The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

IMG_2288-2The book kept turning up on my best seller list. So I had to read it. My daughter in law gave me a gift coupon to a popular book store in Chennai which I splurged on four novels, one of them being, The Girl On The Train.

I loved the book and I read it in one day. The easy flow of the language was an added bonus.

The story is narrated by three women and not one of them is a reliable person. Without exception they are all unsteady characters – cheat, alcoholic, manipulative. This makes the narration all the more interesting. Nice girls are boring, right?

Wee bit of the story. Rachel travels by the same train every day, which stops at a red signal without fail. She looks into the houses beyond the tracks and imagines the lives of the people she sees for a moment twice every day. She is particularly interested in a couple and thinks them to be the happiest couple on earth and compares her shattered horrible existence with them. But one day while she looks out of her train window, she sees the woman with another man in an amorous interlude. Later when the papers announce that the woman was missing, presumed dead and the husband was the main suspect, she feels that she has to step in and set matters right.

The story takes off from there at an express train speed and does not stop till the culprit is apprehended.

The story is told as a first person account of Rachel the woman on the train, Megan the woman who goes missing and Anna the second wife of Tom, Rachel’s husband. The only thing that I found a little lame was the killer narrating the sequence of events to Rachel and Anna in the last chapter. It was as if the author wanted every bit of the tale to be bundled and neatly tied and served to the readers.

I would definitely recommend this fast faced psychological thriller to kill a boring afternoon or take with you for holiday reading.



The Book Thief By Markus Zusak


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was highly recommended on Goodreads. It was not available in my library and I could not wait to read it. So I ordered it on Flipkart. It was worth every rupee spent.

Let me say at the outset that I am not sure if everyone would like it. It is not filled with plots and sub plots, nor is it peopled by phenomenal characters. And it is set during the Second World War, a time period which does not appeal to many people.

I have read two other books of the Nazi era. They are, The Boy In the Stripped Pyjamas by John Boyne and The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. Though the truth depicted in the first book is much debated and the second is an authentic diary, I was much moved by them. This is the third book from that period depicting the disruption of the life of innocent children.

The Book Thief is classed under young adult fiction in some countries which might keep many adults from reaching for it. That would be their loss.

The Book Thief is the story of a young German girl Liesel living with foster parents in Germany. It is the story of how the girl learns to read, how she robs a few books to add to her book collection and how Liesel and her foster parents  hide a Jew in their basement. It is also the story of her friends, school mates and  neighbours and of how they face the distress caused by war. And the girl writes a book about this period in her life.

What makes this simple story stand out is that it is narrated by DEATH. Many people call it a gimmick because the story could have stood on its own. But I am not complaining as some of the most beautiful prose you can read, is uttered by Death.

In this novel, Death is not all black. In the introduction pages itself Death says that it can be cheerful, amiable and affable. But it cannot be nice, because being nice has nothing to do with death. For Death declares, “I meet everyone, once.”

Death acts as a spoilsport and informs us beforehand whose soul it is going to be carrying away next. But that is all right as being forewarned is good, especially if Death was going to carry away my favourite character in the novel, Rudy. Even Death is sad while carrying his soul away and says, “He does something to me that boy. Everytime. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.”

The novel is more than 500 pages long, but there is no hurried movement of story forward. It is filled with pages and pages of beautifully coined and well-worded descriptions about the lives of German kids during the war torn years. We are told about their games, their thieving, their petty squabbles, their love hate relationship and also their hiding in a basement during air raids. The adults are not depicted as Nasty Nazis, but as normal people with their every day living to do and people to love.

I cannot say enough about the crisp and effective language of Markus Zusak. Every page is filled with lines that tug at your heart and makes you read them one more time to let it all sink in.

Finally, when I finished reading this book and closed it with a sigh, my eyes were moist.








The Books I Read In December 2015.

IMG_20151015_112002Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati

“Oozing with men, money, and Maseratis, Dubai is the ultimate playground for the woman who knows her Louboutins from her Louis Vuittons…” It is the story of four women coming from different countries and different backgrounds trying to find love in Dubai.

