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Book Nook - 23-10-2017

Monday, October 23, 2017
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

Conscience Calls
In Louise Penny’s bestselling Armand Gamache series, the Canadian village of Three Pines, outside Montreal seems like heaven on earth. The tiny village that does not even appear on most maps, is where Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec, comes home for warmth and peace after the chaos of his days dealing with crime in the city.

His loving wife Reine-Marie, his friends, his daughter and son-in-law, have the village’s charming bistro sun by Gabri and Olivier at the centre of their lives in Three Pines. In the thirteen book of the series, Glass Houses, one Halloween night, when they have guess from Montreal, a dark, hooded figure appears on the village green. It just stands there, doing nothing, but the tranquility of the village is shattered. Everybody expects top cop Gamache to do something, but since no crime has been committed he is unable to get rid of the spooky character.

One of the guests, a journalist, recalls a story he did on an old Spanish tradition, of the cobrador or “debt collector” who is hired to just follow a debtor or stare at him, so that he is scared into paying up. Gamache’s son-in-law and second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir does some research and finds the story of the origins of the cobrador, which was like a conscience calling out not a financial but a moral debt. Gamache realizes that “someone in the village had done something so horrific that a Conscience had been called.”

Then a murder is committed, the cobrador vanishes, and Armand Gamache is called upon to testify in court. Oddly enough, the prosecuting lawyer, Barry Zalmanowitz grills his own witness so vicously, that the judge Mauteen Corriveau suspects that there is something more to it that meets the eye, and she is right.

Gamache’s career and several lives are at stake, and the outcome of the case is crucial to a plan the Chief Superintendent, Beauvoir, and their Surete colleagues have been working on secretly for months, to fight the drug trade in Canada.

The suspense builds up as slowly as the heat in the courtroom becomes stifling. The case tests the nerve and loyalty of everyone in Gamache’s circle, and they all rally around wonderfully.

Conscience, duty, and love of family and friends are always underlining these books about Armand Gamache and Three Pines.  Glass Houses is one of Loiuse Penny’s finest. It is difficult for the reader to step out of beautiful village when the story (with its terrific climax) comes to an end.

Glass Houses
By Louise Penny
Published by: Hachette
Pages: 391


Excerpt of Glass Houses
Gamache sat upright on the wooden chair. It was hot. Sweltering, really, on this July morning. He could taste perspiration from his upper lip and it was only just ten o'clock. It was only just starting.

The witness box was not his favorite place in the world. And far from his favorite thing to do. To testify against another human being. There were only a few times in his career when he'd gotten satisfaction, even pleasure, from that and this wasn't one of them.

Sitting uncomfortably on the hard chair, under oath, Armand Gamache admitted to himself that while he believed in the law, had spent his career working within the justice system, what he really had to answer to was his conscience.

And that was proving to be a pretty harsh judge. "I believe you were also the arresting officer."

"I was." "Is that unusual, for the Chief Superintendent to actually be making arrests?"

"I've only been in the position a little while, as you know. Everything is unusual to me. But this particular case was hard to miss."

The Chief Crown Prosecutor smiled. His back to the rest of the court and the jury, no one else saw. Except perhaps the judge, who missed little.

And what Judge Corriveau saw was a not particularly pleasant smile. More a sneer, really. Which surprised her, given the Chief Crown and the Chief Superintendent were apparently on the same side. Though that didn't mean, she knew, that they had to like or respect each other. She had some colleagues she didn't respect, though she doubted she'd ever looked at them with exactly that expression. While she was assessing them, Gamache had been assessing her. Trying to get a read.

Which judge was drawn for any trial was vital. It could affect the outcome. And it had never been more critical than in this case. It wasn't simply about the interpretation of the law, but the atmosphere in a courtroom. How strict would they be? How much leeway would be allowed?

Was the judge alert? Semi-retired? Biding her time until the cocktail hour? Or, occasionally, not so much biding as imbibing. But not this one.

Maureen Corriveau was new to the bench. Her first homicide case, Gamache knew. He felt sympathy for her. She could have absolutely no idea that she'd drawn the short straw. That a whole lot of unpleasantness was about to come her way.

