16 May 2011

More "Indian" Books

A couple of weeks back, when I wrote about my favourite (and not so favourite) Indian books, the response was so positive, I decided to profile three books I am willing to recommend to anyone who wants a decent read. Two are books I have re-read, and the first is a book that I will definitely re-read sooner rather than later.

Tarquin Hall - The Case of the Missing Servant
It was on Margot Kinberg's reccomendation that I picked up Tarquin Hall's book. The blurb describes Vishwas “Vish” Puri, owner and manager of Delhi’s Most Private Investigators, Ltd. as the Indian Hercule Poirot. Whether the comparison is apt or not (and I think not), Vish Puri definitely has almost as many endearing (and enduring) quirks as Dame Christie's most famous protagonist.
I have definitely read better mysteries, but this is one of the better books that I have read which are based in India. Hall captures the flavour of Indian cities perfectly- the rich aunties, the chillie pakodas in scrunched up newspaper, the multitude of servants even in a normal middle class household, the archaic dress code in no longer exclusive clubs, the attitude of the police.
What made the book even nicer for me was the fact that the "Missing Servant" was finally located in a village less than 5 miles away from where I grew up. Almost unbelievably, it was a trip down memory lane, and for once my memory hadn't served me wrong!
Reccomendation - mystery buffs and Indo-piles will like the book for sure.

Jhumpa Lahiri- The Namesake
It has been called 'the definitive novel of Indians settled in the United States'. The first part traces the story of an Indian bride who follows her new husband to the United States and sets up home in Cambridge, MA. Her trials and tribulations with adjusting to live in a new country at a time when letters took three weeks to reach and phone calls were too expensive to make except under exceptional circumstances. Perhaps the best endorsement of the book is the fact that the experiences of the protagonist reminded me of my "best friend" from school too married an Indian student settled in the US in much the same way.
When the book was made into a movie, it was the second part - the story of the American born son- that was highlighted, but it is for the first part that I read the book again and again.
Recommendation - good "book club" book.

Vikas Swaroop - Q and A
This is book that was adapted into the highly popular/ aclaimed movie, "Slumdog Millionaire", and when I hear Indians denouce the depiction of poverty in the movie, I grimace at the thought of what they might have to say if made to read the book.
The book is a work of fiction- it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever have the number and kind of experiences that the protagonist has - and the author doesn't pretend it is not. Read as a continuous story, it doesn't really ring true, but taken as a bunch of short stories, each is powerful in itself.
You need a strong stomach to be able to read the book, but if you want a whistlestop tour of how poor the poor in India really are, look no further. Strangely, despite its subject matter, the stories in the book are actually quite uplifting. Poverty yes, but humanity also.
Recommendation - pick it up knowing it is a work of fiction, and you are unlikely to be disappointed


Jan Morrison said...

Thanks for the recommendations - I have read The Namesake and I think something else by Jhumpa Lahiri and I did like it. I want to read the mystery because I love getting to know places through mysteries and I will try Q and A, with some trepidition...

Naina Gupta said...

Hi There,

I found your blog from Laura at the Daily Dodo, will definitely be following after reading through your posts.
I haven't read the first and third book, but I have read The Namesake. I heard that it was a great book, so I bought it. While I did understand why people would love it so much, I wasn't as blown away by it as I hoped I would be. I thought it would 'speak to me' as a British Born Indian, but sadly it did not.
It was a good story though.

Sue said...

thanks Rayna, it's always good to get some recommendations. I read "A Suitable Boy" years ago, and loved it, but would be daunted by the size of it now. I think I'll try the mystery for something completely different.