The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Author: Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2014 (originally 2004)
ISBN: 9780143423188
Rating: ★★★★½
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The Last Song of Dusk is Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s first novel. It won the Betty Trask Award (UK) and the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), was nominated for the IMPAC Prize and has been translated into 10 languages. The author’s second novel, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, has also been published.

The Characters

Anuradha Gandharva is leaving Udaipur to meet a young man for a potential marriage proposal. Aside from bridal anxieties, a peculiar feeling of restlessness envelopes her being throughout the book, which coaxes us to ask ourselves – can we really be at peace? Or do we have to snatch little moments of happiness from this supposedly merciless life?

Her very doting husband, Vardhmaan Gandharva, is a debonair and dashing young man. He loves and respects Anuradha and the chemistry between the two is crackling throughout the book.

As the excited newlyweds, the middle-aged couple settling into their roles and later, the old couple who revel in each other’s companionship, the duo constantly complement the other’s presence. We come to understand the dynamic equation that is love.
Shloka, the achingly quiet and composed child of the Gandharvas, is a harbinger of change in their destiny.

Finally, Nandini is Anuradha’s hedonistic cousin with a cryptic tongue and a mystical air. She brings some much needed excitement to the otherwise prosaic life of the Gandharvas. A mistress of her own destiny, her trust in love has eroded with every passing day since being pushed around as an unwanted orphan.

The book revolves around these four different and kinetic personalities. Their interactions weave the beautiful prose of the book.
Other supporting characters such as Radha mashi, Libya Dass and Khalil Muratta add an appropriate amount of spice to this cauldron of interesting events.

The Setting

The setting of the book takes us from the propriety-infused, decorous buildings of 1920s Bombay to the majestic villas of Matheran where debauchery is the order of the night. Dariya Mahal, home to the Gandharvas, has a life of its own and oscillates between being the devil and the angel (but mostly the devil) from time to time.

The Story

With such a strong setting and characters, the story weaves itself into the book. It is a page turner and I raced to finish the book as soon as I got my hands on it.

The story is intensely gripping – just when you feel that no more misfortune can befall these characters, a dark tragedy is just around the corner, waiting to happen. Just when you dream of a happy ending, the twist takes your breath away.

The clear message of the book is in its opening line – In this life, my darling, there is no mercy.’

The book doesn’t teach you to overcome obstacles and emerge a strong person, it teaches you that resilience, the right company and a little love and trust are what you need to get through life.

The Narrative

The dialogue is rich and can get rhetorical at times. Excessive ornateness of the prose may dissuade even the doughtiest reader, but carry on because the story is as gripping as it is eloquent.

Overall a terrific read. The Last Song of Dusk stays with you long after you have turned the last page.

Check out this interesting Q & A by the author with Verve here

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Love Among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond

Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9780670087341
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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For many of us in India today, it was Ruskin Bond’s stories that sowed the seed of a lifelong love for reading. Fans go knocking at his home in the hills, and throng every time he is at a city bookstore, hanging on to every word he speaks. One wonders which books made him a reader and what inspired him to become a writer. The answer is here, between the pages of this book.

Love among the Bookshelves is a tribute of sorts to Ruskin Bond’s favourite authors. The book starts off with a tongue-in-cheek introduction in Ruskin Bond’s inimitable style. Part memoir, part anthology, it features excerpts of the books he has loved. It includes the works of Wodehouse, Somerset Maugham, H.E. Bates, Charles Dickens and Richard Jefferies. In addition, Mr. Bond mentions many others whose works he enjoyed reading – writers of mystery, romance, crime and realism – in his essays that introduce each excerpt and author. It is these notes that are the highlight of the book, giving us a glimpse into his life – how he first chanced upon books when he declined an invitation to a shikar party, his favourite superhero, what turned him into an aficionado of the ghost story, the year he spent in Jersey and how he began his journey as an author.

An interesting read for those who love literature, classics or Ruskin Bond.

Craving yourself some Ruskin Bond now? May we suggest one of his older books, Night Train at Deoli? Check out its review here

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Review: The Story of Jews-Finding the Words by Simon Schama

August 27, 2014
Review: The Story of the Jews - Finding the Words by Simon Schama

Author: Simon Schama
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781847921338
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Simon Schama’s ‘The Story of Jews – Finding the Words’ is a gloriously detailed account of the Jewish people. The author has dealt with various controversial issues in Jewish history in a knowledgeable and scholarly manner. 

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India, Land of The Mouse Charmers

August 25, 2014
The Mouse Charmers by Anuradha Goyal
Author: Anuradha Goyal
Publisher: Random House India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788184004922
Rating: ★★★★☆
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The Mouse Charmers glimmers with elegant intelligence. Anuradha, in this book, unravels the business specifics of twelve companies that began as digital entrepreneurships and now sail with their magnificent masts, ruling the waters of Indian markets.

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Unbreakable: The Mary Kom Autobiography

August 21, 2014
Unbreakable by Mary Kom
Author: Mary Kom
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9789351160090
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Doesn’t it look all warm and happy? Medals, fame and a Bollywood movie based upon you. However, only a few people know what pains Mary underwent to reach such dizzying heights of success.

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Review: The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

August 19, 2014
The Lives of Others thumbnail

The Lives of Others is a novel of sweeping scope. It showcases 3 generations of a Kolkata upper-middle-class business family as they struggle against the winds of radical Communism sweeping across Bengal in the late sixties. Their plight is juxtaposed against the lives of others; the struggling, starving, poorest-of-the-poor landless labourers of Bengal.

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The face of Karachi: The Scatter Here Is Too Great

August 18, 2014
The Scatter Here Is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer
Author: Bilal Tanweer
Publisher: Random House India
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9788184004595
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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Catastrophe. It’s the phenomenon that has the power to bring a city together or take a city apart. Cities, like people, have their own ways of dealing with the crisis at hand. Some just shut themselves down from the pain and anguish and a few form steel-like resolve and fight the menacing intrusion. The Scatter Here is Too Great talks about Karachi, dealing with a crisis, combining its fight or flight mechanisms to piece back a city that has been too far chiselled at and eroded away.

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Navigating the Dating World: Ladies Please! Dating Truths by a Man

August 14, 2014
Ladies Please! Dating Truths by a Man by Jose Covaco
Author: Jose Covaco
Publisher: Ebury Press
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788184004410
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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Ladies Please! Dating Truths by a Man is a self help book by MTV’s VJ Jose Covaco, intended for the broken hearted as well as people struggling in the dating world.

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Interview with Ashwin Sanghi

August 11, 2014

“The best thing about collaborating is the fact that one can pool ideas and expertise. The problem, however, is that it is far more difficult to write in a coordinated fashion as part of a team effort than to write solo. Collaboration requires method and discipline.” – Ashwin Sanghi

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Hilarious Reactions to Chetan Bhagat’s new book Half Girlfriend!

August 7, 2014

Chetan Bhagat announced the October release of his latest book, provocatively named ‘ Half Girlfriend ’. One wonders how much time he spent choosing the name! Because that name, that irritating, grammatically incorrect, execrable name has single-handedly gathered enough publicity to launch a rocket, never mind a book. No PR agency could have done better.

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