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Friday , April 22 , 2011
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Paperback Pickings

Two drifters off to see the world

The Swimmer (Harper, £7.99) by Roma Tearne is the author’s fourth novel. In a small village near the coast of Suffolk, Ria leads a solitary existence, riddled with pain and regret after her father’s death. So removed is she from the world that a slew of suspicious animal killings in the surrounding fields escapes her notice. What doesn’t, however, is the mysterious, gorgeous man who swims at night in the river beyond her house. Soon they meet, and he turns out to be Ben, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka. The two become friends and passionate lovers, before tragedy strikes — and Ria is reminded all over again that nothing, not even love, lasts forever.Tearne’s love and longing for Sri Lanka, from where her family fled, is palpable. Through the splendidly complex character of Ben, Tearne reminisces about the beautiful land she was uprooted from. While her prose is inconsistent, regularly losing its tautness and clarity, the doomed, messy relationship between Ria and Ben is what sticks on in the reader’s mind.

Sugar and Spice (HarperCollins, Rs 250) by Lauren Conrad is the the last book in the reality television star’s hugely popular series, L.A. Candy. Full of sex, glamour, deceit, arc lights and heartbreak, it is complete with all the trappings of the quintessential Hollywood novel. Television personality Jane Roberts has been betrayed by the people she trusted far too many times to place her faith in anyone easily again. However, as the protagonists in novels such as this are wont to do, her no-more-men-for-me rule goes flying out of the window when a former flame, Caleb, and an unrequited love, Braden, both decide to shower her with attention. Thereafter, it becomes difficult to turn the pages. Conrad’s banal prose and Jane’s ridiculous, distressed damsel act are enough to make hopeless romantics stay off romance novels for a while.

Chopped Green Chillies in Vanilla Ice Cream (Rupa, Rs 195) by Sam Mukherjee is an exercise in futility. Not only is the story thoroughly unconvincing, but Mukherjee’s incessant harping on stereotypes tends to get irritating. At the heart of the novel is the overweight Chinmoy Bose, whose family wins the lottery and moves to a more expensive neighbourhood, enabling Chinmoy to make friends and dream of going to the United States of America. Unfortunately, that is where the novel’s progress halts, and the rest of the book can at best be described as static.

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