Shoes of the Dead by Kota Neelima

Shoes of the Dead
I was sent a copy of “Shoes of the Dead” and asked to review it, and so let me start this review by saying a big thank you to blogadda.com.  Thanks to them I have just read a fabulous book, and have discovered Kota Neelima, an author who is an amazingly talented writer and story teller.

This novel is a piece of committed, erudite and yet 100% gripping writing about the contemporary political and social scene in India.  Ms Neelima explores with equal skill and dexterity the corridors of power in Delhi and the ground realities of the tragic, ongoing phenomenon in India of farmers’ suicides.

With poverty-driven suicides as the central topic of the novel, “Shoes of the Dead” is never going to be a light fluffy read.  Instead it is robust, riveting and heart-breaking at times.

(Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the plot).

You are engaged from the opening page, as you are led deeper and deeper into the web of political machinations that try to extract self-serving political benefit from the deaths of desperate men. The author clearly knows her way through the bureaucracy and the murky world of politics in India, and the quality of her writing and story telling bears this out.  What is impressive is that her descriptions of life in the rural cotton belt of Mityala district are every bit as compelling.
The narrative moves seamlessly between the manicured lawns of grave and favour Lutyens bungalows in New Delhi and, in stark contrast, the parched infertile farm land of what she terms “South Central India”

What I especially liked about Ms Neelima’s writing is that she never once reduces any of her characters to a stereotype, even though they are all there – the political Mr Fix It, the son with a sense of deep entitlement, the ruthless moneylender, the honest farmer.   In the hands of a less gifted writer, these men might have become 2 dimensional stereotypes, but in Ms Neelima’s skilful hands, they leap from the page, fully fleshed out, believable characters.

I loved the book, was deeply moved by the ending (which I absolutely didn’t see coming) and as an exposé of the manipulation of well-intentioned poverty alleviation schemes, “The Shoes of the Dead” cannot be bettered.

Ms Neelima’s writing is elegant and a pleasure to read :

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She has her finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary Delhi, sharing with her readers the incongruous sight of unbelievably expensive cars staying in low gear because of the mind-numbing traffic.  Just this last week, this reviewer saw a bright orange Lamborghini stuck in the mother of all traffic jams for such a long time that everyone (reviewer included) was hopping out of their equally immobile cars to take photos of said OTT car.

 

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The writer observes the manipulative, cynical workings of the New Delhi political machine with cool insight :

 

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And she is equally eloquent about the dashed hopes of those born into poverty :

 

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Her description of desperately poor patients waiting at a government hospital is moving in its sadness :

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Thoroughly recommended.

 

Published in 2013 by Rainlight by Rupa, the nice looking hardback is priced at Rs 495.

 

As I said earlier in this review, the ending took me by surprise, and I closed the book both sadder and wiser.  This is a well written, good read.  What are you waiting for ?

You can buy the book right now, by clicking on one of the links below :

 

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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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