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Book Nook - 10-04-2017

Monday, April 10, 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 [email protected]

What An Ending!
Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes is slightly reminiscent of Paula Hawkins’s Girl On TheTrain, in that a woman starts taking an inordinate interest in the lives of a couple. The similarity ends there, however, as Louise, the protagonist of Pinborough’s book is not a total loser, and she actually knows the couple in question.

Louise is an attractive blonde, with an alcohol problem, who has let herself go after her divorce. She has custody of her son Adam, but is a bit envious of her husband Ian’s life with his second wife-- the news of her pregnancy causes Louise a great deal of heartburn.

She works at a dead end job at a doctor’s clinic; after a bit of a drunken romp with the very attractive David, she discovers to her acute discomfort, that he is her new boss and he is married.

The other woman in the story is the beautiful and fragile Adele, David’s wife.  They have just moved to London after some trouble in their marriage, to make a fresh start.  There is something strange about Adele, who seems to have extra-sensory perception when it comes to her husband.

When Louise is left alone after Adam goes on a holiday with his father, she starts an affair with David, in spite of making all efforts to resist him. To complicate her life further, the lonely Adele befriends her, and begs her not to tell David, because he is too possessive and controlling.

The book flashbacks to Adele’s past, the death of her parents, her time in a mental institution and her friendship with the junkie, Rob. What Adele and Louise have in common, are bizarre night terrors. Adele tells Louise of a way to overcome them, and this opens up a channel that hurtles her friend into an area of darkness, a descent she cannot control. David appears to be afraid of Adele’s power, but unable to escape her clutches.

Louise does not tell David about her growing friendship with his wife, nor does she reveal to Adele that she works for her husband. She gets entangled in their lives. As she muses, “Questions, questions, questions. It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.”

Behind Her Eyes is a psychological horror thriller, with ingenious twists and turns, and a truly creepy ending the reader cannot guess. This one deserves its bestseller status.

Behind Her Eyes
By Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 306

Excerpt of Behind Her Eyes
There’s still mud under my fingernails when David finally comes home. I can feel it stinging against my raw skin, deep under the beds. My stomach twists, wringing fresh nerves out as the front door shuts, and for a moment we just look at each other from opposite ends of the long corridor of our new Victorian house, a tract of perfectly polished wood between us, before he turns, swaying slightly, toward the sitting room. I take a deep breath and join him, flinching at each of the hard beats of my heels against the floorboards. I must not be afraid. I need to repair this. We need to repair this.

“I’ve cooked dinner,” I say, trying not to sound too needy. “Only a stroganoff. It can keep untiltomorrow if you’ve already eaten.”

He’s facing away from me, staring at our bookshelves that the unpackers have filled from the boxes. I try not to think about how long he’s been gone. I’ve cleaned up the broken glass, swept and scrubbed the floor, and dealt with the garden. All evidence of earlier rage has been removed. I rinsed my mouth out after every glass of wine I drank in his absence so he won’t smell it on me. He doesn’t like me to drink. Only ever a glass or two in company. Never alone. But tonight I couldn’t help it.

Even if I haven’t entirely got the dirt out from under my nails, I’ve showered and changed into a powder-blue dress and matching heels and put makeup on. No trace of tears and fighting. I want us to wash it all away. This is our fresh start. Our new beginning. It has to be.

“I’m not hungry.” He turns to face me then, and I can see a quiet loathing in his eyes and I bite back a sudden urge to cry. I think this emptiness is worse than his anger. Everything I’ve worked so hard to build really is crumbling. I don’t care that he’s drunk again. I only want him to love me like he used to. He doesn’t even notice the effort I’ve made since he stormed out. How busy I’ve been. How I look. How I’ve tried.

“I’m going to bed,” he says. He doesn’t meet my eyes and I know that he means the spare room. Two days into our fresh start, and he won’t be sleeping with me. I feel the cracks between us widen once more. Soon we won’t be able to reach each other across them. He walks carefully around me and I want to touch his arm but am too afraid of how he will react. He seems disgusted by me. Or perhaps it’s his disgust at himself radiating in my direction.

“I love you,” I say softly. I hate myself for it and he doesn’t answer but unsteadily clambers up the stairs as if I’m not there. I hear his footsteps recede and then a door closing.

After a moment of staring at the space where he no longer is, listening to my patchwork heart breaking, I go back to the kitchen and turn the oven off. I won’t keep it for tomorrow. It would taste sour on the memory of today. Dinner’s ruined. We’re ruined. I sometimes wonder if he wants to kill me and be done with it all. Get rid of the albatross around his neck. Perhaps some part of me wants to kill him, too.

I’m tempted to have another glass of forbidden wine, but I resist. I’m tearful enough already and I can’t face another fight. Perhaps in the morning we’ll be fine again. I’ll replace the bottle and he’ll never know I’ve been drinking at all.

I gaze out into the garden before finally flicking the outside lights off and facing my reflection in the window. I’m a beautiful woman. I look after myself. Why can’t he still love me? Why can’t our life have been as I’d hoped, as I’d wanted, after everything I’ve done for him? We have plenty of money. He has the career he dreamed of. I have only ever tried to be the perfect wife and give him the perfect life. Why can’t he let the past go?

I allow myself a few minutes’ more self-pity as I wipe down and polish the granite surfaces, and then I take a deep breath and pull myself together. I need to sleep. To properly sleep. I’ll take a pill and knock myself out. Tomorrow will be different. It has to be. I’ll forgive him. I always do.

I love my husband. I have since the moment I set eyes on him, and I will never fall out of love with him. I won’t give that up. I can’t.

Also Received
After Fraudster and Insider, this is RV Raman’s third book revolving around corporate crime in India. According to the synopsis of Saboteur, “An E-Commerce Firm finds itself targeted by corporate espionage.A Prospective Investor vanishes without a trace. A Key Employee is murdered in cold blood.

MyMagicHat, a high-value, supercharged Bengaluru–based e-retailer is about to take an unprecedented gamble that will change the ecommerce market in the country forever. But, suddenly, things start to go awry just as the company unexpectedly runs out of cash. To make matters worse, a massive data theft follows, causing panic among investors. Is someone trying to kill the company?

When Inspector Dhruvi Kishore is brought in to investigate the incidents, she finds that in the dog-eat-dog world of e-retailing, crime, too, is driven by technology. Hidden in mountains of data and unverified claims lie clues that lead her to unearth a massive fraud – one that justifies anything. Even murder.”
By RV Raman
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 325

With a chain of well-regarded schools, Lina Ashar is an expert on children’s eduction. Her book,Drama Teen: A Cool-Headed Guide For Parents And Teenagers, distills her experience and wisdom in a handy guide to coping with the teen years. “The Synopsis States, “Teenage years are the most difficult and puzzling years for both the teenager and his or her parent. This is when children begin to develop their own identity, seek individualism and veer away from their parents. They can be rebellious, defy norms and traditions and stay cooped up in their rooms for days on end. Everything the parent says is anathema to them. So, whether you are a parent or a teenager, how do you deal with this turbulent and challenging phase?  In Drama Teen, Lina Ashar explores concepts from both sides of the fence. Helicopter parenting, parent–teen conflicts and ways to resolve them and the habits that lead to a successful life are among the topics discussed here. She also explores ways to minimize the pain and trauma the ‘drama-teen’ phase can cause both to the teens and their parents. Packed with practical advice, tips, what-not-to-dos and activities, Ashar expertly guides you to keep your cool through those complicated years.”
Drama Teen: A Cool-Headed Guide For Parents And Teenagers
By Lina Ashar
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 288

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