Each generation of British travel writers has its preeminent court jester. In the 1930s Robert Byron did much to forge the genre’s comic tradition; Eric Newby began his long career in the 1950s; and in the 1980s it was Redmond O’Hanlon who gained the highest profile with travel-writing-for-laughs.
The desire to get one’s name right can exceed the confines of a misspelt Starbucks cup. To Shakespeare’s Juliet, famed for asking her lovestruck question, “What’s in a name?”, Zahia Rahmani, the Franco-Algerian author of the novel “Muslim”, would respond: “Everything”. Call a rose by any other name, and it might doubt its own sweetness. The act of naming, or the denial of one’s name, can devastate one’s identity.
While the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is perhaps the figure most associated with the development of modern Thailand, two-time Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun has had a large influence on the country’s development. Anand stands out as an upstanding, liberal figure who steered well clear of corruption and scandals. As Thailand embarks on a new era under a new king, Dominic Faulder’s recent biography of Anand provides timely background.
Tishani Doshi’s latest novel begins in Paramankeni, a far-flung coastal village in Tamil Nadu. The protagonist, Grace, has returned from America to take ownership of a house left to her by her recently deceased mother. There’s another legacy too—a sister she never knew about. This, however, is a mixed blessing as Lucia has Down’s syndrome and requires full-time care.
“These amazing women dominated their environments, each in her own different way, and set up a dynasty that is unique to not just India but world history even today.” Thus ends The Women Who Ruled India: Leaders, Warrior, Icons, the recent book by Archana Goradia Gupta, pretty much summing up the twenty stories it narrates.
Two young girls are snatched off a city street; the crime ripples through the wider community. A story that might have been set anywhere, but Julia Phillips sets hers in Kamchatka, one of the remoter parts of Russia’s remote Far East.
The number of books incorporating “the Idea of India” into their title in recent times is indicative that this idea has been in a crisis for a while. Siddhartha Sarma’s Carpenters and Kings is one more response to this crisis of India, dealing with an oft-ignored population group. In an environment where the Hindu Right suggests that Christianity and Islam are foreign to India, this book seeks to “set the record straight” and demonstrate that the history of Christianity in India is a nearly two-millennia-long story of great complexity.