Its been quite a reading week and have finished 3 books (apart from my usual weekly dose of comics and re-reads).
The Angels Weep – by Wilbur Smith
I had quite given up on Wilbur Smith as his last 2 books were less of a story and more of porno kind of a novel. But reading one of his older books strongly reminded me on why I rate Wilbur Smith highly. This book is the third in the Ballantyne series. Like a typical Wilbur Smith book, this deals with Africa in the colonization period and links this with the fortunes of the Ballantyne family. The book revolves around Cecil Rhodes though he is not the leading character of the book, from his machinations to acquire land and make it into the state of Rhodesia to his death. That was one part and then the book forwards to 1977 to the days when Africans are now determined to wrest back their land from their white rulers and the chief protagonist is a descendant of the Ballantyne bloodline. Wilbur Smith is extremely passionate about “his” Africa as he calls it and it shows. The research behind the book and the usage of historical characters to lend weight to events are brilliant. An astounding work, this ranks as among his really spectacular books. A must read for a Wilbur Smith fan.
Rating – 9/10
The Palace of Illusions – By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Also titled as Panchaali’s Mahabharat, this is Mahabharat from Draupadi’s viewpoint. The author’s rationale for this book is quite compelling as she says that while Mahabharat had a whole host of strong female characters, no one had really bought them to the forefront. Draupadi’s journey is captured in the book right from the days she emerged out of the yagna conducted by Drupad, to her Svayamvara, to queen of Indraprashta, to her humiliation at the hands of the Kauravas, to exile, to war and to the final journey. What is compelling in the story-telling is the chemistry she shares with various characters. Her relationship with her brother Dhristyadumana is very well captured, while her relationship with Krishna is easily among the best parts of the book. Her uneasy relationship with Kunti as well with Arjuna make good reading. Also captured is the love that she feels for Karna but one that she cannot reveal. While this was something new and is the author’s baby, it does get grating after sometime. But over all its a good read and definitely recommended.
Rating – 7.5/10
Six suspects – By Vikas Swarup
Finally, our slumdog millionaire ka author’s second book. The premise is quite interesting. A murder victim who happens to be a cross between Salman Khan and Manu Sharma (He of the Jessica Lall murder fame or rather infame). The suspects are quite diverse and each of them have a motive to kill him and are found with guns in their possession. Suspects are the victim’s dad who is the home minister for UP, a under-secretary no longer in power who suffers from multiple personality disorder (the other personality being Mahatma Gandhi), a tribal from Andaman, an actress at the peak of her career, an American called Larry Page and a mobile thief. The book proceeds by charting out each person and their relationship with the victim as well as the motive to kill him. The story per se is more about the relationship and description about each person than about going about finding the killer. While the killer’s identity is a shock, some of the happenings in the book seem too pat and comical esp after a lengthy build-up. Vikas Swarup has drawn a compelling portrait of the Indian political system, film-dom as well as the bureaucracy while at the same time exploring the plight of India’s poor (ahem slums). While there are certain drawback and loopholes in the plot, the books is riveting and a nice read.
Rating – 7/10