Book review

Before We Visit the Goddess [Book Review]

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Rating: 5/5

After reading The Palace of Illusions, I greatly wanted to read more works, if not all works of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. There is something about her writing that clearly and instantly connects with the readers, at least me. As we say, touches heart. There is no high tech flowery language used. It’s simple and there is a lot of emotions in the words. Before We Visit the Goddess is a soulful tale of three generation of determined mothers and daughters- Sabitri, Bela and Tara, their aspirations, struggles, failures and ultimately finding light at the end. What makes this tale compelling is the reality etched in the problems narrated- the family crisis, the societal pressure, the difference in status, the need for education, financial issues, love- everything that could happen to each one of us.

Sabitri is a young, ambitious and resolute girl. Coming from a poor family, she craves for education. Leelamoyi, an arrogant rich woman decides to sponsor Sabitri’s education. She lets her to stay in her house as neither servant nor guest. Sabitri is happy with this golden opportunity but a huge blunder results in her being thrown out by Leelamoyi and shooting a full-stop to her dream education. Filled with revenge, she makes some very tough decisions to just prove a point, to herself. She gets married to Bijan, her teacher and mothers Bela. She loves her family a lot but somewhere she is a very unhappy woman. When her past catches up, it leads to her family getting broken. A down is always followed by an up. After the death of her husband, Sabitri with the excellent culinary skills she inherited from her mother, opens her own sweet shop and earns name and fame for her integrity and her quality of sweets. All is well except her relationship with her daughter, Bela. The book begins with Bela requesting her mother to write to her daughter, Tara, who has decided to drop out of college.

Bela is a rebel from the beginning. As much as she lived with her parents, she lived a lonely life. An unexpected incident permanently damages her relationship with her mother. Probably to prove that her decisions are way better than her mother’s, she elopes with her boyfriend to the United States and begins a family there. Loneliness never ceases to exist in her life. She is never comfortable with her new life. She loves her husband and her daughter, but there is regret and guilt which forces its way to the front. She compels herself to believe her life is good. But is it? The birth of her daughter Tara doesn’t repair any of the damages. At the end, she gets divorced and turns a drunkard.

Tara is the unfortunate soul of the three. She grew up always knowing something was wrong between her mother and father. When her father decides to break the news of the divorce something flips inside her. She wants to break away from everything and everyone, run away from everything, far far away. She drops out of college, has some casual flings, no steady job, no one to turn to in her misery. She turns her life around after an accident, meets the love of her life, gets married and brings some meaning back into her life. She decides to meet her mother, take care of her during her last days. That’s when she finds her grandmother’s letter, still sealed.

What was so good about this book was the sense of optimism and courage brought in my sudden strangers- men, in each of the three women’s lives. They are the benefactors. They don’t stay in their lives for a long time, but they bring in the feeling of life in them. It’s wonderful to see how Sabitri, Bela and Tara fight their problems and emerge successful at the end. It’s also satisfying to see how the achievement takes years of determination and hardwork instead of just few months as shown in movies. Sabitri, Bela and Tara lived almost all their lives away from each other and yet there was a strong bonding between them, an invisible love and concern. Probably it’s their need for approval from each other that caused them to become estranged.

The jumping of timelines was definitely tedious as a reader. Just when I am really getting interested in Tara’s life- Bela’s section is brought in and all I cared was to get back to Tara. Out of the three- I absolutely loved reading Tara’s life. The author has written how parents’ relationship is very vital for the sane growth of the children. Off the three, I couldn’t really connect to Bela much. She never found herself attached to Sabitri and the reason wasn’t strong enough for me. May be it is just expectations. Just like parents have expectations from children, children too expect their parents to be in a certain way. Sabitri’s life laid the foundation, but we don’t really get much more into her life after Bela left.

As a whole, this book is an absolutely fantastic ride filled with determination, courage and motivation. There are really nice tender moments, endearing friendships and moments of truth which we all would have come across.

Must read! Unputdownable!

The Mahabharata Secret [Book Review]

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Author: Christopher C Doyle

Rating: 1/5

I wish this book had remained a secret and I never found about it!

