Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss by Rachel Clarke

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Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss by Rachel Clarke

Published by: Little Brown UK

Non Fiction, 336p

Rating: 4.50/5 stars

Book summary

‘What a remarkable book this is; tender, funny, brave, heartfelt, radiant with love and life. It brought me often to laughter and – several times – to tears. It sings with joy and kindness’ Robert Macfarlane

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Life in My Hands comes this vibrant, tender and deeply personal memoir that finds light and love in the darkest of places.

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable. Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.

And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.

 

About the author:

Rachel Clarke is an English physician specializing in palliative care for the National Health Service. She is an author, a former journalist and an activist.

My Review*

*Thank you Little Brown UK for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

 This is a book that will touch you in the deepest way possible. Rachel Clarke, a former journalist takes to studying medicine and through her interactions with the people she comes into contact, make us pause and think of what is it that a person wants most when he/she is sick and ailing. Peppered with personal anecdotes that tells us part of her life journey, ‘Dear Life’ not only gives us a peek into the time when the author is the doctor but also gives personal insights of her experience of being a doctor, care giver and daughter in the section drawing from her most intimate experience of caring for her father, a doctor who is diagnosed with cancer.

Clarke writes with compassion and empathy yes, but also gives much of herself: all her doubts and insecurities when she engages with the people in her care, her learnings and due respect for the people around her: her colleagues and the patients and their families.

She makes a compelling point about the meaning of life and its purpose when faced with the inevitable that in the end, it looks like nothing: to be alive in the moment, to draw a smile, to feel the moment. Making a strong call for empathy, she makes readers informed about how people who come in as patients loss control over their bodies when doctors, medicines and medical equipment take over. The anecdotes and insights on palliative care and how medical personnel can make a difference in the last moments of people and their loved ones will make you teary eyed for sure but also is deeply informative for mostly, we end up subjecting those we love to what we think is the best.

Personally, I cared for my father for two years when I was just in my early 20s and it’s taken a me a long time to realize that those two years have affected me in a way that I am still unraveling. How I wish, such a book was around to give me courage and some sound knowledge. Many sections left me weeping but never despondent and therein lies the beauty of this book: that it takes you to the most intimate and scary notions about illness, dying and grieving but that it also gives profound insights and hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Window Lived in the Wall by Vinod Kumar Shukla, Satti Khanna (Translator)

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A Window Lived in the Wall by Vinod Kumar Shukla, Satti Khanna (Translator)

Published by: Eka/Westland Publications

Fiction, 242p

Rating: 4.50/5 stars

Book summary

Raghuvar Prasad teaches mathematics at a mofussil town college. He travels to work by jitney, cramming into the little spaces left by other passengers, their milk cans, vegetable baskets and the like. Sometimes, these jitneys have not the slightest gap he can squeeze into, and Raghuvar Prasad must find other ways to commute. And that’s how, on the day his newly-wed bride arrives in town, Raghuvar Prasad happens to come home riding an elephant. She imagines elephants are a part of his regular lifestyle.

 

A Window Lived in the Wall delicately peels back the many layers of Raghuvar and Sonsi’s beautiful marriage. While there is the grandeur of an elephant outside, there is also the minimalism of their home. Their possessions are meagre, their one-room rental barely accommodates a bed and some kitchen utensils. But beyond the window of their one room is a magical place that sustains Raghuvar Prasad and Sonsi’s spirit.

 

At a time when critics have announced a crisis of imagination in Hindi literary fiction, Vinod Kumar Shukla continues to dazzle us with his investigations of the hidden magic in ordinary things. A work of deceptive simplicity from one of the finest writers of our times.

 

About the author:

Vinod Kumar Shukla is a poet and novelist writing in Hindi. He work mixes daily experiences with dreams, the mundane with the surreal. Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi (A Window lived in a Wall) won the Sahitya Akademi Award for the best Hindi work in 1999.

 

About the Translator:

Satti Khanna is an Associate Professor at Duke University, USA. He has translated novels by Vinod Kumar Shukla and Suryakant Tripathi Nirala besides a travelogue by Mohan Rakesh.

