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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Book Review : 'She Persisted Around the World' by Chelsea Clinton and Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Chelsea Clinton wrote this book and it was illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. The book spoke of so much but then again, it kind of stopped me, with its cover itself. The book, spoke of Dr Mary Verghese, an Indian doctor, it also spoke of an African professor, Wangari Maathai but then again, it spoke of a girl in a wheelchair, who am guessing is Mexican writer, Sor Juana Ines. 

One can guess that from the girl with a pen and a writing pad, but I still do not get her in a wheelchair…? I did read up about her, but I really cannot find out, why. If anybody can point me in the right direction, then I would be happy to change it. Yet, it was a good book, as it spoke of some of the best women across the world. 

Sor Juana Ines focused on her writing and poetry, despite being born in a place where as a girl she was never allowed at a school, as it was disallowed for women. She ‘persisted’ in finding tutors, who did not mind teaching a girl. Her first published argument, for women’s right to be educated in the Americas, along with her poems and plays was among those, published.

We also have little Caroline Herschel, who although had typhus, which left her at four feet reached for the stars. She left her native Germany for England, where she became the first woman to discover the a comet. Today, there are quite a few comets that have her name.

Marie Curie is a supremely popular scientist, who worked in radioactivity and became the first woman to ever win two Nobel Prizes, in the world. I remember reading about her in school, and what struck me was the fact that she won one in Physics and one in Chemistry.

Dr Mary Verghese, who despite being in a car crash, where she lost both her legs continued to care for women, who have lost the use of their legs. Or have had accidents or illnesses that could affect their working. But she did so, in spite of needing to work from her wheelchair, and founded the first functional rehabilitation centre in India.

Wangari Maathai, was first woman in East and Central Africa, to become a professor at the University of Nairobi. She was the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize, and her legacy includes 50 million trees the Green Belt Movement, had helped plant and also, helped protect and defend rights of fellow Kenyans.

The two people, I was struck with are JK Rowling, with her acclaimed ‘Magical’ series of Harry Potter, with 400 million books in print. And also, Siseide ‘Sissi’ Lia do Amor, who strove to play soccer in her country, Brazil. It was not allowed at that time, and she became known as the Queen of Brazilian Football. Doing something, so different from everyone else.

Malala Yousafzai was only 11, and you have probably already heard of her. She wanted to get an education at her native Pakistan, and some girls there were not allowed this. She was just fifteen, when a man boarded her school bus and shot her,  because she wanted to go to school and she was the only one with the courage to stand up for a ‘girl’ to study. She won the Nobel Prize, while she still is at school and is now in the USA, though.

Chelsea Clinton (Wikipedia)
Alexandra Boiger (Wernick&Pratt Agency)
I have missed out a few but; hey this is a review, right? The most interesting part of this book were the illustrations. The book was of children or better yet, women in activism, arts, education, sports, and even science. It was well put together by Chelsea Clinton and even better drawn out by Alexandra Boiger. It speaks of 13 women, who have changed history and the world itself, all in their tiny ways and their brilliant ideas. 

You can Buy the Book, right here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Author Interview : Aditya Iyengar, author of ‘A Broken Sun' (Part 2)

Read up, Interview with Aditya Iyengar, author of 'A Broken Sun' (Part 2). Here, he tells us one book that he was inspired by, while writing this book, what he is planning on writing next, who his favourite authors and which books he is currently, reading and a lot more, Folks...

I am sure; you have probably taken inspiration from a few other books? Is there any particular one, you were most fascinated by and why?

Colleen McCullough’s 'Song of Troy' and Kiran Nagarkar’s ‘Cuckold’ were huge inspirations. They are such beautifully written novels, it’s hard not to fall under their sway.  

What are you planning on writing next? When would you see that released?

My next book is a work of historical fiction. It’s called ‘The Conqueror’ and deals with the Chola conquest of the Srivijaya empire  (which was located in modern day Indonesia) in 1025 AD. It is out in early June 2018.

Is there an author you take inspiration from?

Kiran Nagarkar and Arun Kolatkar, who really opened out Indian writing in English to the world. ‘Cuckold’ and ‘Jejuri’ are among the finest books ever written in the history of literature in my opinion.  

Susanna Clarke
 Who are your favourite authors and why?

Let’s do this alphabetically (since it is a lazy Saturday morning): Arun Kolatkar, George Saunders, Kiran Nagarkar, Paul Murray, Susanna Clarke, to name a few, very few.

Which are your favourite books?

My current favourite is George Saunders’ ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’.  Other than that: The Flashman Papers, American Gods, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, Cuckold, The Mark and The Void, Jejuri… phew, that’s as much as I can jog my memory on Saturday (it’s a rare holiday for her too, after all).   
Which book are you reading, currently?

I’m currently reading ‘China’ by John Keay. It’s a wonderful book that compresses the history of China into a slim 600-odd pages. 

Aditya Iyengar
What do you do on a day to day basis, besides writing stories?

I have a day-job working in a digital media house. Other than that, I’m a foodie, always eager to try different kinds of cuisine. I love reading books like most writers do, and watching films and TV shows.

You can Read the Review, here First part of the Interview here and Buy the Book right here, as well.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Author Interview : Aditya Iyengar, author of ‘A Broken Sun' (Part 1)

Aditya Iyengar
Read up, part one of the Interview with Aditya Iyengar, author of 'A Broken Sun'. It was a different kind of a book, I say this because, not only does it not have a sense of a typical war. But we all know, it was the Mahabharata war and how it went... But how far does it hold on? Truly explaining, it is the author in this interview. 

In this part, he tells us how the story first happened, the kind of research he has put into it, how he relates the lives of the five main characters in this book to the lives, today. He also tells us the challenging parts and  the fulfilling part of writing this book. There is more in the next part of this Interview, Folks... 

