Archives for India

#BookReview ‘The Girl in the Painting’ by @RenitaDSilva #historical #India

When Renita D’Silva writes about India, it comes alive on the page. Her books are dual timeline family mysteries combining a modern day narrator with historical events set in India. With her latest, The Girl in the Painting, D’Silva tackles guilt, forgiveness and sati – when a husband dies, his widow burns with his body on the funeral pyre. It is her emotionally toughest novel yet and handled with sensitivity and balance. This is the story of three women – Margaret, Archana and Emma – pre-Great War in England, India in 1918 and England 2000. At the beginning, each woman is introduced in short chapters which made me long to dwell a while with each in turn, rather than jumping around. I was puzzled at how these three women, so different from each other, could be connected. Each has a deep sense of duty that, despite a longing to make her own decisions, is an anchor to a sometimes unwelcome, difficult, reality. Yet being impulsive and taking decisions without consideration for others often has far-reaching consequences. The early 20thcentury was a pivotal time in world history and a period of rapid change in the lives of women. Margaret’s family is separated tragically
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: A Passage to India

EM Forster was born in 1879 and was the author of a number of hugely successful novels. Many were turned into films including Where Angels Fear to Tread [1991], Room with a View [1985] and Howards End [1992]. A Passage to India was his last, and most successful novel, but he was to live on. He died in 1970 at the age of 91. This portrait [below] of Forster by Dora Carrington is dated 1924. This hardback first edition [above] is one of the rare examples which still has its dust jacket. Published in 1924 by London Edward Arnold & Co, it is now worth £9,750 at rare bookseller Peter Harrington. The story Set in the context of India during the British Raj of the 1920s, with the growing Indian independence movement, A Passage to India tells the story of four key characters: Dr Aziz, Cyril Fielding, Mrs Moore and Miss Adela Quested. Aziz is garrulous and naive, Adela something of a prig. During a trip to the Malabar Caves, Adela finds herself alone in a cave with Mr Aziz. She panics and flees. The assumption is made that Aziz assaulted her. The story of his subsequent trial examines the
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Renita D’Silva

Today I’m delighted to welcome Indian novelist Renita D’Silva. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “The book I keep returning to time and again is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love every character – Boo Radley, Jem, Atticus, and, especially, Scout: her innocence, her wonderful narrative voice through which she reveals more to the reader than she herself understands. I first read the condensed version as a teen. Being a voracious reader, I could never find enough to read in the village in India where I grew up. There was a small library – a couple of shelves of worn books with falling apart pages, woodlice ridden spines, crumbly to the touch and smelling yellow, of rot and stale lives. Having read each book multiple times, I was desperate for something different when I found this fat book wedged behind the shelves, forgotten and unloved. I dusted it off, thrilled to have something new to read. I was ecstatic when I discovered that it was a Readers Digest anthology of four condensed books; one of them, To Kill a Mockingbird. I read the first line (they left that
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: A Mother’s Secret

What a tangled web some families weave. A Mother’s Secret by Renita D’Silva is a fragrant tale of mothers and daughters stretching from England to India. Gaddehalli is a tiny village in Goa but I could smell the spices, hear the wind in the trees, and see the buffalos in the fields as if I was there. This novel about identity starts with a young girl, Durga, who must stay with her grandmother in Gaddehalli after an accident to her parents. The ruined mansion where she lives, which is avoided by the locals as haunted and full of bad luck, is the centre of this story. The modern-day strand follows Jaya, a young mother in England mourning the loss of her baby son and whose mother Sudha has recently died. Sudha was an emotionally-withdrawn mother, but when Jaya discovers some of her mother’s hidden possessions, including diaries, she pieces together the story of Sudha’s early life. Jaya is looking for the identity of her own father; she finds so much more. From the beginning, it is a guessing game: how is the story of Durga connected to Kali, Jaya and Sudha? Halfway through, all my ideas of the twist had
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Categories: Book Love.

Film/Book: ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach

The Book by Deborah Moggach This is another book which successfully translated from the page to the cinema, perhaps because the screenplay was written by the author? In this case the original novel, These Foolish Things [see the original paperback cover above, which I bought in 2005] was re-named for the film. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a long title to fit onto a book cover or spine, but that is not a problem for the film. Moggach is the sort of author who, once discovered, is always loved. The first paragraph is so visual, it’s easy to see why it was made into a film: “Muriel Donnelly, an old girl in her seventies, was left in a hospital cubicle for forty-eight hours. She had taken a tumble in Peckham High Street and was admitted with cuts, bruises and suspected concussion. Two days she lay in A&E, untended, the blood stiffening on her clothes.” If you have watched the film, you know Muriel is played by Maggie Smith. The Film: In 2011, the first of what was to become a pair of films based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, was released. The pedigree was impressive: Moggach wrote the screenplay, the
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 65… ‘A Passage to India’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Except for the Marabar Caves – and they are twenty miles off – the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary. Edged rather than washed by the River Ganges, it trails for a couple of miles along the bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish it deposits so freely. There are no bathing-steps on the river front, as the Ganges happens not to be holy here; indeed there is no river front, and bazaars shut out the wide and shifting panorama of the stream. The streets are mean, the temples ineffective, and though a few fine houses exist they are hidden away in gardens or down alleys whose filth deters all but the invited guest. Chandrapore was never large or beautiful, but two hundred years ago it lay on the road between Upper India, then imperial, and the sea, and the fine houses date from that period. The zest for decoration stopped in the eighteenth century, nor was it ever democratic. In the bazaars there is no painting and scarcely any carving. The very wood seems made of mud, the inhabitants of mud moving. So abased, so monotonous is everything that meets the eye, that when the Ganges comes down it might
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 26… ‘Midnight’s Children’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more… On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And outside the window, fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades, there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophesied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy,
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.