It’s no news that anything related to the epic Mahabharata excites me. Mahabharata is one story (Yes, a story!) which can be perceived very differently when looking from the eyes of the various characters involved. And every perception seems justified from their end. For example, when the story is narrated from Draupadi’s point of view, her thoughts and decisions seem absolutely right. The same goes to Duryodhan’s view or Krishna’s. I have a habit of reading anything related to Mahabharata to just understand how every mind played through the war. It’s like reading human psychology. When I came across this book, “The Mahabharata Secret”, it didn’t take me much time to drop it on my TBR list. I understood that this was the second book in the series and from the look of the summary, it appeared to be a standalone book. Hence, I jumped directly into this book without reading The Alexander Secret. I don’t think I will be reading that any time for sure.

The Mahabharata Secret is based on the story of The Nine, a secret society, a brotherhood invested with a secret by King Asoka, a secret so dreadful, a secret so powerful, which can destroy the entire race of humanity. The responsibility of The Nine is to safeguard the secret with their life. We get glimpses of how the secret is transferred through the ages, get buried to be discovered centuries, but with ignorance the people who come across it shy it away as nothing. But what is the secret? The backstory definitely did prick my mind with interest.

Cut to the present. We have a group of people led by a dangerous hitman Farooq who is killing the members of The Nine and Vikram Singh, one of the Nine members is their last target. Vikram sends cryptic emails to his nephew in the United States before his murder. Vijay, after the death of his Uncle, along with his friend Colin, his family friend Shukla and his daughter Radha, set out to decrypt the emails and find out the Mahabharata Secret. One clue leads to the next and with each one’s input, clues pop according to convenience and the group gets closer to the truth. Running parallel, we have Farooq (with an unnecessary story of his own) and his team who are also in the same mission. There are loads of touch and go moments, kidnapping, car chases, guns and fist fights. To add to the drama, we have the involvement of Al Queda and LeT, Farooq being a part of it, who also wants the Mahabharata Secret, to use it to attack the key people of every country associated with the G20 convention. And more- using Sudarsana Chakra to kill people??!! Ok! That’s it. I had had enough.

This book would have been great if the author had left out the drama and stuck to history and Mahabharata how much ever fictitious it is. Every character is dramatic. Vijay and Colin’s so called friendly banter was irritating beyond point. I felt like reading Enid Blyton when the kids have conversations. Those conversations were much better. Add to it the sudden surge of love between Vijay and Radha. Really??! What was the need?!! What difference does this make to the story? There are lot of descriptions of artifacts and places which was very difficult to visualize. Now when you don’t really see what the characters are seeing, it becomes really tiring to journey along with them. I felt the author had this entire story like a movie in his mind, like Chetan Bhagat’s books, and wrote it like a script. Hence there was absolutely no depth or seriousness. Just including few excerpts from the Mahabharata- few verses of ancient languages, some symbols and diagrams aren’t just enough to make a book interesting. I am not degrading the hard work behind the book, but as a read I expect deeper analysis. To get the readers to understand them, to make the readers believe this could actually be the truth is where the victory of the author lies. Sadly, it’s no victory this time.

This book was a complete waste of time for me as a reader, as a mythological and historical fiction enthusiast, as someone who value reading time. It offered nothing on that front. Imran as the honest cop was good to read. The only part I loved what that the guy Greg White was an impersonation. I didn’t see that coming. So a mark for that.

Just forget it!

The Rise of Sivagami (Bahubali Book 1) [Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Who won’t be excited to read stories about Bahubali? When I found out that the creators are coming up with a book and it is written by Anand Neelakantan (Asura, Ajaya series), I was radiant. I was, am and will be a huge fan of the Ajaya series for its sheer courage and boldness to project a story from the alleged antagonist’s view. I highly respect the author for that. At the same time, I wouldn’t say I am huge fan of Bahubali- though I admit I was really impressed with the movie when I watched it. It was something new to Indian cinema. Yes. It’s a story about kingdom and fight for the throne, more like Mahabharat, but I felt this was for the first time, a concept like this was handled with so much professionalism and sincerity. Usually, the visuals are given prime importance and the story is out of bounds, but Bahubali made sure that it scored in all the departments. The movie meant serious business- and yes it made huge business. Honestly, more than the entire film, the ending stood out so much rising huge anticipation among the viewers- “Why did Katappa kill Bahubali?” That was more than enough to let the nation hover at the edge of the cliff for almost more than a year now. Enough said about the movie, let me jump to the book.

