Some of the books that I have read over the past few months have been quite interesting, and some others have been outright trashy. Here I describe a few of the interesting ones:
'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver is a humdinger of a book, though morbid at times. The book worked for me at several levels: as a commentary on society's perceived notions of the mother, as an interpretation of the possible motives that compel a teenager to kill his peers and most of all, the more-than-ample suggestions that the narrator may not be presenting an entirely unbiased account. The book is about Kevin Katchadourian, who kills 10 people at his school when he is just 15. The tale is narrated by Eva, Kevin's dysfunctional mom. To the author's credit, neither Kevin nor Eva ever descend to being merely stereotypical characters - they are complex, difficult (even hateful) characters sometimes, but on the other hand even Kevin is endearing sometimes. For those of you who enjoy serious reading, this is an amazing read.
'The Poisonwood Bible' by Barbara Kingsolver is an interesting read, but IMO falls short of being great. The book narrates the tale of a fiery evangelist who tears his family away from everything they are used to, and hauls them away to the politically volatile Congo. The story moves forward through the viewpoints of the preacher's daughters. Despite a great plot, the book really fails to propel itself to a modern classic. Kingsolver failes to bring alive the Congo, the way Wilbur Smith used to bring alive Africa in some of his earlier works (or as Khaled Hosseini did Afghanistan so eloquently in the wonderful 'The Kite Runner'). Also, one of the protagonists - Rachel - has no character graph at all. I did enjoy all the biblical references, though (I am a big fan of all biblical fiction).
'The Pilot's Wife' by Anita Shreve is highly overrated, IMO. I could foresee where the book was going almost from the beginning; was almost like one of those cheesy 80's Jeetendra-Rekha-Jayaprada potboilers. I did like the way she conveyed the way the family copes with the sudden tragedy, but the other-woman-angle (sorry!) was uncalled for. Recommended only for staunch followers of Danielle Steele and the like.
'Like Water for Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel is more like a re-telling of a legend (like somebody narrating the Ramayana, for instance), and less of a conventional novel. Once this fact was firmly entrenched in my mind, I was absolutely entranced by this novel. First of all, the book follows a unique, rivetting format: every chapter begins with the recipe of a dish that Tita is currently preparing, and then dissolves into the actual plot. And the Mexican recipes (especially the quail in rose-petal sauce one) sound really yummy, I have to admit (but my being a glutton has nothing to do with the quality of the book!). This is a great, great book - just have to see the movie version too.
I am currently reading:
'Hangman's Journal' by Shashi Warrier: This boasts of a plot that seems (at least in the initial stages) similar to Adoor Gopalakrishnan's latest masterpiece 'Nizhalkuthu' (Interplay of Shadows). The books got some good reviews, and Shashi Warrier has written some decent stuff before ('Night of the Krait', 'The Orphan' etc).
P.S.: Excuse the bastardization of the great Bard's work!