Category Archives: Books

“Eye Of The Needle”, By Ken Follett

It does not happen very often but I seem to be going back to Ken Follett again and again. I am probably finding it difficult to start a new author and Follett is still keeping me interested. “Eye of the Needle” is very typical world war II fiction story that seems very plausible and has all the elements of fast paced thriller. A German spy in England with whole might of MI5 behind him, Hitler waiting for most important information from the spy and Churchill waiting to make sure that information is not delivered. He almost succeeds in his mission but for the courage of lonely woman on storm island.

It is a story of ruthless German spy Henry Faber who has managed to evade MI5 for a long time and this time manages to get the most crucial information that could jeopardize final attack from allied forces. He is on the run with MI5 behind him and manages to reach “Storm Island” where Lucy lives with her crippled husband and son. Lucy is attracted to him but eventually realizes the truth and acts as hero in saving the war for England. In any such spy thriller chase, it is always lots of hard work for police forces but there is also a lot of coincidence and good luck that ends up working in their favor. Of course everybody likes a good ending.

I have not read this kind of thriller for some time and it reminds me of authors like Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy. This is the first book of Follett I have read that is not steeped in history but is pure fictional thriller. It is quite enjoyable for a change but I think I like him more when I read historical fiction from Follett. Looks like a movie was also made based on this book and I should see that one. The book reminds me of Indian movie “Fanaa” as well.

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Spy, Thriller, War

“A Place Called Freedom”, By Ken Follett

Once again going back to Ken Follett in short span of time. The book “A Place Called Freedom” is a work of fiction set in 18th century England. Similar to century trilogy this book starts with story of coal miners who had the hardest and very dangerous life working in the mines. Mack McAsh is a miner in a small town where miners are forced to work in the mines due to some strange customs and they could not become free. But Mack figures out that the custom was illegal and he had the chance to be free. He escapes to London and organizes laborers like him and gets into trouble once again. Eventually he is exiled to America where he is able to taste freedom.

It is a story of a hero among the common men and how he is able to fight the system and in the process helps other people as well. Even though it is work of fiction, the story is plausible for England at that time. Of course you like the character of Mack but for me the character of Lizzie Halim was equally fascinating. She is high class girl but has her own views on everything and she keeps on helping Mack at different stages of his life. She struggles with her high class status and her perception of what is wrong with the world around her. She takes Mack’s challenge to go down in the mines and see for herself the conditions that miners face.

There is always lot to learn about history while reading Ken Follett’s books and this was no different. You learn that slavery not only affected Africans and Asians but it affected white but poor people as well. They had to work as bonded labor in the worst and most dangerous conditions and mine owners truly believed that miners lives were insignificant compared to their own pleasures. There was death penalty and that too in public for very minor offences and the balance was always biased against poor people.

I guess I will continue with my reading of Ken Follett. He has still not disappointed me.

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Fictional-History, History

“Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking”, By Susan Cain

I had heard about the famous Ted Talk by Susan Cain sometime back but did not get around to reading this book. “Quiet …” is a book that made me relate to it very closely. There have been so many books that I have read over the years that tell introverts how to overcome introvert behavior by following some method or the other as though being introvert was some kind of handicap to survive in this world. For the first time “Quiet” tells you to celebrate introvert behavior and does not give you reason or means to change it.

The idea that today’s world recognizes culture of personality as opposed to culture of character resonates with me and I am sure with many people who have always felt world was more biased towards extroversion. In the last few years there is a recognition that there are introvert and extrovert people and they will behave differently in similar situations. But the emphasis has always been on telling introvert people that they need to change to survive with dominant extrovert culture. In this book the author says that this leads to colossal waste of energy and potential that remains untapped and I agree with her. The extroversion dominated environment gives preference to style and loudness of the arguments rather than substance and good ideas.

I see all around me this bias for extroversion. Group discussions, large meetings, seminars, team meetings, public speaking are all encouraged and rewarded. People who speak up are rewarded and encouraged. But there are the quiet ones who may have great ideas but the whole crowd situation makes it difficult for them to open up and speak. In the beginning, social networking brought out the best of introvert people. They could share their ideas with a large group of people without being in a group situation. But this has changed in recent times. Social networks have also become playground for extrovert people.

Even though the author celebrated introversion, she ended up giving advice to people how to manage in extroversion-dominated culture. What is required is a change in cultural behavior of society that goes back to recognizing culture of character.

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Filed under Books, Non-Fiction, Self-Help

“A Dangerous Fortune”, By Ken Follett

Going back to the author Ken Follett in quick succession after recently finishing “World without end”. Normally I try not to return to same author unless it is a sequel but I guess the mood was not for any new author and “A dangerous fortune” seemed like a good bet. When I started reading, I realized that I had started this book few years ago but stopped when I came across a brutal description of game called “ratting” that involved gambling for the victory of dog versus rats in a closed cage till death. This time I skipped over that portion completely. Other than the ratting part, the book is a great thriller set in 19th century London.

The story is about a banking family and how they go from success to failure due to internal family intrigues and conspiracies. It is a story of good versus evil as most of the stories are. What makes it interesting is the backdrop of banking industry and lifestyle of London in that era. It was great to read about traffic jams in the horse carriage driven era. I liked the character of Maisie who goes from runaway poor child to richest wife in town and then back to finding her own calling.

I thought the book went into lots of details in the beginning but towards the end the author was trying to finish the story quickly. Coming back to the description of “ratting”, I wonder what prompted the author to get into gruesome details in a book that is more or less a pleasant reading.

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Fictional-History, Thriller

“The Girl In The Garden”, By Kamala Nair

By some quirky logic of Kindle, this book was coming up on top every time I updated my Kindle with more books. Finally I gave in to the Kindle’s logic when I was not able to settle on anything else and started reading this book “The girl in the garden”. I did not know that it is author Kamala Nair’s first book. I probably confused her with some other name. The book is about the journey of teenage girl living in US back to small town in India with her mother. She is not interested in going back specifically leaving her father alone in US but it seems she was not given any choice.

After she gets over her first shock of being in India and staying with large family, she ends up finding lot more than she had thought of. She finds out about her mother’s old romance, her family’s murky history and also the story of unknown girl who has been locked away in a forest due to facial deformity.

I liked some parts of the book but a lot of time I found my attention wavering and I just wanted to reach the end. It was not because I was hooked up but I was looking to finish the book and start something else. Some of the parts just did not seem real even if you consider some old age customs and issues that may plague the society in rural India. Yes, there is a lot of stigma attached with kids having deformity on face but the family is supposed to be running a hospital and should have known that treatment can be done for such issues. Yes, people want to hide unwanted pregnancies but they do not give away all their freedom to some unknown person and keep on living in its shadow for so many years.

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Filed under Books, Fiction