My Year in Books #2

The Matchmaker by Elin Hildebrand

As stories go, this one was ok. It was your typical Bollywood tearjerker. Small town. Beautiful girl who everyone loves. Childhood romance. Teenage pregnancy. Two men, one woman. Matchmaking. Auras. Beautiful locations. Growing up. Unconditional love. Reunions. Terminal illness. But somehow the book failed to impress me. Maybe I have finally outgrown romance novels. Maybe the all American type of novels do not resonate with me. But I found no value in reading this book and will not pick up any other book of hers too quickly unless I am too bored or need a no brainer book to switch off. This book served that purpose and has prepared me for the tome I plan to take up next. One little episode in the book was eye-opening. The character of the doctor was an Indian man, based on a real life personality. It made me think how easily Indian-Americans have fit into mainstream US life even in a totally white, Waspy novel. And it also amused me to see how gender stereotyped we have become.

Pegasus by Danielle Steele

This month is going to be slightly different. I have begun a tome of a book and while I am excited about reading it, it is too heavy to carry on my train rides to and from NYC. Hence I will be switching between that book and others until I finish the tome. I began this book on one such journey. I read Steele a lot way back in my ‘youth.’ She tells interesting stories. I enjoyed this story too but more because of the tale she weaves rather than because of some amazing literary skills she demonstrates. In fact, I felt her style is so simple as if she is writing for a child. This story was too easily told despite the grave situations. I enjoyed how she unfolded the history of two families affected by World War 2 and the Third reich. Since I had not studied world history in school, I was fascinated. I did not know about Kristallnacht. So often while reading this book, I had tears in my eyes. Not because of any bond I formed with Steele and her protagonists, but more because of the unnecessary devastation war and some megalomaniac people wrought on innocent lives. Steele’s narration did highlight what happened in those years and while she glossed over the actual war and focused on her families, I got a sense of how it played out and so finished the book quicker than anticipated and in fact while sitting at home and not on the train.

Euphoria by Lily King

This was a fascinating book mainly because it is about anthropologists. It’s a field I have always been fascinated by and would often wonder if I would have enjoyed a career in anthropology. I do not know if I am cut out for field work and this book shows how difficult it can be. The protagonists really have a passion for the work. I feel enlightened about a whole new world and genre of work. Lily King has a great way of telling a story. You know its someone writing about the past but at the same time you are drawn into it like it’s the present. You can guess something went wrong but yet when it comes, you are totally unprepared. Her descriptions are so vivid, I had a clear picture in my head of the events as they unfolded. I enjoyed the book and was sad it had to end. I wanted to learn more about aboriginal customs, fictional though they may have been.

Ashoka The Great by Wytze Keuning

Finished this 1049-page book in under a month. It was gripping and interesting mainly because it ticks two of my boxes: historical fiction and my current interest in the origin of Hindu philosophy. As I shut the tome, my one thought was of regret. I wish the Ashoka legacy had lived on and not crumbled after his death. He was a man of vision and under him, India prospered possibly like it has never ever done or never will. People were happy and there were great facilities and roads. I guess his Buddhist belief made him the man he became and that raises the question; is Buddhism the answer? I think it is not as simple as that. The book reveals the intrigues of the royal court. Even after Ashoka has laid down a guideline for a different path, royal machinations persisted. His son’s blinding was the last straw that made him realize his way may not last forever. The corrupt practices of the Brahmins, the varna system, people’s beliefs, the love for nature and the quaint ways of ancient Indians were an absolute delight to read. The book also talks about the teachings of the Tathagata and Ashoka’s edicts. Such purity of thoughts. I also loved how his women played a significant role. What a man. We need an Ashoka in India again. I highly recommend the book.

The Music Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark

I have always enjoyed Mary Higgins books. She writes in a very simplistic way but tells a good story. She draws you into her characters and you start feeling for them. It is a good ‘time-pass’ book and was my ‘read on the train’ purchase.

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Pune365 : This is #2 of an 8 part series that showcases over 40 books that have been reviewed by Monique

The views expressed in this column are the Authors

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

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