Book Review: Tea for two and piece of cake by Preeti Shenoy
Protagonists: Nisha, the plump-plain-Jane in her own words; Samir, the sauvé high-flying business executive; Akash, the ever-so sweet younger guy.

Sometimes never judge a book by its cover doesn’t really work and Preeti Shenoy’s book Tea for two and piece of cake falls under that category. The story revolves around Nisha, an ordinary nobody who has a chance encounter with a tall handsome rich man at a party that changes the course of her life. What starts as a whorl-wind romance results in a bitter separation leaving Nisha with two small kids in tow. Shortly comes in the knight in shining armour Akash who transforms Nisha’s life yet another time.

Somehow, the book came across to be rather juvenile. The writing is rather childish and tends to drift towards justifying Nisha’s pains and sorrow and her actions. Some incidences are however heart-warming and save the book from being classified in the trash category. The narrative in many instances makes you wonder how does a simple girl like Nisha get so lucky that too twice. It also gives a rather happy if not illusionary picture that life can be a bed of roses even when your husband of eight years decides to move on. But then, that’s Nisha for you! Would have appreciated more had the writer dwelled more on the childhood phase of the main protagonist for the readers to appreciate the character.

Even though the book is quite predictable; it is indeed page-turning. There is a definite scope for improvement in the writing from the author’s end that would make her stand a class apart in the chick-lit category.

Book Review: Custody by Manju Kapur

Protagonists:  Shagun, the initially bored & later rather over-active wife; Raman, the hard-working corporate slave; Ashok, the ambitious boss and Ishita, the divorcee.
Set in the 90’s in Delhi, the story revolves around Raman & Shagun and their pursuit for seeking love and companionship. Married for over a decade; Shagun comes to terms with her suffocation and unexciting married life in the arms of her husband’s boss Ashok. Raman, the hard-working and rather unobservant husband realizes his wife’s infidelity when irreparable damage was done.

And then the quest of seeking divorce begins. However, the twist in the tale occurs when the divorce is granted and custody of minor children needs to be settled. The mother; filled with new-found love and the want to marry the love of her life quickly agrees for part-custody of the children. Shifted from one house to another like pieces of furniture; their two children began their early life in turbulence. The defiant son is soon sent to boarding soon while the much younger daughter tries settles in with her father.

In parallel, unravels the life of young Ishita born to typical middle-class East Delhi residing parents whose sole aim in life is to get their only child settled in matrimony. Love soon finds its way in Ishita’s life in the form of an arranged marriage making her postpone her higher studies plans. As expected, the demands for a grandchild mount upon the young couple. Endless doctor visits, medical tests and taunt from relatives shatters Ishita’s confidence and shakes the foundation of her marriage. An ‘amicable’ divorce brings Ishita back to her maternal home with a suitcase full of her marriage transactions.

Two parallel lives of divorcees are brought together with Raman’s younger daughter seeking a mother in Ishita. Fight for maternal love and jealousy surges in Ishita who cannot bear to part with her daughter and soon finds them fighting for full custody of the children.

Manju Kapur’s ‘Custody’ is a sure-shot page turner that will make you yearn to read more. Each character is weaved so brilliantly that you will have empathy towards each of them. Dealing with sensitive issues of infidelity and infertility, Manju Kapur artfully tackles the matter with her skillful writing.

Book Review: Home by Manju Kapur

Spanning over three generations of Banwari Lals, Delhi based cloth traders; ‘Home’ is a family saga of typical middle-class merchant family. Set in the heart of Karol Bagh; the story revolves around how the different generations adapt to changing times. It also depicts how the patriarch one time strong and defiant bows down to his sons towards the end. The book illustrates how the women of the family who behind closed doors fill their husbands’ ears with comparative tales and one-upmanship of the other family.
Typical of family sagas and brings in dynamics of joint family, the worries of marrying daughters off, the privileges of having a son bringing in dowry and sometimes infertility. The narrative is rather slow and drags a little. Manju Kapur is a skilled written who artfully brings colour to each of the characters whether is it the dreary in-laws or the entrepreneurial aunt or the slimy parasitic nephew. Except for the fact that the book stretches a little; Home makes for a good read providing valuable insights into a distinctive middle-class trader family.
Book Review: Immigrant by Manju Kapur
Protagonists: Nina, the simple yet fiercely independent literature professor; Anand, the NRI dentist.
Set in the 70’s in India and later in Halifax, Canada; the ‘Immigrant’ is the story of how two individuals gradually change over times in new environments. Nina, an English literature teacher from an eminent college in Delhi gets married to a prized catch Anand, a dentist based in Canada.
The story beautifully describes Anand’s painful yet believable transition from a dependent, patriotic and shy person to an ambitious NRI dentist. In parallel, Nina’s struggles to make her widowed mother happy whose sole purpose is to settle her daughter in matrimony. The mother’s happiness knows no bounds when finally Nina agrees to consider Anand’s proposal.
The initial letters between the couple range from awkward exchanges to sweet nothings even before meeting each other makes the reader believe that love can happen even in an arranged marriage. However, what strikes surprisingly is that the romance soon goes out of the window once Nina settles into her married life in Canada. This is where the book slightly slows a little with repetitive narrative of Nina’s daily chores and Anand’s sexual escapades. It does pick up a little with Nina’s stride for independence and her involvement with another fellow classmate. Characteristic of all Manju Kapur’s books, Immigrant ends off wanting you to know more.

Book Review: Half Life by Roopa Farooki

Protagonists: Aruna, the highly emotional and seemingly unstable researcher; Ejjaz/Jazz, the loving,easy-going writer; Hari Hasan, the self-involved poet & father to Jazz.
Spanning across London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur; Half Life is a story of a rather eccentric woman who walks out on her husband and home to go to her previous life in Singapore in search for her lost identity.

Aruna comes across an unbalanced, moody alcoholic who leads a perfectly balanced life with her doctor husband in London. Few lines from a Bengali poet (Hari Hasan) books compels her to fly back to Singapore where she has unresolved issues with her ex-boyfriend and childhood friend Jazz.

Chapters written from each characters perspective present their viewpoint beautifully. Roopa Farooki has skillfully crafted each character be it the drug-addict bipolar Aruna or Hasan wrapped in a time warp or Jazz with his own quest for finding himself. The book is so addictive that it makes you want to finish it without keeping it down. The author has beautifully described the conflicts faced in the life and the demons that reside within us. One of the lines from the book- "...running away really is the easy part; it is coming home that is hard" would probably never leave your mind. One of the most impactful yet free-flowing writing I have ever come across.


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