Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman - Book Review

Publisher's write-up :

Jim Taylor has just been engaged as bodyguard to a princess. But Princess Adelaide is hardly typical of her title – she is a London slum-child who cannot read or write. And Jim already knows her. Adelaide disappeared ten years ago, and he's been searching for her ever since. She's turned up as Crown Princess of Razkavia, a tiny Central European country in political turmoil. The Crown Prince is deeply in love with her, and it's easy to see why – Adelaide's courage and determination inspire love. But when they arrive in Razkavia, Jim will find plenty who hate Adelaide, and what she stands for...”

The Tin Princess is the fourth and last book of the Sally Lockhart quartet, written by Philip Pullman. The story takes place during the Victorian Era, in 1882, one year after the events that took place in  The Tiger in the Well. Adelaide, who appears in the first book, The Ruby in the Smoke, makes a comeback in this novel as one of the main characters.

Razkavia is a small kingdom in central Europe, around as big as Berkshire. It has been in existence since the thirteenth century and is presumably sandwiched between Germany and Austria. Prince Wilhelm and his wife Anna have been murdered and his younger brother, Prince Rudolf becomes the heir to the throne of Razkavia. Prince Rudolf is in England has just been married to Adelaide. Unfortunately, during Rudolf's coronation, he was killed and now, Adelaide is the queen of Razkavia – a queen who doesn't know the local language and also illiterate. She has a translator named Rebecca Winter and James Taylor (who appears in the first three books) is appointed as her bodyguard.

The book is supposed to be a “Sally Lockhart mystery” but, Sally's role in this book is insignificant and Jim is the main character of this book but that is not a problem as it could be understood that Sally is now married and settled. The book was reasonable but I feel some of it didn't have much logic. Adelaide was a Cockney Queen the previous day and in the very next day, Adelaide becomes a top diplomat solving problems that had been going on for centuries. The author does try to inform the reader that Adelaide, although illiterate is intelligent – like she is very good at playing chess and Rebecca could never beat her but diplomacy is not something obtained through IQ. The end was also extremely abrupt, almost like the author was under pressure to complete the book within a given target. Considering that this is the last book of the series, the author could have written a far more precise epilogue.

  If I've to describe the novel in one line : The worst book in the Sally Lockhart quartet.  

Rating – 4 / 10

Have a nice day,


Hide & Seek by Ian Rankin - Book Review

Publisher's write-up :

A junkie lies dead in an Edinburgh squat – spreadeagled, cross-like on the floor between two burned-down candles, a five-pointed star daubed on the wall above. Just another dead, addict, until John Rebus begins to chip away at the indifference, treachery, deceit and sleaze that lurks behind the facade of the Edinburgh familiar to to the tourists. Only Rebus seems to care about a death which looks more like murder every day, about a seductive danger he can almost taste, appealing to the darkest corners of his mind.”

Hide & Seek is the second Inspector Rebus novel written by the best selling British crime novelist, Ian Rankin. The story takes place in Edinburgh, like in most Rebus novels and Rebus is promoted to the level of an inspector, from a sergeant.

A junkie, named Ronnie is dead, due to drug overdose, in an Edinburgh squat. There are several confusing facts about the murder. He died due to overdose of intoxicated drugs, but the drugs he had been holding in his hand was pure. It also appears that he was beaten before he was killed. So, Rebus' task was to find out who killed him and what could have possibly been the motive behind killing someone like Ronnie.

I was disappointed with this book. The story was developing very well but the end was disappointing and that is what is crucial in a mystery novel. I don't have much to say about this book and having read, “A Question of Blood”, I think it is safe to assume that the books become better as the series progresses.

Rating – 4/10

Have a nice day,


The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman - Book Review

Publisher's write-up :

In a respectable tea-shop in London, a girl with a pistol is holding off three men. Sally Lockhart is fighting for her child – a child that is suddenly hers no longer. Driven from her home, Sally is in hiding, desperately trying to find out who is turning her life upside down. Meanwhile, the man she is seeking is in a house in Spitalfields, directing his lackeys to snare her deeper, and deeper. No one will stop him, for he is the Tzaddik...”

 The Tiger in the Well is the third book in the Sally Lockhart quartet, written by the British author Philip Pullman, the author of the famous His Dark Materials trilogy. The story happens in 1881, three years after “The Shadow in the North”.

“One sunny morning in the autumn of 1881, Sally Lockhart stood in the garden and watched her little daughter play, and thought that things were good.” - page 3.

