PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksMehar’s story is timeless, whence, perhaps, the choice of tense ... The novel fascinates for all the things left absent: how Mehar spent her life and how the great-grandson lives his life after return home ... Sahota, in this moving study of love, desire, and time, nonetheless conjures up interesting characters: the matriarch comes to wield so much power, a wife who hates her husband, a wife who finds herself unloved, and more.
RaveAsian Review of BooksReaders, regardless of how well-informed by domestic or international newspaper and media reports, might notice two things in Vijayan’s articulation of the condition at the borders on the Indian side: the discussion of the geography of the border—a geography that does not lend itself easily to the practices of partitioning—and the process of storytelling and narrating memories. Vijayan’s travels around the India-Bangladesh border provide a perfect example to discuss the geography of the borders ... The stories Vijayan records can be difficult to bear ... While these stories can be painful, one realizes that they must have been a source of surprise to others listening to the story along with the author ... Apart from the conflicting people’s stories and the military officers’ stories, the book has vignettes about soldiering too ... at its most focused and most valuable in the first half in which Vijayan writes about what it means to live at the borders ... Indeed, although Vijayan’s focus is India, she presents glimpses of South Asia’s inability to be at peace—perhaps this inability is what unites all the diverse nation states that inhabit the geography here.
Jayant Kaikini, Trans. by Tejaswini Niranjana
RaveThe Asian Review of BooksDespite the relatively minor status of Kannada in Mumbai, or perhaps because of it, as the stories unfold and lead to more stories, they are refreshing in the way show the city bringing together thousands of people every day ... None of it makes sense and that is the pleasure at the core of the stories—the unfamiliar becomes suddenly familiar ... The beauty of all the stories lies in such conversations. Contrary to internationally well-known works about the city which tend to bombast in their explicitly philosophizing, in these works, ironically, the city vanishes in the process of highlighting the city. Kaikini accomplishes through rare descriptive writing ... a fitting tribute paid to the city through fiction: the microcosms of settings and relationships that allow the characters, and thereby the readers, especially the city dwellers (Mumbaikars as they are called) to be born again, or assume a new life. Kaikini’s stories capture Mumbai as the scattered-omnipresent influence it holds on individuals living here.
MixedThe Asian Review of BooksVijay’s prose rearranges, re-orders and unveils the different stages of the characters’ lives, especially Shalini’s, neatly taking the reader in and out of various episodes of her life ... But this remembrance narrative gets complicated when Kashmir is super-imposed. The author was born and raised in Bangalore, as is the narrator. It is hard to miss the tone of Kashmir-as-an-exotic-place, a setting quite suitable for a quest—as seen through the eyes of non-Kashmiris. It’s the same old story: Kashmiris as caught between the militants and the Indian army ... If this novel is the only thing that brings certain readers the closest they have been to Kashmir, Vijay’s writing, well, checks the box of the description of the landscape ... The novel has garnered much praise (and has even been shortlisted for an award in India) for the way it talks about the situation in Kashmir since the 1990s. However, the attention seems misplaced: the novel seems less about Kashmir than a story perhaps serendipitously set there. If Vijay is making a point, other than a literary one, about Kashmir, it’s easily missed. The novel is full of Shalini, her observations about the place and the people, her desire. The novel ends abruptly because, well, the novel has to end somewhere.
PositiveAsian Review of Books\"The book is invaluable for moments... when Baker registers the doubts that plagued these men ... Baker writes lucidly about what they must have felt braving the weather and resisting the hollow promise of virility ... While it is refreshing to read text without any ominous numbers pointing to possibly informative endnotes, it also casts a shadow of doubt. How much comes from the private and public correspondence between the \'cast of characters\' and how much is reconstruction? ... But such doubts, and the tabulation of the multiple and intersecting affairs aside, The Last Englishmen comes alive—at least for Indian readers—in the last fifty pages or so.\