 

 

My Review*

 

*Thank you Westland Publications for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

I am still trying to find a way to describe the thoughts and feelings that this book evoked in me. It’s nothing like what I have read: there’s Raghuvar Prasad who teaches mathematics to primary school children in a small town college who lives in a small rented room. He takes a jitney to the college and is on the verge of starting a married life with his wife. That is how A Window Lived in the Wall starts and before you know it, you find yourself marveling at the word play, the poetry that emerges from short sentences, the languor that envelops the pace taking the reader to the sheer delight of what our imagination can lead us to discover.

 

Having heard so much about the writings of the author, I had to read this acclaimed book and it left me thinking that it could have gone into any direction: about domestic life, about life’s purpose, about relentless struggles, about poverty or about battling social ills. It’s none of this: instead, we are taken to in a different realm altogether with the characters in the book through a window in the wall! Outside of the house are an elephant and a sadhu who becomes part of Raghuvar’s daily commute to work bringing delightful asides.

 

Shukla’s writing touches upon the magic of simplicity, of wonder and joy in small things, the uniqueness that we miss in what we assume are the mundane matters of everyday life. I loved the eloquence of conversations filled with the hope of where the talk could go. Shukla’s writing is not something to be boxed up neatly in a genre: it’s vibrant in terms of the imagery it evokes in the simplest of word play. It is not so much about a story with a beginning and an end but the many journeys that the main protagonist takes us to his world, a world that is not so much about material possessions but one of harmony with nature and thoughts and people.

 

The writing is dream like: it is fluid prose that reads like poetry or rather it is poetry kept at bay as sentences but carries readers to vivid imagery of moods and settings. I am absolutely smitten and will read more of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

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The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

Published by: Pushkin Vertigo

Fiction: Crime, Mystery

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary

A bestselling and internationally-acclaimed masterpiece of the locked-room mystery genre.

Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead- in a room locked from the inside. His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women. Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural Japan.

By 1979, these Tokyo Zodiac Murders have been obsessing a nation for decades, but not one of them has been solved. A mystery-obsessed illustrator and a talented astrologer set off around the country – and you follow, carrying the enigma of the Zodiac murderer through madness, missed leads and magic tricks. You have all the clues, but can you solve the mystery before they do?

Born in 1948 in Hiroshima prefecture, Soji Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ by international audiences. A novelist, essayist and short-story writer, he made his literary debut in 1981 with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which was shortlisted for the Edogawa Rampo Prize. Blending classical detective fiction with grisly violence and elements of the occult, he has gone on to publish several highly acclaimed series of mystery fiction, including the casebooks of Kiyoshi Mitarai and Takeshi Yoshiki.

In 2009, Shimada received the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award in recognition of his life’s work.

About the author:

Soji Shimada is a musician and writer on astrology and is best known as an author of over 100 mystery novels. After spending years as a dump truck driver, free writer, and musician, he made his debut as a mystery writer in 1981 when The Tokyo Zodiac Murders remained as a finalist in the Edogawa Rampo Prize. His works often involve themes such as the death penalty, Nihonjinron (his theory on the Japanese people), and Japanese and international culture.

My Review

Soji Shimada’s writing is all kinds of wit and trolling, lots of clever references to Japanese socio cultural incidents and wicked story telling. The Tokyo Zodiac Murders features a 40-year-old unsolved series of cold blooded and grisly murder that involves a lot of zodiac signs and metallurgy preceded by a locked room murder. The two main protagonists – Kiyoshi Mitarai, an astrologer and Kazumi Ishioka, a freelance illustrator; are presented duly as a pair akin to Sherlock and Watson, complete with Ishioka being the narrator who wants to prove he is as good as Mitarai.

Mystery investigations and thrillers today are all about fast action under an onslaught of clues and drama with twists serving as plot points. We also have psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators crowding for attention but this Shimada book is sheer delight in the way it entices readers to believe that they are part of the mystery solving team. There is an almost old school approach to the mystery solving but the pace never lags for there’s some heavy duty trolling of Sherlock Holmes and his sleuthing skills even as the nature of the investigations and process of elimination of suspects and clues follows the Sherlock style. Shimada even pulls in a Hitchcock stunt by directly entering the story and asking readers if we have solved the case!

During the turn of events in the case solving, there are references to an actual case of murder that made international headlines in Japan in the 1930s (and subject of a film later) that add as a note to readers on the socio milieu of Japan then. There is a lot of humor in the way the two protagonists interact with one another and the people around them that blunts the blood and gore and one almost wishes there is would be an onscreen adaptation of the book…it’s that good.

