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June 23, 2007


Mark Tully's books are not very well reviewed in the UK. I guess perhaps they are messy and uneven and occasionally superficial in comparison to his outstandingly crafted radio journalism. Hard for veteran journalists to be deep or lengthy sometimes, I think. He's nonetheless a wonderful one-off to and for whom we should be grateful.

I'll be checking back for you reading list, having certainly not gone beyond the obvious myself, but counting the obvious (Vikram Seth and Arundati Roy a few years ago and now Kiran Desai and Pankaj Mishra) among my most moving and mind-expanding reading experiences ever. Inheritance of Loss is wonderful in almost every possible way, I think.

The best among the ones I've read:

A Passage to India by E.M. Forrester
Burmese Days by George Orwell
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

all very good reads.
I also recommend reading Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner although it is about Afghanistan and the Muslim religion... it's an excellent book.

Have you read Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown and the other Raj Quartet novels, Beth? I don't know if these are as well known over there, if the television serialisation which repopularised them when I was a teenager made it to US screens? If not, highly recommended.

Jean, I thought actually I might begin a new reading list with the Raj Quartet - no, I haven't read it. I've read Kipling, Rumer Godden, some Pankaj Mishra, Jhumpa Lahiri...but nothing yet by Arundati Roy or Kiran Desai.

Andrea - If you check back here, I'm terribly sorry but I inadvertently deleted your comment while cleaning up a rash of spam. I hope you will write again because I was very happy to read what you had said; my sincere apologies!

Tammy, thanks very much for your list! "A Passage to India" is definitely going to be one of the books on mine, and the others added as I branch out.

I'm seeing this really late -- the Raj Quartet is wonderful, although some British friends from the days that it describes (WWII) think it's full of mistakes. Scott's sequel to the quartet, Staying On, is very scary for me as an expat... A Passage to India is okay but seems quite dated now. The God of Small Things is wonderful. Kartography is set in Karachi, but it's all the same subcontinent, and I found it very absorbing. English, August is fun (and was made into a pretty good small movie). I've not read it yet, but the nonfiction Bombay: Maximum City has been getting a lot of favourable reviews. Stephen P. Cohen is excellent on contemporary Indian and Pakistani foreign policy and military history. I'm sure I can think of more, if you have time...

Oh yes, and for travel/ history, William Dalrymple's Delhi: City of Djinns; and for history, Dalrymple's The Last Emperor - about the 1857 Indian Mutiny and the last Mughal Emmperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar - which is really really good, and poignant.

Nancy, thanks so much for all of these recommendations. It's always great to see you here. If you do think of more, please let me know - this will no doubt be an ongoing, lengthy project!

I highly recommend Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. (I suspect you've read it, but it's worth rereading.) I haven't finished reading it, but Maximum City by Suketu Mehta is fascinating. There was a PBS (originally BBC, I'm sure) program hosted by Michael Wood about India a few years ago, which I recall fondly. Not only did Wood fall in love with India, he fell in love with, and married, an Indian woman he met while producing the documentary. And if you can find a copy, the BBC's "Great Railway Journeys of the World" from the 1970s, gives a unique perspective on southern India from the perspective of a rail journey. (Is there another country where the Minister of Railways is a key member of the cabinet?) The high point of his trip is when he travels second class, and shares a compartment with a family troupe of traveling players.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.