Tuesday, June 24, 2014


TITLE : That Autumn in Awadh A true Love Story
Author: Rachna Singh
Publication : Alchemy Publishers

That Autumn in Awadh though a work of fiction is inspired by the author's life.
The story reflects the diversification and rigidness of our society especially when it comes to matter of marriage and also how inter cast marriages find difficulty in being accepted.

Love bubbles and simmers between Sara Shergill a Punjabi Christian and Samar Solanki, a Rajput boy.
Sara and Samar both trainees at Telco, starting out their careers, enjoying their new found freedom with friends and colleagues, slowly and steadily slide into love.

By the time they realize the significance of what has happened, it is too late to do anything about it. Sara and Samar, aware of the futility of their situation, find themselves helpless. Still they both make an effort of going back to just being friends. Being from diverse background, they both are aware that their families are not going to accept their relationship easily.
Samar's resigning from the job and joining a management institute albeit in the same city does not make things easy for the love birds.  In midst of all the on goings Sara and Samar get hitched in a civil ceremony without their immediate families know how!
 The book is about Sara and Samar's love, their anguish and embarrassment of being married but forced to live apart, their difficulties in overcoming all the obstacles and love conquering all!

 Is love really able to conquer in this case?                                                                                                                                                It is for readers to find out and the reviewer to keep a secret.

 Readers who are in their late 30's till mid 40's can see glimpses of their youth reflected in the book. Rachna Singh has a keen sense of observation and puts it to good use in her book. You find instances of every day happenings of life woven into the story. She finds humor in very small  little things.

 I had reviewed Rachna Singh's debut book 'Dating, Diapers and Denial' and had found it unique and a very quirky book. I had found her style of writing very unconventional.
 I had high expectations from this book as well, though this is a different genre, but, That Autumn in Awadh, has left me disappointed, wanting for more. The author has not been able to do justice to the story though the main plot itself is sweet. Rachna Singh has not been able to maintain the smoothness and the free flow in the narration. It is as if Rachna Singh had a few incidents in her mind which she wanted to incorporate in the story and has gone ahead and done just that, somehow jammed them in the story! There are also editing issues in the book.

 In spite of this I would say That Autumn in Awadh makes a decent light read for romance readers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mistress of the Throne by Ruchir Gupta

Title : Mistress of the Throne
Author : Ruchir Gupta
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors
ISBN : 9789382665076

Mughal period is one of the periods that keeps beckoning authors of almost every generation to come back to it to unravel the mystique behind the opulence that this era was known for. Though the royal emperors - Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb have long been resting in the annals of history, yet their styles, their sensibilities for art and culture, their harems, food, generosity, ruthless machinations and brutal lust for power - entreat many to dig deeper. Many books written by contemporary authors like William Dalrymple and Indu Sundaresan have already been reviewed here on Literary Sojourn.

'Mistress of the Throne' picks a small timeline starting from the year 1631. This was the year when the beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, of emperor Shah Jahan breathed her last during one of the childbirths. Going against the tradition of passing the title of Queen to one of his other wives, Shah Jahan chose to anoint her eldest daughter Jahanara with this royal honour. The new seventeen year old queen found herself shouldering responsibilities on personal, familial and public fronts. She dedicated herself to keeping the family united but her efforts fell short in front of towering egos, jealousies and scuffles for supremacy and power. The power tussle between the extremist Aurangzeb and the mild tempered Dara was apparent right from the very beginning of their getting together. Though Dara Shikoh was the favoured son of emperor Shah Jahan and was the heir apparent, he lost his life in a bitter battle with Aurangzeb for the imperial throne.

Mistress of the Throne is the first person account of Jahanara through which readers are given a peak into the functioning of Mughal empire and the political games that were played on either sides of the veils. Author Ruchir Gupta sensitively brings out the inner turmoil that the young queen went  through when she understood the implications of the harsh reality of living life alone. Though she very closely witnessed the love between her parents which Shah Jahan tried to immortalize in the form of Taj Mahal, she knew she would never be able to experience that emotion all her life. Her only fault was that she was a Mughal emperor's daughter.

Ruchir Gupta has done a commendable job in bringing back the bygone era intricately in the book. The scene setting is done in such a way that one becomes a part of the fast paced and engaging narrative. Language is simple to follow and flows lucidly. The characters are built slowly but with utmost care, especially that of Aurangzeb. The ruthlessness and fundamentalist attitude of Aurangzeb is very well documented in course books and other texts but this is the first time that one gets see and understand his personal side as well. Spending his childhood in a hostile exile, away from the love and warmth of his benevolent mother scarred his soul. Unfortunately he did not get much time with Mumtaz Mahal to savour the essence of unconditional affection and love. His insecurities, vulnerabilities and yearning to be the good son and good brother touch the chords at various places as the story progresses.

