Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay Book Review.

Hi Readers! In the past 6 years, I have honestly said this so many times that even I am bored of writing that ‘it’s been a while.’ A solid 12 days gap this time, all thanks to the brutality of the reading slump. It’s the 19th day of the month & I have managed to read only 2 BOOKS! Sounds almost like a crime to me. I hope this number adds up to at least 4. Anyway, trying hard to move on from that. I recently found out about the JCB Prize which is the highest literary award in India which started in 2018. The first year the book Jasmine Days by Benyamin won that award. Last year, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay won the award. Naturally, I decided to read both these books. Here goes the book review of The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay!



“Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay's The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present.

In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir's politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.”



I almost laughed out loud at that last paragraph of the description because what is made out to be an extraordinary story is merely something that could pass as above average. Now, I know this book won the JCB prize & I can see why, but below are also all the reasons why it should not have. Don’t worry, the Goodreads description intimidated me as well. It sounds full of promise & potential. Too bad it’s not.



I feel like I write about missed potential in all of my reviews lately. It’s just incredibly sad to me as a reader when the premise of the book lures me in only to disappoint later. I thought that this book will be about the reality of Kashmir – the lives of locals & soldiers & how it impacts both their lives, how the militants impact their lives & so much more. Instead, it took one angle & stayed on it. The angle of putting the Indian Soldiers in bad light. That was what most of the book was about. A coin has 2 sides & I never got to hear about the other side or in this case, you can say the 365 angle about the problems in Kashmir & how dire the situation is. The author picked a narrator similar to herself; a privileged woman based from Bangalore, which must have made it easier for her to write about the things none of them know about.

Not only were the problems in Kashmir talked about only on the surface, but on the other hand, the beauty of Kashmir was also only talked about on the surface. The part of Kashmir that tourists like me have seen & the part of Kashmir that the author has described are completely different. This gave her a lot of scope to describe it beautifully to us. Instead, what I read about was a shallow description hitting just the tip of the literal snow-clad mountain & never going deeper than that.

An Indian writing a novel like this already has a huge responsibility on their shoulders. Yes, it is fiction, but the facts of the matter always remain to be true. I have come to 2 conclusions – either the author did less research or that she herself thinks the way her protagonist does. Either way, it fails the premise of the book.



Initially I liked that the narrator Shalini was shown gullible, quite like most youth of India. She decided to go to Kashmir to find Bashir Ahmed, which is also too much of a stretch. The way she was unaware of the situation in Kashmir felt relatable to me. Shalini was born & brought up in Bangalore which is the other end of the country. She comes from a place of privilege with everything being handed to her easily. Having lived such a lifestyle, it is impossible to imagine her being self-aware of everything that happens in the country.

This was a good way to start the story, but it also made the rest of it a bit unbelievable. Such a girl goes & lives with a family in the mountains of Kashmir, milking their cow, caring for elders, teaching English to the Sarpanch’s daughter & what not. Your average screwed up woman in her 20s who cannot move on from grief, who uses other people to her benefit suddenly goes north & changes her whole personality in the blink of an eye. A bit much, no?



The story is divided into 2 parts – Shalini’s past & present. The past starts when she was a little girl & how this handsome stranger from Kashmir used to visit her home & how he struck a friendship with her mother. To be honest, I thought that this part of the story was a bit stretched with many unnecessary parts in it. This unusual relationship shared between Shalini’s mother & Bashir Ahmed & then later between Shalini & Riyaz was so unnecessary. I didn’t see any point in it.

Apart from the faults in the writing itself, there were SO MANY TYPOS throughout the book. This is the first book in which I must have seen so many typing errors & I absolutely hate those.


I have rated The Far Field at 3.5/5. This is a debut novel & honestly seems like reading a 3rd draft at its best. There was a scope of improving it at multiple places. There needs to be content that needs to be added & a lot of it that could be removed. It was a good experience to read an Indian author who did not write about love stories, but also it could have been a LOT BETTER. There were many lose ends that never connected. But, there were also a few things that hit right on spot. Overall, if I have to think about this novel, I’d say it’s a story written by a sheltered person herself who knows very little or pretends to know only one side of things.


Until next time,

Sunday, 6 September 2020

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah Book Review!


Hello Readers! I already told you the posts here are going to be few till I get out of my reading slump. Now, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I just might be out of it. After many weeks, I have finally completed reading Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. Once I got back the desire to read, I finished it in about 4 days or so. This book was good, but I won’t recommend it as a book to read to get out of the slump. But, I will recommend it if you are looking to get lost in a beautiful place. I have rated The Great Alone at 4/5!


