Posts Tagged ‘book review’

3/21/2011 ~ “A Pack of Lies” reviewed on Curious Book Fans

Monday, March 21st, 2011

This is a cool site – the reviews are honest and insightful, and, will point readers to books they may not encounter on the usual bestseller lists. Worth a look, I really like this site. Even though they don’t rave about my books. Or maybe because they don’t rave about my books 🙂

01/26/2011 ~ New Madhouse Review – 2

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

By John Cheeran
Here is an awesome book.
Madhouse: True stories of the inmates of Hostel 4, IIT-Bombay is going to be a trendsetter. It puts together utterly common and uncommon moments from the lives of a group of students, achievers of some sort, for they cracked the JEE to get in to the IIT.
Though all the recollections in Madhouse are specific to one of the hostels in IIT Bombay – there are 9 others, including a ladies hostel (hostel 10) but you don’t have to be an IITian to enjoy these true stories on hostel food, ragging, pondies, phone, entertainment programmes (EPs), copying, girlfriends and other assorted adventures.
These stories cover a timeline of less than 10 years (roughly a period ranging from 1972-1985) out of IIT Bombay’s more than 50-year history.
It’s an unputdownable book, especially if you remain young at heart. Any reader should be able to recall more than one occasion from his student/hostel life similar to that Madhouse speaks about. These colourful tales do make you nostalgic of a time of infinite freedom and immense pressure to live up to parental expectations.
Madhouse shatters a few myths regarding how above average and brilliant the guys and girls who make the cut to the IIT are. May be, after reading these true accounts, you would feel that what a bunch of quirky, degenerate and spoilt characters are these people, with no qualms about flouting rules of all kinds.
Some of these tales are absolutely wacky. Bakul Desai (contributing editor and a successful businessman based in Hyderabad) wanted to bring an elephant to the campus for the H4’s EP (entertainment programme). An enterprising Bakul, in his desperation, went to Antop Hill and had a negotiation with underworld don Varadaraja Mudaliar for renting out an elephant without knowing who the guy was. Later Bakul tells how they invented ways to use the public coin phone in the hostel without inserting coins. I burst out laughing when he described the day when a telephone department official came with a big bag to collect all the coins from the phone box but only to be shocked when he opened the box by the sight of matchsticks, broken strings, crumpled computer cards, rubber bands, clips, pins and an assortment of wires made of steel, copper, plastic, a wad of chewing gum and a 50 paise coin in the middle of it.
Who thought IIT students could be so enterprising?
Most of the heroes and heroines of Madhouse have done well in life. Many here recount that they learnt more by bunking classes than from classrooms.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was a commie then at IIT Bombay has traveled quite distance to become BJP ideologue and now an advisor to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee. Manohar (Manu) Parrikar is another H4 inmate who became BJP chief minister of Goa and now the opposition leader in the assembly.
Urmilla Deshpande (editor) and Bakul Desai (contributing editor) deserve a toast for putting together this book. It was Bakul who took the lead to get the project on track. Urmilla played her role as a sensitive editor to perfection by letting these stories speak by themselves without the writer in her taking over to shape them. She realized that in these stories style and content were inseparable. She should know having married an H4 inmate Hashish Koj La (Ashish Khosla).

Posted by johncheeran at 12:17 AM

03/01/2011 ~ new review of “A Pack of Lies”

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Happy new year! A Pack of Lies, which was published October 2009, is still being read and reviewed, I’m very pleased! A friend sent me this link today. Nice new year present, an inspiration that might help me to finish the book of short stories I have promised to deliver to my editor by the end of January…

Sheila Kumar, the reviewer, has alluded a few times to “autobio masquerading as fiction” as several have done before, but she has stopped short of making any further assumptions, and has actually given me the benefit of reading the book as fiction. More on this later, it’s time I wrote about it. A book to finish first – a challenge from my dear editor.

The text of the review:

Mommie dearest


Sometimes, telling a tale of childhood can also be an exorcism of sorts.

A Pack of Lies, Urmilla Deshpande, Tranquebar, Rs. 295.

The pulling down of the covering veil is not a gentle gesture here; it is a brutal act of ripping. Yet, when the reader reaches the end of this coming-of-age novel, autobio masquerading as fiction, the utter imperative behind it does not fail to impress. Deshpande has a story to tell and she tells it, consequences be damned.

It is the improbably named Virginia who comes of age in the early 1980s here. The girl was never the shy, retiring sort to begin with; add a strange, preoccupied mother who swings between languid condemnation and an equally languid neglect all through, throw in generous pinches of dope, drink, men, women, modelling contracts, unsavoury relationships and the occasional bout of introspection, and you get a very readable account of a young life lived to the hilt.

Of course, it is anything but a pack of lies. The novel deals with truths, mostly unpalatable. Virginia a.k.a Ginny, named after the doomed Woolf is ironically enough, not much of a Woolf fan. She tires early of trying to live up to her moody mother’s unpronounced expectations and decides to go her own way. That particular road involves the jettisoning of any remnants of inhibitions, taking up with a glamorous woman mentor, an unsavoury boss who quickly become Ginny’s live-in partner, and sundry other quick gropings and one-night sessions with attractive men who come her way. There is a career of sorts in photography that is slowly coming together, there is the occasional reunion with her separately re-married father and mother and their new families. There is the immediate bonding with her sister who lives with her father and his awful new wife, as well as the small stepsister born to her mother late in life. Tumult but not all bad, either.

