World of Words Wednesday – book reviews and memes

The Lilac House by Anita Nair

My take

Meera is an accomplished society hostess and a successful author of cookbooks in Bangalore. When her husband walks out on her one day, she is suddenly responsible for the maintenance of their beloved Lilac House, her mother and grandmother, as well as her kids.

With no cookbook in the horizon, she looks for a job and finds one as a research assistant with Prof JAK. Professor J.A.Krishnamurthy aka JAK is a renowned cyclone expert in the US. When his daughter meets with an accident that has left her a vegetable, he refuses to believe it an accident and comes to India to seek the truth for himself.

As their lives mingle with the unpredictability of nature and fate and they both learn the truths they are seeking, they also learn the need for moving on, second chances, and hope.

The book has characters that were far from perfect, with real fears and flaws as well as believable endearing qualities and strengths. The story focuses on human emotions and relationships (marriage, parenthood, friendship) and manages this without getting too melodramatic.

There are comparisons to Hera, the Greek Goddess of love as well as to the nature of cyclones strewn throughout the book which make interesting reading.   

All in all, I could not stop reading the book, loved the characters – real, colorful, and a whole range of natures. Especially loved Lily’s character. I think the strongest woman in the book was Kala Chithi.

I did feel some parts of the book were unnecessary and others could have been expanded on a bit more. For example, in the thereafter of the book (epilogue) a character who was not touched upon much earlier is given a whole page. The last page left me with a sense of something missing, unfinished but still enjoyable.

Side note

References to various famous eateries/other places in Bangalore brought a smile to my face with the yummy pleasant memories they evoked (for example, Corner House, Ebony Barton center)

Released in India previously as ‘Lessons in Forgetting’ – and a movie out as well for the book in Feb 2012.

In Summary:  ‘Unputdownable’.  

Rating: B+

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me a digital review copy of the book. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on this book were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read this book.

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

My Take

This was a book that left me devastated in the end. It was kind of reading an adult version of Lord of the Flies in a different setting. The book is set in Vakola, Mumbai and focuses on the residents of Vishram Society. The apartment complexes that make up the Society are eyed by Shah, a real estate developer who plans to build his dream there. His efforts to clear the buildings in order to realize his dream – by making generous (in the real estate world) financial offers to the residents and other persuasions – and the reactions of the residents and their lives to this make up the story. One man’s resistance to this offer is the center of this story though – Masterji’s.

It is very interesting to watch how society dynamics change, how relationships are impacted (friends, family, neighbors) and how individuals change when faced with choices like in the book. What do you do when your dreams are right in front of you – waiting for you to reach out and grab them – after you make a, maybe, moral compromise? Will you? The story reveals this moral compass of individuals very well.

Adiga does a great job of defining all the characters; even the not-so-major characters like Shah’s son or the priest who helps perform religious rituals for Masterji. Adiga’s narration of the story is fascinating, riveting and keeps you hooked. The descriptions of places too is fascinating and detailed; it takes you right there to Mumbai as you read the book – the real Mumbai with real people. It took me a while to get into it though; but somewhere around the halfway-mark, the book hooked me in!! And I kept going till the end after that 🙂

In Summary: 

Rating: B+ (I loved the White Tiger a teeny bit more so a B+ here)

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Wednesday Memes

For ABC Wednesday(letter J) and Three Word Wednesday (Amateur, Diligent, Nurture)

She considered herself more than a ‘Jack-of-all-arts’, not an amateur though not yet the best. She had learned the skills diligently, now she could sing, dance, or become a clown, if needed – jest! In the classic nature versus nurture debate, in her case, both lost – it was purely herself that brought her here. To this wonderful city of Joy, where her mind would be without fear.
(The last line is kind of an ode to one of the grand old cities of India – Calcutta/Kolkota – Calcutta

For the letter J for  ABC Wednesday, I bring the Jamun

This is a very popular summer fruit in India, and touted for its medicinal properties. As for me, I love this super juicy fruit for just being. Unfortunately, it is not widely or easily available in the US.

The fruit is rich in vitamins A and C. making jams, jellies, wine, and even vinegar. It possesses antibiotic properties and used in medicines.

With absolutely no trace of sucrose, this fruit with minimum calories is wonderful. Every part of this tree is useful; the leaves, the seeds, the bark, and the wood. Uses include treating diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery; as a mouthwash; to control blood pressure; and more.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

From the book ‘The Lilac House’ come the words for this week’s Wondrous Words Wednesday

  • Catatonia : a state of apparent unresponsiveness to external stimuli in a person who is apparently awake.        (‘Catatonia quells.’)
  • Catena: chain (‘The scream of terror that turned into a catena of howls’)
  • Fug : the stuffy atmosphere of a poorly ventilated space; also : a stuffy or malodorous emanation ‘ The fug cleared in the woman’s brain’

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