A hermit dies in a remote cottage. A fortune disappears. So does the richest man in town – the town of Hokitika, in the wild southwest of New Zealand, a lady has attempted to commit suicide, and a treasure has been discovered in the house of a drunk. Are these events connected? That’s what twelve local men have gathered to unravel one dark and stormy night in the smoking room of a hotel as the protagonist Walter Moody, a Scot of 28, trained in law, enters. He is a man both fleeing from evil fortune and on the lookout to making a nifty one upon the goldfields of New Zealand. But tonight, he is shaken. On route, aboard the ship, he has seen something so macabre, he can scarcely bear to speak about it. Is it part of the mystery that everyone is trying to get to the bottom of? Or just a distraction, a decoy meant to tear us away from the truth. One thing is for sure. There’s something afoot, and each of the 12 men hold a piece of the puzzle. As it turns out, it’s not of this earth. For, it seems, powers far beyond our comprehension, far beyond our realm, are playing out a timeless tale of supernatural love, between two people, who, in fact, are ‘luminaries’. A couple with a genuinely mystical connection. When one is hurt, the other bleeds. As the truth teases us and vanishes, as the depths of the human soul are charted out in unforgettable narrative style, as the mystery, the conspiracy and the enigma become one, we stumble across much more than ‘The Luminaries’ - a story of banking, shipping, and, above all, supernatural connections that bring on the goosebumps - that linger long after the 826 pages are done and dusted. We come across a magnetic, memorable discovery in the form of Eleanor Catton, a writer who has won the 2013 Man Booker prize (for this book - the youngest to have accomplished the feat ; She has also won the Governor General’s Award for English Language Fiction in Canada, and was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2014, amongst others). And a prodigy who shows luminous signs of progress in the future, given that she’s all of 28 years old.
A fictional bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art sees Theo - the protagonist of Donna Tartt’s novel, ‘The Goldfinch’ - separated from his mother, who dies in the blast. In the middle of the rubble, a dying stranger calls out to Theo, asking him to take care of Carel Fabritius’s 1654 painting of a goldfinch. After his mother’s death, Theo seeks refuge with the family of a wealthy friend. Baffled in his new posh environment, irked by his communication gap with those around him, and, more than anything else, deeply anguished in the vacuum his mother left behind, Theo finds himself taking refuge in the painting that becomes his constant companion in the years that follow, teasing him, alluring him, and ultimately sucking him into an underworld of art. Tartt’s story traces the journey of Theo to Vegas and back, his life with a waif called Boris, and the ease with which he straddles the living rooms of the wealthy and the wasted labyrinth of the antique store where he works. At the end of it, he finds himself in the shop of the man who died at the museum, he finds himself back with Boris; indeed, he finds himself accosting his own self as his life, at some level, comes full circle. Brilliantly nuanced by a masterful writer who reflects on life through her characters, supported by vivid prose and powerful energy, ‘The Goldfinch’ – the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2014) and shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award (2013) and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Awards (2014) - is like perfectly aged wine. Unputdownable, and unforgettable.
Alice Munro makes you write in your head. She draws you so powerfully into her universe that you start anticipating, correctly, what’s going to happen next. It’s a ploy she effortlessly employs across the ten stories in her Nobel Prize (Literature, 2013) winning book, ‘Too much happiness’, stories that dare to tread a truly remarkable and truly expansive terrain – straddling violence, cruelty, sophistry, treachery, adultery, depravity and more. Be it the rekindling of animus in a grieved mother in the backdrop of a triple murder, the humiliation of a seduction that involves reading naked, the fatal intimacy of girls, the spite of children, or the toxic yarn an old woman is forced to weave to save her life, Munro writes with an obsession that is unforgiving, a flair that is beautiful yet unpretty, and a command so honest, that it borders on the haughty. And, in the process, gives you an unforgettable peek into the machinations of the human mind. Says Munro in her book, “You think that would have changed things? The answer is, of course, and for a while, and never.” After this book, the way you interpret writing will have changed. Significantly, for more than just a while; it will change forever. Ramachandra Guha’s epic 'India After Gandhi', while deep diving into the travails, embarrassments and joys of the world’s largest democracies, equally casts a side-eye to the ‘What if’s. What if India had imploded under the weight of its own contradictions? What if, losing our bearings somewhere along the way, we, as a nation, turned dogmatic? What if, shedding all concern to the wind, we had become a Hindu state? It’s this spin, this muse, that lends depth and definition to this masterly account of the events and eventualities that have shaped the India we know of – one that is regarded as one of the greatest, if also amongst the unlikeliest – triumphs of world history. Whether you are smitten with history or just a non-fiction buff, you will find this minutely researched and engagingly crafted read extremely engaging. India after Gandhi was chosen Book of the Year by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and Outlook. It also won the 2011 Sahitya Akademi Award for English.
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