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Book Nook - 26-09-2016

Monday, September 26, 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 [email protected]

Sassy Sisters
Never having read a book by Lucy Diamond before, one didn’t know what to expect, but it’s not hard to see why she is popular. The Secrets of Happiness is a grown-up kind of chick lit, meaning, the women have more to them than just perfect looks, and more to do that just mooning over guys.

Rachel and Rebecca (called Becca by all) are stepsisters-- Rachel’s father fell in love and married Becca’s mother, Wendy. There is an age gap between the two, but that is not the only reason for the relationship between them to be frosty.

The pretty Rachel grows up to be a successful career woman with a seemingly perfect marriage and three wonderful children. The frumpy Becca flits from job to job, ending up as a menial in a pub kitchen. Then, Rachel on a mysterious trip to another city, about which she tells nobody, hoping to be back before her kids return from school, is mugged and seriously injured.

The neighbour minding the children calls Becca to come look after them. In the process of reluctantly doing her duty towards family, Becca loses her job. On reaching Rachel’s home, she finds that her sister divorced her husband Lawrence, and lost her job too.  She was trying to set up her own fitness training enterprise when life dealt her a nastier blow. Since the muggers stole her bag with her phone and id, and a head injury gives her temporary amnesia, Rachel is unable to provide the cops with her name, number or address.

Rachel’s children, Mabel, Scarlet and Luke, are distraught, when their aunt comes by to bring some order into their lives. By the time Rachel is able to contact her family, Becca has learnt to manage a home and kids and also dealt with her sister’s clients, but her own freewheeling manner.

When Rachel returns home, she requests Becca to stay a few more days, even though she hates to be dependent on anyone. There is also a misunderstanding caused by Lawrence that prevents her from truly accepting her stepsister.

Over the weeks, however, the two grow close and learn the meaning of sisterhood. It is an easy read, bright and optimistic, with simple, relatable people populating its pages, not too much angst or ugliness and everything turning out all right. Even the kids are not horrid, precocious brats, which is such a relief.

There are other characters and their stories woven into the novel.  It is no surprise that almost everyone from a teenager to a septuagenarian find their perfect mate by the end, it is that kind of happy-making book.

The Secrets of Happiness
By Lucy Diamond
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 480

Excerpt of The Secrets of Happiness:
‘We will shortly be arriving at Manchester Piccadilly station. Change here for trains to London Euston, Liverpool Lime Street and Edinburgh International. Manchester Piccadilly, your next station stop in approximately two minutes. All change, please.’

As the train nosed its way along the platform, the carriage became a bustle of activity: bags hauled down from the overhead shelf, dog-eared newspapers abandoned on seats, phones stuffed into pockets. Rachel Jackson was already one step ahead, in a line of people snaking back from the doors, jolting against the luggage rack as the train braked to a jerky halt.

‘Manchester Piccadilly, this is Manchester Piccadilly. All change, please. All change.’

This was it. She had made it. Her adrenalin surged as the doors were unlocked and the hot crush of passengers began spilling out onto the platform. She followed numbly, not caring as someone’s suitcase bashed against her legs. Hello, Manchester, she thought, stepping down from the train. I’m here to get some answers. Do you have any for me?

The station felt enormous after Hereford, a cavernous space, the ceiling criss-crossed with an intricate grid of struts and girders, the tannoy echoing around them. It was early June, and the school run that morning had promised milky sunshine breaking through the clouds, but the air felt cool now and she pulled her pale-grey cardigan around her as she walked along the platform amidst a stream of other travellers. Nerves prickled through her. Now that she was here, she felt overwhelmed. The enormity of what she was doing began to pound like a drum-beat, louder and faster. Did she even want to find out the truth any more?

Yes, she reminded herself resolutely, striding forward. Yes, I do. After all the lies she’d been told, she needed to know, had to see this through.

There was an impatient crowd building around the ticket barriers, people muttering crossly as first a group of Japanese tourists seemed to have lost their tickets, and then an elderly couple held up another aisle by getting a tartan shopping trolley caught in the electronic gates. The agitation was infectious and Rachel felt her irritation rise. Come on, come on, hurry up. If she paused like this much longer, she might change her mind about the whole thing. She had to keep moving, maintain momentum.