The Great Alone is about the Allbright family living their complicated life in the wilderness of Alaska. Ernt Allbright served in Vietnam & returned with a darkness in him. Cora Allbright, his wife, is madly in love with him, no matter what. And, their daughter Leni Allbright is someone who has been the adult in the family from the age of thirteen. The book starts in 1974 when the Allbright family moves to Alaska. They move in a small community in Kaneq. They decide to live away from the rest of the world, in their own place, making their own food by growing vegetables, keeping chickens & goats, learning hunting & so on. They are warned by everyone to prepare for the winter because winters in Alaska are something else.

The book is divided into 3 parts as per the years – 1974, 1978 & 1986. In 1974, we see how the Allbrights move to Kaneq, settle in & manage to make a life. They have a lot of help from their neighbours. I won’t say anything about 1978 & 1986 because that will ruin the story.


Ernt Allbright is a POW veteran from the Vietnam War which made him into an abusive husband. His violence gets worse during the winter, which is the toughest period in Alaska. Because of the war, he has this urge of living in seclusion only with his family. Ironically, he has this thing about protecting his family when he is the one they need protection from. He loves his family in his own way. But, to the reader he soon becomes the villain of the story.

Cora Allbright is probably worse than Ernt, because no matter how many times he hits her, she refuses to leave him. They have a toxic relationship which is unbearably difficult to read. She goes along with everything that Ernt says, so much so that she moves to a faraway place cut out from basic resources. Not only did she allow herself getting bullied by her husband, she also gave Leni a traumatized childhood with a constant fear.

Leni Allbright is a brilliant young girl who was scarred from her childhood. She had to constantly stay on her toes in fear that something minor will set her father off. She had to stay away from a boy she loved because her father actively hated that boy’s father. She had to console her own mother. At such a young age, she had to be a grown-up because her parents refused to. But, despite everything that happened to her, she grew up to be an independent woman, a single mother & a positive person.


There are other characters who are all well wishers of Cora & Leni & are always ready to help them protect from Ernt. Large Marge, Tom Walker, Matthew Walker, the Harlans are all a united family of Kaneq. It was wonderful to read about this community where everyone is helpful & genuinely cared about others. Matthew is Leni’s love interest & honestly, I haven’t read about a more kind, brave yet delicate soul in any other book.


~~The Toxic Allbright Family~~

Usually when you have one flawed protagonist, it becomes interesting to read the story. But, when the whole family is deeply flawed, it becomes almost impossible to continue reading. Firstly, the toxic relationship between Ernt & Cora is so twisted & complicated. Cora’s self-delusion that he is sick when he has his violence episodes, is something beyond comprehension. The fact that Cora stays with Ernt year after year was grossly horrific. Secondly, Leni staying for Cora is another toxic thing. While it may seem daughterly, but in reality, it is not good for her to stay or even for Cora to allow that. At 13, she can give courage to her mother, but somehow she cannot convince her mother to leave her father. And because Leni can’t leave her mother, she stays in this family making it more toxic by the minute.

Probably because of this, whatever happens to Cora happens, which is basically karma in its simplest form. Giving Cora cancer because she was such a bad mother earlier did not go well with me. Also, because of this the ending felt dragged out.


~~Repetitive Writing~~

Winter arrives in Alaska. Husband goes berserk. Hits wife. Apologizes later. Wife is convinced he won’t hit her again. Repeat.

This kind of narrative has been repeated so many times in the book that it becomes disappointing & takes away the merit of the story as a whole. Leni wanting to run away with her mom leaving her father behind also becomes a bit repetitive.

~~Missed Potential~~

I absolutely LOVED the beginning when the Allbrights move to Alaska & how the beauty of the place just shines from the pages. In the end, the author has mentioned – “This state, this place, is like no other. It is beauty and horror; savior and destroyer. All of this set the perfect scene to what could have been an exceptional novel. But, using this amazing buildup only to talk about a man’s post-war violence or a teenage love story or a boy’s accident leading to brain damage, all collectively did not match the scene set in the beginning.


~~Important Topics~~

This book being set in 1970s – 1980s also sent important messages. We read in depth about domestic violence. How it can tear apart a family. How it can traumatize children. How it is to live in constant fear. It also talks about how the law is never kind to battered women. It is justifiable that the man abused his wife. But it is not justifiable when the woman raises a complaint against her abusive husband.  It was important to talk about it in a way that would reach the readers outside of the scope of the story & it sure accomplished to do that.

