Indian Musings: Reading, Fiction

Steig Larsson

The Millennium Trilogy:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl who Played with Fire
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

As usual, I am late to the party, but I decided to get these and read the series before the first movie released, as is my general rule in watching these translations on to the big screen. I ordered these books off Flipkart from Austin, and there were at my parents’ place in Baroda in 2 days! Great service. I started on the first book as soon as I came, having planned for this in my in-travel reading. It was an extremely well written book which was complex never overwhelming me with this complexity. The book took me a week to complete, and I jumped on to the next, which took me 4 days, and then quickly on to the next which took me 3! Yes, that is how good the series is. Larsson grows on you as you read, as do Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The translator has done a marvelous job in re-creating a sense of suspense and taught continuity, which is lost in many cases when one switches languages. There was a time when I solely read thrillers, and I had great regard for Forsyth. But with this series, Larsson is now number one on my list as the best thriller writer — one who does not forsake complexity for pace, and one who still believes in character development. Pity that he is not alive anymore to continue writing great fiction. This series deserves all the praise that has been showered on it and some more!

Amitav Ghosh

Calcutta Chromosome

I have previously read Ghosh’s Glass Palace, and while I am not terribly found of that novel, I realized that he was a good writer — rare in Indian fiction. This one was a different book in every sense of the word. His premise is very weird and therefore interesting, and his pace is not languid like in the Glass Palace, but extremely quick. I almost managed to finish the entire book in one reading! While the ending seemed a bit hurried, the book itself was marvelous. Maybe a more mature Ghosh could have made this a masterpiece.

Bruce Cameroon

A Dog’s Purpose

I got his as a gift for my parents and then after gifting it to them, read it quickly on my trip to Somnath! This is a simple tale, narrated by the lead dog which in turn is interesting and mundane. The book is pretty nice but the characters lack depth and I kept comparing the book to the far superior The Art of Racing in the Rain, and I felt this one came short. It was worth a read, but nothing to write home about.
Amish Triparthi

Shiva Trilogy:
The Immortals of Meluha
The Secret of the Nagas

For a very long time I have cribbed (mostly to myself) about the lack of good Indian fantasy fiction writing. Given the vast amount of mythology that we have to draw from, I’d have thought that Indians would lead the charge in this section, but apparently I was wrong. Finally, however, Amish makes his presence felt with these two books, which are part of the Shiva Trilogy — the third book is going to release soon. The tale is taught, the narration brilliant and the characters etched out to perfection. His pacing is lighting quick and the brilliance with which he translates the mythological characters and beliefs onto paper is nothing short of dazzling. His re-imagining of superstitions into scientific principles is noteworthy, as are his efforts to bring to the fore the brilliance of ancient Indian life. This is a must read for anyone looking for good fiction.

Gerald Durrell

My Family and other animals

Typical Durrell. Loads of funny family members, loads of animals and Durrell in the midst of it all. It was a light read and was enjoyable while it lasted — helped me get over the long 13 hr flight back home without a functioning entertainment system!

Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan

I had never read any novel by Singh before, although I have read a couple of articles and have heard about his supposedly erotic stories. I picked the book that was acclaimed to be a modern masterpiece from Flipkart and managed to read through the thin novel pretty quickly. The story is a simple one and Singh has the ability to conjure up the countryside with ease. His setting is neatly described and the characters are well etched out. There is a nice philosophical undercurrent to the novel, especially at the end when a lead character’s thoughts are written on paper. The book was ok, nothing that was out-of-this-world, but good fiction from an Indian author. I am not still sure why Singh is so acclaimed, and am eager to find out!