Finally, it was her turn to post her ticket through the gateway with clammy fingers and be released into the main concourse, which buzzed with all human life. There were hordes of people in every direction, dragging suitcases, barking into mobile phones, hurrying towards their trains. A woman with killer heels and a briefcase barged into her without seeming to notice, barely breaking stride. The tannoy bing-bonged, mothers hauled along small children, a group of Scandi-looking teenagers with enormous backpacks and enviably tanned legs stood arguing over a map.

Rachel felt small, quiet and anonymous as she gazed around for signs to the exit and taxi rank. Miles away from the green hills and farmland of home, nobody knew her here, or had any idea that she’d even made the journey. ‘A meeting,’ she’d said vaguely to Sara over the road when she’d arranged for her to pick up Luke and Scarlet from school later that afternoon. ‘I’ll be back by five at the latest.’ A flying visit, that was all. She’d phoned from the train to double check that Violet was at work that day – ‘Yes, she’s here, let me put you through,’ a nice lady had said but Rachel had hung up instantly, heart hammering. No. Not on the phone. It had to be face to face, where she could look into the other woman’s eyes and hear the full story.

Oh God. It was terrifying. What might Violet have to say?

Maybe she should have an espresso before she headed off, she decided, weakening as she spotted a nearby stall and breathed in cinnamon, coffee, vanilla. There was plenty of time, after all, and she could do with something to rev her up, give her that last push onwards. One sharp hit of caffeine and she would feel ready to jump in a cab, just do it, no more dithering. Up and at ’em, kiddo, as her dad used to say.

She joined the queue, her mind a jumble of worries, snagging once again on the incriminating newspaper report she’d discovered, the conversation at her father’s funeral that had opened this whole can of worms. Did your dad ever . . . mention me? She wished she had never met Violet now. Even coming here seemed too reckless an idea all of a sudden. What if the whole thing was a wild goose chase?

Lost in her doubts, she jumped at the sound of a male voice behind her. ‘Excuse me, love?’

She turned expectantly but as she did so, someone grabbed her handbag from the other side, catching her unawares. ‘Hey!’ she cried, her hands flying up to pull it back, but in the next moment she’d been shoved hard from behind, lost her balance and was falling, falling, falling . . .

There was just time to dimly register the sensation of her bag being snatched from her grasp and the sound of running footsteps, before her head smashed against the ground. Then everything went black.

‘She’s what? She’s missing?’ Becca repeated into the phone, then turned away slightly from the distracting sight of her flatmate Meredith, who was plucking a lute at the other end of the sofa. Meredith was a member of a Medieval Re-Enactment Society and spent most of her weekends in a cloak. The lute-playing was a new and unwelcome sideshoot of this hobby. ‘Say that again, sorry,’ Becca said, putting down her half-eaten slice of pizza in order to concentrate.

The title clearly states what the book is all about; recognising the importance of the growing event management industry, the writers Sapna Gupta and Deepak Choudhary put together profiles and interviews of the top people in the field, all pioneers leading some of the best known companies. The share their experiences and insights and answer questions about their work. It’s a good read for those who plan to join this field.

The synopsis states, “In a scenario where there is very little reading material on the subject, ‘Staged!’ captures at a glance live events industry of today and offers a practical view of the field. It is provides the reader with the ‘real’ picture of what goes behind the scenes. While it covers where the industry stands in size, gamut and scope, the focus of the book is very much on the people and personalities that have shaped the industry over the last two decades.

Through the eyes of the top industry leaders, the book covers the journey of the business of live events in India from its inception to the current form. There are chapters dedicated to corporate events, the event IP (Intellectual Property) business, new technologies, MICE, the future of the industry and some more, all through the back stories of the people who have shaped the events for a long time.
Staged: The Biggest Names From The Events
Industry Go Live
By:  Sapna Gupta, Deepak Choudhary
Publisher:  Om Books
Pages: 252

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