Book Review – A Good Indian Wife

 
When I first read the title of the book, I thought “A good Indian wife” was used in a satirical tone. And this thought was further strengthened when the protagonist Leila continually “pushed the envelope” by trying to express herself,and sometimes not do what is expected of her.

I liked the way the author describes Leila’s first few days in the country as “cold”. I found it to be both literal and metaphorical, as I also experienced it when I first moved to this country. Add to the fact that she had a new marriage and an arranged one at that.

Neel’s (the husband) character was very believable because of a few reasons namely, a) Inferiority complex of brown skin b) Believing that everything American was better and c) at the capability of Leila to adapt to his American life very quickly and on her own. He associated an “arranged marriage” girl to being timid and one unable to be at the helm of her own life. That in a way, is also the start of a relationship between them and if I may add, a new found respect for Leila’s confidence in herself, her brown skin and her “Indian-ness”. At one point Leila disagrees with something that Neel says and he finds that even though he is impressed by her ability to hold on to her own, he is also surprised at his own chauvinistic self.

While I could not identify with Leila at some places when she continues to be quiet about Neel’s affair, I could also totally believe her actions as she was torn between her desire to act her way or the way that was expected of her by the society. Most of the women born in the 80s and 90s can identify with her dilemmas as we are the generation caught between having seen patriarchy up close but also seen feminism being talked about in our drawing rooms.

I really liked the book for it’s easy read, and yet a good substance.My rating: 4/5
 

 

Book Review – The Things We Do For Love

“From the moment they meet, Angie sees something special in Lauren. They form a quick connection, this woman who is desperate for a daughter and the girl who has never known a mother’s love. When Lauren is abandoned by her mother, Angie doesn’t hesitate to offer the girl a place to stay. But nothing could have prepared Angie for the far-reaching repercussions of this act of kindness. In a dramatic turn of events, she and Lauren will be tested in a way that mothers and daughters seldom are. Together they will embark on an intensely moving, deeply emotional journey to the very heart of what it means to be a family.”
 

When I read the synopsis of the book, it sounded like a very run-of-the-mill-kind story. But I picked it up solely because I absolutely loved the author’s other book, The Nightingale. Her writing style, how she developed her characters of the two sisters, the dramatic WWII setting et al. I was absolutely in awe. I knew I had to read another one.

 
Truth be told, I kept at this story till the end only because I had great expectations from her. But the story and the writing style just didn’t sound like her. I had to remind myself a number of times that it was Kristin Hannah and not Jodi Picoult.
 
There were some sections of the book that I totally loved. Liked Angie’s parallel story with her husband or how her Mama kept talking to her Papa. It was very endearing and the author did manage to get the readers to look for their tissues. Other than that, it was very one dimensional and been-there-done-that!
 
I feel that I am biased against the book only because I found The Nightingale fabulous. But then, that’s also the reason why I picked this book up in the first place.
 
My rating: 3/5

 

Don’t Wake Up – Book Review

“Gillian has always encompassed the vast space between pretty and ugly. In fact, she is painfully aware that there is nothing remarkable about her, until her husband Ricky experiences a mysterious fall that leaves him in a comatose state. As doctors and nurses rush to assure her that Ricky will recover well, Gillian thinks of the years of cold silence and manipulation that have overshadowed their marriage. As the coma persists, Gillian dreams of a different life, one her marriage has denied her, and hopes Ricky does not wake up. Nonetheless, his eyes open to reveal a man who claims to remember nothing of his former self. Gillian, convinced that this is only a furthering of his past cruelty, seeks to test this new Ricky. She invents a family they never had, and fills his head with stories of an imaginary life. Ricky becomes a father, and an orphan, eagerly accepting magazine-clipped photos and an urn filled with cigarette ash as evidence of his once-happy life. But, as Ricky persists in his assertion that he remembers nothing of their real past, Gillian begins to question how far she can go in punishing a man for sins he cannot remember committing.”

The book starts with pretty much what is described in the blurb. Gillian pretends to be sad for her husband who is in coma after a fall, but is secretly relieved to be rid of him. She likes going back to the house, watch mindless television and eat ice cream for dinner. But one day, her husband, Ricky wakes up. But he does not remember anything after the first 16 years of his life. She is secretly sure that Ricky is playing mind games with her, only to catch her red handed as soon as she makes a mistake. But turns out, that’s not the case. Gillian discovers that not only does Ricky not remember anything, he is a totally different man from what he used to be. Gillian remembers him as cold and distant whereas the new Ricky is warm and caring and wants to know all about his old life.

The thing that worked for me was the brilliance of Gillian’s character. It is complex and layered. The way it progressed from a happy child to a pregnant teenager and subsequently, an unhappy adult is totally comprehensible and spoke for many of her life’s decisions. The narrative keeps going back and forth, but definitely keeps one hooked.

A couple of things didn’t work for me. Gillian keeps insisting on the fact that Ricky was manipulative in the marriage, but has only incident to share for it. And somewhere down the line, I got an impression that maybe she was so clouded in her own grief of losing her child, her sister and her parents, that she was a little too preconceived about her relationship with Ricky. Also, Ricky’s character was never delved upon in the book, except from the protagonist’s view. And so, one forms an opinion about him based on that. But by the end of the book, I felt like I would have liked to know what was going on in Ricky’s head as the years rolled by and their marriage kept falling apart and none of them did anything about it. I never got to know if it was Ricky, a philanderer and alcoholic who destroyed the marriage, or Gillian, who was too cold and hurt to care or both. Also, the sub plot of Ricky donating money for causes that are close to Gillian’s heart seems like a cliché and doesn’t add to the book in a meaningful way.