As far as the character building of Jahanara is concerned, Indu Sundaresan's adaptation wins over Ruchir Gupta's. Had I not read any of the books written by Indu, I would have enjoyed reading 'Mistress of the Throne' without any comparison in mind. But the images of Mughal queens that Sundaresan creates in her Taj trilogy remain firmly etched in the readers' minds and any other replacement will run the risk of appearing wane in comparison. They are just a tad short of flesh and blood otherwise she has done all to breathe life in the characters. Well, there is a difference in portraying a woman and being one.

The book was sent to me by

Monday, June 16, 2014


TITLE: Robinson Crusoe
AUTHOR: Daniel Defoe
REWIED BY: Vidhi Sethi (12 yrs.)

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is a wonderful book. It starts with a father not allowing his son to become a sailor. But set on his goal, Robinson Crusoe made his maiden voyage to Hull in London with his friends. This was a big turn in his life.

Adventurous as he was, he made his next voyage with another friend of his who was the captain of a ship going to guinea in Africa. Further he went to Brazil and started living with a sugar planter’s family. He bought a plantation of his own. But when a group of them asked if he could journey to Guinea he could not resist the call of an adventure and agreed to go. Little did he know that this journey wasn’t a normal one. It would lead him to a completely new life on an uninhabited island.

Struggling for supplies with failures and successes for twelve years he began to lead a comfortable life. But one day when he saw a man’s footprint and then human skin, flesh and bones he was filled with great fear and anxiety. He tried all possible ways to make his existence a secret. Everything became peaceful once again. Twenty-three years had passed since he had come on this island.

But when one December morning he saw from his window smoke rising somewhere he was filled with dread. Soon after that he came across cannibals and after fighting with them he freed a man who was kept as a prisoner. He named him Friday as he had got him on a Friday.

Friday was a faithful and cheerful person. He told Robinson about his land and his people. But when savages, cannibals and mutineers entered into their life everything is changed. The story then goes on with Robinson capturing the mutineers with eleven other people on his side and then finally in 1686 he left the island after spending twenty-seven years, two months and nineteen days. In June, 1687 he returned to England his hometown and started leading a new life.

This book is the author's first novel and is one of the best known adventure stories in the world. It is a story which thrills all the readers alike, with wonderful events like shipwreck, a young man alone on an uninhabited island, storms, dangers, cannibals, mutineers and finally a glorious home coming.

It is a must read for young readers. Happy Reading!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Title: Palazzo del Giglio : Love in Venice
Author: Jerome D. Oremlan

An old man (well, his age figures do suggest it, even though nothing else does) is often asked about his beautiful apartment in Venice. This takes him down a memory lane, the events of which find their origin in him, Jerry, the protagonist, losing his beautiful wife to cancer. The sadness attracted him to visit the place they had cherish the most together, Venice and that is how the apartment happened. 

Well, the apartment saga is just a base fabric the story is painted on to. The book is actually like a big painting depicting a good number of things including a husband's longing for his deceased wife and the beautiful moments they shared together, the casual and intense relationship that the author is able to build with the various people he meets along the journey of his life and majorly and importantly, a guide to the history, geography, life and culture of Venice, while bringing to the fore some different ways human nature manifests among different individuals.

Through the story, mostly autobiographical, the author, an American, takes us through the visual tour of Venice, a city which he loves and a city which loves him right back. A perfect guide for someone who plans on visiting the city soon, and yes, since there is story to back up the details, it won't be a bore like most travel guides. Additionally, the author being a psychoanalyst and an art historian, has provided many interesting insights into the many historically important things that the city of Venice brings up to you.

The various intellectual conversations that the protagonist has with the interesting people he has a chance to meet in Venice point towards the other books that the author has written and give additional insights to the various works of importance, for instance, Shakespeare's Hamlet. For those who read or plan to read this book for the pure pleasure of English literature would surely find this as a high point.

A nice and quick one time read, could be a delight for those who have any connections or have been to or plan to visit the city. At many places, the story gets really predictable and repetitive, and the reader longs for some some twists and surprises. And yes, if you do not understand Italian even a very tiny bit, a fair amount of guessing will also have to accompany your reading. But yes, the predictability does bring in the sense of mundane, giving a feel as if you yourself are living normal life in Venice.

Ah, if you are planning to visit Venice anytime soon, follow the book and cover the most important of all the city's offerings in flat three days, by being a copy-cat to the route followed by Jerry while he was almost a travel guide to Paul and Annya. Cheers!