Tag Archives: critically acclaimed

The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, 2019

The far Field

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is a debut novel and it is included in the short-list of the prestigious JCB Literary Awards, 2019. It is a beautiful story from what I could make out from the synopsis.

Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

The fact that it had a beautiful cover was a great attractor for me as well. I have been thoroughly loving the book so far. Although it begins on a note of grief, the writing is beautiful. There is a sort of whimsical and nostalgic about the book, from the very first pages itself and I am in love with the writing style. I hope the author brings out more books so that I can get my hands on it soon.

Many readers may argue that the protagonist is problematic – she comes off as self-centered and living in a bubble that essentially separates her from the world around her. Her actions seem immature and the fact that they are repeatedly done is a factor that irked me at times. The overall arch of the book, however, was worth enjoying and I loved every bit of it except the times I was frustrated because of the decisions Shalini took, which were her own. She has an individualistic streak and I am not sure if everyone will enjoy it. It certainly proved problematic for me at some points.  I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

Thanks a lot to Harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this amazing book. I am also hoping to pick up Milk Teeth and Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman followed by Trial by Silence and A Lonely Harvest. I have been following the Award this year and these are the books I intend to read from here.

Do you follow such literary awards? Are you picking up any award-winning books in the near future? If yes, which ones do you plan to?

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, 2019

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Publisher: OneWorld Publications

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-illusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
Named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection. 

Won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This book left me speechless. I am honestly shook after reading it. An American Marriage is riveting in its honest tone, the tangibility and the rawness was grating on my soul. It was sad, or rather, bittersweet, in a way that reality often is.

The author has made it a story which can be the story of someone we might know – Jones has a magical quality to her writing. The issue of race is an important one here – the one that makes fate take the turn it does. Celestial and Roy are husband and wife until he is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, and sentenced to twelve years. It is at once, the most horrifying thing that can happen to a couple, one that either breaks them or only makes them stronger. These two individuals are bound together by their deep sense of love and yet, separated by the twisted hand fate had dealt.

Societal and familial expectations are often ones that can push a person to be better, or they can become unwelcome burdens on a person’s shoulders. Celestial is a person who has to deal with a lot of pressure – her life is not easy, and neither is Roy’s. As a reader, I could not help but be overwhelmed by the difficult choices these two had to made to just make it day by day.

Stories also play a key role here – many of them reveal details that define the characters and their beings. Often told through letters and flashbacks, An American Marriage was an astounding book, one that I shall be keeping close to my heart always. And thus, it is no surprise that my mother has also decided to pick up this book soon.  

Verdict:

This was devastating and yet utterly moving story, that touched my heart and shook me to the core. 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire, Reshma K. Barshikar, 2018

Title: The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire

Author: Reshma K. arshikar

Publisher: Two Ravens

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 420

Synopsis:

‘What price would you pay to be extraordinary? What would you do to speak to a butterfly? 

 Shayamukthy cruises through life: shooting hoops, daydreaming and listening to her favourite books. Even moving from the US to India, to a new school, a new culture, hasn’t really rattled her. But something isn’t right anymore and it begins when a New Girl joins the school. 

She pulls Shui into a world of magic and wonderment, a world she has been hidden from all her life. What starts as a quest to look for a lost book, hurtles Shui into a world where people live in trees, talk to the dead and speak to butterflies. 

But like all power, magic comes at a steep price, and under all things wondrous lie demons waiting to crawl out. The more Shui learns, the more she doubts everything and everyone around her.   

Will she be able to master her powers, or will they devour her and everyone she loves? 

About the author:

Travel writer and novelist Reshma K Barshikar is an erstwhile Investment Banker who, as she tells it, ‘fell down a rabbit hole and discovered a world outside a fluorescent cubicle.’ As a travel and features writer, she contributes to National Geographic Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, The Sunday Guardian, SilverKris, The Mint Lounge, and The Hindu. Fade Into Red, published by Random House India was her debut novel and featured in Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers. She also holds well-renowned workshops for young adults at both BDL Museum and Kala Ghoda and is keen to build a strong Young Adult reading and writing community to fill the desperate lack of young adult fiction in the Indian Market. Her new Young Adult novel, The Hidden Children, will be launching at the Vizag Junior Literary Festival. Reshma is from the ISB Class of 2003. She calls both Mumbai and the Nilgiris home. All her work can be found on www.reshmakrishnan.com 

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in 

Being an avid fantasy reader, I just had to pick up The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire. Ofcourse, Ashok K. Banker’s blur really helped as well, since I personally like his writing as well.

The hope for achieving something great, of ambition and success is something we see starkly portrayed in Shayamukthy or Shui. We see her growth throughout the novel – and I consider it a bildungsroman in this aspect.

One thing that really impressed me was the intertextual or rather cross-cultural references, more specifically references to various movies, and books. It really points to the fact that the author herself is well-versed in all of them, well enough to have mentioned them at the necessary places.

The language used is understandable and as such, pre-teens and teens can read this without any difficulty. This dos not limit the book to only the younger side of the age spectrum.  Every fantasy lover can pick this one up.

The pacing however is a bit slow and that is where I personally faltered, in the beginning. If one can overlook that aspect, then I do not think anyone might find any problem otherwise. The first person perspective works well in this case and the occasional flashbacks are quite refreshing while also adding depth to the characters as well as the story. The themes of memory, childhood, magic, righteousness or rather good versus evil etc. intertwined well with the symbolism applied by the author. The ‘chosen one’ concept is a common trope, however, the author has added her own twist to it and delivered to us an exciting dish.

The world building, especially the magic system was really well planned and intriguing. The author does not fail even with the character building. Soumi, Nallini, Jai, Aadyant and Anya were all well portrayed and seemed realistic in their beings.

Set in a high school world, this book is truly one of a kind- I admit that I have never read something like this set in India. The author has done well in intertwining the American/European elements into the Indian context, and The Hidden Children, somewhere midway between YA literature and fantasy, might just be the book to introduce this in our country.

The title of the story makes a lot of sense as we delve deeper into the story. It is quite unique in its originality. The cover is also nice although it could have been a bit better. However I do think that it captures the essence of the story.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Call me by your name, Andre Aciman, 2007

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Publishers: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Synopsis:
Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.

Character development:
When it comes to character development, I did not find it lacking in any manner. The gradual way in which the author inserts newer facts about the character is very sublime and makes the overall effect a thousand times thus. A lot of time has certainly been given to this masterpiece of a book and Aciman has done a spectacular job with the book.

Plot development:
Another aspect in which the author has given intimate attention would be undoubtedly the plot as a whole. The streaming of time from Elio’s perspective gave it a certain rustic and lazy view, all the more relatable and heart-warming. The gradual buildup is beautiful done and the compartmentalization into the 4 part by the author has in a very poignant way classified the different feelings Elio feels.
Quality of writing
Call me by your name is a masterpiece and it can be verified by the uncountable tears, readers, among which I too can be classified, have shed continuously. It can be verified by the galloping heartbeats that the author has rendered in us. The whole story was well paced and even though the first three parts are very close in terms of time, compared to the flashbacks in the fourth, the overall effect was very soothing and apt.
Thought provoking
The themes explored in this novel were also very thought provoking. We see the overall theme as love, along with homosexuality and friendship. Travel has also been included in the book along with the love for books/poetry and it excited the bibliophile in me as well.

Verdict
Call me by your name is the second ever LGBTQ+ book I have read and its left we shattered and in love, happy but forlorn and yet, with a certain unexplainable calmness in me. I rate this a 5/5 stars and will keep it close to my heart, to be revisited time and time again.