Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Books I Read in March

I had a busy month (as you can see by my posting this in mid-April)! Here are the books I've read, as far as I can remember.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Miss Jean Brodie is the antihero, the teacher who teaches beyond the classroom, tries to inspire her students, but is narcissistic and self-serving. It's an interesting novel, though I found it rather depressing (so many stories about schoolchildren - barring the ones about midnight feasts and adventures around the countryside - are; it seems so easy to victimise children).

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is the third of the series, and an extremely fun children's adventure book. I borrowed it from Chicu's neighbour (please be advised this word is used loosely here) when I visited her, and it's a great vacation read. Four kids have adventures and stop the bad supervillain from getting away with a superweapon. What I loved best was that the older girl, Kate, is the most physically adept of them all and the boys are often like, okay, Kate will go fight the bad guys and we'll sit here and wait for her.

Pulchritude by Ana Mardoll
A more realistic retelling of the Beauty and the Beast - one that keeps the magic but makes the characters more realistic. It was interesting but not engrossing - I liked the author's notes at the end more than the actual novel.

Mahesh Rao's The Smoke is Rising
Between this and his new book of short stories that I read in January, I've become quite a fan of Mahesh Rao. (Also, I met him at his book launch and he's charming in person.)

This book starts a bit slow, and the frequent shifts in point of view - every few pages - was a bit disorienting. Especially because I read this over a week while I was traveling instead of all at once, I found myself forgetting the characters and where I'd last left them.

But I found myself more and more drawn in. The characters are so well drawn, realistic yet interesting. And the novel spends much space on its women - the elderly, lonely widow Susheela, her lonely young housemaid Uma, the young unhappy wife Mala. And while there are no outrightly happy endings (and I was rooting for them, yet I admit this is more realistic), there is some validation, some vestige of dignity, and a lot of sympathy for these women.

Mahesh Rao is a feminist, and that's a compliment.

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