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Paperback Pickings

Travels through time

Tower (Penguin, Rs 399) by Avan Jesia is a tale of love and foreboding in a close-knit Parsi family, spanning several generations. Jesia’s prose has a lyrical quality — she gracefully fuses myths with literary allusions. The author effectively uses the stream of consciousness method to make the plot travel through time and space. There are inter-textual references, such as to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Mrs Dalloway, along with other literary devices such as the use of myths, poems and letters to carry the story forward. The novel has a sinister undertone — dark forebodings of death and doom loom over the text. This is often communicated through ominous symbols such as the raven.

A Child and a war (Samatat Prakashan, Rs 150) by Bijaya Ghosh is a first person account of an 11-year old girl from the minority Hindu community in Bangladesh. The narrative voice effectively captures the protagonist’s childlike astonishment mixed with fear when there is a sudden transition from peace to a riotous situation in Khulna, during the 1971 Bangladesh War. Socio-political history — the rise of the Awami League, its rivalry with the Muslim League, and the repercussions — is carefully juxtaposed with the personal narrative. The turmoil in the political arena and the displacement angst are reflected in the growing tension in the child’s mind as her family members get separated. Through all this, Ghosh brings out the complicated relationship between Hindus and Muslims, based on differences as well as on mutual affection. It is as much a tale of a search for identity as of the birth of a new nation.

Men on my mind (Rupa, Rs 195 ) by Radha Thomas fits the bill of a chick-lit, with a pseudo-rebellious protagonist who talks of female longing, initiation into the world of men and a desperate search for Mr Right. Thomas brings together all the possible clichés of this genre — heartbreaks and spa sessions, sprinkled with some humour. None of these manages to salvage the hackneyed prose.