Tag Archive | Chicklit

The Twentieth Wife- Indu Sundaresan :1/52 ( A Trilogy)

16th century Soap Opera

But I mean it in a good way.

The book came highly recommended by @_viju and since I usually like his taste, I started the book without any pre-Googling. Somewhere in the book, Salim smells roses on Mehrunissa and she says that her mother adds rose petals to the bath water. And then it hit me. This is the story of Noor Jahan, the Mughal queen whose mother discovered attar. It wasn’t pure fiction anymore and it just got even more interesting. Of course, it was highly embellished and glossy and I knew how it would end. It had all the elements of a big budget Bollywood movie and I could close my eyes and picture a zenana dance scene if I wanted to. But it was a story that flowed so smoothly, like a bolt of silk that was unrolled in the bazaar, that I finished it in three sittings. The first day of the year well spent.

A child born to a refugee, abandoned in the desert, finds herself back in her mother’s arms through some twists of fate. At eight, she looks at Emperor Akbar’s son on his wedding day and dreams of becoming a princess herself. Seventeen years, nineteen wives, innumerable concubines, a husband and a daughter later, she finally marries that  man she flirted with in the zenana corridor while she was a teenager betrothed to someone else. Mehrunissa. The sun among women. The light of the world.

As a woman, I am expected to outrage about many things. How the woman is considered as the property of men, be it the father, the husband or the emperor himself. Mehrunissa has no say in whom she marries, she has no say in whom her husband sleeps with. She has no say when the emperor orders her father to request her husband to invoke some Turkish law and divorce her so that the emperor can make her his. The emperor who already has a harem full of wives and concubines, an emperor who lusted after his father’s woman and had her buried alive. (Looks like Salim-Anarkali isn’t all Mughal-e-azam as much as it is a Greek tragedy).

But the romantic in me overlooked all that and rooted for love. Love that blossomed at the age of eight ( Meera-Krishna type) and stayed buried deep down somewhere in both those hearts, not giving up hope even when there was no hope. Stalking, noting, spying, watching. Secret smiles, private fantasies and skipped heartbeats. And anyway, towards the end Mehrunissa redeemed herself when she refused the Indecent Proposal and stood up for what she believed was rightfully due to her. More power to women like her. But the truth is, the women back then were much cleverer than the ones today. We cry feminism and take to the streets at the drop of a hat these days, but those 16th century women seemed to have wielded so much power from behind veils and latticed marble walls, all the time allowing the men to believe that they were superior and the actual decision makers. Right from Akbar’s queen Ruqayaa to Salim’s second wife Jagat Gosini and Mehrunissa herself, they seem to be a group of awesomely cunning, shrewd, clever and highly manipulative women; smug and truly powerful. And like the standard fixture in every romcom these days, the gay best friend, you have the important eunuch who calls the shots in the harems. And the men? The men are mostly bumbling idiots, getting drunk on wine, women and power and  going to war for no bigger reason than an ego trip.

Oh well. Nothing much has changed over the centuries.

 

The Promise- Danielle Steel : 56/52

Lulz

a) I’m too old for this kind of drivel

b) This wasn’t drivel back in 1978

c) I’m too hardhearted and cynical to understand Love

Chances are that the right answer might be option c.

After the thundercloud of This Divided Island, I wanted some cotton candy fluffy clouds. The Promise was one of those books that Chitrakka made be get for her from V K Library. It was the rage back then. Longlongago. I think I even tried to read it as a teenager, I do have vague memories of some beads being buried on a beach. But I don’t think I finished reading the book back then. The story was totally new to me now, new meaning roll-your-eyes-at-the-cliched-plot kind of new.

All it lacked was six songs and two fight scenes. Otherwise it was the perfect BollyKollyTollywood plot. I’m sure this book must have been made into an Indian movie. Or was it too lame for even that? Rich boy, poor girl, villi mother. Lou. Accident, lies, plastic surgery, Devdasish mode. Two years later meet, don’t recognise, fight, make up. Live happily everafter.

Classic Danielle Steel setting: everything and everyone is beautiful. Perfectly dressed women, effortlessly chic in Channel or in miraculous bargain buys . Gold clasp handbags, luxury luggage, gold cigarette cases, gold watch fobs. Adorable doggies, breathtaking views from the window. The works.  And the typical Danielle Steel relationships: old people in love, young people in love, young woman in love with a man 20 years her senior. Gaaaaaah.

Anyway. I wanted fluff, I got fluff.

 

Afternote:

And suddenly I realised that this was part of the theme in Anbe Sivam. Rich girl, poor boy. Elopement, accident, disfigured face. Lies. That movie wasn’t about love as it was about other things, but I did wonder what Bala would have done if she had seen Nalla in the end. The romantic in me ( there isn’t one) wants to say that she would have called off the wedding and lived regretfully ever after with an ugly but principled husband. And the cynic in me ( there’s lots of her) says that she would have pretended not to recognise him or brushed him off with gentle words and lived happily everafter with the handsome Ars. What would I have done? I love communists with their lofty ideals and impractical principles, but I think I too would have chosen the MNC slave adman.  But no, the disfigured face wouldn’t have mattered to me.

