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Book Nook - 20-08-2018

Monday, August 20, 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 Devil Effect
Laura Weisberger's best-selling book, The Devil Wears Prada,  was turned into a memorable film, starring Meryl Streep as the haughty fashion magazine editor,  Miranda Priestly, allegedly inpired by Vogue's Anna Wintour.

The sequel to this novel, 'Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns', was not in the same league, but the characters obviously did not let go of their hold on the author, because a third book is out, titled, 'When Life Gives You Lululemons' (a stylish brand of athleisure wear). Emily Charlton from the earlier book returns along with two gal pals, and the action shifts to suburban Greenwich, amidst a gaggle of women who could give any normal female nightmares.

Former model Karolina, married to a senator, Graham Hartwell, finds herself in disgrace for being caught driving drunk. She has to give up on her beloved stepson, Harry, and hide out in Greenwich to avoid the horrible media attention. Her friend  Miriam Kagan, once a high-powered lawyer, has dropped out of her career to become a fulltime to homemaker. Emily finds her glamorous life as an image consultant to the rich and famous under threat from a younger rival.  While her husband is working in Hong Kong, she joins the other two to help salvage Karolina's battered reputation so that she can get custody of Harry.

For this,  she must appear to be contrite--even though she is innocent--and look normal. However, in Greenwich, normal means living in immaculate homes, producing kids only to be used as bargaining chips in the event of a divorce and being botoxed, nipped and tucked--including "bespoke lady parts"-- so that their  rich husbands don't trade them in for younger women. (Is this where the women's movement ended up?)

For all its humour, cattiness and power-to-the-sisterhood trope, this is a depressing book. The satire is blunt, the women are insecure, brittle,  vapid; and even today, the only way to bring down a high-flying woman is to get her pregnant. Even though she is supposedly a she-devil, the book perks up in the couple of scenes in which Miranda Priestley makes an appearance.

When Life Gives You Lululemons
By Lauren Weisberger
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages:  343

 

Excerpt of When Life Gives You Lululemons
Emily racked her brain. There had to be something to complain about. This was New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, one of the most annoying nights of the year in arguably the most annoying city known to man. So why couldn’t she think of a thing?

She sipped her skinny margarita from her chaise and watched her husband’s beautiful body cut through the water like a moving art installation. When Miles emerged, he propped himself on the back of the lit infinity pool, where the turquoise water appeared to spill over the side and straight down the mountain. Behind him, the lights from the valley twinkled for miles, making the city look alluring, even sexy. Night was the only time Los Angeles really shined. Gone were the smog and the junkies and the soul-crushing traffic, all replaced by an idyllic vista of night sky and silently twinkling lights—like God himself descended into the Hollywood Hills and selected the most perfect Snapchat filter for his least favorite city on earth.

Miles smiled at her, and she waved, but when he motioned again for her to join him, she shook her head no. All around her, people were partying in that intensely determined way that happened only on New Year’s Eve aftermidnight: this will be the most fun we’ve ever had; we will do and say outrageous things; we are loving our lives and everyone around us. The massive hot tub was packed with a dozen revelers, all with drinks in hand, and another group sat around the perimeter, content to dangle their feet while they waited for a few inches of space to free up. On the deck above the pool a DJ blasted remixed hip hop, and dancers
everywhere—on the patio, in the pool, on the pool deck, streaming in and out of the house—all moved happily to his playlist. On the chair to Emily’s left, a young girl wearing only bikini bottoms straddled a guy and massaged his shoulders while her bare breasts dangled freely. She worked her way down his back and began a rather aggressive handling of his glutes. She was twenty-three, twenty-five at most, and while her body was far from perfect—slightly rounded belly and overly curvy thighs—her arms didn’t jiggle and her neck didn’t sag. No crepey anything. Just youth. None of the small indignities of Emily’s own body at thirty-six: light stretch marks on her hips; cleavage with just the smallest hint of sag; some errant dark hairs along her bikini line that just seemed to sprout now willy-nilly, indifferent to Emily’s indefatigable waxing schedule. It wasn’t a horror show, exactly—she still looked thin and tan, maybe even downright hot in her elegant Eres two-piece—but it was getting harder with every passing year.

