here I am reading her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. So if I seem underwhelmed by these compared to the praise I’ve sung of her work in the past, it’s probably because her talents have only grown since she wrote…

  4. Book cover for The Mistress of Spices

    The Mistress of Spices

    by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The difficult relationship between power, responsibility, and humility is on full display in The Mistress of Spices, where Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s empathetic and passionate writing merges with magical realism. I loved a lot of the ideas in this book, and the meditative way in which CBD punctuates the narrative with beats on each spice. Yet the execution of the story itself, and the characters, left much to be desired.

    Tilo is a young woman…

  5. Book cover for Drawing the Line

    Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back!

    by Priya Kuriyan

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    She doesn’t want to get married.

    She wants her darker skin to be celebrated, not medicated.

    She wants to escape the memories of abuse at the hands of her uncle and break the cycle for her own daughter.

    She wants a job and doesn’t understand why it’s so hard for the men who might hire her to look her in the eye instead of her breasts.

    None of these stories are my stories. My story…

  6. Book cover for Before We Visit the Goddess

    Before We Visit the Goddess

    by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    A moving, sometimes surprising story that examines the fallibility present in all of us as individuals, Before We Visit the Goddess is one of the briefest multi-generational tales I’ve ever tackled. Indeed, initially I was sceptical that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni could tell three women’s stories in just over 200 pages. Fall On Your Knees, probably my gold standard for multi-generational storytelling, clocks in at twice that length. Yet I had faith in CBD’s writing—I…

  7. Book cover for The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

    The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

    by Padma Viswanathan

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I read, and greatly enjoyed, The Toss of a Lemon years ago. Now Padma Viswanathan is back, this time with a Giller Prize nomination, again with a book connected to India, but now one firmly grounded in Canada’s history and conflicted mixture of cultural obligations as well. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is every bit as complex and emotionally sensitive as one might expect from a literary award nominee. While it didn’t quite…

  8. Book cover for The Satanic Verses

    The Satanic Verses

    by Salman Rushdie

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Hard to say whether this is the most famous Rushdie, but it’s certainly the one that got him into the most hot water. The Satanic Verses contains, in part, an irreverent telling of the genesis of Islam as revealed by the prophet Mohammed (Mahound) retold through the visions of Gibreel Farishta, a Bollywood superstar-turned-archangel. Yet, in that trademark way of his, Salman Rushdie manages to turn such irreverence into a kind of sacred worship all…

  9. Book cover for The Lowland

    The Lowland

    by Jhumpa Lahiri

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I saved this book for a weekend. I knew this was not something I wanted to read in bits and pieces of time snatched, sneaked, and cobbled together during the commute to and from work or the hour before bed. My previous experiences with Jhumpa Lahiri’s sumptuous prose meant I would need a certain type of stillness in order to appreciate this book. I needed the luxury to linger over each page and absorb the…

  10. Book cover for Narcopolis

    Narcopolis

    by Jeet Thayil

    Unrated

    Reviewed

    I don’t abandon books lightly, but it had to be done. If I hadn’t borrowed enough books from the library that I have to read about 1 per day to finish them before I move to England, I definitely would have finished this. I don’t think I would have liked it, mind you, but it’s not horrible enough to abandon.

    I should have paid attention to Jeet Thayil’s biography. Poets-turned-novelist rarely work for me.…

  11. Book cover for Family Matters

    Family Matters

    by Rohinton Mistry

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Reading Family Matters after reading A Fine Balance is a little anticlimactic. A Fine Balance comes very close to my idea of a perfect novel, so I doubted that Rohinton Mistry would be able to deliver something of similar calibre a second time. There is just something about A Fine Balance that smashes that wall between reader and text, breaking down the barrier until the fiction becomes as close to truth as fiction can. It…

  12. Book cover for A Fine Balance

    A Fine Balance

    by Rohinton Mistry

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is probably the most depressing book I have ever read in my entire life. Not only is its chronicling of four lives bleak and without the slightest hint of hope or redemption, but it does this with a comprehensive scope and an unforgiving manner. Even re-reading it, knowing what was going to happen, did not mitigate my sadness. If anything, it amplified my emotions, because for all of the good things that happen in…

  13. Book cover for The Palace of Illusions

    The Palace of Illusions

    by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Panchaali enters this world through a holy fire, an unwanted boon granted by the gods in addition to her brother, the child destined to kill their father's greatest enemy. She marries the five Pandava brothers, the eldest of whom bets and loses his kingdom to their cousin. After twelve years of exile in the forest, the cousin refuses to return the kingdom, and the Pandavas go to war against the Kauravas. It is a story…

  14. Book cover for The Namesake

    The Namesake

    by Jhumpa Lahiri

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I found Jhumpa Lahiri through her anthology Unaccustomed Earth, which was my #1 book of 2008. Almost a year and a half later, I return to Lahiri, this time in novel form. The Namesake has rough edges not visible in Lahiri's later efforts, but the same magic that so impressed me in her short stories is there even in this earlier novel.

