With only a day to go for the next year, it is time I look back on all the black and white adventures within fat books I went on and contemplate their affect on my subconscious. I can claim that this is definitely the year I read the best books (quantitatively and qualitatively), I submerged myself into a variety of genres I hadn’t tried before- some I couldn’t resurface from (Indian mythology) and others I am vary of trying again (non-fiction and short stories). My bookshelf is overflowing, my mindset has broadened and my faith in literature has restored. I had a rough year personally (I’m not going into details) and these book, all of them, at some point provided me with the solace I craved.
So I decided to give them the recognition and gratitude they deserve and organised the first ‘Pink Is The Wildest Colour Literature Awards 2014’. I will be shortlisting various books I’ve read this year (irrespective of which year they were published) and select winners (which will be announced at midnight on 31st December). Before we go into full ‘competition mode’ I wish to clarify like an aged Grandmother that I love all of these books. But these awards are necessary because all books are awesome, but some books are more awesome than others (sorry Orwell) hence the nominees are:
1) Best Narrator:
The nominees in this category are not only fantastic characters themselves, but it is their narration that propels the story forward. Both part dramas, part mysteries- the narrators themselves are just as interesting as the plot itself.
- Jack from ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue’s decision, of using an innocent 5 year old boy to narrate the story of a brutal kidnapping, repeated rape and ultimate arrest was a risk- but it was this decision that made her international bestseller ‘Room’ a worldwide phenomenon. It is through Jack’s 5 year old innocent eyes that we see a story of his Ma who is kept imprisoned inside a small room. But it is Jacks loving and sympathetic view of his Mother, who is trying to raise a son in the most cruel circumstances, and the unique relationship that the two share-that makes ‘Room’ memorable.
- Christopher John Francis Boone from ‘The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time’ by Mark Haddon
Christopher a 15 year old autistic mastermind, who is a mathematics whiz but a terrible conversationalist narrates the story of how a dog’s murder led him to truth of his mother’s disappearance. This novel puts us not only in the claustrophobic mindset of a mentally challenged protagonist but also offers a sympathetic view on how challenging it is to raise a child with special needs.
2) Favourite book on Indian Mythology:
Unlike all other Indians my age, I did not sleep every night listening to my Grandmother telling me stories of Lord Vishnu’s Dashavataars, neither did my parents feel the need to educate me on my culture. So I set out to do so myself, reading as much as I could on ancient Indian history and how it’s social vibrations can still be felt thousands of year later. I found myself drowning deeper and deeper into this ocean of folktales, every version different than the other and it is this modern literature based on ancient legends that has made me proud of my ethnicity.
- ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ by Amish Tripathi
I think it has been my several personal meetings with Tripathi at numerous literature festivals that has made me respect his take on Indian mythology even more. His version of Lord Shiva’s life, which portrays him as an ordinary man who did extraordinary feats (now over thousands of years of diluted facts they are called ‘miracles and he a ‘God’) is by far the most believable portrayal of an Indian God. The plot explains all the ‘miracles’ he did in his life with a convincing logic and gives other characters in the story-line a clever arc, but it is the charismatic personality of the Neelakantha that keeps you glued to the ‘Shiva Trilogy’.
- ‘Asura: Tale of the Vanquished’ by Anand Neelakantan
When I first heard that Neelakantan was going to narrate Ramayana from the perspective of its infamous villian Ravana, I thought it was the oldest trick in the book. But this book exceeded my expectations, it portrays it’s plot and characters without an air of divinity around them. Just like Tripathi, Neelakantan also portrays Gods as ordinary men who did legendary feats. Looking at India’s beloved Lord Ram from the perspective of his nemesis will make you ask some severe questions about India’s culture and age-old beliefs. But it is the story of two warriors told from the perspective of a civilian Bhadra that gives this version of Ramayana a new twist.
- ‘Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Finally a fiery narrator worthy of telling the tale of brothers out for each other’s blood, Divakaruni’s book tells the story of Princess Draupadi- the universally hated central character who instigated the Kurukshetra war that destroyed millions. We Indians know Draupadi as a short-tempered, vengeful egoist who drove her husbands to killing their own family. But in ‘Palace of Ilusions’ we see her as she truly is, a pawn in the hands of destiny, meant to behave the way in which her saviour Lord Krishna commands. For the first time we see how the mighty Pandavas treated their own wife like mute property, how the internal politics between her and her mother-in-law made her merely an object though she had a powerful position, how her faith in Krishna led her to choose a man he wanted her to marry rather than a man she loved and how in spite of getting her revenge, she only died with regret in her heart and Krishna’s name on her lips. For the first time, we pity Draupadi. It is her feisty temperament and misplaced sense of justice that drives the plot forward, but it is her silent longing for the tragic hero Karna that will make you weep.
- ‘Ajaya: Roll of the Dice’ by Anand Neelakantan
History is written by victors and hence for thousands of years Indians have praised the Pandavas for their righteousness while regarded the Kauravas as power-hungry corrupts. But Neelakantan’s book narrates the legendary epic from the silenced voices of those who lost- Suyodhana (who fought for the throne which he thought rightfully belonged to him), Karna (who fought for Suyodhana who treated him like an equal when the entire world insulted him for his low caste), Eklavya (a poor low-caste victim of manipulative politics) and Jara (a civilian beggar who bears the brunt of the war no matter who wins). The book presents its main characters as humans who did both good and bad deeds and ultimately did not deserve their cruel fate. But who can win against Lord Krishna?
