Recent Reads and Recos – 1

Once in a while I plan to write about books which I have read but may not be doing a full review, either because they are well known books and have already been reviewed extensively or I think they don’t deserve a review or maybe because I am lazy at the point when I writing this post.

In the past few moths, these are the books I have read and my views on them.

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1. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa : I am sure this novel by the Nobel Prize winning author has enough and more reviews so I will be brief. It’s that type of book which from the very first chapter engrosses you, pulling you deep into the story and into the place where the action happens. In this case Lima in Peru. The book has two interleaved parts: one of the hero falling in love with his aunt who is much older than him, the other of the radio dramas of Camacho, the scriptwriter. The book is inventive, funny, sensual and very importantly, interesting. A must read book. Was recommended to me by my friend Kavirajan

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2. Purge by Sofi Oksanen : A harrowing tale across three generations of women, which mixes unrequited love, state brutality and current state of affairs in Estonia. An elderly lady, Allide Truu, in an Estonian village discovers a girl lying in her farm. The girl, Zara, has run away from her captors, who are using her as a sex worker. This sets both Zara and Allide thinking about their past and slowly it is revealed how they are related. The writing is top notch with the author using a very non-linear technique to slowly solve the zig-zag puzzle one piece at a time. The only complaint I have is that there are too many stories being told which can make the novel a bit depressing to people. Other than that, this is a very good novel which tells the sort of price woman have to pay during the times of war and repression. The current reality is not very different either. Was recommended by my friend Sethupati

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3. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow: A friend of mine had compared Saul Bellow with Ashokamitran and this novel (or is it a novella?) gives an idea on why such a comparison is legitimate. This is an ordinary story of an ordinary man. Nothing dramatic happens and yet the climax gives us as well as a protagonist a clear idea of the human situation. There is no real ‘story’ per se and nothing very dramatic happens. Yet Bellow keeps us engaged throughout this very human drama. Recommended for readers of serious literature.

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4. Firewall by Henin Mankell : Mankell this time takes up an area which he is not probably at ease, Cybercrime, and it shows. The actual Cybercrime is lacking in detail whereas the normal crime, which is Mankell’s forte, is well defined. As with all Mankell’s novels in the Wallander series I have read, I can’t but think that the book would have gained a lot if was 100 pages less. Engaging but not the best of Mankell. 

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5. Mind’s Eye by Hakkan Nesser: The book starts interestingly with a man waking up to find that he does not remember what happened last night and then discovers his wife’s dead body in the bathroom. The court convicts him for the murder and initially sends him to a mental asylum. Someone kills him in the asylum. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren who is convinced that this man didn’t kill his wife now has to find the person who actually killed the wife and then killed the husband. Halfway through, if you have read enough detective books, you will get an idea of who the killer is and you are more sure when the climax approaches. In an earlier era the climax would have been shocking but nowadays this type of climax has become the norm. Interesting book if you have not read much of Scandinavian crime writing.

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