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Book Nook - 14-05-2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
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

Lucky Toby
Tana French, best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series, has written a stand-alone novel The Wych Elm, a richly atmospheric and very spooky suspense tale placed in the midst of a family drama.

Toby Hennessy, considers himself lucky-- without too much effort he has achieved whatever he wanted to. A handsome and charming young man, he has a close-knit family, an enviable PR job with an art gallery, a loving girlfriend and loyal buddies. Then, in the matter of one evening, everything goes wrong.

When he interrupts a robbery in his apartment, he is viciously beaten. His injuries leave him physically disfigured and mentally disturbed with memory gaps. His cousins Susanna and Leon, who have been more like siblings to him, suggest he spend time at the family home, The Ivy House, where the three spent many a delightful summer under the benevolent eye of their bachelor uncle, Hugo.

Hugo is suffering from a terminal illness and needs someone to keep an eye on him, and Toby, obviously needs to recover from his trauma.  He moves there with Melissa and seems to be getting better, when life throws him another curveball. A skull is found in the trunk of the Wych Elm in their garden, The cops come by, cut the tree and dig up the garden. The skull happens to belong to a classmate of Toby’s, and suddenly, he is suspected of murder.

The cops—in particularly Inspector Rafferty-- dig their teeth into the case with a cold efficiency that seems almost brutal towards Hugo and Toby, both not in a fit state to bear the constant intrusion into their idyllic home and the disturbance of their already fragile minds.

French keeps adding layers to the story of the dead boy, and every time a new piece of information is unearthed, the reader’s point of view is manipulated this way and that. If murder had been committed all those years ago, then who among the Hennessey kids did it—they all had motive, as it turns out.

It is a slow-burning novel with does seem to drag a bit, and go round in circles; it is not as straightforward as a whodunit or police procedural, but an exploration of human nature and the testing of family ties. It is heavy going, but in the end, the effort of staying with the story is rewarding.
 
The Wych Elm
By Tana French
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 464


 

Excerpt Of The Wych Elm
I’ve always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person. I don’t mean I’m one of those people who pick multi-million-euro lotto numbers on a whim, or show up seconds too late for flights that go on to crash with no survivors. I just mean that I managed to go through life without any of the standard misfortunes you hear about. I wasn’t abused as a kid, or bullied in school; my parents didn’t split up or die or have addiction problems or even get into any but the most trivial arguments; none of my girlfriends ever cheated on me, at least as far as I know, or dumped me in traumatic ways; I never got hit by a car or caught anything worse than chicken pox or even had to wear braces. Not that I spent much time thinking about this, but when it occurred to me, it was with a satisfying sense that everything was going exactly as it should.    
   
And of course there was the Ivy House. I don’t think anyone could convince me, even now, that I was anything other than lucky to have the Ivy House. I know it wasn’t that simple, I know all the reasons in intimate, serrated detail; I can lay them out in a neat line, stark and runic as black twigs on snow, and stare at them till I almost convince myself; but all it takes is one whiff of the right smell – jasmine, Lapsang Souchong, a specific old-fashioned soap that I’ve never been able to identify – or one sideways shaft of afternoon light at a particular angle, and I’m lost, in thrall all over again.

Not long ago I actually rang my cousins about it – it was almost Christmas, I was a little drunk on mulled wine from some godawful work party, or I would never have rung them, or at any rate not to ask their opinions, or their advice, or whatever it is I thought I was looking for. Susanna clearly felt it was a silly question – ‘Well, yeah, obviously we were lucky. It was an amazing place.’ And into my silence: ‘If you’re getting hung up on all the other stuff, then personally’ – long deft slice of scissors through paper, choirboys sweet and buoyant in the background, she was wrapping presents – ‘I wouldn’t. I know that’s easier said, but seriously, Toby, picking at it after how many years, what’s the point? But you do you.’ Leon, who at first had sounded genuinely pleased to hear from me, tightened up instantly: ‘How am I supposed to know? Oh, listen, while I have you, I meant to email you, I’m thinking of coming home for a bit at Easter, are you going to be—’ I got mildly belligerent and demanded an answer, which I knew perfectly well has always been the wrong way to deal with Leon, and he pretended his reception had gone and hung up on me.

