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Book Nook - 14-11-2016

Monday, November 14, 2016
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

Hearts Breaking and Healing
Nicholas Sparks is undoubtedly one of the world’s most popular writers of romantic fiction, disproving the general notion that only women write love stories.
His 1996 novel, The Notebook started his amazing rise to bestseller fame. Twenty years later, he has come up with his twentieth book, rather unimaginatively titled Two by Two. The narrator is Russell Green, who believe that his love story has a happy end—his wife Vivian is beautiful, they have a lovely daughter, named London; his career  in advertising is doing well.

After such a build up the crash is inevitable. Vivian had given up her job to be a full time homemaker, putting a financial burden on Russell, who bore it cheerfully. Then, she suddenly ups and leaves to take up a lucrative job in another city. Russell is left holding the baby, so to say, as he is turned into a single father to six-year-old.

For a man focused on his work (to make this worse he also loses his job), he has to learn all the nitty-gritty of raising his daughter and doing the work of cook, nurse, driver that the urban parent—invariably the mother—has to manage. Most of the story is about Russell becoming the perfect father to London (who is unbearably cute!). But life does throw him a second chance at happiness. Russell admits he is the kind of sweet, romantic caring man, whom women like to make friends with, whose shoulder they cry on, as they have their hearts broken by the bad guys. A man like him does not deserve to be cruelly jilted.

Sparks’s fans know his style is direct and somewhat sappy, what they look for is heart-warming moments of human connection and on that he delivers each time. This book is as much about healing heartbreak as it Is about love, because in these times love stories do not necessarily end with a walk into the sunset.

Two by Two
By Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central/Hachette
Pages: 606

Excerpt of Nicholas Sparks’s first bestseller The Notebook:
Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end? The sun has come up and I am sitting by a window that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I'm a sight this morning: two shirts, heavy pants, a scarf wrapped twice around my neck and tucked into a thick sweater knitted by my daughter thirty birthdays ago. The thermostat in my room is set as high as it will go, and a smaller space heater sits directly behind me. It clicks and groans and spews hot air like a fairytale dragon, and still my body shivers with a cold that will never go away, a cold that has been eighty years in the making. Eighty years, I think sometimes, and despite my own acceptance of my age, it still amazes me that I haven't been warm since George Bush was president. I wonder if this is how it is for everyone my age.

My life? It isn't easy to explain. It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the gophers. I suppose it has most resembled a blue-chip stock: fairly stable, more ups than downs, and gradually trending upward over time. A good buy, a lucky buy, and I've learned that not everyone can say this about his life. But do not be misled. I am nothing special; of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

The romantics would call this a love story, the cynics would call it a tragedy. In my mind it's a little bit of both, and no matter how you choose to view it in the end, it does not change the fact that it involves a great deal of my life and the path I've chosen to follow. I have no complaints about my path and the places it has taken me; enough complaints to fill a circus tent about other things, maybe, but the path I've chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Time, unfortunately, doesn't make it easy to stay on course. The path is straight as ever, but now it is strewn with the rocks and gravel that accumulate over a lifetime. Until three years ago it would have been easy to ignore, but it's impossible now. There is a sickness rolling through my body; I'm neither strong nor healthy, and my days are spent like an old party balloon: listless, spongy, and growing softer over time.

I cough, and through squinted eyes I check my watch. I realize it is time to go. I stand from my seat by the window and shuffle across the room, stopping at the desk to pick up the notebook I have read a hundred times. I do not glance through it. Instead I slip it beneath my arm and continue on my way to the place I must go.

I walk on tiled floors, white in color and speckled with gray. Like my hair and the hair of most people here, though I'm the only one in the hallway this morning. They are in their rooms, alone except for television, but they, like me, are used to it. A person can get used to anything, if given enough time.

