Cuckold – The book not bought

I was reading Cuckold over the weekend. I had just been to Strand Book exhibition and picked up more than a handful of books. I had left out Cuckold out of consideration for my already-exceeded budget. But one is always more eager to read the books that one didn’t buy. So it was with Cuckold. I was able to lay my hands on the book within a week at the library and started reading it, even while all the books that I had bought moved away from my bedside to the book shelf.

Not many people will write a review on a half-read book (or do they, one can’t be sure in such things). But I can’t wait to write this post till I finish the book. And the point is not to write a review for a 10-year old book, it is to make my point. So here I go.

The book is gripping. There is absolutely no doubt about that. It has a charm that only historicals can reproduce. And it is much more than a historical. Probably something more on the lines of War and Peace in terms of its philosophical content in the face of war or a Lord of the Rings in bringing a new world in front of your eyes. Ever since I ‘graduated’ to read heavy modern literary works, such a book is a rarity.

It again raises that taboo question in my mind. What is the objective of a novel? What is more important – form or content, style or story? There are so many books (that are part of most Top 100 lists) that I have read with admiration for the linguistic and creative skills of the author, almost usually at a snail’s pace. The story doesn’t drag you in – you are always outside it, looking at it in awe of the author. I have been reading Joyce’s Ulysses  for the last four years – it challenges my intellect but doesn’t satiate my yearning for a story.

Cuckold is different. I was taken back to my school days when I always wanted to finish any book in a single sitting, how muchever long that sitting took. The days when a Dickens or Scott or Stevensen or Kalki was able to take me along with them to a bygone era. Kiran Nagarkar has been able to do that to a much more intellectually-demanding adult mature reader. (And I am demanding – I can’t read a Sidney Shelton or Jeffrey Archer anymore.)

There are enough innovations in language, style and form. I don’t think anybody has ever attempted to tell a historical tale so authentically using contemporary language. Sometimes it reads like an Eliyahu Goldratt bestseller or a Dilbert strip.  I completely buy into his point. We dont know for sure what kind of language was used by historical characters in their converations – we might as well stop speculating and write in contemporary style. This approach has given the author unlimited liberty and he has been to tear away all shackles that a historical novel can impose on his writing.

It is interesting to think from the viewpoint of the husband of Meera, who was insanely in love with a God. History has been kind to her. She has been immortalized because of her love for God. But spare a thought for the man who married her. She was in love with someone else even if it was a God. She was persecuted by the family for not acting like a royale? But for the man, what would have been more important was that she didn’t love him. ‘We can exorcise the devils, how do we get rid of a god’ is what the protoganist would have thought and that is what he thinks in this book (so far!).

I had to tear myself away from the book to come to office and now I am itching to go back home to hear more from Mewar.

I think that is the real success of an author. The reader should be yearning to go back to finish the book. Such books stand the test of time. I think this book will.

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5 Responses to Cuckold – The book not bought

  1. Tamanna says:

    Oh! wow! I bought Cuckold from the Strand Book Festival and googled about it to see its reviews before I started it and found your blog. I have heard its a wonderful and it was available for a mere 250Rs there, so picked it up on a whim.

    After reading this, I can’t wait to start the book. And ya, people do write reviews when they are halfway done with it (I did it with LOTR).

    PS: We have the same template for our blogs.

  2. kannan says:

    Tamanna
    I hope, in my over-enthusiasm, I am not setting your expectations at too high a level. In such a scenario, it becomes difficult for any book to please the reader.

    I read your LOTR review now. The expectation-mismatch was in evidence. I read Lord of the Rings, almost expecting not to like it, since I have never liked fairy tales, but to my surprise I was totally engrossed and finished off the monstrous book in a couple of days. Watched the movies later on and the movies didn’t dissappoint but I definitely found the book to be better.

    Happy reading.

  3. devilsworkshop says:

    Oh ya! Expectations. I seriously hope I like this book now. LOL.
    Thanks anyways, will let u know how I like the book.

  4. Meera says:

    Tumbled on this review while looking for Goldratt.

    BTW, there was a movie made on Meera with Hema Malini and Vinod Khanna. And, in that, you realise what the husband would have gone through when he tries to give in to her whims and fancies to win her affection.

    Your review has roused my curiosity enough to want to read this one now.

    Yes, what do you do if your spouse is hung up on an other – even if it is God?

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