Book Review — Encounters Of A Fat Bride by Samah Visaria

Thank you Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Encounters of a Fat Bride unveils the humiliation and harsh circumstances that an overweight woman has to undergo in order to find a groom in India. Madhurima Pandey has learnt to set aside her complex about feeling like the quintessential DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). While all her friends find fairytale-esque romances, Madhu has devoted her time to work and study, so as to steer clear of the reality that no man in his right mind would ever choose her. But as per societal norms, marriage is the most essential rite of initiation into adulthood. And soon, her middle class family begins to invite a bevy of eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. Samah Visaria’s novel aptly reflects the age-old customs of dowry and arranged marriage, complete with nosy neighbors and body-shaming parents of potential grooms.

It should be noted that some people may view this novel as being offensive, but I assure you that it is not. The author, in no way, propagates discriminating against “fat” brides. She is merely trying to convey to the audience that women should be confident regardless of their physical appearances.

As lighthearted as this book is, it also approaches some very serious issues like that of fat-shaming, mental health disorder, the dowry system (wherein the family of the bride compensates the groom’s family in cash or kind for going ahead with the marriage) and gender bias. While a lot of these issues are dealt with rationally, I wasn’t comfortable with the way mental health disorders were handled. You begin to think that Madhu is a very mature and educated woman, but then her sidelining of mental instability as “retarded” or “losing it” is totally not acceptable. On the other hand, through Madhu’s strength of character, we see how other negative elements are treated strictly. Her acceptance of her body image and understanding that all genders ought to be equal attempts to remove society’s misconceptions.

What’s unique is that the chapter titles feature a countdown; so you are made aware of the ending but you don’t know how that transpires. See, there’s some mystery in there too. The author’s writing style is colloquial, humorous and incorporates few Hindi terms. There are a couple of cliches, but nothing major. She makes several references to the movie industry, juxtaposing Madhu’s behavior and feelings which made light of the situation at hand. The narration is so convincing that I’d feel just as infuriated at society as Madhu does. I mean, it is appalling that people expect you to be a certain way and if you aren’t, they rain down the most horrible comments on you. I really liked the plot because it is still so relevant. Some aspects of the story were a little over the top, but you can’t expect anything less from a dramatic character like Madhu. Her character arc sees quite a change throughout the novel. Initially, she is against the idea of arrange marriage, then tired of being lonely, she begins to crave it. Even her outlook undergoes certain essential changes. Without a doubt, Madhu’s funny quips renders the entire novel so enjoyable that I finished it in one sitting. I liked the book and I look forward to anything else the author may write in the future. You should check it out!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — Against All Odds by Danielle Steel

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Against All Odds comes together in the most seamless manner, portraying all the sentiments and decisions that knit a family close together. Kate Madison, after the death of her husband, has adeptly managed bringing up 4 children. She has also made a name for herself in the fashion world with the success of her clothing resale store, Still Fabulous. Now that her children are all grown up, she is more worried than ever, for they seem to be testing fate and making irrational decisions. Izzie, Kate’s oldest daughter, has fallen for a drug addict, with no job and no sense of responsibility. Justin, one of her twins, is planning to have children with his gay partner outside of wedlock. Whereas his sister, Julie can’t fathom the change in tide that threatens to rip her apart from her family. Willie, the youngest of the four leads a sparkling life, disparate from his family, who know nothing about his whereabouts. Despite her warnings, Kate’s children are hell bent on having their way and pay no heed to her. How she manages to protect them is a tale told in delicate and homely fashion in this novel by Danielle Steel.

Family drama is a genre right up my alley and this one was no different. It has all the makings of a winter, cozy read, while still exposing you to the alarming nature of some people in this world. It brings to light the woes of a single mother, who stops at nothing to prevent her children from making mistakes. Danielle Steel’s writing style is very comforting and easy to grasp. Her descriptions aren’t heavy, but just right. One thing I found odd is the repetitive sentences, i.e. a single sentence would be written in two different ways back to back, which made the paragraph a little monotonous. Some scenes weren’t as fluid as they could have been. Apart from that, I have no complaints. The way this story is narrated is quite different from Danielle Steel’s other novels.

