Tag Archives: reviewer

Anamika: A Tale of Desire in a Time of War

Today I am talking about one of the most interesting books I have read this year! Anamika, by Meghnad Desai, was a fantastic story set in the days after Aurangzeb’s fall.

Anamika, by Meghnad Desai
Anamika, by Meghnad Desai

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by the publisher. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

He was a powerful man, as she could see from his hands and his stature. And again, those penetrating eyes. Something had happened in Anamika’s dull daily life. What did it portend?

It is the eighteenth century. Emperor Aurangzeb has fallen, the Mughal Empire is a shadow of its former self, and India is rife with civil war. In these times of gardi, you’d have to be a lion to win power, and a wolf to keep it. When the beautiful Savitri, the only daughter of the Chief Minister of Purana Zilla, marries into a rich merchant household in Ranipur, she becomes Anamika. Her future seems assured—she is to bear her loving husband Abhi many children, eventually becoming the lady of the house and perpetuating the family’s fortunes.

But a tragic accident on their wedding day renders Abhi paraplegic, seemingly dooming their perfect future. Anamika still finds bliss in her love for her husband, but her in-laws’ unfulfilled dreams of progeny threaten to consume and destroy her.

The intrigue that appears

But into her life enters Abdul—the illegitimate son of Shah Ahmad Khan, locked in a deadly war with his brother Hassan for the throne. This powerful, magnetic stranger upsets the balance of her everyday life, thrusting both Anamika and Abhi into a newfound world of intoxicating freedom, conflicting desires, and deadly deceit. Crossing paths with the enigmatic courtesan-turned-bodyguard Nadya, the motherly Niloufer, the spirited young warrior princess Sonal, and a wide and motley cast of soldiers, assassins, courtesans, eunuchs, princes, and queens, Anamika must make bold choices and adopt many names for the sake of both desire and survival.

my review

Anamika: A Tale of Desire in a Time of War a simply a stunning read – full of sensuality intertwined with the duty of necessity. It was especially stunning for its vivid portrayal of women as nuanced and real figures rather than the usual tropes of ‘angel of the house’ or the ‘madwoman in the attic’ that are often used in both English and Indian English literature set in those times.

And because it is the female sex that so thoroughly engrossed me, let me talk about it first!

Womanhood and its various layers

In Anamika, we have the eponymous Anamika who is a mature and independent woman (well, as independent as a married woman in those times can possibly be). She is a loving wife and the way she navigates her life in her married home, around her mother-in-law and a particularly lusty father-in-law was quite well written. Her resolution and will power especially after the accident that rendered her husband a paraplegic.

But then, with the arrival of Abdul, there is a sexual awakening in her. Her very first view of Abdul brings up thoughts in her mind regarding his “penetrating” gaze and the way his hands and stature denoted power. I thought this particular aspect of Anamika’s growth was also empowering in the fact that she is personally growing and looking after herself, after the time she has spent looking after others around her.

Show of strength

Then comes Nadya, who was a courtesan but is now Hassan’s bodyguard. The very fact that she masquerades as Nadeer and stays by his side to protect him, again brings to mind another nature of a woman – that of the more physicality of her strength. I loved the portrayal of Nadya although she wasn’t an absolute favourite all the time. Despite that, I do admire her resolution and strength.

Lastly, a few lines about two other female characters in the book. Hassan’s mother was a truly formidable (and a bit scary) woman who rules the zenana. Princess Sonal is another wonderful woman who does not let anything stop her from learning what she wishes – strategy and warfare, and that too from a French general!

Political intrigue, wars and royalty

Because of what I could infer from the synopsis, it was pretty clear that there would be some interesting political intrigue, seeing as to how it was set in the days after Aurangzeb’s downfall. And surely, a great tussle was at the center of it all. Hassan is the legitimate son of the king, while Abdul is the illegitimate son of Shah Ahmad Khan. And thy are each other’s greatest adversaries striving to bring the other down o their way to claim the throne.