Book 1 of the Bahubali series- The Rise of Sivagami is a prequel to the movie. It narrates the story of the fierce and fearless little girl, Sivagami and how she became part of the Mahishmati kingdom. We do know from the movie what a strong and powerful hold she had over the running of Mahishmati, but how did she land up there in the first place? It also delves into the life of Katappa, the most loyal slave on earth. We have many other characters, who probably didn’t make it to the movie, who play a very important role sowing the foundation for Sivagami to attain power. But did she have an easy route then? What do you think? No way!

I wouldn’t go deep into the story- don’t want to spoil all the excitement. So will keep it short. Sivagami grows up under the care of Uncle Thimma after her father is labelled a traitor and is executed eventually by the King of Mahishmati. Raging with revenge, all Sivagami could think of is to kill the King of Mahishmati. For her own protection, Uncle Thimma puts her in a foster home where she has a hard, very hard time with her home mates and the warden. How does she get out of the foster home to avenge her father? That’s one of the main storylines. In parallel, Kattappa- a very sincere and loyal servant is put under huge dilemma when his brother raises questions about their future as slaves and why they succumb to all the insults and pains. Kattappa endures several tests throughout the book where he puts his life for his master. These two central characters are weaved into a political conspiracy of smuggling government secrets and plots to destroy their mother country.

Honestly, after having read so many books of foreign authors, this book hit me hard on my face for its Indianness. I am not sure how to express it but the book is absolutely Indian. The author has made sure that the book sticks to the roots of the movie on the basis of the place, characterization and the story elements. From description of the location, to the costumes, to the food and to the language used, Anand has made sure that we stay in Mahishmati and not get transported to our own fantasy world. I wonder if it was easy or difficult to depict Mahishmati in words since the world was already created and shown to us through the movie. Nevertheless, a very well done job on sticking to the flavor of Bahubali.

Now coming to book as a whole. To be truthful, I was more than a little disappointment with the amount of story covered in this book. I expected it the end to connect with the starting of Bahubali movie, but that still has a loooong way to go. Also- I felt the story didn’t really delve into what was put on the back cover? I thought that would be the main premise of the story- Sivagami and her father’s secret book. Apart from her landing her hand on the book, then losing it and then gaining it and then losing it back, there was nothing much on that front. Another thing- which is probably me- which I felt a little ughh was the amount of bloody moments involved. It was too violent for my taste. Yes. The story demands such moments. Those moments portray the courage and bravery of our heroes. BUT. I felt really difficult reading it. Somehow, instead of feeling the pain, I felt cringe.

A predominant section of the book involved Bijjala- the crown prince of Mahishmati, his arrogance, carelessness and weakness for woman. The conspirators uses this to their advantage to destroy the country during Mahamagam. As much as this played an important role to the main story, I felt a lot of time was spent on this. Same goes to the storyline of Jeemotha, the pirate. I wish we had more pages about Sivagami. Special mention to the character of Skandadasa, the Prime Minister. He is the white (not the race color but at heart) character in the story who throws all goodness and positivity at us. He is honest, sincere, hardworking, loyal and all the other good adjectives that can go with the above. The exchange between Sivagami and Skandadasa is very engaging.

To conclude, The Rise of Sivagami starts on a very interesting note. It tickles our Bahubali excitement a lot. We try to connect these happenings with what happened in the movie. But half way through, the plot takes a different route all together and somehow the story lands up being something else rather than what it actually started to be. Bahubali fans can either be entertained or disappointed but I fall into the latter. I am sure more books are on the way, and I still have hope that the story would fall back in place and focus on Sivagami and her path to queendom.