What do you think would have happened?

The Devil Wears a Prada-Lauren Weisberger :45/52

As chicklitty as chicklit can get.

When it comes to chick-things, I am an unashamed fan of chickflicks. I’ve spent entire weekends with Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts. But chicklit, not so much. The movie is *always* better than the book. I had started this book several times and couldn’t go past the first few paragraphs where she struggles with a stickshift car, cigarette in hand and wearing some fancy shoes and breaking the heel. But I finally picked up the motivation to get past those first few pages and things started looking better.

The Devil takes on more importance than the typical whiny, self-deprecating chicklit heroine that Andrea is. So it makes the book tolerably spicy. Miranda Priestly is amazing. She is my role model now and I aspire to be a boss like her some day. Who wouldn’t love to have two young girls whom they could bully to death at their beck and call. Ahndrea, where’s my coffee? Ahndrea, this coffee is too cold. Ahndrea get me That restaurant review from That newspaper. You can read my mind as to which one I’m talking about. Ahndrea get me yet another $200 white Hermes scarf.  Ahndrea, get my underwear drycleaned. How great would it be to call your assistant in New York from Paris and ask her to connect you to a mobile number in Paris or to get her to charter you a plane during a storm at midnight. Too bad that I’m basically a very wimpy niceguy. I’ll never make Boss.

Andrea is boring, but likeable. Especially when she does things like regularly buying Starbucks coffee for the homeless and charges it to the company account, or wiping her greasy fingers on Miranda’s Versace clothes that she has to get cleaned. Lily the BFF, Alex the good boyfriend and the mysterious Christian who turns up at the most unexpected places and flirts with her ( what is it with these guys named Christian) come and go and offer some twists in the tale. Stereotype gay men in the fashion industry, snooty senior assistants, designers, designers and more designer names. Bleh. The writing was painfully repetitive and predictable. Same old same old. But I rushed through reading those parts because I wanted to read more about Miranda being Miranda.

But what made this book more interesting was that it was actually a sort of tell-all book that was based on the author’s stint as Anna Wintour’s assistant. Anna Wintour is rumoured to be much more demanding than the fictional Miranda Priestly, if that is actually even possible. Miranda is this ice queen-fashionista-bitchbosswoman whose one look can get her assistants to change out their comfortable shoes and wear Jimmy Choo stillettos even when doing their coffee runs. I had a difficult time believing that part because daily-trimmed-perfect-bob notwithstanding, Anna Wintour wears the fugliest shoes ever. Maybe they are custom made Manolo Blahniks, but puhleese. These?

I checked out the movie trailer and that seemed more interesting. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep are just perfect. I should watch the movie soon.

I’ve got Revenge Wears a Prada also, but that is going to just sit there for long time. Maybe I’ll wait for the movie instead.

The Deliberate Sinner- Bhaavna Arora: 42/52

A Woman’s Era short story in 150 pages.

You know those stories that appear in Woman’s Era? The forced language that seems to be thought-in-Hindi-written-in-English, the attitude of the characters, their names , the weak and disconnected plot, the confused protagonist, the attempted ‘modernity’. Everything in this book reminded me of Woman’s Era. But instead of having the kind of predictable ending those short stories usually have, this book follows the current trend of women breaking free from unhappy marriages. Yeah, that trend. Or maybe it reminded me of one of those never ending soaps that drag on pointlessly for years.

Rihanna is rich, happy, carefree. She has doting parents, a dog and her personal bodyguard-cum-driver-cum-Man Friday. She takes a solo trip to Thailand and Veer, the richhandsomehunk who happens to be sitting next to her also happens to be her friend Raj’s friend. Nothing more Veerwise happens during the trip. Then one day she meets Veer again at the swimming pool and he swims a hundred laps just to take her out for coffee. But instead of coffee, he proposes to her. That very evening she tells her parents about him and they get engaged. Huh? Is this to be categorized as a love marriage or the cliched love-cum-arranged marriage? Then she realises that Veer is not suitable for her, but instead of breaking the engagement and bringing shame to her family she finds solace in Raj, her friend who becomes her friend with benefits. But he is too dark complexioned for her to marry.He vanished from the plot after that and gets mentioned only once later. Blah blah and blah later Rihanna and Veer get married. When he plays a prank on her and stages a terrifying dacoity and almost rape (!) on the Gurgaon highway, she thinks nothing of it. But then as the days go by she realises that he is an insecure drunkard and a selfish jerk who refuses to give her pleasure in bed. Since the day they were married he has given her just three orgasms, something which she innocently reports to her aunt (!). Then he goes on and has an affair with a girl who called him a Tiger because he did it eleven times with her. Numbers. Blah blah and blah some more she leaves him and goes to Mumbai to stay with her uncle who is a Bollywood producer and becomes a fashion designer or something. Then a change of heart happens and she comes back to give him another chance. Then they fight, make up fight again. Then another character is suddenly introduced, a police officer Avinash.  And the predictable you-know-what happens and she is finally set free.

