Tag Archives: debut novel

Book Review of “The Ordeal” by Mangesh Jadhav

The Ordeal

 by Mangesh Jadhav

We know that USA is capable of quite a lot. Or so it projects in movies and books. But interfering with nature…who would’ve thought!

Mangesh Jadhav’s first offering, a sci-fi one at that, (The Ordeal) is quite entertaining and thrilling. I wasn’t sure how well my mind would receive it- but I was zapped at being hooked on to it from the very first page.

So what’s the story like- you ask? Well we have NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) working on a satellite that can be used for military purposes. And then you have Russia with its undercover agents reporting the secret to its country, and them coming up with plans to counter it, and therein lies the fantastic plot. How it is brought forth and faced makes for a great read.

For a debut writer, Mangesh has used crisp, clean and very free flowing language that is not only easy but also grammatically fine. (Such relief there.)

The characters are very strong and impactful. Michael Jones, the lead protagonist is a CIA agent. His personality almost reflects through the pages. He is in charge of keeping the mission a secret, and what a fine job he does.
Then we have Suzanne Owen (Private Secretary of CIA’s Director) –a beautiful young lady and Michael’s love interest.
The other cast includes: Dr. Nina Portman, the greedy scientist who can’t but keep a secret for the country and sells her soul to the devil (read: Russians); Dr. Stephen Wilson of NOAA, the one to begin the experiment in the first place, and a bunch of Russians (Alexander Kofman, Andrei Yavlinsky, Vladimir Ivanov, Sergi Nemstor, etc.) who complete the picture in a splendid way.

Another good thing about the novel is the ease of reading it brings- well spaced lettering and smooth language- makes reading sort of uninterrupted and the 400 odd pages did not seem a task, really. The narrative is quite linear. Which is a good thing I guess.

The thriller was thoroughly enjoyed. Crisp plot, remarkable twists, pretty good detailing (sometimes a bit too much of it), it felt more real than just a story. Certain places the author could’ve/ should’ve left open-ended sentences/plots for the reader to interpret or assume or imagine. This would’ve engaged the reader more.

But overall, this is a MUST read- esp. coming from an Indian author- a great debut here!


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Of loneliness, love and everything in between- Interview With Chitralekha Paul

Reviewers claim that Chitralekha Paul’s writings are similar to Jhumpa Lahiri and Anita Desai’s treatment and writing style. The dilemmas, issues and small pleasures of the protagonist of Delayed Monsoon, Abhilasha, has given critics and reviewers enough reason to applaud this lawyer-cum-writer’s debut venture. The way in which Abhilasha and Arvind fall in love, the anticipation of meeting her beloved for the first time (she fell in love with Arvind online) and the nervousness she faces of him being a person different from the Arvind she has known is written beautifully.

I got talking with Chitralekha Paul, about how she chose this story as her debut novel, about how similar is Chitralekha to Abhilasha and that one instance that helped her realize that people other than family would be interested in reading her novel.

From a lawyer to a writer – what inspired you to take up writing?

The lawyer in me is a professional person but there is also another me who is sensitive and creative. My thought process is never at rest. But being an introvert to the core, I could never share my feelings with anyone. So, I guess that is the reason I took up writing to express myself.

How was life with an Air-Force officer initially? Was there any kind of fear/apprehension about the professional hazards? Did that in anyway bring out the writer in you?
Initially there was lot of excitement. Getting married to an Air Force pilot was a big deal for a girl who was used to a calm and uneventful life far away from any kind of glamour or glory.  I was overwhelmed by the charisma of my husband’s profession. No doubt the profession was risky but somehow I never got apprehensive, except when his flying time coincided with thunderstorm or when he went into hills. Many people have asked me this question “ Don’t you get scared when your husband flies.?” And my answer was “ How can I afford to be scared when I have married a person for whom flying is his life?”

There is quite a bit of loneliness reflected in Abhilasha’s character. How did you think of the entire ideation and plot? How much of Chitralekha reflects in ‘Abhilasha’?

The story deals with the loneliness of Abhilasha at various stages of her life.  If we broadly divide the stages as before marriage and after marriage, then before marriage loneliness is something which is typical  with Abhilasha  but after marriage aloneness is quite a common feature.  My interaction with many married ladies of my time, who could not pursue their career, compelled me to ponder how void they felt from inside when apparently they seemed to be happy. Competent and educated girls who could have easily carved a niche for themselves had not thought twice before sacrificing their ambition at the altar of the family. Because that appeared to be the most spontaneous and natural choice at that point of time. But there comes a stage when family responsibilities are fulfilled, everyone’s interest has been taken care of, but what happens to them? Alas! At the end of it all, a painful realisation dawns on them that perhaps they have messed up their lives, as all their sacrifices earned them nothing more than an inferior status of being termed as a housewife, the most underrated, difficult and taken for granted profession( if it can be called a profession).  I have come into the legal profession at a much later stage, before which I was one among them. So I chose to write for me and for many more not so accomplished ladies who could have touched the sky only if they got a chance to realise their potential.

