We That Are Young by Preti Taneja

Pages: 545
Genre: Fiction
Read: February 2018
Rating: 9/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Brilliant, Mad, Fierce

Retelling of Shakespearean plays in modern-day times is all the rage right now. I appreciate it, but sometimes I’m not too sure what to think of it. I have heard of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, but then I heard via a book podcast that I listen to (Books on Toast), that someone has written a modern-day retelling of King Lear and my interest piqued considerably.

Why? Because King Lear might just be one of my favourite Shakespearean plays. So this book had a lot of expectations riding on it. And hoooo boy, it did not disappoint.

The book is the retelling of King Lear in modern-day India. It really is a play-by-play of the entire play and I loved it for that. A lot of authors, when doing a retelling take just the premise of the play and then run with it, but not Preti Taneja.

The book starts of when Jivan Singh, the bastard son of Ranjit Singh – the right hand man of Devraj – the founder of India’s most important company, returns to his childhood home after a long absence. On that day he witnesses the unexpected resignation of the ageing patriarch and, Sita, Devraj’s youngest daughter, absconds – as she refused to submit to the marriage her father wants for her. Meanwhile, Radha and Gargi, Sita’s older sisters, must deal with the fallout… And so begins a brutal, deathly struggle for power, ranging over the luxury hotels and spas of New Delhi and Amritsar, the Palaces and slums of Napurthala, to Srinagar, Kashmir.

Preti does an amazing job and reminds me of the Arundhati Roy of ‘The God of Small Things’ in a way – with the madness and delirium in her writing. The prose is beautiful and crazy – which is what the play is. I am not disappointed with this book at all – in fact, I’m delighted.

I recommend this book 100%. If you have read King Lear before then you’d appreciate the effort and nuance and if you haven’t, you’re in for a ride!

P.S. I’m hosting an international giveaway on my Instagram page. Make sure you check it out and take part! 🙂 



The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Pages: 325
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 8.5/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: A book of the ages, ‘the immigrant experience’, family oriented

I had been wanting to read The Joy Luck Club for a while now, but I decided to throw the hammer down and actually do it when I heard that Amy Tan, the author, would be a speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. And boy am I glad I did that.

The book begins when June Mei Woo, following her mother’s death, has to replace her mother Suyuan at her monthly mah jong game. Suyuan had started this game and Joy Luck Club when she first immigrated to the United States as a way to maintain her Chinese culture in a new country. The other families who joined her– the Hsus, Jongs, and St Claires– became like family.

Through this book you hear of stories from both the generations – stories of the older generation of their childhood and life in China, the way they migrated to the United States and their experience trying to raise first generation children there and the stories of the younger generation (of the daughters) who grow up trying to achieve their bit of the American dream and navigate their space in the world.

The book is wonderful and insightful. It rings with a voice of power, grace and a sense of pain. Having lived in China for years, I was really excited to read of the Chinese culture and how people lived and perceived things back in the day. At the same point of time this book seems like the quintessential book on immigration to the United States – specially for the Chinese immigrants, but honestly I think it will ring true across all nationalities.

I see this book transcend all generations (and genders – just because it’s a book with women protagonists at the core doesn’t mean men shouldn’t read this book!) and be a book for the ages. Why? Because at it’s core it’s about family and that strikes a chord with everyone. So yes, go ahead, read the book. It’s delightful and a must read.

Leila: A Novel by Prayaag Akbar

Pages: 205
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 7/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Refreshing, Easy Read, Dystopian

What I loved about this book is how the author took a simple but common prevalent issue of communities building up walls around each other and made it the central theme of his book.

The world depicted in this book is a dystopian world of the future in India where communities, obsessed with purity of air and race among other things, have built up walls dividing each other and separating themselves from the rest. For example, there’s a Bohri Muslim sector and a Syrian Christian sector. The story follows Shalini, a widow persecuted for her ‘wayward ways’, now marginalized and is in the search for her daughter who she was separated from.

While this is meant to be dystopian, this seems eerily just a step ahead of where we are right now in India. In Bombay, where I live, I see buildings of a single community and them not wanting any other sort of caste or religion living around them. It’s this new sense of ‘nationalism’ and ‘me’ that’s taken over our nation and it’s interesting to see that translated into a book.

The story is very compelling and Prayaag Akbar does a great job in building the characters not just as black and white, but as grey and human. The book goes back and forth from the present to the past and shows the regression and how the world has come to where it is today.

I thought the book was a quick read and well written – especially for a first-time novelist and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Akbar’s work.


Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Pages: 250
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 9.5/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Weird, Funnier, A must read

Now many have heard of ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ (check out my review of the same here), but a lot don’t know that there are actually four more books that follow. It is commonly known as a ‘trilogy in five parts’.

