the NEW YEAR new books are a blast: First Page

First Page is a feature that shines light on new book releases

I felt 2018 was one of the best years in publishing. But April, 2019 has made me question my proclamation. The new year has started with a blast, definitely! There were so many good releases that I am eagerly looking forward to the rest of the year.

You must be wondering what I am talking about, new year at this fourth month of the year, really? Wait, I am not losing my mind, as I am up to post this post on this 14th with a hot sizzling sun over my sun, I am taking my sip of fresh Bel sherbet and celebrating the Odia New Year. So let’s not waste time and delve deeper into this week’s reads, both of which have been a treat for me.

Summer holidays was a pot pourie of emotions and relations of all kind, mother, daughter, father, son, elders, parents, uncles everything and an ode of how easily they are formed and how easily they can break. Beyond the boulevards showed me the reality of how walls can have ears, it beautifully showed me the whole city through its grandiose narration and non historical voice. It is too difficult to always find books that explore the inner cities so vividly and vastly, but both of these very well did.

SUMMER HOLIDAYS

‘People misbehave with their loved ones, they take them for granted because they believe in a tomorrow when things will get sorted. But what if there was no tomorrow?’

Ruminations on marriages, or the sense of claustrophobia that relationships can produce, have been the fodder on which literature has fed over the ages. When all is said and done, there is hardly any fundamental truth about marital relationships that has been left unsaid. And yet a marriage of two individuals is unique, and will bring with it a blend of happiness and disappointment and dramatic tension that is essentially its own. Not only marriage,all relations take ages to become strong, to become concrete, they are built on water, on water drawn from the well of belief. Yet all have tensions, on how-to tackle that and yet conserve your relation is the ultimate challenge of life, and that is what runs as the main artery, the main heart of the book.

Summer Holidays by Koral Dasgupta is a fairy tale for adults with a comic take on modern families, their ideals, beliefs and prejudices. 

The characters in the story are well etched. It is easy to relate to these characters from a middle class Indian household. This novel is indeed different from the novels available in the market today. It is a powerful story very subtly told. Indeed Koral Dasgupta’s Summer Holidays had a great impact upon me. Yet another thing that makes a whole difference is the aspect of summer and holidays in the setting and plot of the book. Indeed many may find from the vast medley of characters in the book some of their family, and even find some who are like them, or some whom they wish to be.

The only flaw in the book was that some scenes like some parts of the prologue and somehow in the mid,are too exaggerating, too sluggish as if they were not meant to be there at all. But the strength of the plot maybe somehow hides that and cuts it off into a. 5 star loss.

Koral Dasgupta’s Summer Holidays, published by Rupa Publications, is one splendidly spun tale of love, hatred and self-realization. I am bubbling with varied emotions as I write this review. There are very few books that give you immense pleasure and enchant you with their story.

I was completely in trance as I was reading it. It thrilled me towards the end. I was pulled into the performance, I lost the track of time and I felt like I was in a vacuum. As the performance ended I was brought back to reality, the vacuum released. I had perhaps held my breath all along I was reading the dramatic performance.

Rating: 4.5/5

BEYOND THE BOULEVARDS

Pondicherry has been arranging and rearranging itself ever since it was pentaqued onto a South Indian land where different boules knock against each other. Some boules confront each other, some keep their distances and some roll purposefully to other directions. Watch and listen them carefully for each has their own story to narrate that is plentiful, paradoxical and placing Pondicherry more precisely on the map.

Beyond the Boulevards – a short biography of Pondicherry is a really tiny book. Small in size, some 200 pages that are neatly divided into segments. Easy to read, very easy to relate if you have spent some time in the city. It is like a virtual visit to the city through the ages.

While figuring out its multilingual identity, Pondicherry transformed into a spiritual centre, a hub for alternative education, a quasi-extension of the large state of Tamil Nadu bordering it, an ecological and environmental bastion—and, thanks to a liberal liquor license, a party town.

Residents shared their stories with the author in Tamil, English and French. There is the butcher who spent fourteen years in jail; a twenty-one-year-old waiting to join her boyfriend in New York; a Tibetan woman raised in Delhi who runs a popular Latin American dance studio; an English literature professor who is compiling a multi-volume encyclopaedia about his city.

 All of them converge on the beach Promenade in the evenings, an incidental procession of sunset- watching, breeze-seeking pedestrians. This city-wide ritual tells its own story of how people come together: the contrast of colours, languages, religions, and family legacies.

Beyond the Boulevards, pointed to the city’s phenomenal history — a melting pot of Dutch, Portugese, British and French colonial influences — and the shifting stories and changing perceptions that bring the city to life. One remarkable thing about the city was that amid all the dramatic changes in the landscape, one still felt that “one had a handle on things,” 

What makes Beyond the Boulevards a treat for readers, is it’s non history narration. Aleph’s all books in the City Series are a set of little gems. The biographies are of cities, but they’re not dry histories full of footnotes. The authors are insiders, and writers of repute, and these pocket-sized books are as much about their relationships with their cities as anything else.  Beautifully tapped and explored, the book is a chronicle of the lives of not the elite and rich class of Pondicherry but rather of the ones who make it the real city, the artists, the bohemians, the drunkards, the paradise of alcohol and others. What makes the city a gem on the map, is it’s free of alcohol service, contrast to its dry neighbour Tamil Nadu.

Sriram cleverly taps out the history, origin, lifestyle, lanes, hubs, markets, familiarity, by lanes, boulevards, sub roads, highways, villages and many more within this short work and a short union territory through different voices. When you travel through the book, you see a change in voice, from a butcher to an artist, from a relative to a professor, from a Tibetan woman to residents of Aurobindo’s Ashram.

There is pot-pourie of Dutch, English, Portuguese and French feeling in the book for you explore through the short chapters, the origins in a limelight of myths and history, the places in a limelight of real experiences, spiritual hubs through papers and chronicles, the bars and alcohol centres through the drunkards and the elite, and finally the libraries through a farrago of languages. Adding as a cream over the cake, is the beautious cover, the beautiful medley of cover both on front and back provides to you a sneak peek of how vivid, colourful and wondrous the city of Pondicherry is.

Sriram’s book does a justice to a city that has been so easily lost in the map and from people’s mind. She does a job of an author and explores what is beyond the boulevards in Pondicherry.

Rating: 5/5

Disclaimer : Thanks to Aleph Book Company for sending Beyond the boulevards and Rupa Books for sending Summer Holidays. All opinions are my own.

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