The plot is wonderful and circles three generations of a family, along with their differing perspectives. Grandma Lou is a fun-loving character, without a worry and brings to life the term “wanderlust”. While she shares her daughter, Kate’s concerns occasionally, she has a more modern approach to parenting. Kate, on the other hand, takes way too much stress. I guess, it’s understandable. But at times, she’s bit of a hypocrite. Izzie and Julie’s characters were beyond my comprehension. They failed to see what was right in front of their eyes, particularly for girls of such high caliber jobs. I wished they had been smarter in dealing with their personal lives and had been more open with the rest of the family. I liked the section’s pertaining to Justin’s story a lot. His determination to start a family of his own perfectly reflects the values that were passed down to him. I loved the bond that all six of them share. It was the highlight of the novel. Willie doesn’t make much of an appearance in the book, except for the last couple of chapters. Initially, you are wont to think that Kate’s fears are irrational. But as the story progresses, I began to wonder if she was a psychic or not. There’s nothing extraordinary about this book, but the emotions that hold it together, makes it so endearing. I definitely enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend the book to all those who like Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Cover Reveal of Danielle Steel’s Against All Odds

Danielle Steel is back with another novel and this one explores a family-centric plot, wherein a mother of 4 – Kate Madison – is left perplexed by her children’s life choices. Against All Odds tackles with the very essence of motherhood. Here’s the cover design as published by Pan Macmillan…

Much like the cover of Steel’s Dangerous Games, the title of this one is embossed in gold, attributing all the power to it. The family of five huddled together, against the backdrop of the city’s skyline sends across a strong message. To me, it speaks of unity, blood ties, finding a sense of belonging etc. The fact that they are all gazing in a specific direction (a.k.a observing something) could mirror how a family helps you grow and learn..

I’ll stop with my deconstruction of the cover and save my views on the book for when I’ve reviewed it. Hope you all get a chance to check it out 🙂

The Vampire Diaries

Dear Diary,

Art is a form of magic that weaves itself into the lives of others. You can’t help but be affected by it. Everyone may not agree with your art, but it’s your expression and ought to be as untethered, as you see fit. The Vampire Diaries was one such outlet of expression, a story built by a circle of arms. It started out as a quintessential paranormal mystery, interspersed with dramatic elements. But what it built on, were the ideals of love, family and friendship. For this very reason, it stuck with me. For eight whole years. Albeit, the show had its ups and downs, it was so imbued with a sense of camaraderie. Bonnie’s innate selflessness, just as she dejectedly confides in Enzo, “I never get to have my chance.” is a stark portrayal of the lengths, one is willing to go when their loved ones are in jeopardy. And that sums up a major portion of the 8 seasons. Adversity always strikes Mystic Falls. A slew of characters are required to make ginormous sacrifices in order to save the day. But the point is that, they do. They are always “feeling epic”.

Despite the whole lot of bloodshed and heart-ripping-out scenes, it is the promise of a better day, that kept us glued to the show. It is the realization that, even if things are despicable, somebody would make amends. We need it in life, the knowledge that bonds are thicker than blood.

The amount of twists and turns in this show would leave you reeling. Kudos to Julie Plec, for bringing to life one of the most complicated plots and for delivering it in such a believable manner. The loopholes that play an integral role in this show, bring Vonnegut’s quote to mind, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” You’d think that there was no way a certain character could be brought back to life. But, no! Think again.

Backed by a brilliant cast, an array of supernatural creatures and a stupendous soundtrack, what’s not to like? The series finale was the cherry on top, a delicate ending that glows with larger than life symbols. Many of the former characters make an appearance – Lexi, Aunt Jenna, Jeremy, Joe, Sheriff Forbes, Tyler, Vicki. They have come  full circle. Seeing the Salvatore brothers reunite, is absolutely blissful. Throughout the show, they function like the scales of justice. When one of them is taking turns in being notorious, the other tries to be noble.

The ending narration is a whiff of life, full of hope, “… Because peace exists. It lives in everything we hold dear. That is the promise of peace. That one day, after a long life, we find each other again. ” Beautiful, isn’t it? I believe this peace and love upholds the show.

*happy tears* TVD, you will be missed.