How did ‘A Broken Sun’ happen? What is the research that has gone into it?

A Broken Sun’ is the sequel to my book ‘The Thirteenth Day’ that told a demythologized version of the Mahabharata, set in the Iron Age - without the divine intervention, nuclear potential astras, demonic rakshasas, etc. The novel also narrated the Mahabharata from the perspective of some of its chief characters - Yudhisthira, Karna (known as Radheya in my novels), and Abhimanyu.   

CR Rajagopalachari (from Wikipedia)
‘A Broken Sun’ continued from where the first part had left off and took the story ahead. While ‘The Thirteenth Day’ dealt with the thirteenth day of the war, most notably the Chakravyuha; ‘A Broken Sun’ deals with its aftermath - Arjuna’s vengeance.

I read a few versions of the Mahabharata and other texts about Iron Age India, but KM Ganguli’s and C Rajagopalachari’s versions of the epic served as key inspirations. 

How do you think your book, ‘A Broken Sun’ is different from everyone else’s?

All retellings of the Mahabharata have their own charm. But I’m not sure if anyone has retold the Mahabharata without the mythical aspect.

How would you relate the live of the five main characters in this book to the lives today? Any similarities?

I wanted to make all the characters of the Mahabharata relatable through this series, so I’ve stripped away the mythic element from the story and I’ve focused more on their own insecurities as they fight on the battlefield.

Their challenges - sibling rivalry, parental conflict, jostling for position and power, are challenges many people face these days, and have faced since the beginning of humankind.

Any challenges you had to face, while writing this particular book?

Character development is always a challenge, and when you get it right, an unmitigated pleasure. 

But other than that, since this was the second part of a series and I had the research available, it was relatively easier to write.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book?

Writing itself is a very fulfilling activity to me. All books have their own challenges and highs.  

In this series, drawing out the characters of Yudhishthira and Radheya over two books and Ghatotkacha, Arjuna, Sushasana in ‘A Broken Sun’ were most satisfying.

You can Read the Review, and Buy the Book here, as well.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Reviews : 'Rani Lakshmibai' by Sonia Mehta and 'Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi' by Deepa Agarwal

I am currently looking at two books, both of which, are about the same brave heroine, Rani Lakshmibai. The junior version has been written for Junior Lives is titled simply, ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ by Sonia Mehta (Junior Lives). While the other one, titled ‘Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi’ by Deepa Agarwal (Puffin Lives) is also produced by relatively, the same publisher. 

I am sure, all of us have heard about the great and heroic queen, who was not supposed to be a queen, yet she becomes one, and a brilliant one at that. She is born roughly around 1827, in Kashi (Varanasi, as it is known, today) into a Brahmin family; and a tomboy she is from the very start. 

She was named Manikarnika at birth, and she did not prefer dolls. She was more the outdoorsy kind of a girl, preferring to ride elephants and horses. But, unfortunately she lost her mother at two. And she grew up, becoming a tomboy, and also learning and doing almost everything that men did.  

She also read and wrote Sanskrit and also a bit of Persian. At a very young age, she along with two of her best friends, Nana Sahib, who was chosen to be Peshwa’s successor and also, Tantia Tope, who was much older than her, were a sight to see. The three of them, together were a hugely popular sight in town because of the naughty and adventurous stuff, which they got to do.

While she was at it, from a kingdom called Jhansi, ruled by a responsible man named Gangadhar Rao, who had lost his wife, came a proposal. Agreed to, by the father, Manu soon became the queen and she, who convinced her husband that she needed to ride and also state her point of view in official matters. She slowly took on a lot of official duties and was encouraged in the same by her husband. She also gave birth to a son named Damodar Rao, who died after a few months.

The British had decided to take over the country slowly, by then. They had laid down a rule, saying that if a state did not have an heir they would automatically take over the state. In the meanwhile, Gangadhar Rao decided to adopt a son and he wrote a letter to Lord Dalhousie informing him of the same, but this took its own time to get there. Unfortunately, Lakshmibai was widowed at twenty-six.

This is where I make the switch to 'Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi'. Major Ellis immediately informed the news of his death to Dalhousie. But Dalhousie had additional plans; he refused to accept the fact that Jhansi had an heir. Instead, Lakshmibai was granted a pension of Rs 5,000 per month.

Lakshmibai, who was unaware of all this got her advisers to declare that
Damodar was the new heir to the throne. Jhansi was swept in grief on the death of her King. But Lakshmhibai, herself had plans.

They decided to make war with the British. The first thing, Lakshmibai did was to recall all the 3,240 army officers, belonging to all castes and creeds. Plus, she always dressed in male attire, blue silk jacket, tight trousers and a turban; she also had a sword tucked in the silk sash, around her waist. Occasionally, she would wear the white sari, which was her widowed attire.

Another claimant to the throne, Sadashiv Rao Narayana was a great grandson to Gangadhar Rao’s ancestor, Sadashiv Pant. He laid claim to the throne, earlier. He crowned himself, King of Jhansi, and demanded allegiance. Lakshmibai, sent an army, which routed him. She was also threatened by the Rajput rulers around her kingdom. But she still won the day.

She kept on writing to the British, telling them of the dangerous position, she was in. She prepared the city for the battle that was always looming over her. What would happen in the end? Would Damodar Rao take over the kingdom? Would she continue to survive the battle? Or does she live on as a ghost, as some sightings were reported…

Read on, both the books, and let’s see which one is preferred. ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ by Sonia Mehta and done with excellent illustrations by Jitendra Mahadik or Deepa Agarwal’s ‘Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi’, with its own spots of trivia of India and also the world. 

You can Buy Book 1 and Book 2, right here.