The book also talks about PTSD post-war & its effects on a family. Mental Health is so important & without getting the right resources, a person can change into a whole other human. The book brought out these matters in such a way that it would really reach the readers.

~~The Ending~~

Despite everything I have said above, the ending really got to me. Throughout the ups & downs in the book, there were times when I felt hope when Leni & Cora run away for the first time. I felt horror when they got into an accident. I felt hopelessly sad for Matthew when he lost his mother right in front of his eyes. I felt sadness when Leni & Matthew said their goodbyes & absolute joy when they reunite in 1978. I felt gratitude toward Large Marge & Tom Walker for sending Ernt away for 4 good years. I felt such bright anger towards Enrt, but also felt a sense of sadness when he realized that Cora had shot him. I felt such an emotion of stupidity for Leni when she confessed her crime. I felt a loss when Cora died. I felt miraculous about MJ. And finally, when I read about Matthew, I was speechless. The ending was when I let my emotions come to the surface for all the things that happened throughout the course of this book. There were loopholes or unsatisfactory bits in all these factors, but just towards the end I let those all go & only embraced the feelings.

Until next time,

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

6th Blogoversary!

Hello my dear readers!! Thank you for sticking with Mindscape in Words for SIX LONG YEARS! I owe you a BIG THANK YOU! You have seen this blog grow along with me. From writing short book reviews to writing detailed 2000-word BOOK REVIEWS. From liking books to being passionate about them. Those amazing four-part TRAVEL SERIES  now & then for which I was excited the whole year round. The glorious MONDAY MOMENTS series where I wrote ONE HUNDRED short stories. And, not forgetting the few bigger short storiesDIARY LOGS. Also not forgetting the short series I wrote titled DAILY COMMUTE. I have done so much experimenting on here but you all are still here reading. Thank You for that! In the past year, Mindscape in Words had 73000 Views! Just how mindblowingly fantastic is that!?

For the 6th Blogoversary, I thought of sharing the TOP 6 POSTS in different areas on the blog. Before heading into the top sixes, here is a bit of the celebration I did at home! After doing a full-on celebration last year for the 5th Blogoversary, I decided to keep it mellow. I made chocolates!!


I don’t really have a strict pattern of reading. I don’t read only the books published in the same year. I don’t stick to the books that are nominated for awards. At times I don’t even stick to just one genre. After reading my fair share of poor books, I now research. Some books are well researched while some books are written by the authors I have read frequently. So, the Top 6 books that I read are not necessarily the books of the Year 2020. Have a look! You must read these!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The Color Purple by Alice Walker


You all know how I don’t always write reviews of all the books that I read. But for the books for which I plan to write a review, I always make sure to give my 100%!  Writing a book blog means writing more than just book reviews. And, so my most viewed top 6 posts are a mix of reviews + other book stuff! Check them out below!

2020 Reading Challenge.

What Glennon Doyle’s UNTAMED taught me.

My Top 10 All Time Favourite Books.

Chaos Walking Trilogy.

A Little Life – To Read or Not to Read?

Top 5 Authors.


Once the pandemic hit hard, I knew I wouldn’t be travelling for a LONG TIME! Just thinking about it made me miserable. Also, a lot of other little things were downright depressing. If I have an idle mind, it leads me to dark places which isn’t good for me or anyone close to me. So, I finally decided to plan trips! So what if I can’t actually go for trips? I sure can plan them! I get more happiness in the planning stage anyway. And so, I have shortlisted a few places & have planned to prepare proper itineraries including places to visit, where to stay, best restaurants & so on. It’s such a FUN PROJECT & I’m completely obsessed with it! Check out the Top 6 places I am making plans for!

Chandigarh, Shimla & Manali



Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Jodhpur & Jaisalmer



~~TOP 6 PINS~~

Turns out I have a bit of a following on Pinterest. You can say about a 100k monthly viewers. Isn’t that great? If you aren’t one of those, go follow me now! Check out the Top 6 pins below! These are mainly quotes from different books!

The Nickel Boys




The Woman in the Window

The Nickel Boys



Now, I know this is purely a books + travel blog. But, I had to brag the amazing things I learnt to make in this lockdown of 5+ months! I won’t get too much into it. But just check out the photo & feel proud for me, pretty please?


Mini Cheesecake

Coffee Walnut Cake

Cheese Chilli Toast

Rava Dhokla

Caramel Custard

That is about it! Hope you enjoyed this post & also these past six years! Here’s to many more years full of books & travel!


Until next time,

Saturday, 29 August 2020

August Reads!

