There are many good things about vacations, specially vacations involving long train journeys, but one of the nicest is that I actually get a chance to read.
On the train to Delhi en route to Binsar, I read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone.
I don’t actually read a lot of Indian authors in English, and now I know why. This book was shockingly bad. The language was trying to be young and hip without being very successful in the attempt; there was a feeble excuse for a plot; and the characters were at best two-dimensional. It was probably one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time.
From Delhi to Binsar and back to Delhi, I read a book that was highly recommended by my mother: Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood. This was a really good book. Although it is about a murder, I wouldn’t call it a murder mystery. It is about a historical crime (not entirely fictional, I mean) which took place in the mid-1800s. The story is told from the perspective of the accused, Grace, which is, in itself, unusual. I liked the way the whole plot unfolds and resolves itself, and the way characters are drawn from the perspective mainly of this one person. And I enjoyed all the little details of everyday life which are not relevant to the plot, but which, in this book, add a lot of richness.
In Delhi, at my father-in-law’s house, a book called Every Night Josephine caught my eye. Well, with a title like that, it could hardly miss. However, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s about a TV star couple who have a love affair with a dog -a French Poodle called Josephine. It was probably written 50 years ago, and has several references to people I’ve never heard of, but it’s very entertaining and light reading. The author is someone called Jacqueline Susann, is famously the author of a book called Valley of the Dolls, which I’d never heard of before.
I also got to watch two movies on this holiday. One was, of course Slumdog Millionaire. My reaction to it is similar to my reaction to Five Point Someone. An excuse for a plot, two dimensional characters, ham acting. I don’t watch a lot of Hindi movies, so I don’ have much to compare it with, but if I think of Black, or Taare Zameen Par, both of which have their share of ham acting, but much more convincingly done, I can only scratch my head in wonder that this should be the movie everyone’s making such a fuss about.
The other movie I saw, on the other hand was just fantastic. Mamma Mia. What a fun flick! It has a lot of Abba songs and it has Pierce Brosnan! I would never have imagined such a combination in a Hollywood film, but now that I’ve seen it, really, what could be better?