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Book Nook - 10-09-2018

Monday, September 10, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

The Conscience Keeper
Bestselling writer Emily Giffin’s new novel, All We Ever Wanted, is reminiscent of the incident in the Delhi school, where a boy shared a smutty video of a girl with his friends. It blew up into a scandal and brought into focus the evil side of the telecom revolution in India.

In this book, told from the point of view of three characters, at the centre of the storm is Finch Browning, a rich kid, who posts a nasty and racist picture of a classmate; it is shared over social media and the repercussions could wreck his future. The girl is Lyla, the American-Brazilian daughter of a carpenter, Tom Volpe, who has raised her alone after his wife ran off.

Finch’s father, Kirk, is the typical arrogant businessman, who believes every problem can be solved by throwing money at it. But his wife, Nina, who came from humble beginnings, is shattered by her son’s behavior and genuinely concerned about Lyla.

The elite school where Finch and Lyla study (she on financial aid), takes the incident very seriously and the principal summons Finch for an honour council hearing. If found guilty, he would be expelled and lose his admission to Princeton, that his parents are so proud of.

Tom is furious and demands punishment for Finch, but, the strange thing is that Lyla is not all that concerned. She thinks all teens go through some embarrassing incidents like this, and nobody really cares in the long run. She not just tries to stop her father from going ballistic, but also gets extra friendly with Finch, who claims to be attracted to her.

Lyla feels that if her father and Nina had just let things slide, they would not have aggravated things to the point of a crisis. She is tough and resilient, though except for her friendship with one loyal girl called Grace, her place in the school full of rich snobs is not something Giffin goes into. Teens can be exceptionally cruel to one who falls outside their circle, but Lyla is miraculously spared the barbs.

Nina’s life unravels, however, as she discovers that her husband and son are not the kind of men she would have liked them to be. Unlike Lyla who sees things only from her own perspective, Nina is aware of the way a patriarchal and racist society looks at women. Tom is torn between his love for his daughter and his helplessness in trying to understand her mental state.

The most admirable and sympathetic character her is Nina (the bit about her past was not at all necessary to explain her mindset), whose first instinct is not to shield her son, but to see to it that justice is done to Lyla. Such people are seldom found outside of films and fiction.

All We Ever Wanted
By Emily Giffin
Publisher: Ballantine
Pages: 352

Excerpt of All We Ever Wanted
It started out as a typical Saturday night. And by typical, I don’t mean normal in any mainstream American way. There was no grilling out with the neighbors or going to the movies or doing any of the things I did as a kid. It was simply typical for what we’d become since Kirk sold his software company, and we went from comfortable to wealthy. Very wealthy.

Obscene was the description my childhood best friend Julie once used—­not about us, but about Melanie, another friend—­after Melanie bought herself a diamond Rolex for Mother’s Day and then offhandedly remarked at one of our dinner parties that homemade pottery from her kids “wasn’t going to cut it.”
“She could feed a Syrian refugee camp for an entire year with that watch,” Julie had groused in my kitchen after the other guests had departed. “It’s obscene.” I’d nodded noncommittally, hiding my own Cartier under the edge of our marble island, as I silently reassured myself with all the ways my watch, and therefore my life, were different from Melanie’s. For one, I didn’t buy the watch for myself on a whim; Kirk gave it to me for our fifteenth anniversary. For another, I had always loved when our son, Finch, made me presents and cards in his younger years, and was sad that those had become relics of the past.

Most important, I don’t think I ever flaunted our wealth. If anything, it embarrassed me. As a result, Julie didn’t hold our money against me. She didn’t know our exact worth but had a general sense of it, especially after she’d gone house hunting with me when Kirk was too busy, helping me find our home on Belle Meade Boulevard, where we now lived. She and her husband and girls were regular guests at our lake house and our home on Nantucket, just as she happily inherited my gently used designer hand-­me-­downs.

Occasionally Julie would call Kirk out, though, not for being showy like Melanie but for having elitist tendencies. A fourth-­generation silver-­spoon Nashvillian, my husband grew up ensconced in a private-­school, country-­club world, so he’d had some practice at being a snob, even back when his money was merely old, and not yet obscene. In other words, Kirk came from a “good family”—­that elusive term that nobody ever came out and defined, yet we all knew was code for having old money and a certain well-­bred, refined taste. As in: he’s a Browning.