Hello Readers! I know the months are passing really quickly, but when I see the books I read this month, it feels like I read those books a long time back. Isn’t that weird?

Luckily this month, I have read more good books than bad, which is just SO REFRESHING! I have left that phase of quarantine where I tried to make new recipes or did chores or never wanted to leave my home. The only common thing is reading, but now that’s gone too because I am stuck in a reading slump. Since the past one week, I didn’t even think of reading. I didn’t even have any desire to pick up a book. I have just been re-watching Schitt’s Creek & Grey’s Anatomy. But that needs to change because so many unread books in my bookshelf are giving me the puppy dog eyes. I hope I give in soon enough & get back at it!

Even with ONE WEEK of no reading, I somehow managed to read EIGHT BOOKS in August. I have reviewed most of them, but check them out anyway, okay?




Genre: Mystery

Pages: 455

My Rating: 4/5

The Woman in the Window is one of the best thrillers I have read in a while. It was definitely a step up after reading predictable thrillers like The Silent Patient or The Guest List. This novel might not be as adventurous as a few others, but there are a lot of elements of surprise. The portrayal of Anna Fox throughout the novel is brilliant. I liked the built-up mystery surrounding her neighbours – The Russels. The aspect of a psychologist facing mental challenges was compelling & written with precision & empathy. The story could be told in about 10 sentences, but all the mystery created with a bunch of ups & downs till the end was such a pleasurable experience to read!

Check out the full review here!



Genre: Classic

Pages: 237

My Rating: 4/5

It took me a while to read 1984 because it isn’t the kind of book I usually read. But it definitely is THE BOOK that everyone should read.

There are so many themes in that novel & so much content. It is a political satire written in 1949 but a lot of the things said in the book apply even today. There are so many concepts that are surely a bit exaggerated, but they are so scary if they ever become real. In my opinion, 1984 should be mandatory reading in education. This book is just so important and so beyond me that I wouldn’t feel right reviewing it.

Check out some of the quotes here!


Genre: Poetry

Pages: 224

My Rating: 5/5

Whenever I read modern poetry, it only really reaches me in a few poems throughout the whole book. But, when I read Light Filters In, I finally found many poems that just hit me. I liked it even better than Rupi Kaur’s Sun and Her Flowers.

The chapters are divided into The Darkness Falls, The Night Persists, The Dawn Breaks & The Sun Rises. While I cannot directly relate to some of the poems, I was able to understand women who have been through such times. It was a whole other experience reading this book of poems. Recommended!



Genre: Short Stories / Contemporary

Pages: 352

My Rating: 4.5/5

Unaccustomed Earth is a book of short stories which is the signature style of Jhumpa Lahiri & also the best way in which she shines. The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part contains FIVE short stories whereas the second part is one whole story consisting of THREE short chapters. Both the parts are equally beautiful & you get really sunk into it. All your emotions are overwhelmed while reading this book.

Though the writing is simple with one sentence after other, when you look at it as a whole, it is just one big bundle of overflowing emotions. About estranged familial bonds coming together. About lost love. About an impossible unrequited love. About sibling connections. About common roots but uncommon futures. About fighting relentlessly for love only to lose. About seeking a companion in old age. About illnesses breaking a family apart but at times also mending them back together.

I might just still be overwhelmed by the power of words. Overwhelmed by the beauty of it. Overwhelmed by the idiosyncrasy of literature itself in its strongest form. Overwhelmed by the simplicity of elegance in all the short stories in Unaccustomed Earth.

Check out the full review here!



Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 759

My Rating: 5/5

As you all know, I had decided to re-read Harry Potter this year. I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in early June. It had gotten a bit dark to read it again with so many deaths. So, it took a while for me to pick the last book. After more than 2 months, I finally read it and finished it in 3 days or so! Honestly, there is nothing more WHOLESOME than reading Harry Potter. The minute I finished, I wanted to start all over again!




Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 306

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017 & received critical acclaim. Many noteworthy people have recommended this book ever since. This book is based on the real underground railway which was a bunch of safehouses to save black lives. In the book though, it is an actual underground railroad connecting different states in the US. I liked this bit of fictional touch to the original story.

The novel talks about the cruelty, injustice & violence caused to black people in America. It talks so harshly about the racism that was built in centuries ago & which still exists. Because of the main motto of these books, it got the recognition it deserves. In the era where we still have to protest & chant ‘Black Lives Matter’, these books just give us another reason to. I really liked to read and learn these stories of coloured people back in the day; their journey, their hardships and so much more. So, hear me when I say that the book has a brilliant story BUT the story writing or story telling is not as good.

