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Book Nook - 30-04-2019

Tuesday, April 30, 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

Death In The Outback
Jane Harper has made the Australian outback the playground for her bestselling books—the large, flat arid land she describes thus in her latest novel The Lost Man: “The horizon was so flat and far away it seemed possible to detect the curvature of the earth.”  The area is dotted with homesteads so far apart that the ‘next door’ neighbour would be a three-hour drive away.

The only way to make contact is over the radio, and if a person ran out of fuel, water or supplies, death would be quick and brutal. A few days before Christmas, the dehydrated body of Cameron Bright is discovered—he dropped dead of thirst. Neither his brothers Nathan and Bub, nor the cops can understand why, because his car is parked nearby, full of food and water. His body is found by the Stockman’s Grave, a place that ha spawned dozens of ghost stories and local legends about the nameless man buried in the middle of nowhere. Cameron had no reason to be in that vicinity.

Moreover, Cameron, a successful cattle farmer, happily married to Ilse and the father of two young daughters, had no enemies who would want to murder him, and no provocation for suicide, at least not in this painful way, when he had a loaded gun.

The devastated family—including the mother Liz, loyal estate manager, Harry, and Nathan’s son Xander visiting from the city-- gather at the Bright home to grieve and plan the funeral. Nathan, who lives a lonely life and struggles to make ends meet—a state for which Cameron was indirectly responsible—realises that there was a lot going on in the family, that he was not aware of; Cameron was not what he appeared to be to the townsfolk, and the Brights had too many secrets waiting to spill out of the cupboard.

Harper describes the landscape so vividly that the reader can almost feel the heat on their skin, and simmers her plot on a slow flame, till she reaches the explosive, and quite uexpected climax. A book that is very difficult to put down.

The Lost Man
By Jane Harper
Publisher: Flatiron                                    
Pages: 352

 

Excerpt of The Lost Man
Nathan Bright could see nothing, and then everything all at once.

He had crested the rise, gripping the steering wheel as the off-road terrain tried to snatch control from his hands, and suddenly it was all there in front of him. Visible, but still miles away, giving him too many minutes to absorb the scene as it loomed larger. He glanced over at the passenger seat.

"Don't look," he was tempted to say, but didn't bother. There was no point. The sight dragged the gaze.

Still, he stopped the car farther from the fence than he needed to. He pulled on the handbrake, leaving the engine and the air conditioner running. Both protested the Queensland December heat with discordant squeals.

"Stay in the car," he said.

"But—"

Nathan slammed the door before he heard the rest. He walked to the fence line, pulled the top wires apart, and climbed through from his side to his brothers'.

A four-wheel drive was parked near the stockman's grave, its own engine still running and its air conditioner also spinning full pelt, no doubt. Nathan cleared the fence as the driver's door opened and his youngest brother stepped out.

"G'day," Bub called, when Nathan was close enough to hear.

"G'day."

They met by the headstone. Nathan knew he would have to look down at some point. He delayed the moment by opening his mouth.

"When did you—" He heard movement behind him and pointed. "Oi! Stay in the bloody car!" He had to shout to cover the distance, and it came out more harshly than he'd intended. He tried again. "Stay in the car."

Not much better, but at least his son listened.

"I forgot you had Xander with you," Bub said.

"Yeah." Nathan waited until the car door clicked shut. He could see Xander's outline through the windshield, at sixteen more man than boy these days. He turned back to his brother. The one standing in front of him, at least. Their third sibling, middle-born Cameron Bright, lay at their feet at the base of the headstone. He had been covered, thank God, by a faded tarp.

Nathan tried again. "How long have you been here?"

Bub thought for a moment, the way he often did before answering. His eyes were slightly hooded under the brim of his hat, and his words fell a fraction of a beat slower than average speaking pace. "Since last night, just before dark."

"Uncle Harry's not coming?"

Another beat, then a shake of the head.

"Where is he? Back home with Mum?"

"And Ilse and the girls," Bub said. "He offered, but I said you were on your way."

"Probably better someone's with Mum. You have any trouble?" Nathan finally looked at the bundle at his feet. Something like that would draw out the scavengers.

"You mean dingoes?"

"Yeah, mate." Of course. What else? There wasn't a huge amount of choice out there.

"Had to take a couple of shots." Bub scratched his collarbone, and Nathan could see the edge of the western star of his Southern Cross tattoo. "But it was okay."