My final thoughts

I thought that Anamika was a really very interesting story and I was hooked from the very beginning! I rate it 4.5/5 stars! Do pick it up!

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour Pt. 1
  5. Quarantine Book Haul
  6. How to Read More Books

A coming-of-age: Suncatcher

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age,  Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!
Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age, Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!

A coming-of-age novel!

This was my first Gunesekera book and by god, am I a fan now! Suncatcher was a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age novel, or a bildungsroman, as we lit grads like to put it.

Setting and background:

The story is set in the 1960s Ceylon, erstwhile Sri Lanka, and it is a time of great political change all around; the reverberations of these political happenings resonate throughout the book and control how the adults act or what they say.

Themes of illusions and traps

One of the important themes that I could figure was that of illusion. Be it the adults or Jay himself, everyone seems to be deliberately altering the way he or she perceives reality and moreover, an entire section on the construction of the cage and the way how Jay perceives it towards the end is reminiscent of the way the system has caged the people. Society, class, economic situation, language, etc are all dividing lines.

Coming-of-age: The protagonist

At the center, we have the protagonist Kairo, a pretty much normal guy whose life takes for an exciting turn when he meets the worldly and confident Jay.

The similarity to The Great Gatsby

For all his dreams and hopes, Jay reminded me of Fitzgerald’s famous character Jay Gatsby. Jay is a boy whose personality greatly mesmerizes and influences Kairo and he comes off as an idealistic visionary, a talented naturalist and a rebel. There are many layers to his personality, however, and as the story progresses, we learn more about him.

A coming-of-age: Jay and Kairo

However, as Jay seems to be oblivious to the unstable situation all around him, Kairo seems to be a more emphatic and emotionally intelligent boy who takes stock of the things going on around him, although at the time he may not understand their significance. Jay and Kairo as a pair, seem to be a juxtaposition of two vastly different worlds; where Kairo belongs to the bourgeoisie, Jay can be said to belong to the ‘landed gentry’, for lack of a better term.

The similarity to Rhett Butler!!

Another character who was very interesting was Uncle Elvin. If Jay reminds me of Jay Gatsby because of his visionary ways, Elvin seems to embody Rhett Butler in his manner of living. I do not know why, but I somehow saw Clark Gable, more specifically his persona as Rhett Butler as Elvin, which is full of fast cars, girls and his extravagant ways.

A realistic writing style

As for the writing, the language is descriptive and so wholesome! The author has been able to well portray the thinking of youngsters burgeoning in their pre-adult years. There is a sense of rivalry that seems to be present, the need to be the leader and to dominate, etc. The use of the native words adds a very original flavor to the book.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I hope I can pick up more from the author’s milieu. I rate it 5/5 stars. Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book. Also, the postcard is so aesthetic!

Recommended reads:

  1. An Atlas of Impossible Longing
  2. City of Girls
  3. The Dutch House

Links:

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48348802-suncatcher
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Suncatcher-Romesh-Gunesekera/dp/1526621584/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3U20JYQ6SXBVS&keywords=suncatcher+by+romesh+gunesekera&qid=1574268544&sprefix=suncatcher+by+romesh%2Caps%2C456&sr=8-1

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang, 2018

1535127131651.jpg
Publishers: Corvus
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
 
