That Calcutta…..those Bongs By Dipanwita Mukherjee

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Best for some light reading that your mind may seek after reading a serious literature or a really long book.

A collection of 21 short stories by Dipanwita Mukherjee, all about the Bengali society and cultural settings in Kolkata/Calcutta. There are extensive Bengali words/terms used in the stories throughout which are then explained at the end of the book. A nostalgic journey into the routine lives of people in Bengal and they go as far back as when Kolkata was still Calcutta.

The Bengalis or people familiar with the language will associate perfectly with the stories and terms but others may find it difficult to understand a lot of things.

Not Without My Daughter By Betty Mahmoody

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Extremely sad, terrifying, disturbing, tormenting, heart-wrenching, eye-opening, brave, strong, and at the same time filled with love and sacrifice, Not Without My Daughter is unputdownable until you know what happened next and after that and so on and so forth going on to the last chapter. You breathe a sigh of relief and become happy for Betty Mahmoody and Mahtob.

Not Without My Daughter is an account of Betty Mahmoody’s experiences during 1984–86. She left Alpena, Michigan to travel to Tehran with her husband and daughter for a short visit as promised by her husband. She and her daughter were held against their wills in Tehran after two weeks of their visit. Betty Mahmoody became a prisoner to an Islamic culture hostile to Americans, her husband’s family hostile to her, and an abusive husband. Her husband separated her from her daughter for weeks, assaulted her and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave. However, she eventually fled with her daughter with the help she received from many Iranians and covered 500 miles/800 km to escape to Turkey, mostly on foot.

Noone can understand what Betty Mahmoody felt while she was captured in Tehran and being separated from her daughter, but we can take a glimpse of it all in this autobiography. Despite several opportunities to leave Tehran without her daughter, which was more easy and convenient, Betty Mahmoody patiently waited and risked for the right time and right opportunity to leave with her daughter. Kudos to Betty Mahmoody and Mahtob!

One Hundred Years Of Solitude By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Not one of the easier books to read as it is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is myth. It takes a bit of an effort to begin but once you are deep into the story you begin to like the world of fantasy that Marquez has built consisting of mythical heroes and supernatural elements.

One Hundred Years Of Solitude is the story of the town of Macondo in which live seven generations of the Buendia family. Jose Arcadio Buendia, and Ursula Iguaran, his wife and first cousin, leave Riohacha in Colombia to find a new and better life. During this journey, Jose Arcadio Buendia dreams of the town of Macondo and upon awakening he builds it at a riverside based on his dream and perceptions. Macondo, the city of mirrors and the magical world is destroyed by a hurricane ultimately.

The fabricated events and characters act as a metaphor for the colonisation of the future Colombia. Though the story is fictional in a fiction setting, it gives a great insight into and explain the true Colombian history.

The Bat By Jo Nesbo

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This book was unavailable in most of the bookstores when I tried to look for it. This is the first book in Jo Nesbo‘s Harry Hole (the main protagonist) series. I was disappointed to read The Bat after reading Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman and The Leopard, probably because these two books had set the level of thrill, the chase, and the suspense very high for me.

In the story, the Norwegian police officer Harry Hole comes to Sydney to serve as the Norwegian attaché for the Australian police’s investigation into the murder of a young female Norwegian celebrity, Inger Holter, who was residing there. The story is woven intricately with various characters, who at one time or another may look as possible suspects.

It is a little slow in the beginning but the second half is definitely better and more enjoyable. But now after reading it I can safely say that Jo Nesbo’s latter novels are much better. The Bat isn’t as thrilling, exciting, terrifying, as I expected it to be.

Clear Light Of Day By Anita Desai

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Anita Desai’s work is brilliant as always and this is yet another example. I read her first book in school, ‘Village By The Sea’ and never forgot her. However, the lovers of the fast-paced thrillers may not like it.

It is the story of the Das family from the perspective of the children during their childhood, teenage years and adulthood. Set in Old Delhi around the time of the partition of India and Pakistan, it shows the tension between Muslims and Hindus existing in those days. It also mentions the partition riots, the refugee camps, the growing apart of the Das children and their reminiscing of their childhood days.

It is full of meaning and depth and if you try and delve upon it you may come to some sweet and bitter realisations about your own selves too. A meaningful book!

Eat, Pray, Love By Elizabeth Gilbert

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I was very excited to get my hands on this book and begin reading as soon as possible. But I was disappointed when I finally did. A creature of habit, I can not leave a book unfinished so I had to read it until the very end. It reeks of Orientalism, and as the word depicts, fabricates a view of the Eastern world formed by the Western world that can be studied, depicted, and reproduced implying that Western society is developed, rational and superior.

It is a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert describing her trip to Italy eating and enjoying life, to India in order to seek her spirituality, and to Bali, Indonesia looking for love and eventually succeeding. She takes the trip after separating from her husband and initiating divorce leaving an unsuccessful marriage behind.

Ironically, I liked the movie better (maybe as it has Julia Roberts :P). Sometimes, the story almost seems too good to be true.

Fountainhead By Ayn Rand

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A masterpiece, nothing else is required to be said about this magnificent work which incites unusual thoughts and feelings that lift you out of your mundane routines and lives. The concept of the creator and the second hander is something out of this world. Once I read it I also began using it for evaluation purposes of mankind, though do not know if it was good or not.

This is the story of Howard Roark, a young architect who struggles not to compromise his artistic and personal vision, and his complex relationships with different individuals helping or hindering his work. The various complexities of relationships, ambition, vision, struggle and competition make it a romantic drama as well as a philosophical work. A true manifestation of the defeat of Collectivism over Individualism.

Strong characters make you appreciate them for what they are and it gets difficult to completely love or hate them. An almost 700 pages read was definitely worth it.

The English Patient By Michael Ondaatje

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A great Classic that continues to be remembered, appreciated and applauded through time. Interest in war and philosophy will make it a great read as it is one of the greatest books on war.

The story is about the histories of a critically burned man, his nurse, a thief, and a sapper in the British Army as they live out the end of World War II in an Italian villa.

The frequent changes to flashback and then again to the present time do not let the readers lose attention as the story keeps getting intriguing. Using some of the real events and characters, Michael Ondaatje has managed to weave a story that makes readers believe that it is real.

Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe

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One of the most interesting books I have ever read.

It is about the gradual downfall of a Nigerian tribe during the late nineteenth century due to the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries amongst other things. Its focus is its main character Okonkwo, who is a leader and a champion wrestler in Umuofia, a fictional village in Nigeria, inhabited by the”Ibo” people. The novel describes his family and personal history, and the customs and society of the local people.

This book has so many little stories and folk tales ranging from superstition to fantasy and many others, that you just would not realise how quickly you finish the less than 200 pages.

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being By Milan Kundera

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Tomas’ love for his wife Tereza and his womanising, Tereza’s love of photography and distress due to Tomas’ infidelities, Sabina’s love for art and Tomas, Franz’s love for Sabina and Tomas’ encounters with his estranged son Simon and lastly, Karenin, the dog of Tomas and Tereza, in 1960s-1970s Prague, their lives filled with the lightness of love and sex, is the premise of The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. Their lives in the artistic and intellectual society is woven intrinsically and confusingly with one another.

Considered a masterpiece by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being gives countless opportunities to the readers for introspection and evaluation of their own lives.