Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review - Where The River Parts

Where The River Parts by Radhika Swarup 

Book Review - Blurb

Blood had begun to trickle down Asha’s starched cotton salwar, and once more she tried to will herself to stay calm. It was nothing. These things happened.
But these things haven’t happened before. It’s August 1947, the night before India’s independence. It is also the night before Pakistan’s creation and the brutal Partition of the two countries. Asha, a Hindu in a newly Muslim land, must flee to safety. She carries with her a secret she has kept even from Firoze, her Muslim lover, but Firoze must remain in Pakistan, and increasing tensions between the two countries mean the couple can never reunite. Fifty years later in New York, Asha’s Indian granddaughter falls in love with a Pakistani, and Asha and Firoze, meeting again at last, are faced with one more – final – choice.

My Thoughts:

Really enjoyed this heart-warming drama following two families, one Muslim and one Hindu, as they live through Partition in 1947 India and how it impacted the future generations of their respective families. I gave this book four out of five as there were a few niggles I had with the writing, which I’ll cover first.

At times the dialogue is slow to the point of stagnant; luckily there were not too many pages of dialogue. I wish the editor had cut out the repeated phrases that didn’t move the story along or help us understand our characters any better. On the subject of dialogue I thought the use of foreign words was too much. I’m sure the writer thought it added authenticity but when the words were not always explained, and we could only guess at their meaning, it became too much like hard work and a bit annoying.

One other gripe I had was with pace. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it was too slow for me. I also thought the last few pages were rushed, especially as the writer had built up tension towards the end with family conflict going on for the last 25 per cent of the book and then resolving that tension in one paragraph.

Now to the things I loved. A great premise for a story. Recent history always intrigues me, especially when we are still so close to it. This was a book about emotions and strength of will and I was with the characters every step of the way. I loved the sense of helplessness and vulnerability some of them had as they were not able to avoid the inevitable consequences of their lives.

I enjoyed the atmospheres created by Swarup which appealed to all the senses and were never overdone.

Asha is the main character and I found her a genuine, well crafted character who was easy to believe and relate to. There was nothing forced, fake or contrived about her.

Sometimes the language was quite poetic and I liked those touches throughout the book. The last few lines were particularly well crafted in my opinion.

I enjoyed that this story was told chronologically from beginning to end and didn’t jump around in time as I don’t think that would have added anything to the telling and I was totally satisfied by the outcome.

I hate to give spoilers in a review so I’ll leave it there and just say that I would recommend you read this book and I will certainly like to read more from the writer in the future.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What I #amreading and #amwriting

#amreading :

Where The River Parts by Radhika Swarup

I'm about a third of the way through this intriguing novel and I'll have a review of it as soon as I'm finished. Given how slow a reader I am, that might be at the end of next week.

I notice this book only has 7 reviews on Amazon so far, though published on February 18th. So perhaps it isn't flying off the shelves yet.

I also notice that the book cover is practically the same as the one I had designed for my short story collection (as yet unpublished). I guess it's pretty much generic these days, so I think I might re-think my idea.

#amwriting :

Sometimes I think I take on too much when it comes to my writing projects. The list includes, but it not limited to:
  • Finishing the final draft of my second novel
  • Completing a copyediting job
  • Writing a new book under my pen name
  • Designing a new cover for my short story collection (it really is a lot like the above). OK, that's not writing, but you get the idea. 
Needlesss to say - I am #busy.

Share your projects in the comments below. I'd love to know how everyone is getting on!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Provenance: A Novel - Book Review

Written by author, Donna Drew Sawyer, this poignant family saga about a black man passing for white during the racist and segregated Deep South in the early 20th century, is both thought provoking and emotive.

The language is easy to absorb and the story moves at quite a pace. By the end of 325 pages we are transported from Richmond, Virginia in the early 1900s to Paris in the 1930s and back to New York and into 1970. So there was a lot of story to pack in within those pages.

I was surprised by the turn of events and the story didn't quite go where I expected it to, which for me had its positive and negative sides. One of the positives was that the story was never predictable (apart from one of the big secrets that I guessed quite early on and was proven to be right at the very end). Travelling around the world with the story showed the depth of research that went into creating this fiction and the writer's dedication to historical detail.

On the negative side, I found that there were quite a few 'main' characters and they all appeared to have secrets. Admittedly, the burden of Hank passing for white was passed on to his family when he died, meaning they had to continue to carry the secret, but I couldn't understand why at least three other people also had something to hide. It took the focus away from Hank's legacy for me.

I also got a bit dizzy with there being several points of view in this novel. As a reader I was jumping from one person's head to another in the space of a few lines, so it got a bit tiring. While this works well in film, I found it exhausting on the page.

That being said, it may not bother some readers and I did find myself turning the pages and dying to know what happened next.

In fact I could see this book working well as a film or mini drama series on television.

I loved the writer's use of dialogue and she captures characters very well in this way. The story isn't over burdened with unnecessary description; there's just enough to capture the imagination and the feelings of the time.

I was only sad that I didn't get the ending I wanted. Although it was implied, I would like to have been a witness to the ending I had predicted and not left unsure. I suppose the writer wanted to keep the reader guessing and it worked.

I think Provenance: A Novel is a worthwhile read and a good debut from this intelligent author.