My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The year was 2009. It was Republic Day. I was window shopping at a quaint bookstore opposite Navina, waiting for the matinee show of a Hindi horror movie to begin. Casually strolling across aisles, one book cover caught my attention. I flipped through the pages, was hooked to the plot, and immediately bought the book. It was ‘The Zoya Factor’. I became a fan of Anuja Chauhan.
Then came the tale of Thakur girls of Hailey Road (I still pay a visit to 16, Hailey Road, everytime I visit Delhi) and my love for Anuja’s works grew even stronger. Not to forget Baaz and Battle for Bittora in between. So, when ‘Club You To Death’ was available for pre-booking on Amazon, I did not waste a second. And boy, was it a good decision to buy the book.
True to her style, Anuja Chauhan transports us to a world of the high-end Delhi elites, who live in their sweet cocoons, unruffled by the upheavals in the society around them. All that keeps them busy are the occasional wine-sipping, bitching sessions at their favourite club, or their Zumba class where the ladies swoon over the instructor, or shaping up the business, which makes them feel important and worthwhile.
The ‘happy’ mundane lives of these club-hopping rich people is thrown into a spin when the gym instructor is found dead in mysterious circumstances and the investigation reveals deep, dark secrets everyone has been trying to brush under the carpet (or should we say, bury deep into the ground?).
That a murder-mystery can be so fun and comical was surely beyond my imagination. Whether it is the typical snobbish aunties (Roshni and Cookie) or the retired Army General (Behra Mehra) or the ‘cool’ Dadi of the Dogra family, every character has been sketched with such perfection, that one must tip their hats off to Anuja. The dialogues are witty (written in true Anuja Chauhan style, with spellings altered the way many Indians pronounce words), the story moves at a brisk pace, and the climax will keep your jaws wide open.
One cannot help but also read between the lines, and applaud Anuja for speaking truth to the power, with small sub-plots strewn across the book. It takes courage to pen down satire, in this age of hashtag activism and cancel-culture.
And of course. Just like Dylan, Samar or Nikhil in her earlier works, Anuja gifts are charming and effusive Kashi (Akash) Dogra in this book. A lawyer who gets embroiled in the murder investigation, his broodiness, inner conflict and boyish charm, are enough to swoon over him.
Overall, Club You To Death is definitely a good binge-read on a weekend, the book will not disappoint.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
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Manreet Sodhi Someshwar features in my list of favourite contemporary Indian authors since 2013, when I first read her ‘The Taj Conspiracy’. A fan since then, I have waited for her to gift us the next instalment in the Mehrunisa series. It has been a long wait, rendered fruitful thanks to this exciting new murder mystery.
‘Girls and the City’ is more than just a murder mystery. It is a commentary on our current society, issues confronting our generation, the uncomfortable truths we all want to brush inside the carpet. Despite the seriousness of the plot, not for once does the book become preachy, or soporific – all thanks to the ‘cool’ writing style.
The story unfolds on a rainy Bengaluru evening, and then takes us back in time on how the events came to be. The lingering suspense, specially the witness statements made during police interrogation, at the end of each chapter, will keep you on tenterhooks.
The book is an easy page-turner, and you’d find it hard to put it down. The free-flowing narrative, and the easy and much-used modern day lingo keep you glued till the end. Even the characters are relatable! Leela is a single mother, struggling to balance work and motherhood. Reshma is a workaholic, young woman we often encounter at corporate offices. Juhi is an ambitious girl who has just started off on her career, and can go to any extremes to move ahead in life. All of them have dark secrets in their closets.
It is hard not to be able to relate to these characters – the work-life balance, struggle for companionship, living away from home in a big city, office politics, struggle to manage finances. In fact, the story took me back to the two years I spent in Bangalore (and what a coincidence that even I used to stay on rent at Indiranagar). Deadlines, office outings, weekend parties at Toit, leisuring at cafes with friends – those were the days!
But most importantly, ‘Girls and the City’ presents to us a picture of ‘new’ India – where even today, girls ate sexually harassed by bosses, single mothers still find it difficult to arrange a flat on rent, girls are judged for staying out late, and no matter how good a parent a mother is, the father’s identity is far more important.
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar paints a picture of our new modern, urban India, through the eyes of three girls, who want to survive in the city. And she excels in her endeavour!
P.S. The reference to Mehrunisa series was an icing on the cake.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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