An unfamiliar 917 number flashed on her phone.
“Emily? This is Helene. I’m not sure if you remember, but we met a couple years ago at the Met Ball.”

Emily looked skyward in concentration. The name was familiar but she was having a hard time placing it.

“I’m Rizzo’s manager.”

Rizzo. Interesting. He was the new Bieber: the hottest new pop star whose fame had skyrocketed when, two years earlier at age sixteen, he’d become the youngest male to win a Grammy for best album. Helene had moved to Hollywood to join an agency—either ICM or Endeavor, Emily couldn’t remember—but she’d somehow missed the news that she now represented Rizzo.

“Of course. How are you?” Emily asked. She glanced at her watch. This was no ordinary call.

“I’m sorry I’m calling so late,” Helene said. “It’s already four a.m. here in New York, but you’re probably in LA. I feel terrible interrupting . . .”

“No, it’s fine. I’m at Gigi Hadid’s house and not nearly as drunk as I should be. What’s up?”

A shriek came from the pool. Two girls had jumped in together, holding hands, and were splashing Miles and a couple of his friends. Emily rolled her eyes.

“Well, I, uh . . .” Helene cleared her throat. “We’re off the record, right?”

“Of course.” This sounded promising.

“I’m not sure I understand the whole story myself, but Riz appeared on Seacrest’s Times Square show earlier tonight—everything was fine, it went off without a hitch. Afterward, I went to meet up with some old college friends and Rizzo was headed to some party at 1 OAK. Sober, at least when he left me. Happy about his performance.”

“Okay . . .”

“And just this second I got texted a picture from a colleague who works in ICM’s New York office and happens to be at 1 OAK right now . . .”

“And?” “And it’s not good.”
 

 

SHORT TAKES
The synopsis of : Lakshmy Ramanathan’s After The Storm reads, “Young and ambitious Meenakshi Iyer has better things to do than tie the knot, a decision her family had better get used to. Living in Mumbai, the trainee journalist is determined to find the perfect beat and, maybe, the perfect man - but on her own terms. The charismatic Arjun Rathore, head of the sports desk with the newspaper she works at, is the obvious candidate until she runs into Rakesh Ramakrishnan - a former suitor and a brilliant chef at his own restaurant, where business is booming. When Meenakshi and Rakesh visit Chennai to attend a wedding, the rain - and her feelings - become increasingly difficult to ignore. As floods threaten to swallow the city whole, prompting Rakesh and her family to throw themselves into relief work, emotions begin to pour over. Meenakshi must brace herself for the adventure ahead and discover what, and whom, her heart truly desires.”

After The Storm
By: Lakshmy Ramanathan
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Pages: 236



Unforeseen: A battle for his daughter's life by Chandan Sen Gupta, is about a Pakistani man trapped in a nightmarish situation in India. According to the synopsis, “When Yousuf, the young Pakistani teacher from Rasoolpur, sets off for India with his family for the life saving surgery of his ten-year-old daughter, little does he realise that his sojourn would soon turn into a nightmare from which there was no awakening. His unforeseen ordeal, which begins on the train from Lahore, continues as he is wrongly implicated in a murder at an Old-Delhi hotel. Convinced that the only way to prove his innocence is to expose the men behind the crime, he boards a train to Jammu. However, he is soon overtaken by the outlaws on whose trail he had set out. The out-of-breath Pakistani is pursued, both, by the police as well as murderous infiltrators. While he is on the run, Yousuf realises that much more than what meets the eye, is at stake. The question is – will he survive the ordeal and succeed in exposing those behind the conspiracy?”

Unforeseen : A battle for his daughter's life
By Chandan Sen Gupta
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages: 340


 
Rafina by Shandana Minhas is set in Karachi, is about the ambitions of a poor gir. Says the synopsis, “”Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I'm up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother's friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice. Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’. Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.”

Rafina
By Shandana Minhas
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Pages: 280

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