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Book Nook - 30-01-2017

Monday, January 30, 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]

Sorrento Secrets
Kate Furnivall specialises in historical fiction, and her latest, The Liberation takes the reader to war-torn Italy. The time is 1945, the fag end of the second world war, when Italy is just getting out of the brutal Nazi occupation, but the people are also being battered by the Fascists and the Partisans, while the Allied forces try to bring order to a crime-ridden, starving population.

The courageous heroine of the book is Caterina Lombardi, a young woman who lives in Sorrento with her blind grandfather and younger brother Luca. Her mother had abandoned them for a more exciting life in Rome and her father was killed in an air raid. Now Caterina carries on her father’s trade, making delicate inlaid wooden decorative pieces, which she sells to support her family.

While trying to sell her wares in Naples, she is almost mugged by a bunch of ragged, feral kids, who fend for  themselves in the devastated country—and is rescued by two Allied military officers, one American and the other British.

When the gruff Major Jake Parr lands up at her doorstep to question her about her father’s work, she discovers that he belongs to a division that is tracking down and returning stolen art and artefacts, and that her father is suspected of having been part of a gang of traitors and looters of the country’s art heritage.

She cannot believe that her gentle and hard-working father could be guilty of such a crime, but when she is attacked twice and almost killed by gangsters, she knows she has to get to the bottom of the mystery, that involves a priceless jewelled table commissioned to her father. When her long-lost mother turns up, the knots get even more tangled. At the age of just twenty-one, Caterina is fearless and goes about hunting for pieces of the jigsaw, from the forbidding mansion of a count, to the innards of the crime scene in Naples.  She is befriended by the count’s daughter, kidnapped by the street kids and falls in love with the brooding Jake Parr. The romance, however, is given little attention in the book, there is so much else to focus on.

Furnivall’s descriptions of the time and place, and of course the intricately plotted story make The Liberation a worthwhile read. A love for history and research are the bedrock of this kind of fiction and in the box below, Furnivall reveals a part of the process.

The Liberation
By Kate Furnivall
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 560

Kate Furnivall on her Research Process (From the author’s website)
I am a fanatical note-taker! My problem is that I love doing the research too much. Once I get started, I can’t stop. I make hundreds of pages of notes, most of which I will never use, but they fill my head with the time and place I intend to write about. For The White Pearl I had to be so familiar with Malaya in 1941 that I could move with ease through the world I was going to create for Connie.

I devour everything I can lay my hands on that will expand my knowledge of the period, some fiction but mainly non-fiction. I adore memoirs. They are a rich vein of information because they provide the kind of intimate details that no historian would bother to record. These personal accounts are wonderful for helping me build the daily life of my characters. I get excited about discovering facts about a whole new subject – like the planting and milking of rubber trees. Nigel’s passion for them in the book was a reflection of my own. The temptation is to include too much research material, but I always keep in the forefront of my mind that the characters and plot have to come first.

I thank the Internet, Amazon and Google Books from the bottom of my heart. They give me access to facts and accounts that it would otherwise take me a lifetime to track down. Whatever the subject – the flying snakes of Malaya, the sail configuration of native trading boats, the placement of guns in Singapore or the address of General Percival’s headquarters – there is always someone out there who has written about it. I thank them all.Where possible I also spend time in the country I am writing about, but I am cautious about doing so, because I can’t bear to see McDonald’s and Coca-Cola signs eclipsing the 1930s world I have conjured up in my head. But this is where old film footage and old photographs are invaluable. Often a photograph, curling at the edges, will tell me more than any number of books.

One of the problems of living with research notes is that the facts and places become so fixed in my own mind that it is easy to forget how much the reader does – or doesn’t – know about the period. The city of Darwin in Australia is a case in point. I refer to it at the end of The White Pearl, because, as a strategic military port, it was savagely bombed sixty times between February 1942 and November 1943, causing great devastation and killing many inhabitants. A dangerous time for everyone.

A biography of the celebrated scientist, by David Bodanis traces his rise and his fall. According to the synopsis, “Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionised our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped to lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of his life he was also ignored by most working scientists, his ideas opposed by even his closest friends. This stunning downfall can be traced to Einstein's earliest successes and to personal qualities that were at first his best assets. Einstein's imagination and self-confidence served him well as he sought to reveal the universe's structure, but when it came to newer revelations in the field of quantum mechanics, these same traits undermined his quest for the ultimate truth. David Bodanis traces the arc of Einstein's intellectual development across his professional and personal life, showing how Einstein's confidence in his own powers of intuition proved to be both his greatest strength and his ultimate undoing. He was a fallible genius. An intimate and enlightening biography of the celebrated physicist, Einstein's Greatest Mistake reveals how much we owe Einstein today - and how much more he might have achieved if not for his all-too-human flaws.”
Einstein’s Greatest Mistake: The Life of a Flawed Genius
By David Bodanis;
Publisher:  Little, Brown /Hachette; |
Pages: 304

Journalist Shantanu Guha Ray’s book is about Jignesh Shah and the financial machinations he was involved with. An absorbing read for those who are curious about how money is made and lost in India. The synopsis states, “If things had gone Jignesh Shah's way, he would have been the Czar of Exchanges, a sterling exponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' programme.  Shah pioneered creation of 10 new-generation regulated multi asset (equity, commodity, currency, bond & electricity) financial markets just in 10 years across India, Singapore, Dubai, & Africa. No innovator has been credited with such accomplishments across the world. All the markets were No. 1 in India and No. 2 in the world. He was riding a crest from which very few could have toppled him by way of talent and performance. But he had taken on institutional forces like the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and invisible forces that backed NSE including its political godfather, corporates with vested interest, rich and powerful brokers and FII fronts-known as the famed Malabar Hill Club-by sheer performance to democratize the market prosperity to masses. First, the Spot Exchange crisis was created and then it was used by this very Club that ganged up with influential politicians and bureaucrats in Lutyen's Delhi to get Shah arrested in May 2014 on charges that have not yet been proved in Court. Rather, the entire money trail has been established to the 24 defaulting brokers against whom there has been literally no serious action at all as has been done against FTIL and Shah! In May 2016, it was revealed that brokerages responsible for NSEL payment crisis would come under the scrutiny of market regulator SEBI. A Bombay High Court appointed committee even found brokerages guilty of submitting false PAN card details of clients and trading without their consent. In this book, seasoned journalist Shantanu Guha Ray meticulously probes the motives of those who shunted Shah out of Exchange businesses and what it means for the politico-business climate of India.”
The Target : The decimation of JIGNESH SHAH'S global empire. How he broke the market monopoly and the price he paid
By Shatanu Guha Ray;
Pages: 230

Sudeep Nagarkar’s novel is about a very contemporary phenomenon of long-distance relationships. Says the synopsis, “Every relationship requires effort but a long-distance relationship requires extra effort. Aditya is a writer while the mere thought of reading repels Jasmine. They have absolutely nothing in common. Not even the cities they live in. Yet nothing can stop them from falling head over heels for each other. With distance playing spoilsport, they must forget all conventional logic and give their relationship a real shot through Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But can you trust your partner who’s miles away from you? Can a long-distance relationship really work? All Rights Reserved for You is the heart-warming real-life story of a couple who is separated by distance but is never really far apart.”
All Rights Reserved For You
By Sudeep Nagarkar;
Published by Ebury;
Pages: 240

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