All the characters have a distinct feel and flavor. How easy or difficult was it etching them – the male protagonists as well as the female protagonists?
Human characters fascinate me a lot. We all are distinct persons with various shades. No one is outright good or bad. That’s why whenever I come into contact with any person I try to be non-judgmental so that all his traits, good or bad get painted in the canvas of my mind.  And since I am the one who loves to observe rather than being observed and listen rather than being listened, I find it easy to feel the distinct flavour of each character.

Is there any incident that you’d like to share with the readers that has left an impression in your memory, during the writing process?
Initially when I started writing I was not very sure if people will be interested in the story of Abhilasha who was just an ordinary housewife. My daughter’s remarks that the story makes an interesting read, failed to convince me as I took it to be an attempt by a loving daughter to encourage her mother. Then one day my husband happened to peep on the Microsoft word file which I forgot to close. “It’s amazing!! I have been with you for so many years but I never knew that your grip over English is better than me. With an easy flowing language, you have an interesting story to tell and many ladies would love to read your book,” for the first time in my life I was praised by my worst critique.  And I was on cloud nine.

Would you like to name some of your favorite books/authors?
I find this question a bit difficult to answer. There are quite a few authors  whose writing I enjoy. But that doesn’t mean that I would like all their writings.. May be I have enjoyed a particular book of a certain writer but some other books  written by the same author has disappointed me. But still if you want me to answer the question,  first I will name two famous  Bengali novelists and they are Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and Sharat Chandra Chatterjee. Apart from them there are many others like R.K Narayan, Paul Coelho, Alex Haley, Jeffrey Archer, M M Kaye, Khaled Hosseini,  Indu Sudaresan and so on. Among the books Pather Panchali, Malgudi Days, Roots, The Far Pavilions, Autobiography of a Yogi and AThousand Splendid Suns are my all time favourite.

What other genres of writing do you wish to explore further?
Umm…I have not thought about this  as yet.

How has life changed after being known as a writer/author?
Well….. life is the same for me, there is absolutely no change.

What next do we see you writing?

May be another fiction which will have nothing to do with my personal experience.

Pearls of wisdom for budding writers…
Be honest with your feelings and don’t let the mind interfere with your heart in the initial stage of writing. Just go with the flow and let the story take a shape. Afterwards you will have enough opportunity to use your mind, be it changing the story line or working on the language.

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Book Review of “Office Shocks: A Novel” by Sumit Aggarwal

Office Shocks: A Novel

by Sumit Aggarwal

There have been quite a few novels based around office culture of late. First campus fiction took the front seat, and now it’s the big bad corporate world! Not bad I say. People seem to be growing up to the realities around.
So, coming to Office Shock, Sumit Aggarwal’s debut novel, let me tell you that it is a decent first attempt.
It takes you through the “first day at work” of a certain new joiner- Aniket (a B-school pass-out who lands a job in an MNC), as he enters his new workplace ‘Cairn & Company’. Come to think of it, it was quite a “first day”.

The very first shock of the day was when the senior manager hands Aniket a bouquet of flowers and other team members standing around applaud. Some royal treatment that, makes Aniket feel that it’s a prank. And as the day progresses, hour by hour, Aniket experiences the shocking reality.
The unique ensemble he encounters, viz. the fickle-minded boss, the girl who gets fired, running into an old friend, the lunch hour, the real induction, the dynamic gossiping duo (Jai and Dhir), the erudite two-timing family man, the over-time, the first client meet with a lady cougar, and the revelation of the secret at the end make up for quite a shocking read.

Quirky and comical, the experiences do resonate at some level with the corporate culture we have around us. The acknowledgments are drafted like an Office Memo, like an outgoing e-mail. This novel approach makes you proceed with the pages, without much hesitation, banking on the author’s sense of humor.
Owing to the fact that this is a work of fiction, some parts of the novel did read really “made up” sorts. I did not really connect much with Aniket – or with anyone else in the book. If that was intentional – good job. Else…eh…!
The language of the book is flamboyantly lucid. The author’s knack of penning similes and articulately depicting the scenes, thus paving his way into his reader’s mind is commendable.
A bit of satire, a bit of humor, a bit of reality and quite a bit of shock.
It’s not like an “OMG! What a story!” but it definitely counts as “Hehe…Nice!”

