Empire Of The Moghul: Raiders From The North by Alex Rutherford

27 02 2012

Rating: 5/5, Must Read

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why Aren’t History Books In School Written Like This
Before I begin praising this book, I have to admit, I just love historical fiction so I might be a bit biased in my review, but only ever so slightly.

This book is so well written, it only takes a couple of pages to get you hooked. It is based on historical facts but written as a brilliant, ever-engaging and racy story. It is about Babur, a descendent of Timur and Genghis Khan, his long and painful journey from a 12 year old king to the founder of the Indian Moghul empire.
The details are amazing, they compel you to imagine everything as it happens. Not just incidents but descriptions as well. You end up visualising the mountains, the clothes, the wars and even the food. There might be a few distortions here and there as far as authenticity is concerned but from what I’ve heard, there are very few of those. I am not a historian but I like to check on facts when I’m reading books based on ‘supposedly’ actual happenings in history and I’m pretty much satisfied with this one. I don’t even mind minimal liberties taken in the name of creativity. A lot of historical writings can be open to subjective interpretations and anyway, there’s no one from Babur’s time to corroborate anything.

A lot of things about the story were as expected, the wars, the king’s lifestyle and so on but what was surprising were the hardships that Babur had to face before he took the decision to cross over to India. He didn’t exactly lead a ‘king’s life’ before he reached the golden land. Life wasn’t easy in those days, even for a king. It is interesting to see how he grows from an insecure child king to a mature and confident leader who has been through a lot in life. Maybe he was not a typical hero as you would have in novels but he surely comes across as an admirable fighter and winner; a real person not just a historical figure.

I always liked history as a subject in school but never scored much. Maybe things would have been different if we had books like these in our curriculum.

All in all, absolutely great, can’t wait to finish all five (the Moghul Quintet)! I would love to see this series turned into a movie, would be a certain super hit.
The funny thing is, it’s a book based on history and real people written by someone (!) called Alex Rutherford…who, well sort of, doesn’t even exist. Go figure that out!

You can also check out the review of the second book of the quintet:
Brothers At War - Alex Rutherford

Brothers At War

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

25 02 2012

Rating: 5/5, every adult & child should read

Genre: Fantasy, Children

A Little Boy In A Grown Up World
I had read this book a long time ago but really felt like reading it again. Seemed to have forgotten bits, but it all came back when I started reading it. It doesn’t take too long anyway.

One thing is for sure, Saint-Exupery couldn’t have been very fond of grownups and was not very happy about being a grown up himself. Although at times you feel he’s being a bit harsh on the adults, you can’t help but agree with most of the stuff. The storyline (if you can call it that) is a bit sad (as in the opposite of happy) on the whole. You want the Prince to stay. You want him to be happy. You want his flower to be happy. All his encounters leave you feeling a bit sad, not just for the prince but somehow for yourself and everyone else involved too.

Love the boa constrictor, elephant and hat bit. I tried it out myself and the adults immediately called it a hat while my kids got very close, one said snake and another said elephant.

Although the author keeps on about grownups being silly & not focussing on the important things in life, one would expect the little prince to be happy since he was a kid and therefore, should be enjoying the things that matter, right?! Wrong, he had his own set of worries, was sad about quite a few things. And although he was the only inhabitant of his tiny planet, I wouldn’t call him ‘the happiest person on the planet’!

Despite the ‘sad’ factor in the review, I love it. Altogether a sweet book, you can take it seriously but not TOO seriously. A super quick, enjoyable and thought provoking read. Can you think of any other book shorter than this one?

I just got to know about this wonderful pop-up edition and I just HAVE TO own it:





The Diary Of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

21 02 2012

Rating: 4/5, tragic yet brimming with the spirit of life

Genre: History, Diary

You Shouldn’t Read People’s Private Diaries
I had just started reading this book/diary when a friend commented, ‘’You should not read other people’s diaries’’! Very witty comment. And then I thought about it, Anne Frank’s diary must be the most read private diary in the world. And she actually wanted it that way.

