Two books that are so brilliant, we can’t stop talking about them. Read about some Biharis and a crumbling marriage
The Patna Manual of Style
by Siddharth Chowdhury
Siddharth Chowdhury... has published a novel that no one has actually read. Not to mention an earlier collection of short stories which sank like the proverbial stone.
These are his words, not mine. We, at
, like his books very much. You have probably not heard of him. (It is entirely his fault.
He doesn’t write very often. This is his fourth book in 13 years.)
Chowdhury is the Anurag Kashyap of Indian writing in English. But not yet famous. You know how Kashyap made Paharganj sexy and Wasseypur exotic? Chowdhury does that for Patna – and Biharis. He’s brilliant and kind of obscure. His work has character. He’s got swag.
The Patna Manual of Style
consists of nine interwoven stories, most set in Delhi. There is the 20-something Patna boy Hriday Thakur trying to make it as a writer in New Delhi – “Connaught Place in December is like Paris in the springtime. You can’t be unhappy there.”
And other Biharis. In one, his acquaintance Jishnu da has become an “importer of blondes”. There are women: Charulata, the love of his life “to keep writing I needed Charulata and to keep Charulata I had to keep writing”, his wife Chitrangada who starts to “worry when Hriday Thakur stops drinking.” And one little story about Siddharth Chowdhury who “fancies himself as a novelist”.
I cannot recommend it enough.
by David Nicholls
Douglas and Connie have been married for 20 years. They are the unlikeliest of couples, you are told. (But it will seem familiar, there’s something so Indian about this). Doug, the fastidious biochemist. Connie, the flamboyant artist. She was his first real relationship. He was her first stable boyfriend. It was love. "It was dizzying, really, to be in love at last. Because this was the first time, I knew that now. Everything else had been a misdiagnosis – infatuation, obsession perhaps, but an entirely different condition to this. This was bliss; this was transformative."
At the very beginning, Connie tells him she wants to leave him after their son Albie leaves for college in a few months. The three of them go on a "Grand Tour" of Europe anyway. It is supposed to be, Connie decides, a coming-of-age trip for Albie. It is, Doug decides, how he will win his family back.
Douglas, the narrator, takes you through their holiday across Europe. And through their life – how they met and how it came to this – back and forth.
It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year – an unusual choice. But it is a brilliant, if quiet, portrayal of modern living.
You may remember his last, the bestselling One Day (2009), which was made into a film of the same name starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Us will make for a much better film.
From HT Brunch, March 8
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