Sunday, July 5, 2009

Review Highlights

In its first six weeks, If It Is Sweet has been covered widely in the Indian press. Here are some highlights from reviews so far.

Mridula Koshy’s new book of short stories, If It Is Sweet, is a well-paced, strikingly original collection that navigates locales between Los Angeles and Delhi, using several voices to mark out its thematic and stylistic ground…This riveting collection, at once nuanced and adventurous, will stay in the reader’s memory for the way it probes away at the complexities of class and money, transgressions and violations.
--Naintara Maya Oberoi, TimeOut Delhi, July 9, 2009. Full review here:

There is a rawness about these stories that comes not from a lack of intellectual sophistication but from the forthrightness of the narration and the uninhibited portrayal of emotions. The writer is clearly a close observer of life, her own and of others around her, almost a spy who pries into their private moments of love, intimacy, fear, jealousy, proximity to death…What counts more than the narrative is the language — tender, poetic, informed by our mutilingual milieu. The stories retrieve to fiction, if not to history, marginalised lives around us. But they aren’t shown as objects of condescending pity, but as real beings with their own joys and longings. They together make a statement about power in its myriad manifestations, from capitalism to patriarchy.
--K. Satchidanandan, Tehelka, June 21, 2009. Full review here:

Koshy—who was born in Delhi, lived and worked in the US for about two decades, and now lives in Delhi again—says she was “a trade unionistbefore she was a mother and a mother before she was a writer”. These anterior layers of her experience are given expression in the mingled toughness and tenderness of her stories. Many of them are about an underclass of workers—construction labourers, carpenters, garbage collectors, maids—living quietly in the interstices of a thriving south Delhi; one family’s slum home has tin walls “filched long ago from the construction of the Chirag Dilli flyover”. There are excellent close descriptions of the labour of workers, whose condition is sometimes intuited from the smallest details, as when the protagonist of ‘The Good Mother’ hears the sounds of hammering next door and decides that the tools are either “made light, for smaller hands, or made cheaply, for poorer people."...this is absolutely rigorous and distinctive work, and there is a sound and a sense in these stories that make Indian fiction a bigger place.
--Chandrahas Choudhury, Live Mint, June 20, 2009. Full review here. And on The Middle Stage.

Here is a natural stylist, with an easy, accessible turn of phrase…Hers is a determined, stealthy eye, born of fierce concentration, often conjuring up a rustic quiet: ‘Now her pregnant beauty startles him like the fish that rustle and slip past his shins in the flooded fields of paddy he bends over to seed.’
--Rajni George, India Today, June 22, 2009. Full review here.

Koshy’s insights into hidden lives will resonate with people across the country.
--Anjana Basu, The Statesman, June 14, 2009. Full review here.

The writing is evocative, layered and masterful... [Koshy's] fascination with the underbelly is something she has in common with Aravind Adiga, but where his writing is terse and action- oriented, her stories delve deep into the head space of these faceless, marginalised people.
--Sunaina Kumar, Mail Today, Sunday June 7, 2009

…beautifully spare and evocative, with turns that are riveting, surprising, and revealing of the mysteries of the human psyche… Koshy’s greatest strength is that she never over-explains or condescends. She expects the reader to follow even the most dizzying movements, such as rapid changes of geography, or sly shifts from interior monologue to dialogue. This fine sensibility sets her apart. So many writers today rush to ‘say something’ at the expense of artistry. Koshy is a rare—and very welcome—exception.
--Manjushree Thapa, Outlook Magazine, June 8, 2009. Full review here (free registration required)

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