And yet; and yet. It matters; matters, as far as I can see – for whatever that’s worth, at this point – more than anything. It’s taken me this long to start thinking about what luck can be, how smoothly and deliciously deceptive, how relentlessly twisted and knotted in on its own hidden places, and how lethal.

 

SHORT TAKES
Political talk show host, Priya Sahgal, profiles sixteen emerging political leaders (under the age of fifty-five) who will dominate India’s political landscape over the next decade. According to the synopsis, “The Contenders captures a potentially transformative moment in Indian politics, as new leaders step up in a generational change-of-guard in most political parties. From the north to the south, this is a flash bulb moment of baton passing -- as Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, the Badal Juniors and Karunanidhi’s heirs take charge. And others like Omar Abdullah and Arvind Kejriwal seek to consolidate and conquer.  A senior editor, Priya has interacted extensively with most of them, right since their political debut.  How will they play their cards in the Age of Modi where the axis of politics revolves around one man?”

The Contenders
By Priya Sahgal
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352

 

The synopsis of Aditya Shroff’s The Best Life Ever reads, “Get into the shoes of an Indian village lad as he takes you on an incredible journey through a multitude of emotions and enchanting childhood reminiscences. Running across countryside farmlands bordering the Arabian sea, through bustling Indian cities, over the high mountains of the Himalayas, and deep into the untouched crevices of the heart, it is a journey that makes you rethink your take on life. The magical musings in each story are bound to convince you that it is indeed the best life ever!”

The Best Life Ever
By Aditya Shroff
Publisher: Treeshade
Pages: 245


 
Electionomics is the latest work of Vivek Narayan Sharma, “that encapsulates the lethal combination of law, court judgments, legal acumen, statistics and real time electioneering data and practices adopted by political parties and role of power, money, crime, religion and technology in Indian Elections. The body of Election Commission (EC) is analysed through the constitutional powers vested in it, vis-à-vis, EC’s actual performance curtailed through legal limitations and procrastinated inaction during the past Election phases. The book makes an awesome handbook for the Constitutional provisions, legal enactments and meticulously selected landmark Judgments of Supreme Court & High Courts and statistics relevant for Lok Sabha Elections in India.”

Electionomics
By Vivek Narayan Sharma
Publisher: Thomson Reuters
Pages: 281


So I Let It Be is a collection of short stories by Sindhu Rajasekaran, that are “coarse, jagged and float between a delicate thread of fiction and reality. The protagonists are women of different ages who face situations that re-define their perspective. With an underlying theme of nostalgia, the stories softly question authority, explore emotions and in doing so peel the layers of a character revealing different facets of humanity.”

So I Let It Be
By Sindhu Rajasekaran
Publisher: Pegasus
Pages: 351


Kashmir As I See It  by Ashok Dhar tells “stories of the trauma and betrayal faced by Kashmiris have been told, the events retraced and analysis offered. And yet, one of the most long-standing disputes in India’s post-Independence history remains unsettled. If it were up to Lal Ded, a Sufi poet, she would offer the most difficult solution so far—to look within. Kashmir As I See It, a personal journey interspersed with geopolitical analysis, is not only about the state but also about the voice that yearns to be home again.

Ashok Dhar slowly and carefully uncovers multiple layers of the conflict to show that apart from being a territorial dispute, it is also about historicity, morality and leadership—aspects that have been neglected so far. He holds that looking merely at the legality of the state’s accession is like looking at an iceberg; peace will not come if we have not examined what Kashmiriyat is.”

Kashmir As I See It
By Ashok Dhar
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 248

 

Snakes in the Meadows is a saga of the onset of militancy, and the suffering and the resilience of Pir Panjal—the ‘And’ of Jammu And Kashmir. “In the hilly village of Pathri Aali, where legends appear true, Aslam and Ashwar, two young lovers, dream of marriage and of good things of life. But that is not to be. Unable to cope, Aslam leaves Pathri Aali forever. Years later, as men migrate to Saudi Arabia for employment, Pathri Aali is populated mostly by women and children. Soon they realize the Mujahieen, who guise themselves as their liberators, are the worst perpetrators, and misery seems inescapable. Ashwar refuses to be cowed down by this reign of terror and is determined not to let it devastate the once-peaceful village. The only one she can bank on is Aslam—and she calls out to him across the distance of time and space, to return and live up to the legends of their village.”
 
Snakes in the Meadows
By Ayaz Kohli
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 288

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