My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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6 December 2017

Tsundoku: My favourite books about communities

(This appeared as my Tsundoku column in BLInk in October.)

This week's edition of this paper is around the theme “festivals and communities” and so is this column. I work from home, and barely have any contact with the outside world; except maybe Facebook and Twitter, which as we all know, are some sorts of echo chamber, everyone validating your opinion and even when they don't, they validate you by acknowledging you. Two of my book picks this week mention social media, but only to use them as a way of saying what everyone is thinking. Let's get started!

Water cooler: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie made it to the Booker Longlist, and in my view should have travelled even further up the ranking list. It's a modern day retelling of Sophocles' Antigone, except with British-Pakistani characters, but don't let the heavy Greek drama-ness of that put you off. Two sisters, Isma and Aneeka, in the US and London respectively, worry about their brother Parvaiz (Aneeka's twin) who bought into the jihadist propaganda and went off to Syria. Into this comes a man, Eammon, the Anglicised son of the home secretary, who though Muslim himself, has chosen to deny his faith. You're entangled with these people almost from the get go, as the opening chapter describes Isma at Heathrow, stopped by security and having to answer all their questions as they go through their luggage. Later, there are Twitter streams and news articles, heartbreak and even a point-of-view chapter from Parvaiz, who is increasingly homesick and afraid of his decision, and who just wants to go home. Everyone's talking about this book, and how good it is, and once you read it, you'll be able to join the party too. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, Rs 599, Bloomsbury.

Watchlist: For a while, YA Twitter was abuzz and aghast at a definite scam. This one book which no one had heard of had suddenly topped the NYT bestseller charts, and what was worse, had toppled over the current favourite: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Eventually the scam was revealed for what it was (the author and her publicists placed several large orders at bookstores that reported to the New York Times) and The Hate U Give went back to its position, unchallenged. Is it that good? It is. Starr is from a “bad neighbourhood” and is a witness to her friend Khalil being shot by a police officer for no crime except for his skin colour. Her parents are divided on the issue, her mother wants to move, her father wants to stay and fix the place they've all grown up with. In the meanwhile, Starr has to deal with a possibly racist best friend, her parents fighting and whether or not to join the protests around Khalil's death or keep her head down as she's been taught to do as a black woman in America. This book is like a punch in the gut, and not just for the very topical conversation around police shootings in America either. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Rs 399, Walker Books.

Wayback: Stephen King isn't the sort of author you normally name drop to your more erudite friends. That is, until you recognise the range and width of his writing and realise that just because someone sells millions of copies, doesn't mean they're bad or lazy writers. In fact, King's writing can be enjoyed across audiences: for the plot junkie, there's plenty of it, for people who love character-based writing, there's so much loving detail and back story to each person populating his books that you would probably recognise them going down the street. And his stories are creepy, they sneak up on you and haunt you, and you find yourself sleeping with the light on, just in case Pennywise, the clown from It, comes crawling out of a drain. It just got made into a movie, and probably cemented a lot of people's clown phobias. It's based in the fictional town of Derry, and a group of kids reunite twenty eight years later to kill the creature that haunted them one summer years ago. Sometimes you can see the set ups coming, but so masterfully does King plot that instead of rolling your eyes you want to scream at the characters like you would at a movie screen: “Watch out! There's someone behind you!” It by Stephen King, Rs 399, Hodder And Stoughton.

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