Calcutta Telegraph p/opinion/story_9654389.jsp
Aug 8 2008

The Bastard of Istanbul (Penguin, £11.99) by Elif Shafak transports
the reader to the shores of the Bosphorus where beautiful, rebellious
women break the Rules of Prudence scripted by a conservative society
to chain smoke in cafés, sprint across streets in broken high heels,
and have abortions. Retribution follows, but the women react by smoking
even more cigarettes and cooking delicious dishes with golden raisins,
dried apricots, figs, pistachios -- and cyanide. The last ingredient
is added with the man who sired the bastard of Istanbul in mind. When
twenty-year-old Asya Kazanci is not drafting her Personal Manifesto of
Nihilism, she ponders over the question of her paternity. The arrival
of her American-Armenian cousin, Armanoush, results in a search
into the past of the Kazanci family and the discovery of secrets
in which the histories of Armenia and Istanbul are woven together
inextricably. Shafak's style -- understated, laconic, humorous --
makes her novel extraordinary.

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe (Nal Accent, Rs 395)
by Jennie Shortridge is a novel whose central question is: "How does
a good girl know when to finally let herself be bad?" In the case of
Mira Serafino, it happens when she finds that her husband has fallen
for another woman. The plot gets marginally interesting once Mira
leaves for an unknown future. But at the end, after some reflections
on sex and reproduction, the novel is nothing more than a Hollywood
'drama' where wayward husband cheats on good wife, causing heartbreak,
only for the wife to come back on realizing that none of the men she
has bedded after she left him matches up to him. This is the kind of
novel that, when turned into film, makes teenage girls cry buckets.

No one brews coffee and conversation like Karan (Diamond, Rs 395)
reads as if the Koffee with Karan episodes have been transcribed by an
utterly incompetent sub and sent off to press without any editing. The
mistakes are too many and the conversations too incoherent at places
to be discussed in any seriousness. Karan Johar and his guests
deserved better.

Child Develop- ment: Your Questions Answered (Byword, Rs 199) provides
a comprehensive guide to raising children, with doctors, teachers,
speech therapists and psychologists coming forward to solve the
problems of parents with their young ones.