Oh, how I love Douglas Adams.

The second book is the one I’m reviewing today, Restaurant at the End of the Universe. And to be completely honest, I liked this book more than the Hitchhikers. Maybe it was because I started to get used to the peculiarity of the prose or I was warming up to the characters – I just liked this book more. In fact, I actually found it funnier.

The book starts where Hitchhikers ended, and follows an almost ridiculous plot which I really can not summarize. If someone can (without putting out any spoilers), please do let me know. The conversations between the characters were hilarious, the twists and turns in the plot ingenius and of course, Marvin as usual is my favourite.

I have only praise for Douglas Adams and would beg you to read this book. But of course, read Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy first. You would feel lost without it.


Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Pages: 193
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 8/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Weird, Funny, A must read

Hitchhikers Guide is not a infamous book. In fact, it could be argued that it is one of the most famous books of all time. So many people told me about it, and many people told me it was weird. But till I read it, I didn’t realize how weird.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is weird but delightfully so. The story is of Arthur Dent whose life suddenly changes when his best friend, Ford Prefect, plucks him off the Earth and into a spaceship because Earth is being destroyed by a bunch of aliens called Vogons because they’re tasked to remove all planets in the way of building a hyperspacial express route. Turns out Ford Prefect came to Earth as a researcher to help write the revised version of ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’. See. I told you it’s weird.

What follows is a bitingly funny, utterly random book with some really weird characters. (My favourite being Marvin, a depressed robot.) I finished the book in a day because I really didn’t realize when it started and when it finished.

My thoughts? Douglas Adams is either a complete loon or a genius. It can be, however, argued that he is both. People who haven’t read this book are really missing out. So I would suggest that you get to it asap.


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Pages: 150
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 7.5/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Thought provoking, philosophical, beautiful, shocking

You think you know the way something is going and then it turns out Julian Barnes just wants to hit you with all these twists that make you sit up at 1 AM in the morning and go, “WHAT THE FUCK!” (Pardon my language, but really, you will say it.)

The book was honestly a bit of a tease – leading you on till the end which I don’t think anyone expected. When Veronica said “You won’t get it, you’ll never did”, I was frustrated. “Why can’t you just tell us what happened,” I thought. But, I get it now.

The story seems to be a little mundane with the plot of a middle aged retired man, Tony Webster’s first person account of his life – specifically as he reminisces of his days in school and college. He remembers his time with his three best friends (Adrian, Alex and Colin) and a young woman, Veronica – whom he dated when he was in college. He remembers her now specifically because he gets an inheritance from Veronica’s mother – a person he met only once and who he thought was the only one in the family who was nice to him in a trip he once took to their house. What follows is the unravelling of how some decisions can shape many people’s lives.

I dont want to give too much away.

The plot line almost felt like putting a puzzle together. Barnes gave you the framework and slowly you were given the pieces to put together. However, unlike a normal puzzle, you can’t make out the entire picture till the last piece was put in.

I loved how the story was narrated. The narrator was what you would call ‘unreliable’ but at the same time he came up with some very interesting philosophical and astute thoughts.

I can see why it won the Man Booker. I would definitely recommend this book but would also say that I do not think this book will be loved by everyone.


The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat

Pages: 200
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2018
Rating: 10/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Heartbreaking, raw, evocative, relatable

I instantly fell for this book. From the very first sentence, from the first chapter – it swept me off my feet like nothing ever before. It is like a song, a form of poetry and I just couldn’t stop reading.

I absolutely love this book. I love the concept. I love the way it is written. I love what is written.

From stories of innocence to well, growing up – the book is broken up into chapters where characters describe their time with and love for and from a particular woman. It is her life woven through their lens and with each story they add a layer to the woman’s life.

The poignant stories are short and crisp, as are most of our loves and dalliances. I could relate to almost all the stories – the college relationship, the brief fling, the ‘companionship’.

There are lines in this book that will break your heart and then soothe it over. I could feel the emotions – palpable from each page that I read. This book was definitely a labour of love.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Go, read, devour and fall in love.


Autumn by Ali Smith

Pages: 263
Genre: Fiction
Read: September 2017
Rating: 7/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Melancholic, New, Experimental, Quick

I just finished Autumn by Ali Smith and I don’t know what to think. And that’s not a bad thing. This book had me reeling. Is it because it’s a great book? Maybe. But more than anything, it’s because it confused me – but in a soothing way. There was a madness to the writing that I can’t quite comprehend. It was lyrical (spoken word-esque even) ramblings. It was a mix of ‘What?’ and ‘Oh wow!’.