Let me be honest, I skimmed through this book. Everything was so repetitive and predictable that I know skipping sentences did not make me miss out on much. Blogadda sent the copy of the book signed by the author. ‘ Hate the sin, not the sinner’ she had written. I have no clue what the sin was or who the sinner was. So I’m playing it safe and not hating anything here. Not even hating the book. Because you can like or hate something only if you’re involved enough.

Verdict: Nah.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 

 

Bridget Jones’s Diary- Helen Fielding : 26/52

Oh please. A book about a thirty something’s pathetic non- life. Enough already.

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No, I haven’t watched the movie. And yes, I’m a decade or so late reading this book and I’ve probably read a zillion blogposts and columns that have tried to sound just like this. So maybe I’ve exhausted my quota of laughter that was due to this book. But puhleese.

Thirtysomething, single, in lust with her boss, a bunch of supportive friends (mandatory gay man included), an airheaded mother, a bunch of random old couples and the Real Hero, an oh-so-aptly named Mark Darcy. The whole book is about how she tries to keep up her New Year’s resolutions of losing weight, drinking less, quitting smoking and finding a man. Makes me want to roll my eyes and say ‘Aren’t we all’.

This Mark Darcy makes just three or four appearances in the book and you don’t even feel anything for him. How  he ended up on the many lists of Lovable Fictional Men, I don’t know. Daniel, the smooth boss who indulges in Fuckwittage and cheats on Bridget seemed more lovable. Our very own Ganesha who drank milk gets a mention in the book and a terracotta oil burner tries to imitate him.  The airheaded mother was the best character in the whole book, she  even provided the necessary filmy drama at the end and helped tie up all loose ends for the Happily Ever After ending. And Bridget, well she frustrated me so much that I wanted to just grab her by her shoulders, shake her up and tell her to shut the eff up.

I wanted to write this post in the v.g style, but finishing the damn book was hard work enough. I don’t have anything left in me now.

Will I read The Edge of Reason? Yes I will. As I said earlier, I’ve got an OCD that makes me just have to read the sequels. And then, I’m kind-of masochistic too.

 

PS: Is it Jones’ or Jones’s ? Are both correct? It is bugging me.

 

The Carrie Diaries- Candace Bushnell : 23/52

Ok. I judge myself. This is not a book that a 30 something should be reading. Or even a 20 something. Or anysomething for that matter. This book shouldn’t even have been written. Or atleast shouldn’t have been hyped as Carrie before Sex and The City.

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But as I said, I read Summer in the City first  and so my OCD did not permit me to let part one of the series just go unread.

I really don’t know what the author was thinking. Almost everything is a total contradiction to the Carrie we know and love ( and sometimes hate). She took that horse-faced, curly haired, sexually liberated, funny, witty, independent, shoe crazy woman and turned her into an average teenager with  boy problems. Atleast in Summer and the City she was out of high school, in New York , sleeping with an old (thirty year old! gasp! ) man and partying with Samantha Jones. But for the whole thirty five chapters in this book she’s just smoking, drinking ,not losing her virginity, and feeling jealous of classmates (named Donna LaDonna and such) who are trying to steal her boyfriend. And then doing that some more. There’s no story, no plot, no twist, no turn, no direction. I won’t mind reading a good old Crosswinds or First Love from Silhouette now (Yup, that’s my vintage)  to get the bland taste of this one out of my mind.

Read this book if you want to un-Carrie Carrie Bradshaw.

 

 

Summer and the City- Candace Bushnell : 20/52

What better way to recover from Stephen King’s Carrie than a dose of good ole Carrie Bradshaw. Or that’s what I thought. Having loved the SATC TV series, I thought I’d give the books also a try

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Thinking that The Carrie Diaries would be too teeny bopper, I started off with Summer and the City assuming that it was about a more grown up Carrie. I was wrong. It is about a not-yet-eighteen Carrie experimenting in the big bad city. Experimenting with writing, fashion and older men. In no particular order. Set in the eighties, it takes some effort to deal with rubber, vinyl and plastic garments (loved the scrubs, though) , lack of hard disks and mobile phones and firebrand feminism. Oh, scratch the last one.

But what I absolutely couldn’t deal with was a Carrie who cooks and a Samantha who is engaged and wants to ‘settle down’. Very, very un-Samantha. Way to bring the characters we watched and loved come crashing down. Miranda is Miranda, on the right path to becoming Miranda. Charlotte too,making an entry at the very end, is very Charoltte. Carrie comes out as clingy and whiny at times, but that’s what she was with Big, so her clinginess with Bernard isn’t something new. And Bernard, though he sets a foundation for Carrie’s Big obsession, certainly is not Big. Not that it matters much, but I don’t know what genre this book comes under. Was it Young Adult fiction or Age-No-Bar Chicklit? If it was the former, I have problems with the unapologetic underage drinking and excessive smoking. If it is not, I don’t. (What does that make me?) Bleh and a half stars for the book, but I will certainly read The Carrie Diaries and Sex and The City only because my OCD won’t allow me not to.