Favourite Dystopian Novel
- ‘1984’ by George Orwell.
A literary classic? A dangerous warning? An inevitable prophecy? What is this book? I was tired of reading unbelievable accounts of teenagers single-handedly overthrowing totalitarian regimes (looking at you Hunger Games!) so I began reading this highly recommended foretelling. The depiction of a dictatorial government masked with communism is dreadfully accurate, the emphasis on the political ideals of Oceania being a star attraction of the book. My favourite aspect of this novel is that the protagonist rebels against the oppressive government but does not succeed. A bunch of unorganized militants do not stand a chance against billions of worth of Government set-up (Take a hint Suzanne Collins and those who wrote Divergent and The Maze Runner).
- ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood.
The most terrifying part of this novel that tells about our protagonist living under a misogynistic regime that only uses women for reproduction, is that the Government is actually convinced that it is a ‘feminist’ regime. By keeping women veiled, constantly surrounded, they think they are protecting these women when actually they are imprisoning and oppressing them. This will open your eyes to how incriminating misplaced feminist ideals can be and how toxic it is to live in a circumstance which forces women to make a particular choice against their wishes.
- ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell.
Read over a 2 hour long train journey, this political satire about how animals drive out their owner and take over the farm, hoping to abolish inequality but only get sucked into the corrupted tentacles of power is hilarious and horrifying at the same time.
Best Historical Fiction
- ‘Confessions of Katherine Howard’ by Suzanna Dunn
Based on the life of Queen Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, Dunn follows her protagonist from her scandalous early teenage at Lady Norfolk’s household to her beheading for adultery. It is a spicy tale of royal court drama, misunderstood love, uncontrollable passion and above all, politics.
- ‘The Red Queen’ by Phillipa Gregory
Gregory tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, a Plantaganet who established the House of Tudors by putting Henry VII on the throne of England. Beaufort is a mesmerizing character, highly religious but committing heinous crimes which she is convinced are for righteous reasons. It is her clever stratagizing, manipulative mind and dirty politics that makes her one of the most feared women in history.
- ‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood
Atwood tells the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus who waited for him to return from the Battle of Troy for 20 years. It tells us how faithful she remained while Odysseus was courting nymphs at distant islands, how lovingly she raised her son while Odysseus was busy making more and how in spite of her unwavering loyalty she ended up in Tartarus.
- ‘The Sealed Letter’ by Emma Donoghue
Based on a true case of divorce that horrified London, Donoghue traces the paths of two friends- one who works relentlessly for the rights of women, other who misuses these rights to have affairs outside her marriage. This is the true story of Emily ‘Fido’ Faithfull a women’s rights activist and publisher, who supported her best friend during her sensational divorce, a friend who often forced her to confess horrible things that never happened so the result could be in her favour. Why was Fido trusting her so blindly, was this simply friendship, or something more?
Favourite Marital Mystery
My incessant hatred of the concept of marriage has made this genre the most exciting one for me.
- ‘The Sealed Letter’ by Emma Donoghue.
- ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn
The most talked about book of the year, ‘Gone Girl’ tells the story of Amy Dunne who gets kidnapped from her house on her fifth anniversary. The police, law enforcers and the public immediately target her husband Nick Dunne but halfway through the book the tale takes an ugly twist. This book explore’s the psychological effects of matrimony- the meaning of loyalty, pride, betrayal and above all justice.
- ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S J Watson.
Our middle aged protagonist is married to a man she loves, but due to an accident she is suffering from short term memory loss. She can form new memories during the day, but when she sleeps at night her brain erases those neurons. She lives her life the way her husband tells her but a stranger tells her that he is hiding something, she then finds her diary that warns her not to trust her husband. More and more secrets are revealed as the story follows her in her quest to find out her identity.
Favourite Book Of The Year:
In this category I have specifically put the books that have not been nominated in the above categories.
- ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden.
A mesmerizing book that transports you to the richly cultured Gion, Kyoto- Golden tells us the story of a Japanese dancer right from the poverty and family tragedy that forced her into the world of courtesans to finding love in the most difficult circumstances. The most powerful aspect of the book is that the characters, the settings, the culture begins taking shape around you, pulling you into world of endless mysteries and unforgettable magic.
- ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ by Alexander McCall Smith.
Smith tells the story of Mma Ramotswe, the first resident of Botswana to own a detective agency and follows her as she deals with the troubles of loneliness while solving crimes. Smith’s narration transforms Africa’s barren land into an exotic place filled with unexplored thrills.
- ‘Guernica’ by Dave Boling
I had never heard of this book before I randomly picked it at a local book sale but it is a fascinating read. It tells the story of three generations of a family, as the paths of several characters intertwine, the fates play their parts in bringing them closer and separating them- in the backdrop of war.
- ‘Salem Falls’ by Jodi Picoult
The only book to have the honour of having a review posted at Pink is the Wildest Colour, read the full review here.
- ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D H Lawrence.
At a time when all my friends were shamelessly addicted to that shit of a book Fifty Shades of Grey, I picked out this classic erotic drama. The story of a woman,who bored by her marriage seeks affection in another man was infamous when it was published in 1940s and is equally titillating today .
- ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Seabold.
No book has ever made me cry and feel apologetic to my parents more than this one, the story of a 13 year old’s rape and murder will make you paranoid about the young children around you.
So now that the nominations are out, who are you rooting for? Which books did you read this year? Why don’t you do so similar awards at your blog and tell us your favourites? What do you think of our nominees? Tell us in the comments below!