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Uttara

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Stephen Fry's voice is made for narration!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-08-19

A rich tapestry of wonderfully weird, terribly tragic tales and clever insight into the etymology of words that found their way into our language and science and culture itself - Mythos is a retelling of stories heard and unheard, of Gods created in the image of humans - gloriously flawed - proud, conceited, vain, humorous, vengeful and wickedly generous

Stephen Fry uses his trademark wit and dry humour to adorn his rich narration - beautifully nuanced, magnificently modulated and wonderfully varied. You find yourself rolling your eyes at the insatiable lust of Zeus, groaning at the almost always misplaced anger of Hera, chuckling at the guile of Hermes, raising a brow at the completely lack of modesty of Apollo. You tsk at the folly of Midas’s thoughtless greed and sigh at Eos’s naive seeking...Listening to this book perhaps elevates a nearly 5 star rating to an irrefutably perfect score on review

What an absolute delight, this one. Stephen Fry’s voice I have to agree with a fellow reviewer - is made for narration. If only he does pick up the Iliad for a retelling..

3 people found this helpful

Pick this up for easy, meaningful intellectualism

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-02-19

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Perspective is the difference between the view from my 12th floor apartment and the window of A380 cruising mid-air at 35000 ft. Perspective is the charm between individual misery and collective mundane-ness

If nothing else, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens provides perspective - a spy satellite view of the history of Homo sapiens (as distinct from human beings in being just one of its many kinds). When the millennia fly by from under our floating feet, horizons expand, patterns change and most certainly new questions and new possibilities open up if not entirely different views.

If you are looking for a book on the why of human history - a natural (so far) evolution from physics, chemistry and biology - then this is not the book for you. Not because Harari does not endeavour to provide answers - he does even if only by the way of elimination of all preceding alternatives; but because it is the how that works even more elegantly to chart the course of history as a matter of chance - a highly probable one - as opposed to the only path to the present.

Harari’s first offering is a work of art and science - of the creativity that the Sapien brain can conjure and the objectivity that most of our species works so hard to maintain. He shrewdly forces the realisation that an almost unbiased account of Sapien history is as uncomfortable as many ever evolving biased ones. And yet, as Sapiens comes to an end and the stage starts to give way to Homo Deus - the history of the future, the discomfort heightens with the sharp pinch of heightening curiosity.

Chapters that standout include the ones on Agriculture, Money, Religion and eventually Happiness. The chapter on Imperialism is possibly the weakest - or perhaps this is just me reacting to my bias on the subject - if anything I know post Sapiens not to read much into my own individual internal or external reactions.

Shout out to Derek Perkins for his equanimous narration. Nothing else would have done for this brilliant piece of work.

An indulgently stirring listen

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-02-19

That the British came to loot is common knowledge. That there are many who still believe that some good did come out of 200 years of abuse of the Indian people is also known. That there are many in the western world and perhaps even in the colony the British left behind who believe that Imperialism strived for some greater good... painfully and infuriatingly real.

And yet, Shashi Tharoor’s fact based rebuttal of any claims of moral superiority and focused demolition of every single argument that might be made in favour of the colonists and their motivation to rule, is striking, impressive, angering and in the end very, very poignant.

I cannot imagine the impact this constructive degustation of the impact of imperialism in India might have if taught at addendums to textbooks in grade 10 history. A bolster to nationalism and empathy for the struggle the country is still undergoing 7 decades later is inevitable and isn’t that a good thing for any generation, every generation?

I must also add that it is a real pleasure listening to Tharoor’s narration, the tone and the inflection adding as much power to his telling as do his superbly constructed passages and forceful deliberation of his findings

A must read perhaps but definitely an indulgently stirring listen

Befitting the queens

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-01-19

"In the 5,000 odd years of the history of India, many kings and dynasties have reigned supreme - Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Muslim. Each of these rulers have added to the complex tapestry that makes the India we know today. Of these, the Mughals are closest to us in time, their legacy most visually accessible."

