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Book Nook - 03-12-2018

Monday, December 03, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Magpies And Mystery
Hal, the small, dark-haired and spunky heroine of Ruth Ware’s suspense novel The Death Of Mrs Westaway,belongs to the new list of young women who are in distress, but do not wait for a  prince to rescue them.

Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway is in dire straits. Her mother died suddenly in a hit-and-run accident, and the 21-year-old has no money and no prospects. She makes a precarious living as a tarot reader on a touristy pier in Brighton, and when the novel opens on a stormy night, gets a threatening letter from a loan shark. There is also strange missive from a lawyer promising her a legacy from her grandmother’s recent death in Cornwall. Hal is puzzled because her grandparents died years ago.

A visit from the loan shark’s thug casually wrecking her kiosk and talking of broken bones, makes Hal spend her last bit of cash on a ticket to the village, where she hopes to be able to bluff her way through the inevitable interrogation by the other members of the Westaway family and their lawyer.

After the funeral, she is taken to the cold, stone mansion, Trepassen House, infested with raucous magpies and without central heating, where a scary housekeeper, Mrs Warren (soul sister of Rebecca’s Mrs Danvers), installs her in a freezing attic room, that looks and feels like a prison cell.

The Westaway family consists of three brothers, their partners and kids, and a missing sister, Maud, whose daughter Hal is assumed to be, but knows she is not. She hopes that if she is caught out, she will get away pretending it was a case of mistaken identity. She also hopes, she will receive a small bequest that will help her pay off her debts and manage for a few months. But what happens next, throws her completely off balance—first literally, as she faints from cold, damp, hunger and stress, and then gobsmacked when old Mrs Westaway’s will is read out.

She realizes that she has some connection with the family, more so when there is an attempt to kill her. Mrs Warren warns her to get out, and at least one of the Westaway men is not at all happy with the terms of the will.  Ruth Ware expertly builds up layers of suspense; Hal’s story is interspersed with that of a young woman who was locked up in the very attic where Ruth finds herself, and scratched “Help Me” on the glass—everything about the place spooks Hal out, though the Westaway family—particularly an aunt-- is kind and solicitous.

Best-selling author Ruth Ware does not dilute the story with needless romance or other diversions; The Death Of Mrs Westaway is a solid Gothic suspense novel, and the reader discovers the mystery of Hal’s past, as she stumbles on clues.

The Death Of Mrs Westaway
By Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 384

 

Excerpt of The Death Of Mrs Westaway
The girl leaned, rather than walked, into the wind, clutching the damp package of fish and chips grimly under one arm even as the gale plucked at the paper, trying to unravel the parcel and send the contents skittering away down the seafront for the seagulls to claim. As she crossed the road her hand closed over the crumpled note in her pocket, and she glanced over her shoulder, checking the long dark stretch of pavement behind her for a shadowy figure, but there was no one there. No one she could see, anyway. It was rare for the seafront to be completely deserted. The bars and clubs opened long into the night, spilling drunk locals and tourists onto the pebbled beach right through until dawn. But tonight, even the most hardened partygoers had decided against venturing out and now, at 9.55 p.m. on a wet Tuesday, Hal had the promenade to herself, the flashing lights of the pier the only sign of life, apart from the gulls wheeling and crying over the dark restless waters of the Channel.

Hal’s short black hair blew in her eyes, her glasses were misted, and her lips were chapped with salt from the sea wind. But she hitched the parcel tighter under her arm, and turned off the seafront into one of the narrow residential streets of tall white houses, where the wind dropped with a suddenness that made her stagger, and almost trip. The rain didn’t let up; in fact, away from the wind it seemed, if anything, to drizzle more steadily as she turned again into Marine View Villas.

The name was a lie. There were no villas, only a slightly shabby little row of terraced houses, their paint peeling from constant exposure to the salty air. And there was no view – not of the sea or anywhere else. Maybe there had been once, when the houses were built. But since then taller, grander buildings had gone up, closer to the sea, and any view the windows of Marine View Villas might once have had was reduced to brick walls and slate roofs, even from Hal’s attic flat. Now, the only benefit to living up three flights of narrow, rickety stairs was not having to listen to neighbours stomping about above your head. Tonight, though, the neighbours seemed to be out – and had been for some time, judging by the way the door stuck on the clump of junk mail in the hall. Hal had to shove hard, until it gave and she stumbled into the chilly darkness, groping for the automatic timer switch that governed the lights. Nothing happened. Either a fuse had blown, or the bulb had burnt out.

