The Peacock Throne – Sujit Saraf
October 31, 1984 begins like any other day for Gopal Pandey as he sets up his tea stall in a lane off Chandni Chowk the most magnificent and crowded street in all Delhi. At its head lies Red Fort, once the home of the gem-encrusted Peacock Throne, symbol of the Mughal Empires dazzling might, and of its downfall.
By the end of the day, Indira Gandhi has been assassinated, violent riots have erupted and Gopal is the bemused possessor of a large sum of money. Fourteen turbulent years and four dramatic turning points in Indian history later, this myopic, bumbling man stands on the verge of immense political power.
Gopals unlikely journey is a tale of accidents, scheming, murder and tragedy, religious and political rivalries, corruption and hubris. Irreverent, farcical and as enlightening as it is entertaining, The Peacock Throne is a novel of breathtaking scope and reach, which looks deep into the heart of human nature and into the soul of modern India.
Evening is the Whole Day – Preeta Samarasan
Set in Malaysia, introduces us to the prosperous Rajasekharan family as its closely guarded secrets are slowly peeled away.
When Chellam, the family’s rubber-plantation-bred servant girl, is dismissed for unnamed crimes, her banishment is the latest in a series of recent, precipitous losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha’s life. A few short weeks before, Aasha’s grandmother Paati passed away under mysterious circumstances and her older sister, Uma, departed for Columbia University–leaving Aasha alone to cope with her mostly absent father, her bitter mother, and her imperturbable older brother.
Beginning with Aasha’s grandfather’s ascension from Indian coolie to illustrious resident of the Big House on Kingfisher Lane, and going on to tell the story of how Appa, the family’s Oxford-educated patriarch, courted Amma, the humble girl next door, Evening Is the Whole Day moves gracefully backward and forward in time to answer the many questions that haunt the family: What was Chellam’s unforgivable crime? Why was Uma so intent on leaving? How and why did Paati die? What did Aasha see? And, underscoring all of these mysteries: What ultimately became of Appa’s once-grand dreams for his family and his country?
Sweeping in scope, sumptuously lyrical, and masterfully constructed, Evening Is the Whole Day offers an unflinching look at relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, the wealthy and the poor, a country and its citizens–and the ways in which each sometimes fails the other. Illuminating in heartbreaking detail one Indian immigrant family’s secrets and lies while exposing the complex underbelly of Malaysia itself.
Ladies Coupe – Anita Nair
Akhilandeshwari or Akhila for short is a 45 year old single Indian woman from a Tamil Brahmin family who works as an income tax clerk. She feels that she has never got the chance to live her own life, always fulfilling the roles of the daughter, sister, aunt and the provider. Until the day that she resolves to break free from her conservative Brahmin life and buys a one way train ticket to the sea side town of Kanyakumari to start a new life alone. She shares her ladies compartment(coupe) of the train with 5 different women: Janaki,a pampered wife and confused mother; Margaret Shanti, a chemistry teacher married to the poetry of elements and an insensitive tyrant too self-absorbed to recognize her needs; Prabha Devi, the perfect daughter and wife, transformed for life by a glimpse of a swimming pool; Fourteen-year-old Sheela, with her ability to perceive what others cannot; and Marikolanthu, whose innocence was destroyed by one night of lust.
As they all swap stories on their lives, Akhila questions them of her eternal dilemma – whether a woman needs a man to complete her or whether she can stay single and happy? In the space of one night, the women change her life with their stories, while at the same time,reminding her to think for herself.
The Serpent’s Tale – Ariana Franklin
Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison—and the king’s estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund’s murder is probably the first move in Eleanor’s long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth.
Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry’s summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king’s trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her baby’s father.
Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan’s home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth—a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia’s investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund’s rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor’s henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion.
Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .
This is the perfect quote about a book….
When do you feel this way?
And when it’s raining, add a plate of hot pakodas and enjoy a perfect afternoon….
Moth Smoke – Mohsin Hamid
When Daru Shezad is fired from his banking job in Lahore, he begins a decline that plummets the length of this sharply drawn, subversive tale. Before long, he can’t pay his bills, and he loses his toehold among Pakistan’s cell-phone-toting elite. Daru descends into drugs and dissolution, and, for good measure, he falls in love with the wife of his childhood friend and rival, Ozi—the beautiful, restless Mumtaz.
Desperate to reverse his fortunes, Daru embarks on a career in crime, taking as his partner Murad Badshah, the notorious rickshaw driver, populist, and pirate. When a long-planned heist goes awry, Daru finds himself on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. The uncertainty of his fate mirrors that of Pakistan itself, hyped on the prospect of becoming a nuclear player even as corruption drains its political will.
Fast-paced and unexpected, Moth Smoke portrays a contemporary Pakistan as far more vivid and disturbing than the exoticized images of South Asia familiar to most of the West. This debut novel establishes Mohsin Hamid as a writer of substance and imagination.
The Full Cupboard of Life – Alexander McCall Smith No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #5
Gaborone, capital city of Botswana.
Mma Precious Ramotswe helps indecisive fiancé Mr J.L.B. Matekoni when orphan farm manager Mma Potakwani persuades him to jump out of an aeroplane, and a bullying dishonest competing mechanic calls. Between cups of bush tea, she sorts money grubbing suitors for hair-braiding tycoon.