When I’ve read and enjoyed an author’s work, I don’t usually hesitate to go for their new books. Anthony Horowitz has written two Sherlock Holmes based novels that I’ve loved and rank among my favorite reads. I read this title and the blurb, and I knew this would be one that I’d find interesting. I got this as a gift for my birthday too.
Once a reader becomes totally interested and lost in the magical world of Harry Potter, it’s a little difficult to come out of it. The magic remains. It’s as binding as Petrificus Totalus, you could say. For me, the world holds a lot of memories, and it definitely made my childhood a lot better. One of the first box sets I purchased after starting to earn my own salary was this series, and the accompanying three books of the Hogwarts Library. So when the announcement came that a new book based on the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was going to be released, there definitely was excitement. It was evident on my timeline as well; as I saw most Potterheads share the news eagerly. The clarification that it was not a novel, but a script, that did little to douse the excitement. Those who wouldn’t be able to see the play would at least get to read it and imagine, right?
Though Indian Writing in English seems to veer toward one genre more often than not, there are authors who quite rightly stay away from that and write what they enjoy writing. Indian mythology, or mythology-based fantasy fiction is one, and crime fiction is another. Crime fiction has only few names that I have truly enjoyed reading when it comes to IWE. Having grown up on a steady diet of books in that genre, it seems that most plots feel predictable. As a crime fiction reader, I usually look for some aspects of the book to wow me. Suffice to say, this book Patang by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay managed to tick the boxes.
An author makes an impression with their first book, or the first book a reader reads from them. And it creates an expectation from the second book that is read from that author. I read Sita’s Curse, Sreemoyee’s earlier novel, and was quite impressed with that one. It is for that reason that I chose to take this book for reading.
When a series is continued by a different author, there’s bound to be comparison to the original, especially if the series is a popular one. I had only heard of Stieg Larsson and the Millenium Series but not read it. In a way, I suppose that is an advantage for me as well. I could read this book by David Lagercrantz, the continuation of that series, without knowing the style and character sketches that Stieg Larsson had done; almost like a standalone novel than part of a well-known series. The title of the novel itself drew me in.
Millenium has been taken over by another group, and they’re trying to push Mikael Blomkvist, the erstwhile face of the magazine, out of it. Lisbeth Salander has kind of disappeared from his life too, and stories of value don’t seem to be coming. But out of the blue, a phone call comes. A meeting at a bar moves toward a story of intrigue, not just because of what is said but of a hint, a hint that points to Lisbeth Salander. Who is Frans Balder, and what of his son August? Is he a prodigy, a savant, a genius? And more importantly, why is Frans’ life under threat, and what is the story he has to tell to Blomkvist?
I like some of the characters, like Balder and August, for they add to the story. The translator seems to have done a good job as well but this book is supposed to be a crime thriller or a mystery. For me, the book did not have enough pace at the start to say it was thrilling. For a while, there’s just pages of description of Balder, the troubles at Millenium, how Blomkvist is no longer the person he once was. The pace was slow because of that, and the story struggled to engage my attention. The series is supposed to be about Lisbeth, but she’s not properly incorporated into the novel until the 70th page. And even after that, her character seems limited. I think the pace of the novel thankfully does pick up after the crime, and then keeps me interested in it.
Knowing the praise that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had got from my friends, I still believe something is lacking in this novel that makes it stand apart from those three. The end to the story is interesting, and leaves room to wonder if Lagercrantz might add another to the series. I liked reading it and would read it again, but honestly, it could have been better with more pace towards the start… and yes, more of Lisbeth Salander. I’d rate it between 3 and 4 stars, but quite a 4.
|Title: The Girl in the Spider’s Web||Genre: Millenium Series #4|
|Author(s): David Lagercrantz||Genre: Thriller|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9780857053503||Publisher: Hachette India|
(© 27th September 2015)
There are these books that come once in a while which appeal to you because of the blurb and the title. This is one, but it appealed to me because the blurb made the book more mysterious, than shed light on what lay ahead. A variety of characters, seemingly independent of each other’s stories, weaving in and out through the book; how can their disconnected lives be connected, I wondered. And that’s what Anuradha Roy does through this book. She connects them in a way I couldn’t quite have expected.
It starts out innocuously, the tale of siblings, a family with a simple life. But then, that life gets turned on its head almost immediately. War, or is it? I don’t know. The little girl, who we later come to know as Nomi, loses her family and ends up as refugee at an ashram. Fast-forward many years, and we see Nomi return to that place. But how did she leave? Why? And why does she return? The answers are what make the novel tick along, weaving into the past, her memories of life at that ashram, where the respected Guru is not as respectable as she thought, what she saw and experienced; and weaving into the present, where she sees the world around her but finds stones from that past as well. If that alone is not enough to keep the story alive, there is the story of three other women on a pilgrimage, the tour-guide who charges more than he needs to, and the photographer who joins her project but with demons to exorcise.
Sometimes it’s not about the story. The story might be good, it might be great, but it’s about the storytelling. This book is about the storytelling. Anuradha Roy breaks conventions here, and pulls out all the stops to interlink those in a vivid way. The story may traverse expected lines at times, but what it does is keeps you engaged with the emotion rather than the words – like the pathos felt for the little girl Nomi as she is abused at that ashram. Reading that from the point of view of the girl is heartbreaking, and may be even creepy. The other stories along with hers are not as explored, but still matter, for they link with each other well, and those characters have their own quirks – the lady with the bad memory, the gay tour-guide and the dominating but mysterious tea-seller. With many characters, there are some threads left that the reader has to close, and that disappoints a little. But those are minor details. The book is about demons – Nomi’s childhood in particular. It’s about the possibilty that these scenarios might be a reality even today. It touches a chord with the situation in the country at the moment.
I certainly hope that this novel, one that is to be read, makes the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, and if it does, given the setting and the pathos-filled exploration, I’d say it stands a chance. From the beautiful cover, to the poignant, powerful storytelling, this is one book that I know will stay on my shelf for a long time to come.
|Title: Sleeping on Jupiter|
|Author(s): Anuradha Roy||Genre: Literary Fiction|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9789350099360||Publisher: Hachette India|
(© 31st August 2015)