Book Review

The Mill on the FlossThe Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story of the Tulliver siblings, Maggie and Tom, but more so of Maggie. Maggie Tulliver is kind and sensitive, but also deeply passionate and inclined to act impulsively, ending up quite often doing the “wrong” thing (initially, I found some of her actions too extreme but others I could relate to, but as the story moved on, I found myself sympathising with her increasingly)―she is intelligent, out of the ordinary really, and never fits into any mould that society has created. Her father certainly loves her (as do her other family members in their own way) but from others she only faces disapproval―her mother is sorry that Maggie is “dark” (this was surprising since one expects this attitude in a whole other part of the world) and her hair unruly, her relatives disapprove of her recklessness and of not being lady-like or a more well behaved child like her cousin Lucy (angelic but lovable nonetheless) but what hurts her most, through her life is not getting the acceptance and love that she wants from her brother Tom, who she loves quite unconditionally. Tom is in many ways Maggie’s opposite, he is dutiful and hardworking, a little arrogant but also relentless, unforgiving, and a person who thinks only in terms of right and wrong―as is socially acceptable, but never really from his heart as Maggie does. As a result, he is never able to truly understand her nature and give her the love and support that she craves so much. Life tests the Tullivers many many times, and they struggle in their own ways, but Maggie because of her nature suffers most―her struggles are far deeper and more heart-wrenching. Poor Maggie is never able to fit in to the moulds society has created, and though she struggles and suffers, she also falters, and ends up paying a far higher price than she needs to. But she continues to love, to feel for others, and is never bitter, making her a rather extraordinary heroine who one can’t help but love (and in some ways also admire).

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Book Review

Yama's LieutenantYama’s Lieutenant by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My thanks to the author for a review copy of the book.

This fantasy–adventure with a basis in mythology is the story of a young man, Agni Prakash, who suffering intense grief from the loss of his twin sister Varu (Varuna), finds himself “recruited” by a mysterious yet charming silver goddess to be Yama’s Lieutenant. As Yama’s Lieutenant he finds himself having to fight the grotesque and dangerous arakshas, the tortured souls in Yama’s charge who have escaped the underworld and are wreaking havoc on earth. This gives him some sense of purpose and escape from his own pain. But soon he finds out that a far more perilous mission of great consequence lies ahead for him, for Yama’s powers are weakening and forces beyond any control are all set to invade the earth. In his mission he is helped by the land-spirit Dharami and the kritya Minothi, who has within her great magic, but this is often aroused only when she is angered beyond control, and she finds herself not quite able to harness it. The story is of the journey they have to make―battling a range of fiendish monsters and a necromancer who is desperate to destroy them―to fulfil their mission and save the world from a terrible fate. Alongside progresses a second story. Agni’s twin Varu has left for him a manuscript that she wrote. In this she tells the story of Yama and his twin Yami, and their lives and struggles in the celestial world, the challenges they face, and the bond between them that helps overcome much.

I quite enjoyed the plot of the book where the author has shown great creativity both in the story itself and in blending the worlds of mythology and reality. For the most part, the story reads like an adventure but towards the end, the author gives one a surprise or two one doesn’t see coming, and which I enjoyed. I also liked how the author weaves in the current state of society―things like crime, hate, communalism, environmental pollution and destruction, loss of values, materialism―linking it to things in the mythological world and vice versa. Her descriptions are indeed vivid (with blood and gore aplenty) but I had some quibble with them which I will come to. One of the thoughts that resonated with me was all the happy moments one has, one spends with a loved one always amounting to much more than anything/event that causes sorrow, and those moments always remaining with one, no matter what. Overall, for me the plot and story were both creative and enjoyable.

The negative for me in the writing and descriptions in particular was the constant references to bodily fluids and excreta (particularly the latter)―in some instances, I agree this was needed perhaps to convey just how grotesque the place or creature in question was―but there seemed just a few too many even where I felt it could have done without, and which just ends up making it a bit off-putting and takes away (for me, at least) from the readability of an otherwise interesting tale. Also (but here a minor issue) in some places I felt the language colloquial where it didn’t need to be and vice versa.

So an interesting read, with a theme and plot I rather liked but would have enjoyed far more but for the issues (actually just one really) mentioned.

p.s. Also quite like the cover!

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