Days of Gold And Sepia; Yasmeen Premji, HarperCollins India, Rs.399

Set in the eventful period between India’s War for Independence in 1857 and the fledgling freedom struggle of the early 20th century, this is the story of Lalljee Lakha as he rises from his humble beginnings as a penniless orphan in his desert homeland of Kutch to amass a large fortune as Bombay’s ‘Cotton King’. Peopled by a vibrant array of characters – merchant princes and maharajas, courtesans and soothsayers, pirates, freedom fighters and soldiers of the British Raj — Days of Gold and Sepia paints the portrait of a man of courage and character, and is the story of the discovery of life, the pain of a passionate and doomed love and family feuds, and of great personal integrity and human frailty.

The Book of Destruction; Anand, Translated by Chetana Sachidanandan, Penguin, Rs.299

Murder is committed for its own sake in The Book of Destruction. In ‘The Gardener’, the narrator learns from the thug Seshadri that he has been selected for assassination for no reason but the pure purpose of killing. A discotheque is bombed out of existence in ‘The Hotelier and the Traveller’. In the third episode, stitched clothes escape from a tailor’s shop and soar down the streets to take over bodies. The cruelty of killers and the wretchedness of victims are shifted to the margins as the novel focuses on the act of murder. In his inimitable style, Anand takes the mesmerised reader on a journey of three stages — the practice of killing, the sacrifice of the victim and the sacrifice of the sacrificer — before bringing the story of destruction to its finale.

Maharani; Ruskin Bond, Viking, Rs.299

H.H. is the spoilt, selfish, beautiful widow of the Maharajah of Mastipur. She lives with her dogs and her caretaker, Hans, in an enormous old house in Mussoorie, taking lovers and discarding them, drinking too much, and fending off her reckless sons who are waiting hungrily for their inheritance. The seasons come and go; hotels burn down, cinemas shut shop, and people leave the hill station never to return. But H.H. remains constant and indomitable. Observing her antics, often with disapproval, is her old friend Ruskin, who can never quite cut himself off from her. Melancholic, wry and full of charm, Maharani is a delightful novella about love, death and friendship. 

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 1: Govinda; Krishna Udayasankar, Hachette India, Rs.350

For generations, the Firstborn dynasty of scholar-sages, descendants of Vasishta Varuni and protectors of the Divine Order on earth, has dominated. For just as long, the Angirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, has defied them. In the aftermath of the centuries-long conflict between the two orders, the once-united empire of Aryavarta lies splintered; a shadow of its former glorious self. Now, the last Secret Keeper of the Firewrights is dead, killed by a violent hand, and the battle for supreme power in the empire is about to begin. As mighty powers hurtle towards a bloody conflict, Govinda Shauri, cowherd-turned-prince and now Commander of the armies of Dwaraka, must use all his cunning to counter deception and treachery if he is to protect his people and those whom he loves.

Hira Mandi; Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison, IndiaInk, Rs.195

One of the few French writers to write on the social, religious, political and cultural issues of Pakistani society, Claudine takes on a subject that has been forbidden and taboo for ages. The novel takes you on a journey through Hira Mandi, the infamous red-light district of Lahore, which stays hidden within the walled section of the city.

Earlier, the place was known for its dancing girls and musicians. It was a section where prostitution was practised, under the garb of entertainment. In her book, Claudine tells the story of Shanwaz, the son of a prostitute, who aspires to be a painter.

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