    This is a story that captivates because it becomes so personal.…

  15. Book cover for The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

    The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

    by M.G. Vassanji

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is my first book of the year, and it took me quite some time to get into it.

    Few things annoy me more than when an author decides to ignore such a useful stylistic conventions as using quotation marks to offset dialogue! I like quotation marks. It makes the book easier to parse and gives me a clear idea of who is saying what. I discarded Blindness for similar reasons. Had I not been…

  16. Book cover for The Years of Rice and Salt

    The Years of Rice and Salt

    by Kim Stanley Robinson

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I dug into The Years of Rice and Salt with much gusto, for its premise was an intriguing example of why alternate history can be so seductive. Yet almost immediately, my expectations were completely torn apart and shoved in my face. Sometimes this can be good; other times it ruins a book completely. In this case, while I quite enjoyed some of the philosophical aspects of the book, it failed to sustain my interest for…

  17. Book cover for The Writing On My Forehead

    The Writing On My Forehead

    by Nafisa Haji

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It wasn't until the middle of the story that The Writing On My Forehead nearly broke my heart. And the scene that did it wasn't anything remarkable: it was when Saira decides to lie to her mother about playing Rizzo in her school's production of Grease. Prior to that, although I was enjoying the book, nothing had really moved me very emotionally. But then it hit me, the line that Saira was crossing, and…

  18. Book cover for Midnight's Children

    Midnight's Children

    by Salman Rushdie

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It's easy to review something you hate. Indeed, reviewing a bad book is enjoyable, because you feel free to tear it apart and vilify it as much as possible--your harshness is excused, justified by the poor quality of the book itself. Reviewing a good book is more difficult; you have to struggle to find something interesting to say or to come up with criticism. It is nearly impossible to review a great book with any…

  19. Book cover for The Assassin's Song

    The Assassin's Song

    by M.G. Vassanji

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    On the back cover of my edition, there's a blurb from The Globe and Mail that calls the book "timeless." That is the most accurate single-word evaluation of The Assassin's Song.

    Once you've plunged into the book and read a couple of chapters, you immediately get that sense of timelessness. M. G. Vassanji intersperses aspects of the "present day" with events in the thirteenth century and events from the narrator's childhood. The historical events…

  20. Book cover for The Toss of a Lemon

    The Toss of a Lemon

    by Padma Viswanathan

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is not a book for everyone, in the sense that you must be receptive in order to read it, or else you'll want to put it down after the first 100 pages (if that). It's a slow story, rich in details and dwelling on significant moments in the lives of its many characters. There's very little action and a lot of deliberation. It takes dedication and patience to see it through until the end.…

  21. Book cover for The Last Theorem

    The Last Theorem

    by Arthur C. Clarke

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Overall, the word I'd use to describe this book is "shallow." Clarke and Pohl, two big names in SF, have managed to take two interesting concepts (Fermat's Last Theorem and alien sterilization of Earth) and turn them into a boring book. It's as if they said one day, "Well, we've succeeded at everything else in literature; now we have to succeed at writing a bad book!"

    My major problem with the book is the lack…

  22. Book cover for Unaccustomed Earth

    Unaccustomed Earth

    by Jhumpa Lahiri

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and I loved it. Jhumpa Lahiri creates timeless families that straddle the cultural divide between America and India. She captures the conflict of growing up as one tries to balance one's parent's wishes with the influence of one's heritage and the culture of one's surroundings.

    Of the first part of the book, I loved "Unaccustomed Earth", "Hell-Heaven", and "Only Goodness." The other two stories were…

  23. Book cover for The Enchantress of Florence

    The Enchantress of Florence

    by Salman Rushdie

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    As a neophyte of Salman Rushdie's work, I was not fully prepared for The Enchantress of Florence, although I should have been. Rushdie possesses an uncanny ability to manipulate perspective. In his stories, the flow of time is always questionable, and subject to change--if it flows at all. And his characters are larger-than-life, capricious archetypes that embody the virtues and flaws of humanity.

    In this novel, Rushdie runs two stories parallel to each other:…