Career of Evil [Book Review]

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Rating: 2/5

What’s in a name, right? Does it matter if she writes under a different name, a pseudonym- Robert Galbriath? It’s J.K.Rowling! My level of excitement for every work of hers has no bounds. Harry Potter would eternally be my most favourite and inspirational work I have ever read. I don’t think this choice of mine is ever going to change. I am sure it’s the same case with many. When she came up with the Coromoran Strike series, I jumped in joy especially because she was plunging into crime. What more do I need? J.K.Rowling is my inspiration. Hence, it’s really awkward and probably even inappropriate for me to actually review her work. Can I? I want to. Setting the author aside, I decided to review the book for what it actually is.

To be really honest, though it breaks my heart to accept this, Robert Galbriath isn’t as entertaining as J.K.Rowling. I know it’s really unfair to compare the Coromoran Strike series with THE Harry Potter series- for one- the genre is extremely different. It’s very evident that JKR wanted to try something very different, to break her shackles from her original style and create a different identity for herself- probably the reason behind using the pseudonym. But I feel, somewhere, something is extremely wrong at the basic level. Is it the characters or the plot or the narration- it’s extremely difficult to figure out.

Career of Evil is the third book in the Coromoran Strike series after The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. It follows the adventures of a sober private investigator, Coromoran Strike, an ex-army man who lost his left leg on duty, and his secretary cum assistant cum partner, Robin Ellacot, a smart young woman with huge interest in detection and investigation. I read the first two books within a few months of its release. I have to admit, I don’t remember much about either of the cases- almost nothing. It’s a boon that the books aren’t connected in any way except for the leads. I vaguely remember enjoying the first book, intrigued by the case of the second book, but both the books didn’t engage me completely till the end. I purchased Career of Evil nearly 6 months ago but something stopped me from picking it up. May be because I had better options on my shelf. I pushed myself to pick this book in spite of being weary of its size. Nearly 500 pages- definitely lesser than Game of Thrones, but yet.

To be fair, this book isn’t a “bad” one but it isn’t good either. It would be wrong of me to even use the word bad or even mediocre. I could feel the hard work and honesty behind this work. Robin is facing troubles with her fiancé, Mathew, who doubts her relationship with her boss, Strike. Though Robin clears it many a times that there is nothing between them, Mathew isn’t convinced. There are lot of arguments and friction as the day to their wedding approaches. Amidst this, Robin is sent a box with a left leg of a girl. No surprises, she is shaken. Strike is highly worried- no surprise. Robin can’t stop wondering the connection between the boxed leg and the fact that her boss is amputated with the same leg. Strike accepts the weird connection and lists down three names who could have done this to get back at him- to take revenge. Two from his past career and one from his family. Brockbank and Laing from his career and Whittaker from his family, his step father who allegedly killed his mother. Robin and Strike launches three separate lines of investigation. They also have two ongoing petty investigations which they can’t suspend as they are the only source of income to their business. Separate stories for Brockbank, Laing and Whittaker are narrated making the readers initiate their own investigation based on the psychology of the three suspects. The police, led by Wardle have their own investigation too. The story is set very well, I didn’t feel any kind of a stretch till probably 350 pages. But after that, I could feel the impatience burning in me.

350 pages done and yet the case seems to have no kind of a progress. I felt stuck with the same incidents, Robin and Mathew’s problems, Strike’s dilemma over Robin and his own love life, etc. We have the past of the suspects repeated again and again. At a point I felt Robin to be more involved in the case that Strike. Strike is a very interesting character no doubt but he is too dull and uncertain in this book. We are given three suspects, neither of them are interesting enough! They have the motive and the capability to perform gruesome acts, but- as a reader, I wanted to have more connection, perhaps more inclination towards the suspects in hand. During the entire time, I felt the murderer wasn’t any of the three as I didn’t feel them to be one. It’s a shame but I began skipping loads of portions as I wanted more action, something to happen in the story- which happened way at the end and in the most disappointing manner. We have chapters from the murderer’s point of view too, his obsession with Robin and his need to kidnap her and cause her pain, a way to get back at Strike. I felt this would be the opportunity to develop Robin and Strike’s relationship. We do catch a glimpse of Strike’s concern towards Robin, but the opportunity gets wasted completely. On the whole, what started as a very interesting and dangerous case fizzles out before it reaches the end.