I know, I’m not making sense. But if you think about it, I am. And that’s exactly what this book felt like to me.

Back to the basics. This book is a four-part series by Ali Smith, which is on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2017. The book itself takes place in England post-Brexit and follows the lives of 32-year-old  art historian, Elisabeth Demand and 101-year-old Daniel Gluck who lies dreaming in a care facility. The book goes back and forth to reveal the relationship of Elisabeth and Daniel. Along the way, you also see relationships between other people, for example – Elisabeth and her mother (in real-time and in the past) and Daniel and his sister (in a dream-like state).

The book doesn’t follow a linear plot. It really is a patchwork, a collage of moments in these characters lives and you travel between them with no sound logic and are given no warning of what’s coming up next. I loved it!

Full of melancholy and philosophy, the book also has a touch of existentialism. What I love is the blase, matter of fact commentary on real-life situations in the world like when a woman MP was threatened on TV and no one batted an eye to the growing unrest with chants, graffiti of ‘Go Home!’ and the poor treatment of the Polish and Muslims during the time.

When I started reading the book I didn’t get why this would be shortlisted for the Man Booker, but now I do. Be warned, I do not think this book is for everyone even though it is a very short and simple read.


Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders

Pages: 343
Genre: Fiction
Read: September 2017
Rating: 7/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Difficult, Different, Genre Bending, Heartbreaking

Lincoln In The Bardo was my first George Saunders book, so I was quite excited when I started it.

Unfortunately, my feelings of excitement quickly and rapidly moved to become ‘confused’. You see the book has multiple narrators – real and unreal. By this I mean, that some are fictional and then some are real excerpts from reports, journals, letters from that time.

Confused too? Let me explain by telling you what the story is. Willie Lincoln, the favourite son of the late President, Abraham Lincoln, dies at the tender age of eleven. There is no ‘burial’ but the body is placed in a tomb. The story is of Willie’s spirit in the ‘Bardo’ i.e. in Tibetan Buddhism, a state of existence between death and rebirth. He doesn’t ‘tarry’ or move on and hence, the other spirits around him who haven’t moved on either decide to help and guide him. On the way, you hear stories of their life and death and in a way, they all help each other come to terms with just that – their life and death.

The storyline of the book unfolds with the narration of the spirits in the graveyard and the excerpts of real people at the time around this unfortunate incident. I thought I would get used to the multiple narrators as I went through the book, but that wasn’t the case. Even though it was jarring, it was something I have never experienced before.

The excerpts and citations of various people – researched books, private letters – all tell very contrary tales. For example, the place and brightness or lack thereof of the moon or the color of Lincoln’s eyes or his character – kind or cruel. Saunders puts forth these different polarizing opinions on one page and it’s striking! Got to give a man credit for his research.

P.S. I found this very relevant in today’s day and age. Turns out ‘fake news’ isn’t a new age term. 

The plot itself is beautiful and heartbreaking. The magical element attached to it adds the intrigue and hence, the differentiation. Also, I’m totally a sucker for anything pertaining to history.

Will this book change your life in any way? Probably not. But it is an interesting read not only for the content but also in the style that it is written. Also, it just won the Man Booker Prize 2017. Congratulations George Saunders.

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Pages: 228
Genre: Fiction
Read: September 2017
Rating: 7/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Simple, True, Real, Subtle, Bittersweet

From the first page, I was struck by the simplicity of the prose. This was a book that just flowed and before I knew it, I was done with the journey. So much happened and yet it didn’t feel like the journey was that tedious.

I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while but after it got longlisted (and subsequently shortlisted) for the Man Booker Prize 2017, I knew I had to consume it now.

The story is of two people – Nadia and Saeed who are stuck in a war-torn country and fall in love. Their lives are described and their characters are etched out through the book. Soon, they get to hear of these magical doors that have been popping up around the world that are a portal of some kind that allows people to travel distances. They escape the country they are in through one of these doors and the rest of the book is their journey – physically, mentally, individually and as a couple.

By introducing this tinge of magical realism via the doors, Hamid removes the arduous journey of the refugees that everyone seems to focus on and focuses more on the refugees as people themselves. You can feel the palpable angst, the actual feelings and the normalcy of them.

Another thing I loved about the book is that the author never stated where these refugees were coming from or what their religion was. It was obvious that they were Muslims but it was never stated. By not putting them in a box, the characters are more relatable. They could have been in Iran, Bangladesh or even India. Who knows.

So would I recommend this book? Yes. It’s a short read with some breathtaking deep dives into real emotions with real characters with actual flaws, despite the ‘magical realism’ bit.