Check out the full review here!


Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 343

My Rating: 2/5

I finally read this book but it would have been better if I had left it alone. Like so many Potterheads, I was disappointed. There are SO MANY careless loopholes & the idea of writing this is just so outrageous.

I might have finished this in a day only because it's Harry Potter content and not because it's actually good. I found the story to be quite juvenile and not at par in tone and quality set in the first 7 books which are made of pure gold.




Genre: Magical Realism

Pages: 607

My Rating: 2/5

The only enjoyment I got from this 607-page book was when I completely thrashed it in my book review! I honestly cannot spend another minute writing about this book.

Check out the full review here!

That sums it up. I know there are still 3 days before the month ends. But, I honestly don’t have it in me to read & complete even 1 book in these 3 days. Need your support to get through this, folks!

Until next time,

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri Book Review!


Hi Readers! This week I read another book by Jhumpa Lahiri & liked it even better than Interpreter of Maladies. It is safe to say that I will be reading ‘The Namesake’ & ‘The Lowland’ soon enough! As for my 2020 Reading Challenge, I have only 4 categories to go. That involves reading Little Women, Shantaram OR The Jetsetters, A Gentleman in Moscow & A book mentioned in a movie which I still have no clue on. And from the extended goal, I have read 61 out of 75 books. Given both these challenges, I am SURE that I will complete both before the year ends. Now continuing with the review!



Unaccustomed Earth is a book of short stories which is the signature style of Jhumpa Lahiri & also the best way in which she shines. The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part contains FIVE short stories whereas the second part is one whole story consisting of THREE short chapters. Both the parts are equally beautiful & you get really sunk into it. All your emotions are overwhelmed while reading this book.


I have rated the eight short stories separately & the whole book at 4.5 stars!

Part 1:                                                                                                Part 2:

Unaccustomed Earth 3/3                                                                   Once in a Lifetime 5/5

Hell-Heaven 5/5                                                                                  Year's End 5/5

A Choice of Accommodations 4/5                                                       Going Ashore 5/5

Only Goodness 5/5

Nobody's Business 4/5


Most of the books that I read are such that I am capable of reviewing them. And, then there are books by authors like Jhumpa Lahiri & Khaled Hosseini that just leave me staring into space when I open a Word document. The feelings, emotions & sentiments conveyed in them are just so BIG to contemplate that it takes a lot of time to finally reach the reviewing stage & sometimes, it never reaches there.

I do not know how to gather my thoughts on Unaccustomed Earth. How do I write about my feelings on the unusual father-daughter story which is so sweet but also a bit awkward? How do I write about my feelings on the unrequited love of a married woman for a man who refers to her as his sister? How do I write about my feelings on a young couple who are adorable yet share miniscule life-altering arguments but nevertheless try to rekindle the romance? How do I write about my feelings on a caring elder sister trying to bring her younger brother out of his vices only for him to ignore her? How do I write about my feelings on a girl’s 3-year long boyfriend having a side affair for half that time with another woman? How do I write about my feelings on the story of Hema & Kaushik right from their adolescent acquaintance till the time they were grown up & how their paths eventually separated only after a few weeks of star-crossed bliss?

Even though a lot of these scenarios are not relatable to me, I can just as easily place myself in those situations without helping but shedding some tears. The pain of looking at your deceased mother’s glorious photographs. Feeling some kind of connection by wearing a crush’s old clothes that his parents gave to yours. The anxiety of leaving your 10-month old baby in the care of your previously alcoholic brother alone. The bitter-sweet feeling of seeing the person you loved but who could never be yours fall in love with someone else. The surprise of meeting an old acquaintance and having a lovely affair in a foreign land only to depart at the end of those blissful weeks to marry a guy you don’t love. The pain of loving someone so much that it physically hurts. Even if you were never in those situations, the writing is such that you could easily slip onto their shoes & feel all those emotions just as strongly as if it were happening to you.


Though the writing is simple with one sentence after other, when you look at it as a whole, it is just one big bundle of overflowing emotions. About estranged familial bonds coming together. About lost love. About an impossible unrequited love. About sibling connections. About common roots but uncommon futures. About fighting relentlessly for love only to lose. About seeking a companion in old age. About illnesses breaking a family apart but at times also mending them back together.

I might just still be overwhelmed by the power of words. Overwhelmed by the beauty of it. Overwhelmed by the idiosyncrasy of literature itself in its strongest form. Overwhelmed by the simplicity of elegance in all the short stories in Unaccustomed Earth.

Until next time,

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