Archive > May 2010

The Last Patriarch

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The Last Patriarch By Najat El HachmiNajat Hachmi’s “The Last Patriarch” is a moving, sometimes shocking, story that focuses on an immigrant Moroccan family living in northern Spain. The story is narrated by the unnamed daughter of the patriarch of the book’s title, Mimoun. In the first half she tells the story of Mimoun’s upbringing in a small Moroccan village, where the handsome youth was pampered by his doting mother and sisters, and continues up to his migration to Spain. His daughter makes it clear that since these tales come from her father she can’t be sure how much truth they contain but as the story develops it appears that they must have been pretty close to it. She catalogues a cycle of violence and abuse that, while not necessarily typical of the culture, was at least allowed to exist because of it.


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Anjum Hasan talks to Curious Book Fans

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Anjum Hasan’s latest novel, Neti, Neti (Roli Books, 2009) was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize. Her first novel, Lunatic in my Head (2007) was shortlisted for the Crossword Fiction Award. She is also the author of the book of poems Street on the Hill (2006). Anjum has published poems, short fiction and essays in various national and international magazines and anthologies.

Anjum Hasan

CBF: This is your second book about Sophie – what is it about her that makes you want to continue writing about her?

Anjum Hasan: I like the fact that she’s a bit of waif-like character – unmoored from everything, rootless, lacking any kind of cultural safety net.

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Big City Blues

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Neti Neti by Anjum Hasan‘Neti neti’, Sanskrit for neither this nor that. It’s a process of rejecting everything in search for that ultimate happiness.” So says Anjum Hasan when talking about her new book. This is in a sense, a continuation of Lunatic in My Head, Sophie Das, who was 8 in that book, is now a cigarette smoking young woman of 25 living in Bangalore and trying to come to terms with the chaos she sees all around her in the big city. Judging by Hassan’s textured descriptions, Bangalore is a lethal city where someone is being squashed on the roads every minute and where cars and auto rickshaws collide. Sophie lives in a state of terror having failed to come to terms with living in what is literally another country, when you compare it with Shillong which she left behind her.

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Yes Man

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Yes Man By (author) Danny WallaceI have to start by saying that I’m not altogether sure whether I enjoyed ‘Yes Man’ or not. I have loved Danny Wallace’s books and madcap ideas in the past, so I was hugely looking forward to it – but for some reason, it didn’t quite do it for me. Having said that, there were parts that I enjoyed a lot, but I did feel there were some problems with the book (for me) which I will attempt to explain.

Firstly, I will give a brief outline of the story. Danny talks at the beginning of the book about how he was becoming a bit of a recluse and turning down all his friends’ invitations for drinks, parties, etc. All this changes though when one night the tube train he is on is stopped and everyone has to take a bus.


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Healthy Eating for Lower Cholesterol

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Healthy Eating for Lower Cholesterol: In Association with Heart UK, the Cholesterol Charity By Dan Green, By Catherine CollinsWhen I ordered this book I was under the impression that it was just a cookery book, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a substantial introductory section written by a dietician, Catherine Collins, that explains how cholesterol travels round the body, how it builds up and why this is dangerous, how to reduce your risk factors, what a healthy-heart diet is and why a Mediterranean diet is one to be seriously considered. This section is followed by one hundred healthy and delicious recipes from chef Daniel Green.


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Lady Kishwar Desai talks to Curious Book Fans

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After publishing the review of Lady Kishwar Desai’s latest novel “Witness the Night” we were curious to learn more about the author and the background of this powerful story about prejudice and violence against women. Kishwar has had a long career working in media as a journalist, TV anchor and producer, as well as becoming head of an Indian TV channel. She is now a full-time writer with a weekly Saturday column in The Asian Age newspaper.  She lives between London, Delhi and Goa, currently working on a biography of Devika Rani and Himansu Rai.

Kishwar DesaiCBF: Why did you think of gendercide as the theme for your first novel?

Kishwar Desai: It was a chance encounter while I was running a TV Channel in Punjab, and one of the guests on the channel starting telling me about her life. It turned out that she had survived an attempt to give her opium and then kill her when she was born. Her story haunted me –and I kept wondering how she would feel, as an adult , looking at her parents and seeing her would-be assassins.

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Wife Living Stupidly

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Wife Living Dangerously By (author) Debra KentThe slippery slope of deceit and bad behaviour is a steep one and one on which it’s hard to turn back once you’re heading down hill. Bob Dylan once wrote a song about an affair and described is as :

“A bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat, Going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street”

It starts gently – in Julia’s case it’s a simple case of mixing her glass bottles in with the plastics in the recycling bin. Then it accelerates through illegally down-loading music off the internet and not telling cashiers who make a mistake in her favour. Of course there’s nowhere else it could possibly end up than in the arms of a professor of Medieval literature.


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Lost and Found

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Lost and Found (Paperback) By (author) Oliver Jeffers, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers‘Lost and Found’ written by Oliver Jeffers tells of a really sweet story of friendship between a small boy and a penguin! An unusual combination you might think, and indeed it is, but the unlikely pair end up forming a very strong bond.

The story starts with the small boy opening his front door one day and rather surprisingly finding a little penguin on his doorstep. He thinks that this is rather peculiar and decides that he really must find out whether anyone has lost the penguin so he can take him back!

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Shoedog

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Shoedog (Serpent's Tail Classics) By George PelecanosAlthough Shoedog has recently been published this year as a ‘Serpent’s Tail Classics’ book, it was actually written a good few years ago by the author George Pelecanos, who is also one of the writers on the hit TV series ‘The Wire’.

In Shoedog, we are introduced to Constantine. Brought up in Washington DC, his life has led him to become a drifter with many miles behind him, following his father’s disappointment at him joining the Marine Corps. In the years that followed, Constantine has travelled a lot and had various jobs which never showed up on anyone’s books.


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The Twelfth Day Of July

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The Twelfth Day of July (Puffin Modern Classics) (Paperback) By (author) Joan Lingard
The Twelfth Day Of July was the first in a series of books which became known as the ‘Kevin and Sadie’ stories, as each one followed the lives of Kevin and Sadie as they grew up in Northern Ireland and became adults with children of their own. The quintet set of books are each a riveting read, realistically telling of the difficulties between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast, at a time where soldiers walk the streets and shootings and bombings are a regular occurrence.

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It is the Cause

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Witness the Night By  Kishwar DesaiPerhaps it’s what you hear that stops you first, a 14 year old girl found alive among the bloodstained corpses of 13 family members in a rambling farmhouse. So you begin to read with images of a book like We Need to Talk about Kevin in your mind. Could this possibly be the tale of a child serial killer? Kishwar’s Desai’s location is promising, the Punjab, not too far away in the imagination from Nithari, the place where so many women and children had been savagely murdered and where body parts appeared from the sewers.

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Six Months in Sudan

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Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-torn Village  By James MaskalykWhen doctor James Maskalyk decided it was time to “put something back” and take a break from his work in the Emergency Room of a Canadian hospital, he chose to apply to be a volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontiers and told them he’d go ‘anywhere’. The organisation sent him to Sudan in 2007 to work in a hospital in small town called Abyei. During the six months that he was in Abyei he kept a diary and wrote a blog about his experiences. MSF didn’t always appreciate the blog and worried that what he wrote might upset the authorities in Khartoum. Returning home, profoundly moved by the experience, those diaries and his blog entries formed the basis of this book ‘Six Months in Sudan’ in which he is determined to tell the things that he couldn’t say in his blog whilst he was there. I guess he’s probably burned his bridges with MSF who possibly would have preferred him to keep quiet about how things were in his little part of Sudan.

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