Real lives

It’s the old cliché come alive: Ginny isn’t really short of money, she even has her own apartment in Mumbai. What she lacks desperately and seeks hungrily, is unconditional love and acceptance, mainly from her parents. Ginny’s mother, the distant writer with longings both the girl and the reader can only guess at, as well as a predilection later on for drink, tends to steal several scenes from the young girl throughout the narrative and is someone who leaves quite an impact.

What shines through is the truth (again, masquerading as distinct possibility) that Ginny’s story is a true one. Love, lust and life, the three strands inform the narrative in a clear-eyed manner. The story is written in a no-frills, direct style, and the reader warms to the heroine despite the best efforts of the writer to create a no-sympathy-needed character. That ultimately is the book’s winning formula.

© Copyright 2000 – 2009 The Hindu

12/14/2010 ~ Madhouse reviewed… and enjoyed!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

'Madhouse...' is a candid, provocative narrative

Deccan Herald Review

Thursday, December 24th, 2009
Painfully ever after

Painfully ever after


POL in Marie Claire India december 2009

Monday, December 14th, 2009
Marie Claire Dec 2009

Marie Claire Dec 2009


and write them into major events. Or
take marginally interesting people and
write them into giants and trolls and
goddesses. For example, the people
Ginny has sex with. There have been
men and women that I had crushes
on, that I might have wanted to have
a larger relationship, or just sex with.
And circumstances or their desires did
not allow it – well, Ginny got lucky (or
unlucky) where I did not. My mother
was quite a character and I did draw
upon her for Ginny’s mother. But I
had to distort her in order to make
her larger than life. I wanted to write
fiction about a woman somewhat like
me. After I started writing, she took
on her own character. So when I read
the book after its final edit, she didn’t
resemble me. I’m glad for that. Even if
everyone insists on assuming this is – as
one reviewer put it – “autobiography
masquerading as novel” – it is a novel,
and any resemblance to persons living
or dead is purely inspirational!
Who are your favourite writers?
Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, John
Steinbeck, Italo Calvino, Lawrence
Durrell, Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
– the list keeps growing longer. I have
a weakness for comics, graphic novels
and science fiction.
De spi t e the f raught f ami l y
relationships, the book is actually
about family.
Family is an odd thing. There isn’t
always a mutual desire to be part of it
– we don’t choose our parents, or even
our children. We may love them, but
wouldn’t admit it to ourselves if we
did not. Ginny is unfortunate that she
doesn’t have any models to base her
social morals on, or the size and colour
of her family. But she is fortunate too,
in not having those models. Like a
traveller on an unknown road, she has
to make it up as she goes along.
By Manjula Narayan
The Complaints
Ian Rankin
Hachette India, Rs 595
Ian Rankin’s new hero
Malcolm Fox works for
the Edinburgh Police’s
Professional Standards Unit
aka The Complaints. He’s
a cop who catches crooked cops. If his first
outing is anything to go by, readers will soon
learn to love Fox as much as they do crabby
Scot Inspector Rebus. The author’s even been
hinting that Rebus and Fox might make a joint
appearance some day. Bet you can’t wait!
The New Anthem: The
Continent in Its
Own Words
Edited by Ahmede
Tranquebar, Rs 350
Here’s a book that brings
together voices from the
Indian subcontinent. Do stop to read ‘If You
Are Afraid of Heights’ by Raj Kamal Jha, ‘The
Ocean of Mrs Nagai’ by Sharbari Ahmed and
‘Cyclone’ by Khademul Islam. Also in the
fiction anthology are works by Amit Chaudhuri,
Tabish Khair, Padma Viswanathan, Kamila
Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Altaf Tyrewala.
new on shelves
novel A Pack
of Lies is an
Rs 295)
Don’t Swallow Your
Gum and Other
Medical Myths
Dr Aaron Carroll & Dr
Rachel Vreeman
Penguin, Rs 350
‘You use only 10 per cent
of your brain,’ ‘Acupuncture doesn’t really
work,’ ‘Condoms protect you from all STDs’
and ‘Eating at night makes you fat’ are some
beliefs challenged in the book. Though some of
the arguments aren’t entirely convincing, it’s
definitely a witty read.
book stills: manasa madishetty
234 marie claire india december 2009
Urmila Deshpande’s A Pack
of Lies traces the journey of
her protagonist Ginny as she
struggles to make sense of family
and of life in 1980s Mumbai. Here,
the original calendar girl – she was a
leading model – talks about her novel.
How much of the book is drawn
from your life?
Ginny is often assumed to be me
because the book is written in first
person. Yes, I am Ginny and Ginny is
me, but I am also not Ginny, and she
is also not me! There are moments in
my life that I used as starting points
to write Ginny – my relationship with
my mother, or my sisters, for example.
But I did not want to be restricted to
the truth. I wanted to take possibilities,
Marie Claire Dec 2009

Marie Claire Dec 2009

Nice review by John Cheeran…

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Thanks for this review, John Cheeran, I’m glad you liked my book!

Reviews and other strange things…

Sunday, November 1st, 2009


Friday, October 30th, 2009
Asian Age Newspaper Mumbai, Oct 25.

Asian Age Newspaper Mumbai, Oct 25.

DNA Article

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Write up in the Indian newspaper DNA…

Beyond the expected

Note: They got Umi’s mother’s name wrong… It should be Gauri Deshpande, not Shashi Deshpande. Umi is not related to Shashi Deshpande in any way other than as a friend and fellow writer.

Here’s what the paper artcile looks like…

DNA Article: Beyond the expected.

DNA Article: Beyond the expected.

And here’s another image from the newspaper:

Prahlad Kakkar and Umi at the Mumbai Launch

Prahlad Kakkar and Umi at the Mumbai Launch

More news and article updates as they occur. Get in touch if you spot anything, we’ll credit you of course.