Divya Manian

RSS Feed Youtube Channel Github

Book Reviews for November 2009 — Part 1

I know! November has barely begun and here I am posting my book reviews already thanks to my two-week vacation!

I had a great time in Chennai and Bangalore, meeting very interesting people and drinking in the new developments. It could be my hallucination, but there seems to be an abundance of opportunities here. Service providers are falling over themselves to provide creative solutions (Per second billing has arrived in India without government intervention, and where are we in U.S.?). This trip has definitely made me rethink where I want to be 5 years from now.

Now, here are my reviews!

  • The Bolter

    The Bolter talks about a woman of the privileged class in the 20s, who like many of her generation, liked to experimented with drugs, sex, travel to avoid boredom. The author seems to have idolized the protagonist (her grandmother) — I guess that is usual in most biographies. It is a breezy read, and a good book to point at conservatives when they talk about morality in “good old days”

  • Spirit House: A Vincent Calvino Crime Novel

    This book is written for an American audience panting for the sense of exotic while really looking for the familiarity of US crime thrillers. Avoid, unless you are one of them.

  • Portland Noir

    Portland Noir is a collection of short stories written in the style of Raymond Chandler. It is also the first time I came across lesbian crime stories which were sensible and did not sound trite or derogatory. A good read if you like Noir.

  • The Diary of a Social Butterfly

    I was very curious about this book as it is written as a diary of a Page 3 socialite of Pakistan. It is a collection of columns by Moni Mohsin published in Pakistan’s Friday Times (I will spare you of the pain of viewing their antique website). As a column, each chapter works really well, but as a collection in a book they appear tedious and repetitive. Here is how one chapter looks like. The author is very “punny”, lovers of the English language might enjoy it.

  • Everyman

    Aravind Adiga recommended Philip Roth, so I picked up Everyman which is a book about death. It was an engrossing, but melancholic read. The book is quite “existential” if I may say so and I really liked it for showing no pretenses about death or life.

  • Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

    Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder has a lot of similarities to The Whuffie Factor, but unlike Whuffie Factor, this is actually well-written, and clear. If you are as addicted to being online as I am, nothing mentioned here is “revolutionary”. Read this book if your only online activity is facebook/gmail.

  • Purple Hibiscus

    I “loved” Purple Hibiscus. It is beautifully written and very engrossing. I probably liked it more because I could relate to the story of Kambili (the protagonist). I am shocked that a “debut” novel has been written so well. It captures Nigeria and the religious divisions vividly without stereotyping or making them exotic to appeal to global audience. If there is one book you want to read this year, I would recommend this one.

  • Escape

    Escape has an interesting premise: What if cloning replaces reproduction and women were exterminated? This story tracks the journey of a girl from a country of clones, who has never known what it is like to be a woman, to reach a country where women exist and are treated with respect. It is an interesting read, the story parallels Children of Men somewhat.

  • Chasing the Monk’s Shadow

    This is yet another bad travel book, but it is not apparent at first. Mishi Saran travells through China but is home-sick for “India” in every chapter. So, Mishi Saran comes to South India and misses “North India”. It is amazing that she travelled almost exactly the same path taken by Xuán Zàng, but her overly romanticized view of India is annoying. The last chapter is quite an insightful look at life under Taliban rule in Afganistan and the errors of the U.N. mission there. Despite the redeeming last chapter, I am still inclined to classify Chasing the Monk’s Shadow as poor travel writing. I never feel this way reading books by William Dalrymple or Pico Iyer, but some travel books just make me squirm and this was one of them.

  • My Friend Sancho

    Was quite disappointed with this novel. It is probably because I had very high expectations of it.

  • The Writerly Life

    Writerly Life is a beautiful set of essays by R. K. Narayan. Most essays are still relevant and are insights into how he crafts his writing. After reading this, I think R. K. Narayan was the embodiment of The Common Man. This book is a must-read, irrespective of whether you like his writing or not.

  • City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit

    City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit is a run-of-the-mill crime thriller. Another reason not to trust recommendations from people I don’t know. A snappy read for getting through a flight journey, but not very interesting otherwise.