Category Archives: Books for adults

Book Review : Custody by Manju Kapur

Custody

Manju Kapur

Random House India (2011)

In the bitter divorce battles that are becoming all too common these days, the power centres are the children, who are ironically powerless. By warring over their custody, the parental ego claims victory or otherwise – but all too shallow at the end of it all. Don’t you think so?

It is this bitterness and upheaval in the families that Manju Kapur has attempted to depict in her novel ‘Custody’. Shagun is a very beautiful woman, married to a ‘successful’ man Raman, who seems to have it all – a good job in a very respectable company, great salary with perks and two lovely kids Arjun and Roohi. In comes Ashok – Raman’s suave, handsome and dashing boss, and Shagun starts finding her husband too boring, and is drawn to his boss instead. Things get serious, and Shagun leaves Raman to be with Ashok. The messy divorce battles begin – the biggest contention being the custody of the children. How the custody battle ends, and new bonds are being formed while the old ones are scrambling to end with dignity is what the novel is all about.

Manju Kapur’s forte is her nuanced writing of the human follies. Her characters, especially women, are very well etched out. Unfortunately, she loses her touch in this novel. In her effort to be non-judgemental about Shagun’s character, she does not go deep in the description of her character or the reasons of her choices. Raman is reduced to an object of sympathy, for the other characters of the novel as well as for the reader. While not going into the details of the relationship between Shagun and Raman is understandable, there’s not much being said about Shagun’s bond with Ashok either. What was it that Ashok was offering that Raman could not, and she was happy to leave behind her stable home? Ashok and Ishita, the woman in Raman’s life after Shagun, are caricatures at best. Shagun’s mother is again reduced to a very superficial character, going along with her daughter’s wishes like a puppet. While Roohi is too young to understand what’s going on around her, Arjun is a bit grown up, and Kapur does some justice, bringing out his fears and apprehensions, and giving space to the bonding between Ashok and Arjun. You do feel sorry for the kids, embroiled in the battle of egos between their parents, reduced to pawns – amounting to not more than pieces of papers of communication between the two of them.

Kapur’s description of the upper and middle class lives in Delhi in the 90s is spot on, and you can imagine it going on right in front of your eyes – the nosy neighbors, the jealousy between families, the swish set planning holidays abroad, and of course ‘the Brand’, where Raman and Ashok work. But all said and done, ‘Custody’ is not a patch on Kapur’s earlier work – ‘Difficult Daughers’ and ‘Home’.

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Book Review : Mightier than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer

Mightier than the Sword

Jeffrey Archer

Pan Macmillan

So, the Clifton Chronicles continue! And probably shall continue until Jeffrey Archer realizes that people’s patience has been tried enough, and that he should really call it a day, especially when it comes to the saga of Clifton and Barrington families.

Sound like a peeved fan, do I? And I do have my reasons. First things first, there might be spoilers in the review (though there’s not much of a thrill/ suspense in the novel as such). So, if you don’t want to know what really happened, please stop right away, and come back once you have read the book, and are looking for a shoulder to cry on, over the lost time!

Now, talking of spoilers, the biggest one was given away by the blurb itself.The fourth volume in the series, Be Careful What You Wish For, ended at a bomb blast on the luxury liner of Barrington shipping, which had all the Cliftons and Barringtons onboard. Now, that was a teaser, but the blurb mentions all of them doing something or the other in the fifth part now, so there – everybody is safe and sound! There goes the suspense.

The book does nothing to tell the readers much about the life of the protagonists. Instead, it has just gone on the tangent, with a new character Anatoly Babakov – who takes up the precious pages in the book, and precious time from the readers, without doing anything to move forward the lives of Harry, Emma, Sebastian, Giles or Samantha, except a few predictable twists and turns! And then, there’s of course Lady Virginia Fenwick, who at the end of the last volume had just sued Emma Barrington. You would hope that at least that case is resolved in this volume, but no such luck. The protagonists are all kind of lost in this volume, and seem to be doing things with no rhyme or reason – or at least, reasons known best to Mr Archer.

Should you read this book, or should you not – I hear you ask. Well, read by all means, because Jeffrey Archer has not earned the reputation of being a master storyteller for nothing! While I might argue that this story does not really belong to the Clifton Chronicles, it is a trademark Archer story nonetheless, and deserves a reading for all the subtle wit, and the layered writing that are an integral part of an Archer story.

The book was launched with much fanfare in India, with people queuing up late into the night to get their copies signed by the author himself! Let’s hope that the next volume really does deserve this kind of reception, and the author realizes that he should not drag on the series, because even the most seasoned fans are bound to have a limit to their patience.

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