A big shoutout to the language JKR has used in this book. It’s amazing. Her choice of words and the intricate meaning it brings out- a reader’s treat. Honestly, I didn’t know the exact meaning of several words, but that was the enjoyable part. You understand the context of the sentence even without knowing the exact meaning, but finding it out and setting the sentence correctly- I loved doing that. Please note- it’s not a flowery language. JKR knows the knack when to use complicated and uncommon words and when to keep it simple.

I would recommend this book purely for its language. As a crime fanatic, this book was a huge disappointment.

The Palace of Illusions [Book Review]

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Rating: 5/5

Mythological fiction has garnered immense popularity in the last decade or so. It’s really fascinating to read our very ancient epics with a more exciting narration. I for one has always been intrigued by this genre. Mythology is like a poem. Each one can have their own interpretation. Besides, it’s just not now, these mythologies have always had hundreds of versions according to the different states and culture. Everyone has a different perspective and that’s what makes reading these mythological fiction interesting. Among all the mythologies, Mahabharat perhaps has the most number of versions and it being a controversial epic by itself, adds a lot of spark to the narration. I have read Devdutt Patnaik’s Jaya and Anand Neelakantan’s Ajaya. While the former talks about the story as a whole, as it’s always narrated to us, the latter narrates the story from the Kauravas, specifically Duryodhan’s perspective. This book The Palace of Illusions tells the same Mahabharat from the eyes of Draupadi, aka Panchaali. I am amazed how it never gets boring to read the same story when it’s told from different point of views.

The author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has a very simple but effective style of writing. It was really easy to get into the mind of Draupadi, to live her life in this book. The book begins with Draupadi’s birth and childhood, and the prophecy that is born along with her, that she will change the course of history. She is burdened by the prophecy and is equally curious for answers. She yearns for her father’s love but his focus is always on his son, Dhrishtyudaman. She has a beautiful and a strong bond with her brother, which is her inspiration to live her otherwise jailed life. She protests against discrimination and wants to learn everything that her brother is taught. This part shows how women’s fight for her rights started so many ages back. She adores Krishna and looks forward to spending time with him. At a point, she even wonders her feelings for him.

When she meets a sage to know her future, Sage Vyasa warns her of three significant moments in her life which she needs to be careful about. He warns her to hold back her question in the first instance, hold back her laughter in the second, and hold back her curse in the final. We all know what happened. Draupadi failed to control her emotions on all the three occurrences leading to the success of her prophecy.

Draupadi grows up as any other normal girl. She has dreams and ambitions. She wants to be loved and cared. She wants to be married to the man of her dreams, live an exquisite life in an enchanting palace. There are some very beautiful chapters which focuses on Draupadi’s expectations from her life. When she sees Karna for the first time, she is floored by him. She realizes within that he is the one for her. But when the moment arises, when she has to defend her brother over Karna, she does it without any qualms. She feels guilty doing it, she feels horrible for insulting Karna in front of everyone, but she sees no other option. The entire book shows glimpses of Draupadi’s dilemma over her feelings for Karna. She could never let it go till the end. She, at a point, realizes it was disloyalty on her part to think of another man. But it is first love for her.

Expectations Vs Reality. Draupadi is so excited to learn that Arjun is the one who won her swayamvar. She knows all about Arjun and is very happy to marrying him. But when Kunti orders all her sons to marry Draupadi and when the Pandavas don’t retort, she is surprised and angry. She feels humiliated to be shared by five husbands, and who won’t be. She feels her husbands are spineless not to go against their mother. After the marriage “arrangements” are made, Draupadi’s next challenge is to impress Kunti. The Kunti-Draupadi relationship is like the ones they show on Indian TV, typical. May be, Kunti-Draupadi are the inspiration for the saas-bahu shows now, I don’t know. Nevertheless, I didn’t enjoy this part much.

