MATABELE DAWN by SAAD BIN JUNG

Saad bin Jung, the author of the recently published “Matabele Dawn” is a friend, a state of affairs that can sometimes make reviewing a book a rather tricky exercise. Treading the fine line between friendship and truth.  That kind of dilemma.

No such dilemma here.

Saad is a well known, shout-it-from-the-rooftops lover of Africa, and the bush, and wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Since we left South Africa nine oh-so-long years ago, there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t pine for the bush, or for the excitement of being on safari.  So the wonderful depiction of Africa that is the Matabele half of this book resonated completely.  Loved it.  Saad’s descriptions bring Africa to vivid life:

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In his book, Mr. bin Jung has two narratives, of Africa and India, that are generations apart, yet intertwined.

Both stories are also partly “out of Africa” and “out of India” in that they are stories of children of mixed marriages, and of mixed faiths, of foreigners living and loving and dying in different continents, far from their home.  Two men are born, decades apart, into chaos and disorder, into worlds of danger and change, and it is the chronicle of their lives that is “Matabele Dawn.”

Initially, I was a little startled by the very modern speaking voice of some of Mr. bin Jung’s 19th century characters, but then I thought – what is preferable?  Modern vernacular or a flood of “forsooths and by gads.”

Enjoy this book for the vividness of the language and story, for the enthusiasm and obvious love for two continents that poor forth.

When Mr. bin Jung launched his book this week in Delhi (where I live) the occasion was exactly as one would have expected. Roars of laughter at the stories told by the chief guests (All 3 of them.  Well, why ever not have 3 chief guests if you can?).  Not a moment of pompousness. Just laughter and a love for life.

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The author’s dedication in my book says it all:

“Here’s hoping you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Published by Rumour books, “Matabele Dawn” costs Rs599 and you can order it right now, by clicking on the link below :

And here is the link to buy the Kindle version :

THE BANKSTER BY RAVI SUBRAMANIAN

 

The blurb on the cover of  Ravi Subramanian’s 5th book “The Bankster” talks of “the John Grisham of banking”.

Like John Grisham, Mr. Subramanian certainly knows his facts and figures in his appointed area of expertise, that’s for sure. So there is that much in common with Mr. Grisham.

But what Mr. Subramanian desperately needs is a better editor.

Shoddy, sloppy editing marred what is otherwise a deeply researched, complex tale of banking skullduggery on a massive scale.

I didn’t count, but  (and I think I’m correct) every time the author wrote “at least,” this is what we got :

 

That is just downright poor editing, and unworthy of someone of Mr. Subramanian’s obvious intelligence.

The novel ranges between Mumbai, Vienna, Kerala and Africa, with 3 stories running parallel. The Mumbai sections are far and away the strongest, which is hardly surprising, since the author was a banker for 20 years and lives in Mumbai, so there was an intensity and authenticity about the Mumbai sections.  The Mumbai voices rang true.

Mr. Subramanian’s attention to banking detail is impressive, and you never for a moment doubt the accuracy and the authenticity of the plot.  Banking scams happen the world over, that we all know, and the plot of “The Bankster” unravels a complex tale of financial deceit on a truly massive, deeply embedded scale.

The Kerala story, about a nuclear power station and the manipulative politics of protest, is touching, but it was only in the final paragraphs that I joined the dots.  Perhaps I am a little dim, but a few pointers would certainly have helped me.  As it was, I spent most of the book wondering why and when and where Kerala and Mumbai would intertwine.  It ultimately makes total, satisfying sense, but only in the dying seconds of the book.

The same can be said of the African section, though those dots were joined for me in the Vienna part of the story – I obviously can’t tell you the ins and outs of the plot, otherwise the intricate storyline of “The Bankster” will be spoiled for you.  Suffice it to say that, once again, I could have wished for the African section to be a tad stronger.

But the Mumbai sections can’t be faulted for their painstaking attention to detail, which is why they are faster-paced and dominate the book.  There is something enthralling about reading a novel that purportedly took place earlier this year –  all those dates and times at the beginning of the chapters bringing the action ever closer certainly make things exciting.

Technology plays a large part in the book, which is only natural given the way banking has evolved, and so most of the young bankers in the story use their mobiles and laptops and iPads and iPhones and Blackberries and voice mails as seamlessly as we, the readers, do.

And I also fully understand that the author needs to make sure all his readers are up to (technological speed) especially when technology is vital to the plot, but just occasionally the otherwise natural style of writing faltered :

 

 

This sounds more like a technical note, rather than a natural dialogue, which is a shame.

Ditto the supposed conversation below :

 

 A good read.

A clever, intricate plot.

But a plea to the publishers, Rupa – please, don’t let poor editing mar good writing.

Published in 2012 by Rupa, the paperback of “The Bankster” costs Rs 250.

If you would like to order the book, nothing could be simpler.   Just click on the link below :

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