Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Indian Historical Fact/Fiction Books spanning various eras

Historical books in chronological order.

The Adventure of the Missing Dancing Girl
By Sunila Gupte
Published by Random House India
Ages 8 and above
Historical Fiction
Review by Wordjunkie

Set in 2500 BC,this book follows the adventures of four children as they attempt to recover a lost statue. On their way to the Surya Mela in Lothal, a town in the kingdom called Meluha (now known as Bharat or India) Xerxes, Namami, Kaveri and Kartik are intrigued by the robbery of sacred artefacts from the Mohenjodaro temple. They soon meet a young Mesopotamian boy called Amu Darya who is searching for his missing father. Before long, all five are swept up in a race against time to solve both mysteries and defeat some particularly dark forces. "The Adventure.." manages to be a fun read, a good adventure and a great window on day to day life in the heyday of the Indus Valley Civilization.
(Pic Src : Flipkart)

Poorva – Magic, Miracles and the Mystical Twelve
By Lakshmi Devnath
Published by EastWest an imprint of Westland Limited
Ages 8+
Available in English and Tamil
Review by Arundhati

Many a breezy summer evening when visiting my grandparents in Srirangam, I have had the magical experience of watching temple processions and listening to, those preceding the deity, recite the Divya Prabanadham (in Tamil), while the Vedas (in Sanskrit) would be chanted by those following the deity. My attempt to pass on a piece of history and heritage to my son led me to this book.

The Divya Prabanadham is a compilation of four thousand songs, written by the Alwars. The Alwars were saint-poets who lived between the 6th and 8th century AD. It is believed that they were incarnations of Vishnu, meant to spread the message of the Vedas in Tamil. Some of the songs written by them are in the form of Andadis (=anta+adi, the ending of one verse being the beginning of the other, like in an Antakshari).In ‘Poorva’ (=past), we travel back in time and witness the stories of the Alwars, and learn about their life and works. We make this journey with a young girl, Poorva, and her grand-uncle Swami Thatha. The former is incredulous and initially sceptical, while the latter is steeped in Vaishnavism. The reader can choose to be anywhere in the wide spectrum in between.

We encounter Chola, Pandya, Pallava and Chera kings.We visit palaces and temples. We cross the rivers Cauvery, Vaigai and Tamraparani. We travel to Srivilliputtur, Azhwar Thirunagari, Madurai, Srirangam, Kumbakonam, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram, Mylapore, Tirupati, Mathura, Dwarka and Badrinath. I found myself wishing for a map with these temple towns marked out, but I guess I’ll just have to make one myself.
[Image source]

Saffron, White and Green - The Amazing story of India's Independence
By Subhadra Sen Gupta
Publisher : Puffin Books
Ages 10 +
Review by Ranjani

A very engaging book on the Indian struggle for Independence, this book starts from the Revolt of 1857. Each chapter is devoted to a significant milestone in the Indian feedom struggle. What makes the book interesting is that the author talks also about the prevailing emotions of the involved people at various moments. So we realise that the leaders of the movement were people with the same emotions as the normal people- courage, disappointment, moments of self doubt and frustration. What makes them stand out is the strong belief in their cause and HOPE. The hope that one day India will stand as a free country. I found the writing style very impressive and it touched me, as I read chapter after chapter. The section titled "Afterword- sahibs, Mems and Koi Hai" gives a unique peek the into the day to day life of the British in India, something which I have not come across before.
(Pic Src : Flipkart)

Victory Song
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Published by Penguin Books India
Age 9-12
Historical Fiction
Review by Sandhya

Neela is a spunky 12 year old girl living in the British India of the 1930s. It is a few years before the Quit India movement. Freedom fighters are everywhere, in the guise of ordinary people. Neela befriends a young freedom fighter, Samar, during her elder sister’s wedding. Neela’s father has to go away to Calcutta on some patriotic work soon after the wedding.

Samar is seriously injured during a raid on a British facility. He takes refuge in Neela’s home, where he is kept in hiding until he is well, as the British soldiers are looking for him. Soon, Neela’s father goes missing in Calcutta. The feisty little girl dresses up as a boy, a wandering minstrel, and takes Samar’s help to go to Calcutta to find her father.What happens to Samar and Neela in Calcutta? How do they find her father? The rest of this riveting tale on the backdrop of the freedom movement against British rule has to be read to find this out.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni brings us a book for pre-teens that takes us into the everyday world of a girl of the period, complete with people’s attitudes about ‘girls should be seen and not heard’, and how it is this feisty girl’s courage and resourcefulness that saves the day.
(Pic Src : Flipkart)

The Grasshopper's Run
by Siddhartha Sarma
Published by Scholastic India
Historical Fiction
Review by Wordjunkie

Winner of the Vodafone Crossword Award in 2009, and a Sahitya Bal Puruskar in 2011, this terrific coming of age story is set in 1944, against the backdrop of the
Second World War. This is also the time of a lesser known historical event- the incursion of the Japanese Imperial Army onto Indian soil. When a ruthless Japanese officer slaughters an entire Naga village, he sets in motion a series of effects he cannot imagine. For killed in the massacre is Uti, grandson of the eldest Ao Naga chief and best friend of Gojen Rajkhowa, an Assamese teenager in a faraway boarding school.

When Uti's grandfather decides to avenge his grandson's death, Gojen joins his team of tribal warriors as they travel through the Khasi Garo hills, on the trail of the Japanese officer. Gojen's little war feels like a reflection of the larger battle for Independence raging in India at that point. A group of disparate individuals putting aside their personal differences to rout out a greater enemy. I liked the pace of the book, the complex characters and the grim but realistic end.
(Pic Src : Flipkart)

The Surya Trilogy
By Jamila Gavin
Publisher: Egmont Books
Age: YA
Historical Fiction
Review by Wordjunkie

The Surya trilogy examines the effect of the Partition of India on two generations of a Sikh family. In The Wheel of Surya,  siblings Marvinder and Jaspal find their lives uprooted by violence, are separated from their mother and barely manage to stow away on a ship bound for England,where their father lives. They do make it, only to find their father in prison. The book evokes 1950s Britain wonderfully, and the alienation and rage of young immigrants like Jaspal.

In The Eye of the Horse, Jaspal and Marvinder attempt to return to India to find their mother, even as they struggle to find their identity between two cultures. Marvinder blossoms as a skilled violinist, but struggles with forbidden love, while Jaspal vents his rage through violence, ultimately evolving as a gang hero after beating up a school bully.

The Track of the Wind follows the siblings’ increasingly turmoiled lives as teenagers – Marvinder is forced into marriage with a Sikh man, while Jaspal embraces his Sikh identity, but still seethes with rage and alienation.I loved all three books. They are elegantly written, meticulous in their detail of life in Britain and India in the 1950s, and gripping.They are also disturbing – these are not happy lives and author Jamila Gavin (who first broke my heart with the searing, unforgettable Coram Boy) clearly does not believe in sugar coating truth for young readers. But I can’t think of another set of books for young adults that deals with the realities of Partition, immigration and cultural alienation as well as this trilogy.
(Pic Src :

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails