I'm still catching up on my reviews for books I've finished in the past weeks which is actually a good feeling, knowing I have some in 'the bank'.
Song of the Cuckoo Bird is the second novel by Amulya Malladi I've read this year. I chose Song because it is described as a 'sweeping epic', 'an intergenerational saga' - descriptions like these rarely fail to pull me in. This is the story of an ashram, Tella Meda, located in India, full of people who are there because they really have no other place to go. Men and women, young and old, widowed, and unmarried, they live and grow up together in this separate world. The book covers the period from 1960 to 2000 and each chapter is proceeded by a few sentences about the political and social situation in India at the time. At times the residents of Tella Meda are affected by and discuss these events, but in many cases we see how their insular existence keeps them a world apart.
I had a bit of trouble at the beginning of the novel, and thought I might even put it aside. The first several chapters felt somewhat like short stories to me, with several consistent characters, each one bringing in a new person whose history is explained. At the end of several of these chapters, a statement would often be made - that they never saw this person again. I was just at a loss each time these chapters ended. Why introduce a character only to pull him or her away again, which did not propel the story forward? I persevered and was rewarded as Malladi found her pace and told a tale of lives intersecting in various ways, and how family does not always mean being related by blood. Ultimately, I found this to be a satisfying read.
I read a few fascinating reviews for Little Face by Sophie Hannah written by the British Book Bloggers, so I was excited to find a copy at bookcloseouts. The premise of Little Face is horrifying; Alice Fancourt leaves her two week old daughter at home with her husband David at her mother-in-law's insistence. When she returns she insists that the baby in her daughter's crib is a stranger, that her baby has been swapped. A police investigation ensues and David's behavior and attitude toward Alice become that of a madman. This is heavy psychological stuff, horrifying for a parent or a spouse who is being treated as though it is she who has gone mad. This book is not for the faint of heart, and the descriptions of David's treatment of Alice will offend some readers. I found this to be compelling reading but was put off at first by the twist at the end. I was really bothered by this and felt as a reader I'd been led astray. I went back and re-read some passages and found that the truth had always been there - just not in an obvious way. What Hannah achieved was really extraordinarily clever, writing with her endpoint in mind, and being able to convince me of one thing while she was really saying another. I'm looking forward to reading more of Hannah's work. I obtained a copy of her second thriller, Hurting Distance, and am looking forward to the ride.