 

I am enthralled by Shimada and will definitely look up his other murder mysteries for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

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In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Published by: Scribner/Simon & Schuster UK

Fiction, 340p

Rating: 3.50/5 stars

Book summary

New York Times and worldwide bestselling “dazzling storyteller” Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

 

About the author:

Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the “magic realism” tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together.

My Review

Isabel Allende keeps her writing contemporary this time, veering far away from the magical realism that she writes with great flourish. However, this Allende book features relevant and complex themes revolving around three main protagonists: the exploitation of the oppressed, the fate of immigrants in America and the question of justice. There are also subtle subtexts: the idealism of youth that gets defeated over time beaten down by the violence of the order of things around them, the way relationships meander and get snuffed out. Towards the end of the book, there is an attempt to bring in the question of what is justice though that looks more like an after thought.

‘In the Midst of Winter’ starts on an extremely cold note (literally) in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn and while the ravages of nature happen on outside, three different people are forced by circumstances to share the same space which leads them to look at their life journeys. Richard Bowmaster, a human rights scholar at NYU and his tenant, Chilean Lucia Maraz, a visiting professor who teaches Latin American and Caribbean studies and Evelyn Ortega, a young undocumented worker from Guatemala whose life is a series of harrowing experiences. Of the three, Richard and Lucia are in their early 60s and I must say, that it is a refreshing plot device to look at things and situations from at an age where there is a lot happening.

Allende takes readers to varying landscapes through the life experiences of the three protagonists – politically, culturally and historically through Chile, Gautemala , Brazil while bringing readers back to what is unfolding in Brooklyn where the situation is fraught not just because of the weather but a situation that is spiralling out of control for the placid, set in life Richard.

There is some amount of drama and pathos in this book but it must be said that if you go in to this book expecting Allende’s earlier style of writing, you might end up disappointed. However, if you treat this book without the weight of Allende’s earlier works, the sweeping setting, the pathos and the back-stories of the characters may just leave a lump in your throat.

 

 

Girl in White Cotton: A Novel by Avni Doshi

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Girl in White Cotton: A Novel by Avni Doshi

Published by: Fourth Estate/Harper Collins India

Fiction, p274

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary

Antara has never understood her mother Tara’s decisions — walking out on her marriage to follow a guru, living on the streets like a beggar, shacking up with an unknown artist, rebelling against society’s expectations … But when Tara starts losing her memory, Antara searches for a way to make peace with their shared past, a past that haunts them both. As she relives her childhood in Pune in the 1980s, her Catholic boarding school days in the hills of Maharashtra, and her years as a young artist in Bombay, Antara comes up against her own fears and neuroses, realizing she might not be so different from Tara after all.

Girl in White Cotton is a journey into shifting memories, alteringnidentities and the subjective nature of truth. Tracing the fragile linebetween familial devotion and deception, Avni Doshi’s mesmerizing first novel will surprise and unsettle you.

About the author:

Avni Doshi was born in New Jersey. Avni has been awarded the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize and a Charles Pick Fellowship. She lives in Dubai.

My Review*

*Thank you Harper Collins India for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

 ‘Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them’ so said Oscar Wilde. This quote held center stage for me as I read Avni Doshi’s searing debut work, ‘Girl In White Cotton’, a book that is not going to be an easy read: from the way the writing is structured, the interplay of characters and the manner in which plot points don’t emerge to ambush readers towards a resolution. The narrative is entirely from the viewpoint of one protagonist – Antara and structured in a sparse ‘in your face’ word play that will leave readers gasping. Readers looking for syrupy family ties and rosy familial love with oodles of emotional drama and back stories of why the main protagonists are the way they are, will not be able to appreciate the way the mother daughter ties in this one is portrayed: frayed at the edges with traces of resentment and a lot of bottled up discomfort.

‘Girl in White Cotton’ is an almost clinical look at the dynamics between her and her mother Tara, following the disclosure that the later is suffering the loss of memory. Various anecdotes come into the picture, as do certain backstories: a mother who abandons her marriage to follow a Guru in an ashram with a young child in tow, a mother who takes to living on the streets and begging as opposed to going back to her parents and then living with a young artist who walks out on her. One has to make do with the bare essentials that tease the reader for there are no explanations or rationale as to why Tara or Antara are the way they are to each other and the people around them.

