When I was asked to review Rajat Das’ debut novel (Paper Boat, Flame of the Forest) I approached the offer with skepticism. Why? I had little experience of reading a novel as long as 800 pages. Believe me, I have considered Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy many times in libraries and bookstores but that novel’s heft has always come in the way of my reading pleasure (and I prefer doorstoppers from Ikea). Man, don’t get me wrong. I love Seth, I love that Golden Gate man. What a charming writer! But I am happy having read his From Heaven Lake.

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Come, Before Evening Falls by Manjul Bajaj
Hachette India , 238 pages
Price: Rs.295

Manjul Bajaj’s debut novel is a strong, passionate story well told.  The author offers insights into the culture, history and psyche of the Jat people of northern India’s heartland. Set in a Jat hamlet near Delhi in 1909, this is a tale of proud, upright men and women who will die to uphold the honor of family, community and country. The subtle feminist approach works well with full blooded women juxtaposed against well fleshed out and likeable male characters. The novel begins as a smoldering love story, with the threat of deadly social taboos simmering in the backdrop. The author interweaves social practices which sadly continue even today in pockets of rural India, such as the terrible practice of honor killings.

Monkey Man by K. R. Usha
Penguin (India), 259 pages
Price: RS.299

K. R. Usha’s latest novel takes a fresh, deeply sensitive and insightful look at life in Bangalore, India’s fastest growing city. Shortlisted for the for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and winner of the Vodaphone Crossword prize for her previous novel, A GIRL AND A RIVER, this consummate storyteller takes readers into the heart of a city zooming beyond the technological stratosphere while teetering on the brink of chaos.

Karachi, 11 March. The Pakistani-American author, Danyal Mueenuddin won the regional (Europe and South Asia) Commonwealth Writers Prize 2010 for the Best First Book for his story collection Other Rooms Other Wonders set mostly in Southern Punjab where he farms. The judges considered the book “remarkable for its clear, exact prose and its wide scope … the short sharp pithy
observations and details” according to Muneeza Shamsie the Regional Chairperson of the CWP 2010.