Reviews@365 : 41 Books that made my 2016

The voracious reader, writer, socialite and columnist Monika, whizzed past several tens of books in 2016; 41 met her discerning cut and their reviews will be showcased here for the next 8 weeks. 

Join Monika and Pune365 in celebrating the Wonderful World of Books..

The Incarnations by Susan Barker

I enjoyed this book considering I read it immediately after ‘The year of reading dangerously’ that I was looking forward to but was highly disappointed with.
What I enjoyed about this book is the glimpse into the history of China in absorbing and interesting way. The story was woven across centuries and kept me engaged. While reading, I learnt a lot about Chinese culture and history. I will certainly read more books by Barker.

Menakas’s choice by Kavita Kane

As a glutton for history/ mythology etc. there is no way I could have stayed away from this book. I have also read her first two novels getting an insight into Karna’s unknown wife and Sita’s sisters. Kavita brings to light stories from Indian mythology with a different angle and highlights lesser characters. The writing is not the greatest and can get monotonous but I read it for the context and the information I glean. I finished the book and then furiously googled a whole bunch of rishis, devas, apsaras, deities etc to understand further. She now has another book out and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

2 years, 8 months and 28 nights by Salman Rushdie

Spent my Sunday reading and finishing this amazing book. Salman Rushdie is one of the most talented story tellers I have read. The layers. The characterizations. His imagination. The situations. The vision. Hope. Despair. Love. War. Peace. Incoherence. Realism. Sex. Dev and bhoot. Fairies and Jinns. Everything comes together in one amazing slightly incoherent, movingly coherent chronicle. Wow. Kudos. So much to absorb. Here’s to world peace be it a thousand years from now.

Men of Men by Wilbur Smith

I love Africa and Wilbur Smith’s books are set in that beautiful continent. They are grandiose stories of how the country was colonized and his vivid descriptions brings the country alive. This particular book is the second of the Ballantyne series. I read ‘As the falcon flies’ last November and was excited to read ahead. There are two more to follow. The book lived up to the Smith brand of books but I was disturbed. It continues the tale of Zouga Ballantyne and highlights the treachery with which the indigenous Matabele and Zulu tribes were cheated of their land for gold and diamonds by white settlers.

The Angels Weep by Wilbur Smith

This is the third book in the Ballantyne series and reinforces my feeling of the unfair treatment of the indigenous people of the country. Zouga and his son Ralph, along with other white settlers manage to wrest the country from the Matabele but at the end of the book, in the time of their grandchildren, the Matabele get their country back. Their journey is strewn with violence and fatalities on both sides. As one of the Matabele characters, Tungate Zebiwe, aka Samson Kumalo says, ‘War makes monsters of all of us.’ However, another statement struck me when old man, Bawu, laments the loss of the white settlers because it was a country they had built. I wonder how they can say that about a country stolen from the original inhabitants anyway? How can they justify this? It reminds me of so many other countries the colonials destroyed. Book four awaits me and I am sure I will read about how ‘natives’ have destroyed the country as has been the case of all the other countries that broke free of colonization. Sad but true.

The Leopard Hunts in Darkness by Wilbur Smith

The last book in the Ballantyne series did not disappoint and deep down I knew there would be an ‘alls well that ends well’’ outcome so I managed to read my way through the violent betrayals, the horrendous genocide and utter hopelessness. I have to admit I know current day Zimbabwe still suffers the reign of the despot, Mugabe so I had doubts about whether my happy ending would even occur. The book continues with the narrative of challenges facing independent black nations and how they succumb to tribal enmity instead of uniting to create a stable nation. The age-old Shona Matabele tension raises its ugly spectre and white settlers who stayed back get caught in the cross fire. Each page had me gripped. And at the end I was sad, mainly because this brings to an end my journey in Africa with Wilbur Smith. There was a poignancy and a desire not to shut the book when I turned the last page. I know I will miss the Ballantynes, Courtneys and Egypt’s Taita, unless, Smith continues down the generations and continues their saga set in modern day Africa. I hope he does.

35 more to go.. Watch this space next week !

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

Latest posts by Monique Patel (see all)