She was middle-aged, with hair she was allowing to go gray. As a sign, perhaps, of authority, or maturity. Or because she didn't have to impress anymore. She'd been a powerful litigator, a partner in her Montréal law firm. She'd been blond. Before she'd ascended. Taken silk, as they said in Britain. Interestingly, it was not unlike how parachutists described jumping out of a plane.

Judge Corriveau looked back at him. Her eyes were sharp. Intelligent. But Gamache wondered how much she was actually seeing. And how much she was actually missing. Judge Corriveau looked at ease. But that meant nothing. He probably looked at ease too.

 

ALSO RECEIVED
Jules Verne is best known for his sci-fi classics like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and Around The World In Eighty Days, but the French writer, poet and playwright wrote many more. The Demon Of Cawnpore, his adventure novel set in India, has been brought out in a new edition by Pan Macmillan, and is worth a read.  According to the synopsis, “British India, 1867. It’s been ten years since the Sepoy Mutiny, and Nana Sahib, its prime mover, is still at large. A bounty of two thousand pounds hangs on his head. Colonel Munro, who lost his wife in the massacre, has been spending his days quietly plotting revenge. When a close friend reveals he has devised a most unusual vehicle – a house on wheels pulled by a steam-powered elephant – the colonel climbs aboard to journey through the badlands of India, in hot pursuit of his deadly nemesis.

Published in 1880 as part of the Voyages Extraordinaires, The Demon of Cawnpore is a thrilling story of adventure and vengeance from one of the greatest pioneers of science fiction.”

The Demon Of Cawnpore
By Jules Verne
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pagess: 412



The title of Sanjiv Bhatla’s new book, Islam Is Good Muslims Should Follow It, succinctly explains what it is about. The many virtues and values of the religion are being misinterpreted and misrepresented by its follows and the book attempts to clear the air . Says the synopsis, “Islam’s goodness has been its undoing - it has been a victim of its follower's excess ardor. Long before Karl Marx was born, Islam was already preaching Dignity and Equality for the underprivileged. Not surprising, therefore, that most of its early believers belonged to the deprived classes. Its humane attitude pleased and energized them, and they set about to spread the message with an urgent zeal. Islam lacked a centralized controlling institution like the Church in Christianity, and a battery of affable devotees like Christian missionaries to peacefully disseminate its message. The spirited Muslims let their swords do the talking. As a result, Islam acquired the image of an aggressive faith quite in contrast to its true values. Even in matters of justice and the Veil, Islam suffered due to myopic interpretations of its self-righteous aficionados. It is now for the present-day Muslims to make amends and restore the praise that Islam truly deserves. And the remedy is close at hand - they only need to follow Islam!

Islam Is Good Muslims Should Follow It
By Sanjiv Bhatla
Publisher: Crabwise
Pages: 330


 
Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood, is honest, insightful, humorous and inspirational. According the the synopsis, “Trevor Noah is the host of the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire. He is a light-footed but cutting observer of the relentless absurdities of politics, nationalism and race -- and in particular the craziness of his own young life, which he's lived at the intersections of culture and history. In his first book, Noah tells his coming of age story with his larger-than life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal -- the son of a white, Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father's servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life -- a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom.”

Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood
By Trevor Noah
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 285


 
The synopsis of Bookworms and Jellybellies, a cute, beautifully illustrated book of recipes inspired by childen’s books, says, “Eat your way through Pooh Bear's adventures one Honey-crunch Snack Bite at a time, nibble on delicious Scoop 'n Drop Currant Scones while discovering lost treasures and secret passages with the Famous Five, or suck on tangy Tamarind Pops as you run through the bylanes of Malgudi with Swami. If you love to read and eat, Bookworms and Jellybellies is just the book for you. It is a joyride through some of children's favourite books, with over 50 inspired recipes that can be easily whipped up in your own kitchens. It is packed with quirky introductions, simple recipe instructions, fun trivia and beautiful colour photographs that bring the featured dishes to life.

In this fresh, imaginative take on books and cooks, Ruchira Ramanujam and Ranjini Rao, authors of Around the World with the Tadka Girls, give you recipes with their own dash of drama, adventure and plot twists - just like the books that inspire them.”

Bookworms and Jellybellies
By Ranjini Rao & Ruchira Ramanujam
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 125

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