Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review : The Guns of August by B.W.Tuchman

Reading this book was like witnessing a high octane drama. Tuchman has painted a magnificent picture of a war torn Europe with her words. The book focuses on the first month of the war and the chain of events which eventually led to the battle of Marne. It provides all the military, political and geographical details about the war that changed the face of Europe in the next four years.
                            The book is full of epic tales of bravery, cowardice, tragedy and treachery. The opening paragraph describing the scene of King Edward VII’s funeral just swept me off my feet. I loved how Tuchman has characterized all the European nations-Germany is the high school bully, France is the scrawny nerd who stands up to the bully and gets beaten black n blue (obviously!) and England is the guy who promises the whole class that he will take care of the problem but disappears the moment the bully appears. The story never loses its momentum. All the military accounts both on and off the field are described in detail. The major portion of the book is about the generals of the French, Russian, German and English army. Tuchman has discussed the personalities of these men in great detail because ultimately it was the idiosyncrasies of these men which led to the loss of millions of lives. The Schlieffen plan is very well explained and the chapter on the battle of Tannenberg is unforgettable. My favorite section was the one written on the German naval warship-Goeben.The chase sequence between the German and English ships seemed like a scene of a modern day action movie.
                                 The author does not believe in providing back stories to certain events which can be very confusing sometimes.She mentions the battle of Sedan in quite a few places but there is no overview of that event anywhere in the book. Also, I found the maps to be very complicated but that did not pose a problem as the text is very self- explanatory. This book is a perfect combo of information and entertainment. The unbiased narration makes it a must read for any history lover.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review : ASURA-tale of the vanquished by Anand Neelakantan

It just breaks my heart when a fresh idea is implemented in such a crude manner. It has been a while since I came across such a terrible piece of writing and it really disappoints me because the story had so much potential. I guess it serves me right for expecting so much from a book.

                 From the very first page, the book spews hatred against the Brahmins and Aryans way of life. There came a point in the book where I felt I was reading some Pro Dravidian propaganda, which is not what I had signed up for. I believe the author wanted to showcase the evils of caste system but the whole point is lost when the entire book is full of anti-Aryan/fair skinned overtones. I do not know if it was intentional but the narration itself is very self-contradictory. The protagonist, Ravana says that the Asura  clan respect their women because unlike the white skinned Devas, they don’t  force their widows to practise Sati; but earlier in the book the same protagonist is shown raping a maid just because he was pissed off  with his wife.(I mean what the hell!!!).When I picked up this book, I thought I will be reading about Ravana’s intellectual conquests, his unique friendship with Bali, his administrative and military skills. Instead I got introduced to a schizophrenic Ravana who whines the entire time. The only thing I liked about the book was the character of Bhadra.His character represents the common man and his struggles. His account of the events that ultimately led to the downfall of Ravana is very interesting.    

                                              In my opinion, Ravana was a great emperor and deserved a much better story-a story that was at least proofread (I really don’t want to get started on the innumerable grammatical and vocabulary usage errors). The traditional version of the epic does more justice to this magnificent character.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review:The palace of illusions by C.B.Divakaruni

As soon as I started reading this book, I was overwhelmed with a strong feeling of nostalgia. All the memories of my beloved grandmother basking in the afternoon sun and telling me the fascinating tales of Mahabharata came rushing back to me. I believe the Mahabharata stories constitute an integral part of the childhood of millions of people across this nation. Therefore, Divakaruni deserves a lot of credit for being brave enough to write about a saga which has been reconstructed innumerable times over centuries.
                                     I remember when I was a kid, I used to be in awe of Draupadi. She was the perfect daughter, perfect wife and the perfect queen. This story takes away the entire enigma surrounding Draupadi’s character and makes her very approachable. I enjoyed reading about her childhood, her dreams and aspirations before her life became a series of tragedies. The sibling bond is very well painted .It made me want to read more about her brother,Drishtadhyumna(I had never really paid any attention to this character before). Since the whole story is told from Draupadi’s perspective, it obviously has a strong feminist undertone. The backdrop maybe of Mahabharata but I genuinely believe the modern day woman can very easily relate to the protagonist’s difficult choices and heartbreaking sacrifices. I loved the fact that Draupadi was not portrayed as the victim in the book (unlike most of the time in my grandmother’s stories).Instead it was her thirst for vengeance which lead to the Great War. To be honest, I found the Panchaali-Karna angle equation quite unimpressive. Sometimes I just fail to understand why all authors need to provide an unrequited love angle in the life of almost every strong female character of literature. It is like feminism cannot be portrayed without an unfulfilled love affair.
                              The writing is not very sophisticated. In fact, the prose gets repetitive at times. Overall, a quick and easy read. Any Indian mythology lover will definitely enjoy it if willing to overlook few flaws.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Review:Rex Randall and the Jericho Street by Vince Carter

After reading 3 back to back graphic novels, I wanted to break the routine and was very glad when Vince asked me to review his action thriller-Rex Randall and the Jericho Street. There are few ingredients which are absolutely necessary for writing a successful crime fiction-an intense plot, intriguing characters and an action packed climax. This book had all the ingredients but somehow the end product was not that great. The story is good in patches. Some chapters are really well written but there are few portions where the plot twists become very predictable.
                                                   To be honest, when I read the blurb, I was not very excited .I imagined like most of the modern day thrillers, the female characters will be used as a sex symbol but as I started reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised. The female personalities are very essential to the storyline and their roles are very well described. In fact, the best thing about this novel is the characterizations. All the characters are beautifully defined and as the story progresses the reader gets to know about them in depth. The story line is taut and the kidnapping sequences are well executed but the book lacked nail biting suspense. Also the chapters where Rex writes his story becomes very repetitive and redundant.

     In my opinion, the Rex Randall series has a lot of potential because of its unique backdrop. With clever dialogues and proper editing, this can turn into the perfect James Bond-Charlie’s angels combo.