I hear the muffled sounds of crying in the distance and know exactly who is making those sounds. Then the nurses see me and we smile at each other and exchange greetings. They are my friends and we talk often, but I am sure they wonder about me and the things that I go through every day. I listen as they begin to whisper among themselves as I pass. "There he goes again," I hear, "I hope it turns out well." But they say nothing directly to me about it. I'm sure they think it would hurt me to talk about it so early in the morning, and knowing myself as I do, I think they're probably right.

A minute later, I reach the room. The door has been propped open for me, as it usually is. There are two others in the room, and they too smile at me as I enter. "Good morning," they say with cheery voices, and I take a moment to ask about the kids and the schools and upcoming vacations. We talk above the crying for a minute or so. They do not seem to notice; they have become numb to it, but then again, so have I.

Afterward I sit in the chair that has come to be shaped like me. They are finishing up now; her clothes are on, but still she is crying. It will become quieter after they leave, I know. The excitement of the morning always upsets her, and today is no exception. Finally the shade is opened and the nurses walk out. Both of them touch me and smile as they walk by. I wonder what this means.

I sit for just a second and stare at her, but she doesn't return the look. I understand, for she doesn't know who I am. I'm a stranger to her. Then, turning away, I bow my head and pray silently for the strength I know I will need. I have always been a firm believer in God and the power of prayer, though to be honest, my faith has made for a list of questions I definitely want answered after I'm gone.

I realize the odds, and science, are against me. But science is not the total answer; this I know, this I have learned in my lifetime. And that leaves me with the belief that miracles, no matter how inexplicable or unbelievable, are real and can occur without regard to the natural order of things. So once again, just as I do every day, I begin to read the notebook aloud, so that she can hear it, in the hope that the miracle that has come to dominate my life will once again prevail.
And maybe, just maybe, it will.
Also Received
Nasir Husain made the kind of breezily entertaining films that were looked down upon then by critics as too commercial.  Seen in retrospect, his films are charming romcoms, set in beautiful hill stations, with music, romance and a bit of action.  When mainstream cinema is getting to be more mindless, violent and inane, one can look back on Husain’s films with happy nostalgia. Akshay Manwani’s book (with a foreword by Husain’s nephew, Aamir Khan), is a fitting tribute to the man and the filmmaker. Members of the family have contributed lively anecdotes, and other interviewees have analysed his strengths and weaknesses as a writer-director. It’s a must read for Hindi film buffs.

According to the synopsis: “Nasir Husain – by every appraisal as great a film-maker as Mehboob Khan or Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy or Guru Dutt, Yash Chopra or Manmohan Desai – yet unforgivably under-appreciated. His career as writer–director–producer, spanning nearly five decades, has shaped commercial Hindi cinema as it exists today. In fact, he remains to this day one of Hindi cinema’s most commercially successful figures. Akshay Manwani takes the first big step to restore that balance with Music, Masti, Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain.

Starting off as a writer with films like Shabnam, Anarkali, Munimji and Paying Guest, Nasir Husain debuted as a director in 1957 with the smash-hit Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Over the next twenty years, he delivered one musical blockbuster after another, including Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Teesri Manzil, Caravan, Yaadon Ki Baaraat and Hum Kisise Kum Naheen. The flamboyance and style of his films came to define the Hindi masala entertainer, replete with drama, comedy, action and great music. After a few blips in the 1980s, Husain bounced back strongly with his writing for Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, winning over a whole new generation.

Music, Masti, Modernity examines the broad tropes of Husain’s films and also the enduring song-and-music sequences that were essential to his cinema. Through interviews conducted with a number of prominent industry insiders, such as Aamir Khan, Mansoor Khan, Asha Parekh, Javed Akhtar, Karan Johar, Farah Khan and Aditya Chopra, Husain’s own family members, as well as film studies scholars, the book contextualizes Husain’s legacy. We see him finally as more than the director of fun, frothy films; we see him as an important auteur of Hindi cinema.”

Music Masti Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain
By Akshay Manwani
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 400

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