My review:
I literally finished reading this book in around 5 hours so that’s saying something. The Kiss Quotient is an amazing book- one that delivers to you some toe-curling romance, sweet family moments, and your everyday office tragedies. Seasoned with just the right amount of reality, The Kiss Quotient proved to be a really entertaining and fulfilling read.
The plot was really well planned and the pace throughout was wonderfully paced. I also do think that the third person narration worked great for the story.
The characters were the centre point of this story- Stella more so than Michael. It is a character driven novel so it’s not a surprise that they were both so powerful in themselves. I also liked the way they were caring for their family members in their own ways and how supportive they were for both of them. That #couplegoals right there! Their development throughout the story is also significant as they come to terms with themselves- both emotionally as well as mentally. It was truly inspiring and enjoyable and can be rightly called an exceptionally well-written modern day bildungsroman novel.
The aspect of a female Asperger’s person was also eye-opening and showed the various problems and issues these women face, afraid of being judged. And the way the author has voiced her opinions through our protagonist as she comes to terms with her uniqueness, is awe-inspiring. The other themes of family, friendship, love and hard work were also well explored. I could feel so many emotions coursing through me as I read the book and related with Stella on various levels as well as Michael too, as they both tried to maneuver their way through the world and society in general. And as a reader of this book and desperate fan of Pretty Woman, I can truly say the author did justice to her version with the gender-roles exchanged.
The writing style was also one I loved really a lot. It was exquisite and I laughed and cried and felt like I was a part of the events as they unfolded. I honestly haven’t read such a wonderful contemporary novel in a long time. The editing and punctuation were all beautifully done and I do not have a complaint. I gushed so much about the book that my mother is currently reading it and loving it so far.
 
Verdict:
I rate The Kiss Quotient a solid 5/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this contemporary novel that is just amazing and a must read. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

Some Very Dignified Disclosures, Anumita Sharma, 2018

1533868823557
Publishers: Pratishthaa films & Media
Genre: Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:
It is an ordinary summer evening in a remote village near India and Nepal border; Roli’s mother and grandmother are quarrelling beside the well of their dilapidated feudal mansion. Roli is lurking in the courtyard; no one from her joint-family pays attention, and suddenly her father appears and clasps his wife’s throat. Roli watches in horror and envisions her mother’s spirit releasing from the dead body. Her future gets haunted by the twin spectre – mother’s ghost and father’s crime. The narrative moves to a small town, in the large household of a village acquaintance, where Roli shifts for higher studies, and encounters various fascinating lodgers, including an eccentric priest, who collects sundry items on streets to construct a house, and catches an exotic bird which dazzles the neighbourhood, a perplexing night watchman, whose mysterious doings make the priest lose his mind, a bored wife of a sailor, who dabbles in occultism, a scholarly librarian, who convinces Roli to accept her troubled past, and the unhappy wives of her landlord play an intriguing role in her attachment to another of the tenets- a temperamental young man, who becomes Roli’s love interest. The protagonist is an imaginative teenager. She loves reading and is attracted to people with mysterious backgrounds – very much like the characters of her favourite novels. A sympathetic village woman gifts her amber necklace, which smells like ambergris, and details many supernatural incidents involving it. Does the necklace hold magical powers? Will the fragrance of ambergris capture the man she loves? Can Roli find success on the treacherous winding roads of adulthood? Anumita Sharma is the author of The Curse of Yesterday. Inherently a poet, a wordsmith, and voracious reader, Anumita loves telling stories set in the rustic environment of Eastern India.
My Review:
I can easily classify this as the first Indian magical realism book I’ve read and I truly loved it. The overall effect was exquisite and I was hooked from the very first pages. The fact that it was written in poetic prose, made the effusive paragraphs almost lilting and soothing to me. The imagery that the author has created through the patterns her words create, is very picturesque indeed.
The writing style of the author is something that I have fallen in love with. The language used is beautiful but somewhat of a higher level and hence may not be easily understandable to beginners. The poetic tune that the author has inlaid the words with, are beautiful and exquisite and I have found no fault with them at all. Although the pacing isn’t fast, it is definitely well-matched with the narration and the actions taking place. The whole experience was something dreamlike and ephemeral and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, I do feel that while I was hooked from the very first pages, there will be a few who may find the beginning a bit slow, but fret not! Once you think it catches speed, you’re in for the ride of a lifetime. A lack of dialogues may also put off some people but the autobiographical way of narration is a personal favourite and moreover, I think it did great justice to the story.
When it comes to the characters, the author has done well to let the readers interpret for themselves, the protagonist, as the story unravels through her own eyes. Roli as a protagonist was a beautiful person and I will be lying if I say that I do not relate with her at all. Apart from that, her own self is admirable. The other multitude of female characters were all nice to read about- the author has nuanced upon different qualities through each of them.
I also especially loved the way the author has kept the ending- it’s not close-ended but it’s definitely something close. The open and kind of an ambiguous ending left the scope for many possibilities afterwards and keeps the reader reeling long after finishing the book.
Verdict:
I have really loved this experience, and Some Very Dignified Disclosures has included itself into my most-loved books list and I shall definitely recommend it to others as well! I rate it a 5/5 stars!

