Once There Was a Girl (Vattathul); R. Vatsala, translated by K. Srilata, Writer’s Workshop, Rs.400.

Once There was a Girl is the English translation of the Tamil Vattathul, by R. Vatsala and translated by her daughter, writer and academic K. Srilata. The story of a fiercely independent, bright Brahmin girl, Vattathul won the Tiruppur Tamil Sangam award for best novel in 2008. Set largely in the pre-Independence era, Vatsala shows the changes and developments in her protagonist Janaki’s character through events. The novel is studded with details that would interest both ethnographers and historians. This is a world infused with patriarchy, caste and class and gender divide. Vatsala, who also has also written the popular book of poems Suyam, is known for her feminist perspectives and independent approach to her literary works.

31: A Thriller; Upendra Namburi, Westland, Rs.250.

A banking and finance professional by day, Upendra Namburi turns complex and dry ideas like loans, foreclosures and investments into ingredients for a corporate thriller. Titled after the number of days in March, 31 is part of a three-book series that Namburi likes to call the ‘Numbers Triumvirate’ and not a trilogy. The book covers 31 days in the life of Ravi Shashtry, a regional head with Imperial Bank. 31 is full of intrigue and suspense, with office politics, personal rivalries, betrayals and a billion dollars woven in.

Another Man’s Wife; Manjul Bajaj, Hachette India, Rs.350.

Manjul Bajaj’s debut novel Come, Before Evening Falls was shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Prize 2010. This book is a collection of short stories woven around strong female protagonists. Bajaj’s stories are set in both urban and rural India against the backdrop of some major political events of the past two decades: a contractor at a dam site develops so obsessive a desire for a tribal woman that he brings home and holds captive another man’s wife; a Kathak dancer trapped in a marriage of convenience redefines notions of fidelity. Each story unerringly locates the defiant undercurrent of individual expression in people shackled by societal norms.

Nelycinda; Susan Visvanathan, Roli Books, Rs.295.

Sociologist, anthropologist and writer Susan Visvanathan presents a collection of 14 stories of a woman’s perspective of society thriving on trade and business. Lyrical and poignant, these stories take us to a world infested with the aroma of spices. Exploring her relationship with the ocean, Visvanathan places each story close to the great expanse of sea and sand and water, playing with the bounds of time, space and geographical boundaries.

The Daughters of Joy and Soulmate; Deepak Chopra, Hay House, Rs.299.

Deepak Chopra turns to love and its manifold faces. In The Daughters of Joy, struggling writer Jess Conover needs a job and meets lovely, willowy Elena on a cold November night in Boston and is swept into an age-old mystery. Soulmate’s Raj Rabban, a gifted young doctor, is about to have his whole world turned upside down when a chance encounter on a subway introduces him to the kind of happiness he never thought possible. Written in trademark Chopra style, both books have a touch of self-help mixed with the punch of fiction.

The Last Love Letter; Minty Tejpal, Hachette India, Rs. 395.

Journalist-turned-director Minty Tejpal’s first book is a moving cry from the heart of a man dogged by misfortune and deemed unworthy of love. Tejpal turns his attention to the institution of marriage. Examining marriage from a man’s perspective, Tejpal tries to explore the reasons for the crumbling nature of this institution and the need to redefine the concept in order to keep it relevant to modern life.

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