On a fine morning, all of a sudden, Sally Lockhart gets a divorce notice, from Arthur James Parrish, a person whom she has never even heard of. Parrish wanted control over the child of Fred (deceased) and Sally, Harriet Rosa. Unfortunately, every evidence was against Sally, the marriage certificate was perfect, with Sally's signature and there was no birth certificate in the name - “Harriet Rosa Lockhart” but only “Harriet Rosa Parrish”. Sally decides not to appear at the court and inevitably, Parrish wins the case. As the per the law, Parrish is entitled to take complete control over Sally's assets. Sally has no money, no place to live and has an arrest warrant against her due to several charges (including one for kidnapping her own daughter).

This is a very good book. For the first time, Philip Pullman took the Victorian period to his advantage. The time period was insignificant in the previous books. These days, such a case might have been over in no time with the help of a DNA test but here, it could be a 431 page novel because of the era. There was also a good element of suspense. There were some unlikely coincidences throughout the book but that is what separates fiction from reality. What I didn't like was too many characters being introduced throughout the book but it can't be helped when the protagonist is forced to be a nomad.

I really enjoyed reading this book but I'd recommend readers to read the previous books before reading this because this book has a lot of references to the events of the previous books and can be understood better. I'd give this book a nine.

Rating : 9/10

Have a nice day,


2 States by Chetan Bhagat - Book Review

Publisher's write-up :

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. They get married.

In India, there are a few more steps:

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy.

Girl's family has to love boy. Boy's family has to love girl.

Girl's family has to love boy's family. Boy's family has to love girl's family.

Girl and boy still love each other. They get married.

Welcome to 2 States, a story about Krish and Ananya who are from two different states of India, deeply in love and want to get married. Of course, their parents don't agree. To Convert their love story into a love marriage, the couple have a tough battle in front of them. For it is easy to fight and revel, but much harder to convince. Will the make it?”

2 states is a novel written by the Indian author Chetan Bhagat – the best selling English novelist in India. The book is autobiographical – the narrator of the book – Krish's resume will match perfectly with that of Chetan Bhagat.

Krish Malhotra is a Punjabi, who studied at IIT Delhi and is now at IIM Ahmedabad. He falls in love with Ananya, a Tamilian from the Brahmin community and they want to get married. However, their parents don't agree because of the cultural differences. Krish gets a job at Citi Bank and gets posted at Chennai. Now, his task is to convince Ananya's parents and Ananya also has a very similar task, much later in the story.

This was a good book with a bit of humour involved (although, it could be enjoyed only by the people from either of the two communities). The language was bad – frequently using terms such as “according to me”, “comprises of”, etcetera. But for that, there are hardly any negatives and I'd give this book a rating of 6/10.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,


The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller - Book Review

Publisher's write-up :

Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu's reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young students, each of whom has left the impoverished provinces in search of better prospects in the city. It is a profound illustration of a totalitarian state which comes to inhabit every aspect of life; to the extent that everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and perish.”

The Land of Green Plums is supposedly a work of fiction written by the Romanian-German author Herta Muller. This was published in 1994 and has won several awards, including the Nobel prize for literature in 2009. Originally written in German, it was translated into English by the German poet, Michael Hofmann.

Lola, a student, records her experiences in a diary – where she writes about her attempts to escape the totalitarian world and her affairs with anonymous men. She eventually joins the Communist party. This part of the plot comes to an end when she commits suicide and leaves her diary in the narrator's suitcase. Having committed suicide and thus, having betrayed her country and her party, Lola is publicly denounced in a school ceremony. Then, the narrator shares the diary with three male students, Edgar, Kurt and Georg, all from the German speaking community in Romania (including the narrator herself). They sing banned hymns and thus, they're often interrogated by Captain Pjele. They also had to communicate using code language since in the totalitarian regime, any letter could be opened and read by the authorities.

There was no plot. The character description was poor – although, the justification for it is Muller is naturally a poet and hence, it doesn't matter. Several images were used which is subject to the interpretation of the reader – and I couldn't interpret anything. The story went back and forth – all of a sudden, the narrator is in Germany and after a couple of chapters, she is again in Romania with her three friends. Though this was said to have taken place during Ceasescu's regime, the name “Ceausescu” was mentioned only twice and they were also quite insignificant. The author never used quotation marks – nothing wrong in writing the whole book in indirect speech but, I don't find a point in using a colon instead of a quotation mark.

I asked:Transfinite?

She said : Finite.

I said: Transfinite.

She asked : How should I know?”

-Page 140

Unfortunately, I can't write anything more about this book – since I didn't find anything so significant to mention here. I think this is a type of book which you'll either like or loathe and it so happens that I fall under the latter category. I'd say that I'm being generous when I'm giving this book a 1/10.

Rating – 1 / 10

Have a nice day,


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