The story then moves on to the most crucial moment in history. Draupadi always feels uneasy over her first husband’s, Yudhistir’s gambling habits. All the more nervous when Duryodhan invites them to Hastinapur. She senses something is wrong. When Yudhistir loses everything in the dice game, including his fortunes, kingdom, his brothers and then his wife, Draupadi’s strength is tested. She is dragged by her hair to the hall by Dushasan, and is humiliated terribly. Her agony increases when she sees her husbands standing as mute spectators. When her sari is being removed, she thinks about the one person who stood by her all the time- Krishna. Now is the point where I wondered how much thoughts about Krishna and Karna kept the lady going. She was never really happy with her husbands and was just obeying the rituals. When Krishna saves her, she curses the Kauravas. From then on, we see a very different Draupadi- a determined woman filled with vengeance.

I know I am probably recounting the actual story of Mahabharat here, but this book shows how much Draupadi influences all the situations and actions of this historical epic. She makes sure her husbands feel her anger and her pain all through the 13 years. She doesn’t want her husbands to forget her humiliation. She belittles them whenever possible, wherever possible. She makes sure the Pandavas get revenge on her behalf, acquires justice for the wrongdoings. The young innocent girl from Kampilya is transformed into a strong willed woman. She struggles to maintain her anger. She feels guilty for the curse as she cannot back down now. She could see the numerous lives that would be lost because of her and the war. She still ponders over her feelings for Karna and cannot stand him being angry with her. We see a wonderful overview of Draupadi, as a character, and her feelings towards Pandavas, Krishna, Karna and Kurukshetra.

The war is shown through her eyes. Her fear for her loved ones, her restlessness is wonderfully written by the author. I have always believed the fact and truth that Draupadi was instrumental in bringing about the war. This book beautifully narrates how important this war was for her and her dignity. This book has made me respect this character even more than before. Kudos to the author on that front.

The rest of the significant characters make their due appearances. I loved the part between Draupadi and Bheeshma and her confusion over understanding the stalwart. Draupadi’s dream palace- The Palace of Illusions- the entire track over the building of the palace and the subsequent incidents are very interestingly written.

Isn’t it interesting how the war was fought by the men but created by the women? Like they were the reasons? If Kunti had come out with the truth about Karna, would the war had ever happened? If Satyavati hadn’t blackmailed Shantanu, Bheeshma would have never taken the vow of celibacy for his father. If Draupadi hadn’t cursed and vowed for revenge, the war wouldn’t have initiated. I guess there are many more instances too.

I guess, it’s time for me to stop writing and recommend this wonderful book to you all. Do read it to have a very different insight of this historic epic.

The Girl in the Ice (Book Review)

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Rating: 5/5

This book was one of those which I started but never continued. Most of the times, those books come out as duds but not this one. I nearly cursed myself for not having read this one before when I had started. Nevertheless, I am glad I have now.

The Girl in the Ice is a pure crime investigation thriller. When Angela Douglas, a young girl from a rich family, is found brutally murdered and buried under ice, Detective Erika Foster is called on scene to lead. Erika returns from a break, after an encounter went wrong killing 5 of her own team including her husband. Plagued with guilt, Erika struggles to keep her emotions in control as she takes on this investigation. The crime scene is dotted with loads of forensic clues which questions a lot about Angela’s character. Erika faces restriction from questioning the Douglas family because of their grand connections with top level government. Jumping protocol, instinctive decisions and reckless sleuthing forces Marsh, Erika’s boss, to suspend her from the investigation. But with the help of her team, Erika continues her investigation leading her finally to the murderer. It’s really very difficult to say more about the story as that would fade the thrilling element of the book. So I wouldn’t go more into the details. All the supporting characters had different shades building suspicions in our minds.

