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Q & A, republished as Slumdog Millionaire, by Vikas Swarup. It’s an awesome book. While books generally are better than the movie (unless the book is written after the movie), in this case it was more notable on one count. The ease of suspension of disbelief. For the rest of the world (which includes me), Slumdog Millionaire (the movie) was awesome. For Indians, the suspension of disbelief was tad harder – the transition from a Hindi-speaking slum boys who could barely keep up their badly-taught English lessons suddenly became a tour guide of the Taj Mahal – not very likely.

As much as it is a good book simply for the story and story-telling, the language holds it back a bit. There was nothing objectionable about the writing, but the fact that the flashbacks were written in present tense. As the non-flashback bits were also written in present tense which cheapens the quality of the book. (More gushing review and comparison with the movie – with bonus spoilers – here)

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup. I loved Q&A, but this, not so much. It’s still an engaging book. The story is hardly simple: industrialist son of a mafia don turn Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Vicky Rai, was murdered. There are six suspects, who had their stories told. And the suspect list just grows, making for a very convulated ending. One person got the blamed pin of him, he dies. The blame moves to someone else, he runs away. They consider another suspect, that seem like the best fit for the murderer. Meh, someone else. That was the ending.

The ending though was forgivable, what wasn’t so much was the writing. While still an easy read, it moves from newspaper editorial to telephone transcripts to narratives to TV show transcripts to diary entries. I don’t think all that was necessary for the story – look at Jeffrey Archer (perhaps the mainstream modern master of writing novels with a chokeful of characters): consistent writing styles for different facets, different points of view of the story. Its as if Swarup thought he needed this gimmick to make the transition between characters easier.

The story is still good. Quite convulated, but good. Not as good as Q&A (some cameos of Q&A characters thrown in though).

My friend Sancho by Amit Varma. My first exposure to Indian lit. It’s a good read, plenty of humour (unfortunately, it seems to be packed at the first half), and an almost subtle hint of libertarianism (and even less subtle plugs of his blog). The story is of a bored Bengali journo in Bombay who was assigned a job of writing a balanced piece of the death a local Muslim man – killed in a police raid and later was said by the police to be a gangster.

So the journo interviews his daughter. And the cop. Falls in love with one of them (named Sancho – you guess which). Some parts were a bit hard to follow for a non-Indian; but overall very accessible.


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