Antara revisits only sections of her memories associated with her mother who on her part contests those memories leading Antara to frantic thinking over what people would make of her. The ‘people’ here definitely will include the reader and that’s where the brilliance of this book lies: in the things that are unsaid even as what is said jolts you. Avni Doshi’s writing is not poetic or evocative but there is a searing quality to her expressions and the word play. She makes no attempt to take readers into the minds, heart and soul of the characters: rather, she pushes you into a stark push and pull between two characters that leaves you gasping.

Read this if you are looking at a bold new approach to writing (on the Indian scene). Girl in White Cotton is definitely not the regular novel that tells you a great story: its uniqueness lies in how the story makes you react, in the way it is told – in bits and pieces that you try to put together only to change shape and form and structure.

 

 

The Barabanki Narcos: Busting India’s Most Notorious Drug Cartel by Aloke Lal

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The Barabanki Narcos: Busting India’s Most Notorious Drug Cartel by Aloke Lal

Published by: Hachette India

Non Fiction: True Crime, 190p

Rating: 3.50/5 stars

Book summary

In 1984 – a politically charged time in northern India – Aloke Lal, a young officer, is posted to Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, as the Chief of Police.

In the small, backward district, known for little other than its opium production and smuggling rackets, Lal finds himself in the middle of a well-entrenched web of crime run by a dangerous drug mafia whose seemingly endless supply of black money appears to have bought out local politicians and district officials and influenced higher rungs of power.

Determined to annihilate the opium chain, Lal sets out on a path that sees him make unlikely allies and deadly enemies as he is led from the red-light districts of Lucknow to midnight highway interceptions and perilous raids that shake up the Barabanki cartel. But do such actions against powerful criminal organizations ever come without consequences? And what political games are being played in the corridors of power even as this upright officer tries to ride the gathering storm of an enraged underworld?

The Barabanki Narcos is the thrilling true story behind the largest-ever opium bust in history – the methodical build-up to the operation, the deadly aftermath and the ensuing events that would leave a lasting impact on north Indian politics – narrated by the man who led the action at the centre of it all.

About the author:

Jane Aloke Lal is a fomer Indian Police Service Officer who has been awarded medals for meritorious and distinguished services, rising to the top rank of Director General of Police. Apart from being a writer, Aloke Lal is a well known painter.

My Review*

*Thank you Hachette India for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Coming from a region whose proximity to the Golden Triangle, which produces the world’s purest and maximum amount of heroin and other narcotic drugs, I was most fascinated to read this account of a drug bust in the 80s by a Police Officer in the badlands of North India. Most non fiction writing by Indian authors, except historical narratives lack steam and tend to be dry but not this one. The sole complaint you will have of this book is that you want more anecdotes, more stories. At 190 pages, this is too short a read, more so since the build up is crisp and taut that leads to an electrifying account of the largest opium bust ever.

As the tittle itself gives it out, this is Aloke Lal’s account of the way he tackled the drug/opium menace in Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh: starting from how he builds contacts with the local people, steering clear of political interference, corruption and intimidation by gangs. The humane look at how addiction ravages individuals, families and society as a whole is captured poignantly. Apart from the events that lead to the drug busts, the author brings a vivid capture of the socio economic and political backdrop of Uttar Pradesh in the 80s and takes one to a time when the Indian Police fought its battles with the right adversary and came on top too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges

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Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges

Published by: Tranquebar/Westland Publications

Fiction, 216p

Rating: 4.50/5 stars

Book summary

Bombay was the city everyone came to in the early decades of the nineteenth century: among them, the Goans and the Mangloreans. Looking for safe harbor, livelihood, and a new place to call home. Communities congregated around churches and markets, sharing lord and land with the native East Indians. The young among them were nudged on to the path of marriage, procreation and godliness, though noble intentions were often ambushed by errant love and plain and simple lust. As in the story of Annette and Benji (and Joe) or Michael and Merlyn (and Ellen).

Lovers and haters, friends and family, married men and determined singles, churchgoers and abstainers, Bombay Balchao is a tangled tale of ordinary lives – of a woman who loses her husband to a dockyard explosion and turns to bootlegging, a teen romance that drowns like a paper boat, a social misfit rescued by his addiction to crosswords, a wife who tries to exorcise the spirit of her dead mother in law from her husband, a rebellious young woman who spurns true love for the abandonment of dance. Ordinary, except through their own eyes. Then, it’s legend.