Erika Foster, our protagonist, is a very interesting and strong character. I have always had my reservations reading woman detectives but this is the first one I thoroughly enjoyed. Erika’s pain and guilt are beautifully expressed by the author. I could easily connect to her. She is recuperating from the loss of her husband and wants to get her life back on track, but does she actually want to? That’s the dilemma she is in. She doesn’t have any motivating factor in life. Her work- she doesn’t trust herself anymore. She doubts her every action. She doesn’t have a proper place to live, doesn’t eat or sleep her well. Somehow, this state of Erika is almost similar to many other lead detectives we have on TV or books. A tragedy hit detective. Yet, Erika’s life and emotions are more authentic. I, as a reader, was definitely able to sympathize her and in a way wanted her to move on. Probably it’s because she is not an extraordinary detective. She is no Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes or Poirot. She is an on-field officer who follows the clues and finds where it leads. She is definitely the reason behind the success of this book.

Apart from the protagonist, there were some really great, endearing moments which added a lot of feelings to the story. First and foremost would be the relationship between Erika and her father-in-law, Edward. Probably there were just 3 or 4 conversations between them but that was sufficient for Erika to realize she does have someone to care for her. Edward is a sweet, caring man who in spite of losing his son understands Erika’s state of mind. I am hoping to see more of them in the other books. Second is the bonding between Erika and Kate (Detective Constable). Erika finds a friend in her and the concern and respect Kate has for Erika is very warming to read.

The procedures and protocols police need to follow, which ultimately hinders their progress is very real.

The Girl in the Ice is a complete package- both thrilling and emotional. It had been a long time I was completely satisfied with a crime thriller. Highly recommended.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared [Book Review]

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Rating: 1.5/5

Now who wouldn’t be intrigued by this title! I am a huge fan of this genre. Adventures of funny old men. I have read “A Man called Ove” and “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” and absolutely loved them. A beautiful story covered with clever sarcasm is a perfect treat for the readers. With the same expectation, I picked this book. I mean, look at the title. I get my 100 year old man and he is on an adventure!

The Hundred Year Old… is a Swedish book by Jonas Jonasson. It narrates the adventures of 100 year old Allan Karlsson, who escapes from the care home he lives in, on the day of his 100th birthday. He has decided to get out of the town, away from everybody. At the bus station, a young man asks Allan to look after his suitcase while he visits the restroom. Mischievous Allan steals the suitcase, gets on a bus and escapes. He meets Julius, a 70 year old, at Byringe, who helps him with his stay and food. On opening the suitcase, they find 50 million dollars! The young suitcase owner, a member of the Never Again gang, finds the old men but only to get locked in a freezer and die. From there, it’s the adventurous journey of Allan and Julius, along with Benny, the driver they employ, Beauty, the farmhouse owner where they gatecrash and her pets- a dog and an elephant. Yes. You read it right. An elephant. And to add, the elephant even kills a guy by sitting on him. Uhum!! On the other side, we have Inspector Aronsson who is on an effective chase of this adventure group. Is he able to nab them? Will the adventure group escape?

In a way, the book would have worked better if the story had stuck with just the above adventure. But that’s not the case. The book is narrated on a timeline. One follows the centenarian’s current adventure and other follows the entire life of Allan from his birth. That’s where the book faltered for me. Allan, our lead, isn’t a very interesting character. He is clever, intelligent and has great knowledge on bomb making. But this 100 year old Allan who is introduced to us never really impresses us. Hence I felt no curiosity to know more about him. Coming from a dysfunctional family, Allan prefers being alone. After staying in a mental health facility for a few years for bombing down his own house, he leaves his city to find a new life somewhere else. His bomb making skills lands him in a lot of trouble but later gets the needed acknowledgment. He works for various countries and governments in their wars. He travels from one country to another, escaping from dangerous clutches. It was interesting at the beginning, but as pages went by, I wanted to read more about the 100 year old Allan and not his 100 years of life. There are several characters who come and go in Allan’s life that it was very difficult to keep track off. We have him interact with then President Truman, Stalin, and he even defuses the assassination plan on Churchill. With the war background and lot of political history, I felt I wasn’t reading fiction.

I was pretty confused with the tone of the book. I can’t state it as funny or sarcastic, or it being serious. There are funny moments for sure, but I couldn’t relate to it as “funny funny”. It was too loud rather than subtle. There are way too many characters too. The book is a very long read too and I began skipping paragraphs at the end as I was desperate to finish the book. The book started off on a good note but went off track completely.

A huge disappointment!