Archive > April 2013

The Hired Man

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The Hired Man,  Aminatta Forna, book reviewThe Hired Man of Aminatta Forna’s novel is Duro, a 40-something man who lives alone with his two hunting dogs in Gost, a small (fictional) Croatian town somewhere between Zagreb and the sea. There he leads a quiet existence until the arrival at a dilapidated neighbouring house of an attractive Englishwoman, Laura, and her two children, Matthew a surly seventeen year old and Grace, a few years younger. Laura’s workaholic husband, Conor, had bought the house unseen believing the area to be the next big thing as property prices on the coast increase. Neither Laura nor the kids find the place to be what they expected. Matthew is frustrated by the lack of internet access while “Laura wanted cheese and cured meats, olives soaked in oil and vine tomatoes, like in Italy. Instead she found imitation leather jackets, mobile-phone covers and pickled vegetables.”


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The Storyteller

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The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult, book reviewJodi Picoult’s latest novel, The Storyteller, is wonderful. It is a poignant and compelling book that will absorb the reader from start to finish. However, the story is also harrowing at times when it enters into the cruel reality of the Holocaust.

As with all Jodi Picoult’s books, this is a well crafted novel that tells different stories from different times. The link is the main character, Sage Singer, who, at the start of the book, is a deeply troubled young woman. Since the death of her mother, she has been attending a weekly grief therapy group where she meets Josef Weber, a ninety five year old man mourning the death of his wife.


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Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

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Narendra Modi The Man The Times, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, book reviewFor political India Narendra Modi is very much the up and coming man. He has been making his presence felt on the political landscape for a long time, most specifically during his first stint as Chief Minister of Gujarat when he found himself at the vortex of a Muslim pogrom, part of the Godhra incident fall out. The question was did he order it or did he not, a question which still continues to be asked as Gujarat’s Chief Minister goes from strength to strength, especially now when he is aiming for the Prime Ministerial post.

Journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay has been covering Modi’s career for a long time. ‘When he was seventeen, Narendra Damodardas Modi had an extra middle name—‘Trouble’’ Mukhopadyay wrote in an Outlook newsmagazine piece.


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The String Diaries

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The String Diaries, Stephen Lloyd Jones, book reviewAbout three weeks ago, I collected a package from my local Post Office. Upon opening it, I found inside a proof copy of a paperback book, curiously tied up with string. The only other item inside the package was a sheet of paper. I opened the sheet, expecting it to be a standard press release, but instead found a letter written by an editor at Headline publishers, describing how the book had started a buzz at the publishing offices, how he couldn’t get through the plot fast enough – but telling me nothing about the story itself. I dismissed this as a trendy marketing gimmick and left the book in its packaging until a few days ago, when I undid the string to reveal Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel, The String Diaries. I read the first chapter, got hooked, and then devoured the rest of the 670 pages over the past few evenings. However gimmicky the presentation had been, that editor was not wrong.


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Indian Nocturne

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Indian Nocturne, Antonio Tabucchi, book review The back cover of my copy of Antonio Tabucchi’s Indian Nocturne proclaims it to be a “prizewinning modern masterpiece” and the front cover carries a quotation from Salman Rushdie with just the one word “Beautiful”. I have to agree that Indian Nocturne is a fascinating and intriguing little book though I might perhaps draw the line at the adjective chosen from Mr Rushdie. If Indian Nocturne has one quality that’s seldom found in Rushdie’s work it would be brevity rather than beauty.

Indian Nocturne follows a man in search of an old friend who has disappeared. The protagonist is not fully identified, referring to himself by various aliases including the name Roux, short for an old Portuguese nickname based on the word for nightingale.


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Happy Families

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Happy Families, Janey Fraser, book reviewJaney Fraser has just published her third book, Happy Families. This follows on from The Playgroup and The Au Pair – all sent in the fictional suburban town of Corrywood. It is a very enjoyable read about three different people who find themselves in need of some parenting advice.

Bobbie’s two young children never seem to listen to her and appear to be spiralling out of control. It doesn’t help that her husband is always working which means that he is never around to back up her parenting decisions. Andy used to be a workaholic until one day he decided he had had enough and sold his company. His idea was to spend more time with his wife Pamela and their two teenage daughters.


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The Mine

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The Mine, Arnab Ray, book reviewArnab Ray is better known for his political spoofs under the pen name of The Great Bong. This is his first excursion into novel territory and thriller territory at that. From the first chapter, The Mine sets the tone for what the reader can expect: blood, gore, guts and extreme violence verging on horror. It also seems to have an eye firmly fixed on a cinematic rendition with a red room flashing black lights and a sex and violence combination that ends badly right in the opening pages.

The Mine has a Bengali protagonist, Samar Bose, an ex-spy who has lost his wife, has a missing daughter, a mentally challenged brother and lives on blue pills. He is offered an intriguing job with a dream salary and finds himself deep underground in the Thar Desert to solve the mystery of an ancient shrine which seems to curse everyone who comes in contact with it.


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Lessons in French

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Lessons in French, Hilary Reyl, book reviewWhat budding artist wouldn’t grab the chance at a job in Paris to work with the world-famous photo-journalist Lydia Schell? For Katherine, who just finished university, it will also be like going home. This is because, as a young girl, she lived in Paris for two years when her father was dying from cancer. Back then, she stayed with her cousins and their son in a poor part of the city. But the memories of that time – including the cruelty of her cousin Etienne – aren’t going to get in the way of making new ones. This time Kate will be renting a room in the Schell’s house, located in one of Paris’ most classy neighborhoods. So what if Kate doesn’t know what she’ll be doing or that Lydia is a very difficult person? And how hard could it be for a Yale graduate with unaccented and fluent French in the city of every artist’s dreams? Plus, what better time would there be to work with a photo-journalist than just when the Berlin Wall is about to come down? This is the debut novel Lessons in French by Hilary Reyl.


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Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes

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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova, book reviewAs Sherlock Holmes has himself noted, there is nothing new under the sun. Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova is far from the first piece of writing to join the worlds of the great fictional detective and psychology. We have had Holmes the addict, Holmes the man with Asperger’s, Holmes the man unable to form normal relationships with those around him. However, given the complexity and enduring appeal of Holmes, it is not perhaps surprising that he now is the hook on which Konnikova’s new book on the science of memory, creativity and reasoning hangs. He even influenced the release date: 6th January, Sherlock Holmes’ birthday.

The basic premise of the book is that our minds work on two systems – one is quick to react and largely unconscious, while the latter is slower, more deliberate and rational.


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