Set in Caval, a tiny Catholic neighborhood on Bombay’s D’Lima Street, this delightful debut novel is painted with many shades of history and memory, laughter and melancholy, sunshine and silver rain.

About the author:

Jane Borges is a Mumbai based journalist. She currently writes on books, heritage and urban planning for Mid-Day. She has previously co-authored Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands with S. Hussain Zaidi. Bombay Balchao is her first fiction novel.

My Review*

*Thank you Westland Publications for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Bombay Balchao is a book that teases readers with its narrative structure, its characters and setting. Set in Caval, a tiny Catholic neighborhood on Bombay’s D’Lima Street, the author effortlessly weaves an intergenerational tale of a Goan catholic family, the Coutinhos living in Bosco Mansion, an old two storeyed building. Other residents of the building and the neighbors of the Coutinhos, the lives they live and the situations they find themselves in make for an engaging read.

The back and forth in the chronology of events can be slightly confusing to begin with but the narrative casts a spell that binds the reader to turn the pages while stopping at times to laugh with consternation at times and at times with great amusement. The characters are unique and their life journeys more so: one sided love, elopements, a miracle regarding a Pastor on fire (literally), a crazy misunderstanding over chikkoos and the matter of ghosts and some more.

Borges takes readers to the history of the Catholic population in the city of Bombay, peppering the book with historical facts and fictional ties which makes for fascinating reading: the diversity in the community stemming from different backgrounds: the East Indian Christians who are descendants of the Portuguese colonial elements, the Goan Catholics and the Manglorean Catholics.

The cherry on top is the reference to the culinary richness of the Catholics and how food plays an integral role in times of celebration and conversations with how just the mix of spices to make a common dish can taste so different. The chapter on a main protagonist making Balchao, the Goan masala paste/pickle is poignant and evocative, leaving one longing to reach out and taste it and be seduced by it. That chapter alone is poetry and will create a flutter of emotions in the reader, as it does, to the characters involved.

The sprinkling of socio political history in the narrative and the contributions of the Catholic population in the backdrop of existential issues in Bombay/Mumbai: shared spaces, rent and landlord issues, water allocation and housing woes coupled with the mix of characters that are extremely regular people yet so unique personalities make Bombay Balchao an unforgettable read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing/ Bloomsbury India

Fiction: Mythology, 282p

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, who spurns those who seek to control her.

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

About the author:

Neil Richard Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theatre, and films. He has been a journalist interviewer and wrote book reviews to begin with. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008)

My Review*

*Thank you Bloomsbury India for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Neil Gaiman is a master when it comes to creating characters and fictional settings that make a place in the imagination and affection of his readers. Throw in mythology and you have a heady mix already in your hands considering the author has worked extensively in the comic and TV world, which makes his writing very contemporary and full of imagery and action that one can almost feel while reading.

Norse mythologies have not been much known till the time the Marvel character universe unfolded on film screens and I was tickled to find that Gaiman himself took up writing this book after watching the film made him explore Norse Gods and parables and myths. This is not to say that Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is contemporary popular culture: far from it for the stories and characters are based on serious readings of Norse mythology based poems and writings which the author has breathed new life to.

The book is a narrative rendered in short story form and read like character sketches as well as giving readers some anecdotes about the Nordic world before humans: the world of gods and giants and dwarves and magical powers. What struck me while reading this book was how across regions and cultures and mythologies, there are elements of good and evil and the mischief making elements who wreck havoc in the scheme of things. Hence, there is Lucifer in Christian world and there is Narad Munni and to some extent, the character of Krishna in the Hindu iconology. In the Nordic world of course, there is Loki who relishes being his crazy naughty self.

The Norse mythology is a huge universe and Gaiman has not only selected themes of loyalty, family ties, the ravages of time, annihilation and new beginnings but also features a laugh out loud chapter on the creation of good poetry and bad poetry.

Mythologies are often steeped in heavy word flow or kept at their most simple form so they appeal to young readers but in Gaiman’s hands, Norse Mythology has a crackling appeal that keeps readers enthralled by its pace and way Loki cocks a snook at the various Gods and their serious demeanors. My only complaint is that Gaiman has not given us enough of the women in the Norse mythology universe.