"Good. All right." Nathan recognized the familiar frustration that came with talking to Bub. He wished Cameron were there to smooth the waters, and felt a sudden sharp jab of realization under his ribs. He made himself take a deep breath, the air hot in his throat and lungs. This was difficult for everyone.

Bub's eyes were red, and his face unshaven and heavy with shock, as was Nathan's own, he imagined. They looked a bit, but not a lot, alike. The sibling relationship was clearer with Cameron in the middle, bridging the gap in more ways than one. Bub looked tired and, as always these days, older than Nathan remembered. With twelve years between them, Nathan still found himself faintly surprised to see his brother edging into his thirties, rather than still in nappies.

Nathan crouched beside the tarp. It was weather-bleached and had been tucked tight in places, like a bedsheet.

"Have you looked?"

"No. I was told not to touch anything."

Nathan instantly disbelieved him. It was his tone, or perhaps the way the sheet lay at the top end. Sure enough, as he reached out, Bub made a noise in his throat.

"Don't, Nate. It's not good."

Bub had never been good at lying. Nathan withdrew his hand and stood. "What happened to him?"

"I don't know. Just what was said on the radio."

"Yeah, I missed a lot of it." Nathan didn't quite meet Bub's eye.

Bub shifted. "Thought you promised Mum you'd keep it on, mate."

Nathan didn't reply, and Bub didn't push it. Nathan looked back across the fence to his own land. He could see Xander, restless, in the passenger seat. They'd spent the past week moving along the southern boundary, working by day, camping by night. They had been on the brink of downing tools the previous evening when the air around had vibrated as a helicopter swooped overhead. A black bird against the indigo death throes of the day.

 

SHORT TAKES
Ashish Kaul’s book Didda: The Warrior Queen Of Kashmir, tells tha fascinating story of a forgotten character from Indian history. Says the synopsis, “A girl abandoned by her parents. A disabled princess who fights all odds to become the most feared warrior queen.A woman almost forced into sati by her trusted prime minister. A mother whose son brands her as a witch. This is the story of Rani Didda, the forgotten Hindu queen of undivided Kashmir. History is often unkind and cruel to women, especially women who wield power. Trampled by warsand religious crusades, lies hidden the story of a glorious woman who was considered a harbingerof bad times when she was born but went on to become a legendary warrior—the saviour ofShrinagaram, the capital city of Kashmir. “Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir is the untold story of a woman’s rise to power during the tenth century. The legend of Didda is entwined with a life of solitary struggles against prejudiceand patriarchy. She eventually went on to rule the unified Kashmir encompassing the Lohar Kingdom and Kashmir for a period of 44 years, taking it to glorious heights and makingit the most powerful kingdom in mediaeval Asia. The foundation laid by Didda helped Kashmir defeat the dreaded warlord Mahmud of Ghaznavi twice.”

Didda: The Warrior Queen Of Kashmir
By Ashish Kaul
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 252

 
According to the summary of That Good Night, “As the American born daughter of immigrants, Dr. Sunita Puri knew from a young age that the gulf between her parents’ experiences and her own was impossible to bridge, save for two elements: medicine and spirituality. Between days spent waiting for her mother, an anesthesiologist, to exit the OR, and evenings spent in conversation with her parents about their faith, Puri witnessed the tension between medicine’s impulse to preserve life at all costs and a spiritual embrace of life’s temporality. And it was that tension that eventually drew Puri, a passionate but unsatisfied medical student, to palliative medicine – a new specialty attempting to translate the border between medical intervention and quality-of-life care.“Interweaving evocative stories of Puri’s family and the patients she cares for, That Good Night is a stunning meditation on impermanence and the role of medicine in helping us to live and die well, arming readers with information that will transform how we communicate with our doctors about what matters most to us.”

That Good Night: Life And Medicine In The Eleventh Hour
By Sunita Puri
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 320


The summary of Clearing the Digital BLUR  reads, “The digital transformation journey is fraught with uncertainties and risks that traditional organization and its leaders are not familiar with. With management play books from the industrial age offering very little meaningful guidance, we need a fresh perspective to respond to the challenges. Clearing the Digital BLUR fills the gap by providing a handbook for leaders and managers to navigate the strategic challenges of the digital age. “This book brings into sharp focus, the crucial business lines that are blurring away in the digital age. It describes how traditional organizations are clinging to lines that no longer matter. As a result, these organizations that once powered through the industrial age are now falling by the wayside in the digital age.”

Clearing the Digital Blur
By: Rajiv Jayaraman
Publisher: Wiley India
Pages: 340

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