The ending of the book is a little abrupt and yet not bizarre. It takes you by surprise, and yet not! It feels like “not a happy ending”, but a right ending as if this was real life. By the end of the book, I felt sad for Gillian and her life journey hitherto. I would definitely like to read another book from the author, Shauna Kelley.

My rating for the book: 3.5 stars (a half extra star for brilliantly carving out Gillian’s character)

 

The Wife – Book Review

After finishing “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Morarty, I was really looking forward to a book that would hold on to its own. You know how sometimes you read a book so amazing, that anything you read after that does not match up. I wanted to pick up something that wouldn’t disappoint me. And so, I went to the library searching for my next one. Since March is being celebrated as Women’s month at the library, they are showcasing some of the better women writers and their books. And that’s how I chanced upon the book, “The Wife” by Meg Wolitzer. Also, let me confess, I didn’t find the blurb as exciting, and solely picked up the book because I loved the cover. It’s a simple cover, and yet I was drawn to it. And for once, I have to say, I am glad I judged the book by its cover. 

“The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage.” And that’s how the book starts in the words of Joan Castleman who is on her way with her husband Joseph Castleman to receive the Helsinki Literature Award., one of the highest literary awards The book then transports you back to 1950s when Joan was a student in one of Joe’s class.

 

Joan takes you on her journey and her marriage of 40 years, back and forth in the book. The secret that she reveals at the end of the book is not really a secret because she drops enough hints through the narrative, and yet I found it difficult to come to terms with it. There were times when I could not connect to Joan or her character until she delves deeper in the crevice that existed between male and female writers back in the 50s and 60s, and how the feminism movement had not yet started.  I loved her take on marriage and how she subtly defines some of the characteristics of husbands, without sounding like a cliché. Her writing is sharp and satirical. It’s also funny, but in a very empathy arousing kind of way. There were times when I thought she was weak, and sometimes she would just turn that opinion on its head. The characters are complex and very well written.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. And even though the book is set in a time different from today, yet you could find it touching a chord with something in your marriage. Like this one passage from the book that reads,” Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to Stop and Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life”.

My rating: 4 stars

 

 

The Bestseller She Wrote – Book Review

 

It is the tale of Paperback king Aditya Kapoor’s life. His is a modern man’s fantasy. His literary stardom is
perfectly balanced by a loving wife and a spectacular career. With everything he touches turning to gold, Aditya is on a winning streak. On the other hand is Shreya Kaushik is a student with a heart full of
ambition. Young, beautiful, and reckless, Shreya speaks her mind and obsessively chases after what she wants. And what she wants is to be a bestselling author. What happens when their worlds collide? Is it
possible to love two people at the same time? Can real ambition come in the way of blind passion? Can trust once broken, be regained?

The blurb isn’t too exciting. And the title of the book almost gives the plot away. But then you want to read
the book because the author’s reputation of being the John Grisham of India precedes him. This was my
first book by the author, Ravi Subramanian, even though I had been recommended to pick up at least one of his works by some of my well read blogger friends. And so when the team at BlogAdda asked if I would be interested in reviewing this book, it had to be a Yes. 


The book to me pretty much seemed like a movie. A movie whose first half is been-there-seen(read)-that. All run of the mill stuff. A successful couple, a picture perfect family and a beautiful intelligent third cog in the wheel. And then, the second half which is replete with twists and turns and melodrama and action and the thrills. The second half is interesting and pacey and you can’t keep the book down until you have read it through.

What worked for me:

1) The twists and turns. Even though it was not impossible to guess the suspense, the author does manage to keep the reader hooked on.

2) A lot of insights into the literary world as the story involves a successful author and a debutante author. He actually talks about real life stuff like publishing houses, pricing and marketing a book.

What didn’t work for me:

1) He wrote a thriller and left clues all over the place. Even in some places where there is no significance. Like in Paris, the lady who first contracts Ebola is reading one of Aditya’s books. And while Aditya’s wife is totally fretting over her and trying to arrange help for her, she has her eyes on the book. In the end, it didn’t amount to anything. Maybe it was done to confuse the reader, but to me it felt like lose ends of a story.

2) A long drawn (and totally unnecessary) drama with Ebola. It could simply have been viral. The serious nature of the disease didn’t add anything to the story.

3) The hospital scene in which Aditya vents his feeling for his wife was too Bollywood-ish. I mean, c’mon, who does that in real life? And the doctor actually had the time to take out that CCTV footage to convince Aditya’s wife of his love!

4) A lot of stuff seemed to have been written so as to be picked up for an easy Bollywood adaptation. I really felt the story could have much more depth in it.

I was really confused about my feelings for this book. Even though it wasn’t mind blowing for me, it definitely wasn’t all that bad either. It’s one of those books which lie somewhere in the middle. And so, I would give it a 2.5 on 5.

These views are my own and may definitely differ from yours. If you like fast paced thrillers, do pick up the book.
 

I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!