26 November, 2018

Books with beautiful writing!

As a self-confessed bookworm, my reading taste varies based on my mood and the trends in the book world. Only a very few series and authors have captured me to the extent where I have to read all the books under the banner the moment they are released, and sometimes wait and pre-order. But basically, I classify the books I read and loved into two broad categories – those I loved for the story, and those I loved for the writing.

There is a very subtle difference. Some books have extraordinary story lines while the writing would leave something to be desired – making me feel that the book would have attained another level if the writing had been better. Some other books make an ordinary story into an extraordinary and memorable tale with their engrossing and wonderful narrative.

In this post I am curating a list of my recent favourite books that won me over with their writing, and the way they made ordinary stories into something wonderful. For the purpose of clarity and coherence I have tried to limit it to those written by Indian Writers in English instead of classifying by genre because that is a bigger sea of vagueness.

Without ado, and in this order, the books that captured me with their writing.

The Silent Raga by Ameen Merchant

This book came highly recommended by many friends before I took the plunge – for all I checked, it was by a first-time author and had only five star reviews, a fact I had grown wary of recently. But when a favourite bibliophile insisted, I picked it up and that was the proverbial ‘there was no looking back’ point for me.
The story was about Janaki Asgar (née Venkatakrishnan) who grows up in a middle class Tamil household, as a young girl denied her education, and who then goes on to chase her dreams and go to Bombay after marrying the famous actor Asgar. The book begins with a suspense. The runaway Janaki reaches out to her sister Mallika (who is, incidentally, left to ‘handle the shame and problems’ that follow Janaki’s elopement and has grown into a bitter woman) after two decades.
Narrated in two voices, that of Janaki and Mallika, the book captured my attention and I had to read it thrice back to back to get enough of it and move onto another book. To me, this book was a good representation of things I could know and relate with in my home state.

Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Yet another book I hesitated to pick up for multiple reasons but eventually fell in love with. Was, thankfully, my own choice.
What with the Bollywood references, and the inherent philosophy, coupled with an element of mystique – I loved everything about this book. If I had looked for a particular type of story, I would have perhaps found the book wanting in that regard. But like life usually does, there was a wide variety of stories that were woven onto one huge canvas. Half of them made sense, and the other half was left to the readers’ interpretation.
Wonderfully written, with more than its share of memorable lines, this book is an all-time favourite. Special mention to the other books by this author, ‘Palace of Illusions’, and ‘Before We Visit The Goddess’.

Songs of the Cauvery by Kalyanram Durgadas

This book came to me as a recommendation from a dear friend, and I am thankful I read it immediately. This book helped me in my journey as a writer and reader, enriching me with different writing styles.
At the turn of the twentieth century, a lot of things happen with respect to the freedom movements in India. The nation had awoken and unified their voice. How does this national situation affect the little known hamlet somewhere in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu? As waves of people are swept by the passion of the fight for freedom, a small family from the village also gives up its only son to the nation.
The writing won me over because of the analogies and descriptive detailing sprinkled over the novel. This is a classic example of an ordinary storyline made extraordinary by the narrative.

The Poison of Love by K R Meera

A brilliant find from a memorable Facebook share. I bought this book on a whim and read it in one sitting.
The story touched on the widows of Brindavan, and the despicable state of a woman who was scorned. The book was short but the writing was powerful, making it very memorable. This is one book that won solely because of the writing, because the story was not my favourite, and I did not like the ending / conclusion / climax that the book had. But it still finds a place in my list of must read books because the narrative hooked me enough to keep me reading a story I did not particularly like.
This book gave me lessons in writing, and descriptions.

The Honest Season by Kota Neelima

Incidentally, this book came to me for review, and I am thankful to this day that I picked it up. At the beginning the book seemed too long, and the pace slackened in many places. But about halfway in, the story began to grasp me and then pulled me in. The genre was different, the story even more so, and this book made me look differently at journalists and politicians, even giving my idle mind a few conspiracy theories to chew on.
The long book was interesting in many ways, be it in the descriptions or the characterisations or the twists in the plot. One of the really unexpected favourites that gave me brilliant dialogues to ponder over.
These are the books that stayed with me and those I revisit occasionally to help me tide over my reading slump that happens often these days.

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