This is British author Alex von Tunzelmann’s first book. An Indophile historian, she goes back to the events that led to the partition of India. While keeping sight of the big picture, she dissects the relationships of the leaders, mainly Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, while stripping them of their larger-than- life personas. She says Gandhi was awe-inspiring as well as exasperatingly eccentric. British viceroy Louis Dickie Mountbatten comes off as a clumsy diplomat and Von Tunzelmann also revisits the relationship between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten. Indian Summer is a book with compelling narrative history as well as juicy details from the personal lives of the leaders of that time.
Indian Summer: By Alex Von Tunzelmann, Simon & Schuster, 480 pages, Rs1,080.
On foreign shores
Greg Mortenson was an American nurse who lost his way in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan in 1993. He was sheltered by a small Pakistani village called Korphe, where he recovered from severe injuries and built the village’s first school. Later on, it became what’s now called the Central Asia Institute, with 50 schools across rural Pakistan. In Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson writes about his journey and interactions with ordinary Pakistanis, the mujahideen and Taliban officials. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson argues for the need to fight Islamic extremism in the region through efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls.
Three Cups of Tea: By Greg Mortenson, Penguin,349 pages,Rs395.
Divide and rule
Yet another book on the Partition to release on India’s 60th year of independence. British professor and historian Yasmin Khan examines the context and aftermath of the event by connecting together local politics and ordinary lives with the larger political forces of the time in The Great Partition. Her sources are diverse, and she herself has links to both Pakistan and India, and she puts together fresh information about the impact of the event. She travels in India and Pakistan and interviews many whose lives have been affected by it. Khan calls for renewed attention to the Partition and to the “profound difficulties that dog regime change”.
The Great Partition: By Yasmin Khan,Penguin, 260 pages,Rs495.
Film journalist Anupama Chopra’s book is a tell-all about Shah Rukh Khan. From his childhood days in New Delhi to his stardom in Mumbai’s film industry, she chronicles the turning points in his life with fascinating detail. Her language is conversational, focusing on the situations in the star’s life. Did you know that SRK went to Pakistan with his father to meet the family’s cousins; that he was a prankster in school; and that he came to Mumbai to look for Gauri, then his girlfriend, and visited all the beaches in search of her because she was fond of swimming? As she maps SRK’s rise to stardom, King of Bollywood becomes a history of the Hindi film industry in the 1990s and 2000s.
King of Bollywood: By Anupama Chopra,Grand Central Publishing,250 pages, Rs395.
The inside story
This is a scathing analysis of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Tim Weiner interviews insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, gathers archival reports and concludes that the agency’s history has been an exercise in trying to change the world without understanding it. He proves that the CIA was blind to events in Russia, Cuba and Iraq and went wrong in coping with the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism. Legacy of Ashes is an absorbing read for anyone interested in hard-hitting investigative journalism.
Legacy of Ashes: By Tim Weiner, Doubleday, 720 pages, Rs1,046.
Courtesy: Landmark bookstore