She scooped up the junk mail in the dim light filtering in from the street, doing her best in the darkness to pick out the letters for the other tenants, and then began the climb up to her own attic flat. There were no windows on the stairwell, and once she was past the first flight, it was almost pitch black. But Hal knew the steps by heart, from the broken board on the landing to the loose piece of carpet that had come untacked on the last flight, and she plodded wearily upwards thinking about supper, and bed. She wasn’t even sure if she was hungry any more, but the fish and chips had cost £5.50, and judging by the number of bills she was carrying, that was £5.50 she couldn’t afford to waste.

On the top landing she ducked her head to avoid the drip from the skylight, opened the door, and then at last, she was home.

 

Wisdom For The Ages
Meena Arora Nayak writes in her excellent book The Blue Lotus: Myths And Folktales of India, “This vastness of over three thousand years of storytelling is difficult to fathom, even for an Indian. Most Indians have an idea of the country’s general ethos that derives from the overarching pan-Indian traditions; however, people living in one part of the country have little idea of folkloric traditions in another part.”  Which is so true, and all the more reason why the work the author put into this volume should be highly appreciated. Her selection of stories from a very deep and wide pool, gives the reader a wonderful insight into the diverse narratives of the country. There are the great epics, the Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads tales from the Panchatantra, Jataka Tales, Kathasaritsagar and a treasure trove of stories from the various religious texts and folk tales from the various linguistic groups and tribes of the country. It is impossible to encapsulate them into one volume, but the author has categorized them beautifully, written some evocative notes, and listed such exhaustive references, that this delightful volume could lead the curious reader to many more. The Blue Lotus is for collector to keep and dip into from time to time; and perhaps for parents to read to their children, so that they are introduced to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of India through stories that are as full of magic and adventure as they are replete with wisdom.

The Blue Lotus Myths And Folktales Of India
By Meena Arora Nayak
Publisher: Aleph
Pages: 584

 

SHORT TAKES

According to its synopsis of Nayanjot Lahiri’s Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India, “There are many missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is ancient India, but those we have yield a rich tapestry. The oldest surviving love graffiti on a cave wall immortalizing an intimate bond in the third century BCE; charred seeds and chewed animal bones that provide evidence of a peoples’ food obsessions; architectural minutiae that point to the alarming regression of a civilization’s potty habits; intriguing sculptures that reveal myriad facets of the human–animal relationship…

“In Time Pieces, award-winning historian Nayanjot Lahiri whimsically sifts through intricate clues left behind by the early inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent – in plaques and inscriptions, fragments of jewellery, bones and tools, poetry, art and pottery – to reveal to us our ancient land in all its variety, splendour, complexity and contradictions. Sparkling with wit and reflective of a scholar’s keen and curious energy, this delightful volume seamlessly connects the past to the present and a civilization to the world beyond.”

Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India
By Nayanjot Lahiri
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 165


An Illustrated Guide to Yoga Practice, “covers the myriad aspects of yoga and offers plentiful practices for physical, mental and spiritual well-being. If learnt and practiced sincerely, these exercises will help you attain good health, a calm mind and a blissful union with your inner self. With warm-up exercises, 70 plus asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandhas, chakras, shaktikriyas, a detailed description of human anatomy and meditation techniques, this book is all you need to understand and master the art of yoga.”
An Illustrated Guide to Yoga Practice
By Sehdev Singh (Manhas) & Yogacharya A.Gopal Krishnan
Publisher: Jaico
Pages: 328


The synopsis of Deep Trivedi’s book reads, “Destiny is a much-debated, most intriguing, yet barely known subject related to human life. The word ‘destiny’ brings numerous questions in its wake about the role and influence it exerts on human life. But what exactly is destiny? Does destiny really exist? Is destiny preordained? Is destiny a matter of chance or is it a matter of choice? Should we wait for it or go after it? Find the answers to all such questions in this compelling book, The Secrets of Destiny, by bestselling author and renowned speaker, Deep Trivedi who unveils the secrets of destiny and sheds light on the laws that govern our existence, and delivers the keys into your hand to not only gain control over your life but also carve your destiny. If you wish to achieve success and regain your lost joy in life but don’t know how, then this book is for you.”

The Secrets Of Destiny
By Deep Trivedi
Published by Aatman Innovations
Pages: 206

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