On fabled lives
- Published 1.06.18
• THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE SWEET AND SPICY SWEETSHOP (Puffin, Rs 250) by Nandini Nayar is proof that good writing does not have to be complicated. The story is based upon a sweetshop in a village, and the lives of the people around it. Nayar’s characters are interesting: be it the disinterested yet kindhearted shopkeeper, the two kids — always at loggerheads — claiming to be his relative, his sister who left the village to climb mountains, or even dancing household ghosts. The narration is cinematic, with one scene softly melting into the next. As such, not only will young readers find the storyline moving smoothly, but will also find it engrossing. The detailed descriptions add to the liveliness of the book. Chetan Sharma’s masterful illustrations successfully capture the most crucial moments of the plot. At no point is the local flavour lost, either in the language or in the artwork. The book is a perfect blend of wit and emotion.
• HIDDEN TRUTH: RAJA RAVI VARMA: THE INSIDE STORY (Notion, Rs 634) by Rukmini Varma is steeped in blind idolatry of the artist - an ancestor of the author - and glorification of aristocracy and socially dominant lineages. In this biography, the genius of the accomplished painter, Ravi Varma, is reduced to mere ideas of destiny, superstition and familial inheritance of spiritual power. There is hardly any discussion on his artistic techniques; when there is, it is unexceptional. The narration is digressive. In fact, the only good parts of the book are not written by the author. These include excerpts from Ravi Varma's writings - which are rich with his perception of colours - and some photographs from the family archives.