My maiden name, Silver, held no such status, not even by the standards of Bristol, the town on the Tennessee-­Virginia border where I grew up and Julie still lived. We were no slouches—­my dad wrote for the Bristol Herald Courier and my mom was a fourth-­grade teacher—­but we were squarely middle class, and our idea of living large was everyone ordering dessert at a nonchain restaurant. Looking back, I wonder if that may have explained my mom’s preoccupation with money. It wasn’t that she was impressed with it, but she could always tell you who had it and who did not, who was cheap and who was living beyond their means. Then again, my mom could pretty much tell you anything about anyone in Bristol. She wasn’t a gossip—­at least not a mean-­spirited one—­she was simply fascinated by other people’s business, from their wealth and health to their politics and religion.

Incidentally, my dad is Jewish and my mother Methodist. Live and let live is their mantra, an outlook that was passed on to both my brother, Max, and me, the two of us embracing the more attractive elements of each religion, like Santa Claus and Seders, while punting Jewish guilt and Christian judgment. This was a good thing, especially for Max, who came out during college. My parents didn’t miss a beat. If anything, they seemed more uncomfortable with Kirk’s money than with my brother’s sexuality, at least when we first began to date. My mother had insisted that she was just sad I wouldn’t be getting back together with Teddy, my high school boyfriend, whom she adored, but I sometimes sensed a slight inferiority complex, and her worry that the Brownings were somehow looking down on me and my family.

To be fair, a half-­Jewish girl from Bristol with a gay brother and no trust fund probably wasn’t their first choice for their only child. Hell, I probably wasn’t Kirk’s first choice on paper, either. But what can I say? He picked me anyway. I’d always told myself that he fell in love with my personality—­with me—­the same way I fell in love with him. But in the past couple of years I had begun to wonder about both of us, and what had brought us together in college.

I had to admit that when discussing our relationship, Kirk often referenced my looks. He always had. So I’d be naïve to think that my appearance had nothing to do with why we were together—­just as I knew, deep down, that the patina and security of a “good family” had, in part, attracted me to him.

SHORT TAKES
Najma Yusufi’s The Begums Of Peshawar is the story of the daughters of the Durrani clan. Say the synopsis, “In the old city of Peshawar, past the busy markets of Munda Beri, live the Durranis. Descendants of the men who once ruled Afghanistan, they now survive on the trappings of former glory. Here, the Durrani daughters – vain, clever Maagul; quiet, dutiful Bibigul; knowledge-hungry Chan; and shy, overshadowed Firasat – live through loves and disappointments, marriages and heartbreak, and the trials they face as women growing up and settling down in conservative households. Alongside their stories is that of Bano, the servant girl, who offers a startlingly different view of their lives, alive with the sights and sounds of a world beyond the confines of the sisters’ cloistered existence. Moving effortlessly from Peshawar to Lahore and on to London, the narrative beautifully portrays the Durrani girls’ small rebellions against the forces that have long oppressed them: the bonds of tradition and the weight of an inherited name. A richly evocative tale of self-discovery, The Begums of Peshawar marks the debut of a powerful new voice.”

The Begums Of Peshawar
By Najma Yusufi
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 320

Right From the Start . . . She Stole His Heart, written by Prachi Gupta & Sanchit Garg  is a romantic comedy. According to the summary, “Radhika Gupta has always lived a peaceful life. Until she enters college and befriends a few crazy people. Nishi, the short and confident girl who soon becomes her best friend; Siddharth, the crazy, happy-go-lucky guy, always desperate for a girlfriend; Sameer, the college hunk; and Manas, who is simple, shy, and secretive. While Siddharth has challenged Nishi that he would find a girlfriend for himself before she can find a boyfriend, Radhika’s life is turned upside down by Sameer’s proposal. For he is the guy she never wants to go out with, while he is determined to date her. Following a series of amusing events, endless proposals, and accidental cupids, who will end up with whom? Will the love stories have a happy ending or will they be doomed? “

Right From The Start She Stole His Heart
By Prachi Gupta & Sanchit Garg
Publisher: Fingerprint
Pages: 224

Mahek Daleh’s And The Roses Bled is about “A catastrophe that occurs in what was meant to be a fun-filled day for Nina and Alisha. Minutes ago, they were on the swings in the Rose Garden, and now, Alisha is standing alone, while the help runs frantically. Her sister, Nina, has disappeared, never to be found again. But the bond between them withstands even death. Nina’s ghost circles the house. Is she here just to comfort her now lonely and distraught sister, or is she pointing the way to unravel the mystery of her disappearance? The questions remain unanswered . . . untilsix years later. Another ghost is reaching out to Alisha from the beyond, a ghost only she can see, and she has no idea why. Battling the horror, the blood, and the nightmares that follow her in this macabre turn of events, will Alisha be able to emerge from the whirlpool that the other side is trying to drown her in?”

And The Roses Bled
By Mehak Daleh
Publisher: Fingerprint
Pages:224

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