Though I read the book in one sitting I did not like it very much. It is more like the Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City series and also reminds you of Jackie Collins novels.

The novel depicts women only as being vindictive and desperate for male attention. As for the language, it is not a literary masterpiece.




Wish You Well by David BaldacciIMG_20160109_112318

Young-adults would have lapped up this book. The protagonist is a precocious twelve-year old. That will tell you why I did not care for this book.

It is the story of a brother and sister who lose their dad in an accident, which also leaves their mother in a comatose state. They get shipped off from New York City to their great grand mother’s house in rural Virginia where there is no electricity, no running water and yet they fit in so easily.

Reminded me so much of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. Only it was all of the famous cousins’ adventures rolled into one mega book.




IMG_20151015_112011The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

I picked up this book because I liked the cover. I thought it would be a nice feel good book with lots of romance and cute characters as the cover had a nice Christmassy look to it.

But this an intriguing book with mystery and magic woven into its story.It is the story of Lou Suffern who is so immersed in his work that he had no time for his family. How he gets a “gift of time” and chance to make good his mistakes forms the story.

I was really moved by the last chapter of the novel and was in fact totally shaken by the concluding paragraph. I felt a little depressed for a day or two after reading this story.


Half Girlfriend By Chetan Bhagat.

10731047_10204941661691619_5238135348052195596_nI read Chetan Bhagat’s latest offering, “Half Girlfriend” and I was really upset as to how indifferent India’s hottest selling author had become. It is almost as if CB had written the novel without effort. It is just a lackadaisical attempt on the part of CB to churn out a few pages of writing and hope that publicity, a catchy title and his mega fame would sell the book.

The hero is from the village with a complex that his English is not good. But he has raging hormones. Through out the story/film he can think of nothing but kissing the heroine. He even has a bunch of half-baked cronies who goad him on.

The heroine is beautiful, plays basketball. (Chance to wear short clothes). She leads the hero on and even goes to his hostel room and lies on his bed. But when it comes to some action, she cries foul and bolts, right into the arms of a rich arrogant wolf.

But our hero’s mom is a Nirupa Roy character – the good mother who runs a non-profit school for the backward. The villain’s mom is flashy and cruel. The other characters in the novel are also archetypes who  fill in  pre ordained slots.

Half Girlfriend is just a rehash of all the old movies from the 50s and 60s. A Sunil Dutt and Waheeda Rehman would do justice to a film/story like this.

The story is decades old. (Spoiler Alert): Poor boy meets rich girl. Instant attraction. Love blossoms. A misunderstanding. They separate. Girl marries villain. Boy chucks up good job to work in his mother’s village school. Few years later boy meets girl again who is divorced and so way is clear for the boy to take off from where he left. Just when they are romancing in the village, our typical Indian mother does not want her son to marry a divorcee (OMG) and so the girl flees after feigning that she is dying of cancer. A few years later her diary turns up. Our hero dumps it in….Chetan Bhagat’s room, (Chance for CB to do a cameo in the film) CB  discovers that our heroine may be alive. So a chase across continents begins and in a filmy coincidence the two  lovers unite.

I forgot, Bill Gates makes an appearance in this novel, which is the only concession to modernity

I wonder if Chetan Bhagat really wrote this novel or he had some kind of an app in which he fed a few details and it did the rest.

I cannot comment on the language of the novel as CB delights in using simple English. But saying, the hero took the ‘yellow’ taxi too often or the American girl friends spoke American English or describing the heroine as having long hands, long legs and long fingers is taking simplicity too far.

I just saw that my 16-year-old niece has bought this novel and has updated her status on Facebook as “Can’t wait to read this book.” And her friends have commented, “Me too” or “Me next.”

With fans like these, CB can afford to rest on his laurels….. for sometime.



Bag Of Many Colours

My grand-daughter wanted a multi coloured crochet handbag to carry a book or two, on her school trips. So I made her this.

 I asked her, “Do you like it?”

She replied, “Do I like it?….. Do I like it??…. I so absolutely ADORE this!!”

That was so absolutely cute.

By: Gulsum Basheer, Chennai.