The lines above, paraphrased as they are, can be found close to the close of Ira Mukhoty's Daughters of the Sun and yet, much like the rest of this tale, her words bring to life the existence an era lustrous and full of life in all its colors – art, poetry, war, brotherhood, beauty, treachery, creation, destruction and eternal posterity.

Daughters of the Sun introduces us to the world of the women who ruled by the side of the some of the most lustrous Emperors this land has ever seen. Ms. Mukhoty builds her view of the Mughal empire around the concept of the Padshah Begum – the first ladies of the Empire, the women – not always the Emperor’s wives but sometimes also erudite sisters and resourceful, resilient daughters – who shaped the path of the meandering Empire as keenly and as definitively as their husbands, brothers and fathers did. There is Khanzada begum, Babar’s sister who he left behind as payment for safe passage and one he accepted with unremarkably routine openness a little over a decade later. There is then Maham begum – Babar’s principal wife and Humayun’s mother; Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu begum who leaves behind her infant son to follow her husband in exile and through years of strife. There is then Gulbadan begum – Humayun’s sister and the only Mughal historian and chronicler – one who allows the ages to see beyond the wars and victories. Ira Mukhoty brings to justice – arguably at great stretch in imagination – the contribution of Mehr-un-Nisa (Nur Jahan begum) as the much misunderstood wife of an older, more settled Jahangir and yet one that quite unarguably ruled the country from behind the latticed windows and sometimes not even with that much secrecy. The author also paints for us, the beautiful, rich and eventuall pitiable and yet resolute, firm, diplomatically brilliant life of Jahanara – Shah Jahan’s oldest born and the sister caught between her brothers’ bloodlust.

We see women as strong brilliantly talented people, emotionally evolved, physically resilient, intellectually sharp, creatively masterful, diplomatically keen and politically wise beyond the expectation of Western interpretation of a harem that is seen to have served only purpose.

If this tale of victories and losses, beauty and bravery, courage and cunning, is not inspiring and relevant for women in the sub-continent and around the globe, little else can be.

A special shout-out also to Shernaz Patel for her brilliant, nuanced, superbly diction-ed narration. If there is ever the idea of a narrator adding to the burnished glory of the work she reads, Shernaz Patel exemplifies it and Ms. Mukhoty should be eternally grateful for it.

PS: As the tale of Zinat-un-nisa comes to a close, the miserable years of the last Padshah Begum trudging through the ignominious years of the Empire’s fall, the scene is quite beautifully and chronologically set up for the many depravities that was the Era of the British. Mr. Tharoor – here I come. (less)

2 people found this helpful

For the love of Tom Hanks

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-12-18

A foray into the world of audiobooks for someone who still cannot get over her own betrayal to the paperback (when did Kindle reading grow on me so?) can be an uncomfortable experience. A debut work of fiction by one of the best actors the world has seen, narrated by him no less - had to be the safest initiation one can wish for.

And sure, the warm, heartfelt, old-world mediocrity of Mr. Hanks' storytelling is suitably fortified by his Oscar-winning skills. But one cannot ignore the fact that this - at 17 stories and 10 hours of listening, is an arduous experience, one that had me screeching in frustration just as often as I found myself sighing and cynically snorting at the simplicity of his imagined world. Hank Fiset's chronicles - peppered through the outing - are particularly stark examples of how this work fails (to connect with me, at least).

Of course, Steve Wong is Perfect, Alan Bean Plus Four, The Past is Important to Us and Welcome to Mars are streaks of storytelling prowess that justifies the existence of this book in what might in many other cases just be one of the many perks of fame, access and privilege.

The (unabashed) fan in me wants to believe that there is novelist brilliance lurking in there right next to the cerebral section that is responsible for acting genius.

Listen to this for the love of Tom Hanks (and his voice!). Not for continuous listening this - space the stories liberally (back to back morning-evening traffic streaming is a bad idea, especially in Bangalore). Read the paperback at your own risk.

3 people found this helpful