Child of Paradise: Listen to your dreams, Pratibha R DH, 2017

1532713134359.jpg
Publisher: Flugel Publishing House
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 340
Blurb:
Life takes an unexpected turn when Tia meets the boy whom she secretly had a crush on all through her school years. Not only does Ron steal her heart but he seems equally besotted in a true blue sense of the word. Tia’s friends who had always known about her infatuation are more than thrilled as Ron is absolutely a girl’s dream come true – a stunner with a heart of gold.
Everything seemed just so perfect and it looked like the universe finally heard her wishes…if not for one person who didn’t want her to be with Ron. And it was none other than the person Tia loved most in the world – Rianna, her sister. The bizzare part of it all was that Rianna was no longer alive! Tia was continuously haunted by dreams of her sister who kept warning her off Ron.
Her sister’s case being closed off by the police as suicide was something that had left Tia deeply perturbed even years after her passing away. As Tia follows her instincts and tries to solve the mystery surrounding her sister’s death she comes up with evidence that might just open up a can of worms and shatter her whole family.
Will she be able to fulfil her sister’s last wish? Will she make the right choice between love and justice? This story is a journey of corporate ambition, greed, lust and betrayal. A paranormal crime novel that will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and family drama while at the same time leave you twitching to unearth the mystery of a death, unresolved.
My Review:
Child of Paradise was quite an interesting read and I have never read a paranormal crime fiction of this type before. The author has obviously done quite a lot of research before writing this book and it is evident from the first chapter itself- from the medical stuff to the psychic/spiritual ones. That was commendable in itself.
The plot of the novel has been well laid out and it is clear from the different twists and turns we come across as we keep on flipping the pages. Different forms of the novel such as an epistolary, a bildungsroman, and also, of course, social novel, could be seen. The framing devices, though a few, used by the author through the use of the emails, text messages and letters, works really well and binds the story together. We also see the mental growth of not only the protagonist but also of the dead sister herself. The social aspects that the reader brought in through the different conversations, meetings in the story as well as the work lifestyle were very well portrayed, keeping in mind the real situation in India. The themes of love- familial, platonic as well as romantic; friendship, and mystery were very well planned out. The writing was beautiful and very well edited and I hardly found even a single grammar/editing error. The way of writing was also very relatable and the author could incite laughter from me as I read the funny interactions among the characters in the novel. The events are also very nostalgic at parts without being monotonous.
The characters were well formed and the author has taken pains to make them as believable as possible- they are round, displaying a number of emotions for a number of various situations around various people. The relatability that the reader can share with the characters in the book is very high as well. The author has also subtly invoked the image of the independent women, one that I love.
The one thing that I didn’t like was the introduction of so many characters because it made me very confused. Frankly, I was lucky since I always sort of take notes or make family trees when I read a book. The cover was nice in a simple sort of way, but there is much scope for it, especially the spine of the book. I honestly have no other issue beyond these.
Verdict:
This book was a great read, and I really enjoyed it a lot. Definitely recommend for fans of thrillers, mystery and romance books. Would rate it as a 13+ book and I personally shall be picking up again. I rate this a 5/5 stars.