Book Review– The House that BJ Built

THIS IS NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

As you guys may have deduced from my pointed silence, I am suffering from abject writer’s block. It may be time for that to end now, however. As you know, there no better inspiration that irritation and I’ve read a book today that’s irritated me for many reasons. 

The book is The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan. 

First, a bit of background: After downloading the Kindle app on my phone, I’ve taken to randomly buying inexpensive (and sometimes slightly expensive) books that catch my fancy when I’m bored on my commutes. These are books that are usually easy to read page-turners.Potboilers, so to speak. (Although I did read The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood recently, which is a dystopic novel. I liked it at the time, although, on second thought, some of it irritated me as well. But that’s a topic for another day) The reason I do this despite having a long suffering, neglected and marvellously well-written Wolf Hall in my bag is that it’s usually 8pm by the time I leave office, by which time it’s too dark to read a regular book. 

A friend of mine told me Anuja Chauhan’s books are quite fun, so I decided to go for it. Needless to say, I may never talk to her again. (Kidding. Mostly)

Anyway, back to The House that BJ Built: 

This book started decently enough. I went into it expecting a light-hearted romantic comedy, nothing too heavy and it seemed to deliver. As I read on, though, it mostly only irritated me. 

I’ve decided to make bullet points on the most facepalm moments in the book.

SPOILER ALERT

  • The author uses the word “pugnacious” too often
  • The book treats issues of domestic violence too lightly and seriously trivialises it. What else do you expect from lower-class Muslims, right? Completely normal. And fixable by a vasectomy without the consent of the abusive husband
  • The male protagonist thinks it’s ok to kiss one woman while in a relationship with another so long as you don’t have sex with the woman you’re in a relationship with after having kissed the new woman.
  • The female protagonist not only agrees with the above, but also is touched that he didn’t have sex after having kissed her
  • Why the fuck are step-cousins romancing each other?! I get that y’all aren’t related by blood, but eesh. 
  • The Thakur girls repeatedly mock their sister for shaving her head and not having her upper lip waxed. Sure, she turns out to be “evil” at the end of the book but maybe she wouldn’t have hated your guts if you hadn’t mocked her appearance or her bodily autonomy. Just a thought.
  • Why the fuck are north-easterners referred to as chinks and other derogatory terms so often?! Is it supposed to be a wry social commentary or something, because it doesn’t seem that way at all. 
  • There’s a money hungry Muslim who’s supposedly standing up for the rights of two north-easterners (who are actually from Bhutan!) and it so happens that he was actually being an opportunistic asshole. Therefore, as the characters conclude, these Muslims are all like this only. Extreme facepalm
  • The representation of the judicial system made me want to weep. They discovered that a will was fake and they didn’t even have to tell the judge. The case, along with the interim order not to alienate, authomatically ceased to exist and they could sell the property. 
  • SELLING IMMOVABLE PROPERTY IS NOT THAT SIMPLE
  • Trademark infringement is fine so long as you have big eyes, curly black hair, and a big butt and big boobs while infringing the trademarks. 
  • The female protagonist is referred to as “brat” and does not mind it despite being a 26 year old entrepreneur. Other characters are also referred to as “brat”, mostly girls and women of various ages. They all accept it as a matter of course.
  • When a character calls out the male protagonist for making a sexist item song, he says that he has 4 aunts who would ostracize him if he made a sexist song and therefore it isn’t sexist.
  • The mother of a seemingly talented female actor yells at her daughter for not stealing the male protagonist from his girlfriend in the way that the female protagonist was able to. 
  • Everyone and his neighbour is concerned that the youngest Thakur girl is unmarried even though she seems successful and fulfilled
  • One of the characters talks about “the cheerleader effect”, which is from the sitcom How I Met your Mother, without any attribution whatsoever. But eh. We already know how the author feels about intellectual property. 
  • The only likable character, BJ, the grandfather, dies early on in the book. 
  • Seriously, what kind of name is BJ? You know about “cheerleader effect” but you don’t know what BJ is??!

    So… That was a painful book to read. I wouldn’t recommend it. But at least it made me blog again. So yay… I think. 

    If you’ve read this book, tell me what you thought of it? Feel free to tell me if you disagree. Have you read other books by the same author? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments

    Hoot.

    –Sin

    Ghachar Ghochar | Book Review

    This is a review of the book Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag.

    This is a book originally written in Kannada, translated to English by Srinath Perur. I bought it on the recommendation of the owner of  Bookworm, which is one of my favourite stores in Bangalore. I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before. After buying it, though, I’ve started to notice this book everywhere. It seems to be gaining popularity by the day, and deservedly so.

    I want to begin by saying how embarrassing and shameful it is that I read the English translation over the original text in my native tongue. The truth is, though, that I am a product of colonialism and schools that preach English hegemony like the pope preaches the Bible (I went to “good”schools, in other words.) and I am far more comfortable with English then any Indian language. My Hindi teacher told us that the key to learning a language is to think in that language and I’ve been thinking in English for as long as I can remember. I can read Kannada though, albeit far more slowly, so I am going to try and read the original text of the book at some point. Additionally, I want to read more books in Kannada. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    Now to the book: The back of he book likens Shanbhag to Chekhov. I must confess that I’ve never read Chekhov, but if his books are anything like Ghachar Ghochar, I want to read him post haste.

    The book is set in Bangalore, and I am partial to books set in Bangalore, which is my hometown. It is in the first person. The narrative is non-linear, which seems to be rather common these days in all literary fiction, but which continues to be one of my favourite literary styles. It is the story of the narrator’s family.

    The story starts off at a café where the narrator sits, obviously in mental turmoil. His thoughts are meandering, and naturally drift in the direction of his family. He reminisces about his childhood and his family’s sudden rise to affluence. He reminisces about his past relationship and the state of his marriage. And as he remembers and thinks, a story emerges, mundane and yet, disturbing.

    This book is definitely worth a read. It captures your imagination and makes you smile and worry and fret. It makes you care for the protagonist and his family. All this is in spite of the limitations of a translated version of any book. I really want to read the original.

    Tell me what you thought of this book if you’ve read it. Also, suggest other good books written in Kannada.  What do you think of translated books in general?

    Let me know in the comments!

    That’s all for now, guys!

    Hoot

    –Sin