– Meera

 

Book Review — This Was A Man by Jeffrey Archer

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂

The final book in the Clifton Chronicles, This Was A Man is a finale like no other. Jeffrey Archer, effortlessly, brings together several generations of the Barringtons and Cliftons; binding them in a stronghold of family, friendship and love. While Emma and Harry Clifton are steadily climbing the ladder of success, knocking off obstacles with a flick of their hand, their granddaughter Jessica gets blinded by a carefree lifestyle, careening into a destructive future. Lady Virginia Fenwick plays the part of a puppeteer in an attempt to stay afloat at the cost of others’ despair.

Brother and sister are pitted against each other in their own battle for justice when Emma and Giles’ views on a bill demand their efforts to be poured into oppositional political parties. Whereas, fate plays its part in the lives of Adriane Sloane, Desmond Mellor and Jim Knowles, as a wicked turn of events has them scurrying to gather support. This last installment, applaudable in every right, is a reminder of the glory of a writer – be that of Jeffrey Archer or Harry Clifton – both of whom, have left a marvelous legacy behind.

Having read the previous book in the series, I was eager to know how everything would be concluded in this one. Even though the book opens with a mystery, I felt that the initial few chapters were a little slow paced and often, I found myself trying to hard to stay tuned to what was going on. I didn’t care much for the politics. But Jeffrey Archer is no ordinary writer. And I was buckled in for a thrilling ride soon after. One of the major brownie points that this novel garners is its characterization. The depth of character is evident as we follow multiple storylines taking place simultaneously. I particularly loved the sections with Jessica Clifton and Lady Virginia, because they were so unpredictable. Samantha Clifton doesn’t have much of a presence in the book, but that is alright.

This novel only gets better and better with each chapter. It engulfs you with myriad emotions at the most unexpected of times. Needless to say, Giles Barrington is a splendid orator. His speeches, his points of debate left me in awe of the power he possess to tide over his audience with mere words. I haven’t read the whole series and yet I was so drawn towards the book, I can’t begin to imagine the state of other Jeffrey Archer fans who have been following the Cliftons from the beginning. The bonds of family and friendship that have been highlighted are beyond commendable. So much so that I wanted to be a part of something as magnanimous. I definitely loved this book a lot more than the previous one. And would encourage you to pick it up, if you haven’t already. It will keep you hooked till the very end and when it does end, you’d be left with a feeling of something great that has washed over you and is now receding. Kudos to Jeffrey Archer! This Was A Man, indeed.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Whence we come, to it we shall return.

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Aapnu Amdavad

It is true. We create a thousand Horcruxes in a lifetime.

Bits of ourselves go to sleep in these Horcruxes, until we reach for them. Until we are ready to absorb them again. My trip to Ahmedabad was something of revisiting a Horcrux I had left there. Multiple Horcruxes, if you will. The strange and unsettling (even overwhelming) part of it is that I met all these lovely, homely people who seemed to remember versions of me I couldn’t bring to mind. And I wanted so much to be able to recall my time there. I wanted so much to be a part of that tight knit community again. I had moved on, changed indefinitely. But these people still hold onto age old antics of mine, like clouds clinging onto the hilltops.

The places that I’d once frequented were so unbelievably different that I couldn’t picture myself amidst them. But then a familiar board or a rundown building would appear to remind me of instances that were so integral to my childhood there. As I have been told countless times, the climate is stifling. Now, I don’t much prefer the heat. My favourite weather is anything but summer. And despite that, I found myself wanting to go back. To be the girl, who had left 15 years ago. To make a home of the place I’d been born in.

Going to Adalaj Ni Vav was like stepping into another world. Not only is the road leading to it so absolutely mesmerizing but the carvings in the step well are magical! The writer in me wished I had a notepad and pen, to sit and write of the wonders I beheld. Another highlight of the trip was reconnecting with family friends who are so genuinely welcoming. They spoke of times when my parents were young, of times when life’s simplicity offered the greatest joy. Sitting with them, immersed in all their smiles and recollections, I couldn’t have been more thankful to Ahmedabad.

Our meals comprised of all the delicacies I’d urge my mom to make often. To say nothing of the Thalis and Chaat outlets, would be to paint an incomplete portrait of the bustling city that is Ahmedabad. A city where folks have come to a mutual agreement to sort out their traffic troubles. A city where cliques of cows have as much a license to be on the road, as the rest of us. A city where the youth have taken to enjoying the night life their own way.

If there’s a place I’d want to call home, it is this. It is this.

– Meera