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Passionate About Writing


Life does lead you to your passion, ultimately. Who better to vouch for it than Mr. Prem Rao himself?
Turning to writing after 36 years of professional work as a Talent Management Specialist and Executive Coach, he is an avid blogger whose professional blog People at Work and Play has gathered a huge fan following. And his recent blog Writing To Be Read is soon catching up globally. Alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale; Loyola College, Chennai and XLRI, Jamshedpur, Prem Rao’s passion for writing and his outstanding skill of creating suspense have reflected quite well in his debut novel “It Can’t Be You”.
BookChums got a chance to know more about the author. And it’s all here.

People tend to write about things they have experienced or seen or lived  around/with. You come from the corporate sector (Talent Management  Specialist and Executive Coach). 36 years of Corporate environment and you  come with a psychological thriller!!! How did THIS happen?!
I have always loved people, psychology and thrillers. When I was a kid I often dreamt of  writing one someday! I am inspired by Irving Wallace who urged writers to use their  imagination.
He said “ Da Vinci did not have to attend The Last Supper to paint it”. My novel is built upon  strong research and vivid imagination.

When, where and how did the writing bug bite?
From childhood I was a voracious reader and I guess enjoying writing is an off shoot from  enjoying reading. I wrote very often for my school magazine. A couple of years ago, I started  writing short stories. This encouraged me to take the plunge and attempt a full-fledged novel.

What brought about the ideation of this novel?
The theme flows from my love for human psychology and the military. This novel sits at the intersection of both these deep interests.  Frankly, it did not occur to me at all that a psychological thriller would be a rarity for a debut novel.

Did novel writing come easy or was it a very conscious effort (given that writing blogs is a bit different than writing a full-fledged novel)?

As I have said in the Acknowledgement for my book  “ Wishes would remain wishes without a catalyst”. For me the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is popularly called was my catalyst. It motivated me to write 50,000 words in the month of November 2009. This was then built up to the final size of about 81,000 words.

What kind of research did you execute for this book? How much time did it take you to complete the novel?
With 50,000 words through in November 2009, it took me another 4-5 months to write the remaining part of the book, re-validate the plots and cross-check initial research. Editing is the toughest part of writing a novel. This takes huge amounts of time and effort.

The style of creating suspense in the very first page has worked in your favor. But did you ever feel that you are venturing into an unknown territory with what you assume to be your best weapon–> a psychological thriller? Did you experiment with any other genre before finalizing on this one?
I went straight into this novel without experimenting with any other genre. The story did change a few times as it emerged in my mind. The first draft was in some ways very different from the final book, especially how the story ends. I was very much struck by a nice saying I read somewhere  “ Write the firs t chapter with your query in mind and the last with your next novel in  mind”.

Did you face any point of stagnation during the writing process?
Not really. I was fortunate that I had tremendous enthusiasm – this being my first novel- and loads of time at my disposal.

Any aversions from critics (yet) that you did not expect?
None so far, but I do realize that it’s awfully important to accept both praise and criticism with a great deal of equanimity- more so as I still have much to learn, this being my debut novel.

Looking back – given a choice, would you change any part of the novel or frame it differently?
No, I am quite satisfied with the way it went for me. I have tried to place huge emphasis on internal conflicts – choosing the first person narrative- to dwell on this in greater depth. I find internal conflicts more difficult to write about than external ones- perhaps that’s why they are somewhat less common.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing?
Too many to recount but most had to do with World War II, and the Cold War that followed when I was  growing up. More than any single book, I would say I was enthralled by books on espionage, mystery and thrills.  As you know, Scorpios are supposed to be the detectives of the Zodiac and perhaps being one myself this comes instinctively to me.

Name some of your favorite authors/books?
I have loved the books of John Masters, Ian Fleming, Harold Robbins amongst others. My favorite author  though is not a thriller writer at all. It is P.G.Wodehouse!

What are you currently working on?
I wrote 50,000 word in November 2010 for NaNoWriMo once again. “Lucky For Some, Thirteen” is again a thriller. It is set in Bangalore, India and is a story of a terrorist attack and its aftermath. The major action culminates on September 13, 2010 and this is one- amongst several other reasons – for the title.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
I like playing with my grandson who will shortly be two and is the apple of my eye.

Any contemporary authors you’d recommend?
I like James Patterson, possibly the most prolific writer in the world today. Among authors in India, I like Mukul Deva.

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