You start off with a  heavy heart  as the circumstances behind the diary are so awful and gruesome. You feel really  sad when Anne talks optimistically about ‘what she will do when they come out of hiding’ or ‘what kind of a mother she will be’. You desperately wish things had not turned out the way they did, if somehow the past could be changed. And then you realise, as per her own observations, she was one of the lucky few to have held out for so long and escaped from the gas chambers as long as she did.

The other interesting aspect of the diary, which I had not anticipated, was the psychology of a young teenage girl. Its interesting to see how her emotions change and how she handles difficult situations. She is mature beyond her years in one diary entry and dreamy and childlike in the other.
Her relationship with her parents and sister, her ambitions, her ability to deal with life in hiding, every incident has an impact on you. You cant help but analyse every entry she makes into the diary as you have to imagine the things before, after and around them. It is a diary after all, not a book!
Her analysis of her love for Peter is so mature. Far from the teenage romantic ideas you see in movies. In fact, I wonder if any adult has thought about feelings of love with such clarity and sensibility. Then again, she’ll talk about something in such an immature manner and turn the tables on herself. But overall its quite impressive to see such a young person thinking about her character and  analysing her own actions in such an extensive manner.

In the end what you take away from the ‘diary’ is the long life lived by a young girl in a short span of time. Thankfully, mostly, the horror of the situation takes a background and you get completely involved with Anne’s trials & tribulations.

A thoughtful entry on ‘parents’ by Anne: ‘’They take us seriously when we make a joke and laugh at us when we are serious.’’

In this day and age of technology how could an Anne Frank App be far behind! Although not my cup of tea, for those who might be interested:
http://www.beyondthestory.com/af/diaryvideo.html





Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins And Now Lord Shiva

17 02 2012

What do they all have in common? Sequels, sequels and more sequels.
Saw it in the papers today. Karan Johar of the various tear-jerkers fame is planning to make a movie on the book, the Immortals of Meluha by Amish. In a very recent post I had written about the fact that this trilogy would make for a good movie series, the only difference being, I felt Hollywood was more likely to get it right.

Hrithik Roshan as Shiva and Priyanka Chopra as Parvati, I can still digest to a certain extent. But I seriously doubt the treatment Karan Johar would give to the movie. Shiva-Parvati in Manish Malhotra costumes with Switzerland’s Jungfrau passing off as Mt Kailash, that should be interesting.

I love all the offbeat cinema happening in India today but 2 genres, not happening. Science fiction and history/mythology aren’t really Bollywood’s cup of tea yet. Despite the fact that they both give unlimited scope for imagination, creativity and melodrama, which we Indians are (supposedly) great at; Bollywood fails at execution. I can only see Farhan Akhtar doing some sort of justice to this one but still not at the level of LOR, Harry Potter or the Star Wars series.

As it is, making a movie out of a book is a great challenge. I believe one needs way too many skills for that. You cant fit in everything, the details, descriptions, odd characters, emotions, etc. I don’t think I have seen a movie yet which is a better version of the book its based on. I love watching movies almost as much as reading books but the depths possible in a book are hard to capture on-screen.

But all of that might change with the Shiva trilogy movies, especially because I didnt find the books that great, maybe the movies will be much better. Good luck to Karan Johar, let us see if he can do it without making ‘chikni chameli’ take a dip in the Indus river!





The Secret Of The Nagas by Amish Tripathi

7 02 2012

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Thriller, Fictional Mythology

A Book Full Of Secrets
It was certainly better than The Immortals Of Meluha but as I said earlier, you have to disregard the Shiva bit and treat it like a thriller to like it.

Plenty of mystery and secrets to keep you going. You just cant figure out who the bad guys are. The book keeps you guessing. Its a fast paced, quick read and you want to find out what happens in the third part of this trilogy. So if you’ve read the first two, Amish can rest assured about the sales for his third book.

In fact, I think the guys in Hollywood could make a good movie out of this. It has all the ingredients. Not at the same level as the Lord Of The Rings but a good enough success is possible. Having said that, if I hadn’t read these 2 books I wouldn’t really have missed great literary work. But then again, there are those who absolutely loved them.

All said and done, although I’m not waiting for it with baited breath, whenever its out, I will surely read the last book of the Shiva trilogy.
And once again, nice cover!

You can also check out the review of the first book of the trilogy :

The Immortals Of Meluha - Amish

The Immortals Of Meluha