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A Big Novel with even Bigger Impact: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra 

8 Sep

I love this blurb excerpted from the New York Times Book Review in the front of my copy of Vikram Chandra’s novel: “Sacred Games [is] as hard to put down as it is to pick up.”  The paperback edition I read runs to 947 pages and weighs in at 1 3/4 pounds. If the sheer size of the book is a deal breaker for you, consider the ebook; you won’t be sorry.

The story involves a Sikh policeman working in Mumbai, Sartaj Singh, and his quarry, a mafia-like crime boss Ganesh Gaitonde. It is told in alternating chapters by those two, with a few insets to fill in some back story. There is also a heavy dose of religion, and the tensions between Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh faiths is a running theme throughout. The search for a Hindu guru is also a significant plot point.

The demise of Ganesh is apparent toward the beginning of the book. But the question as to how he met his end provides the suspense. What a wild tale it is to reach that point, as the story unfolds in a largely chronological manner. You can imagine the narrative playing out like a Bollywood movie. The characters are all conversant in the classics of Bollywood and frequently quote the lyrics of the songs, refer to actresses and actors, and plot lines. Not to worry if you’re not up on them. There is an extensive glossary at the back of the book that translates the Hindi/Urdu/Punjabi words and phrases, including the Bollywood lyrics. Ganesh is involved in bankrolling a movie at one point. And characters make comparisons of movies to real life. If something is too “filmi” it could only happen in the movies.

The glossary also has translations of what I would consider four letter words in English.  If you are easily offended by coarse language, you may want to skip this one. But definitely don’t overlook the glossary if you are reading the ebook version. You may also want to avail yourself of or quick google searches. While the glossary is extensive, you will still find a lot of the foreign words aren’t included.

If you are going to read in ebook format, I suggest checking out the ebook version available from Hoopla ( Did you know that you can renew several times without having to worry about availability? That’s a most welcome feature in a book of this length. Hoopla also has an album of Bollywood tunes available, as well as an ebook titled Bollywood Kitchen, a cookbook that pairs some Bollywood movies with dishes to make for “Dinner and a Movie” enjoyment.  You can work off the extra calories with Hoboken Public Library’s Bollywood fitness program, you can check out on Hoboken Public Library Health and Wellness YouTube channel.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

Another View on Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

4 Aug

Mexican Gothic involves a young woman, Noemi Taboada, who is sent by her father to check on the welfare of her cousin Catalina. Catalina has married into a family living in a decrepit mansion in a part of Mexico that is damp and misty and creepy. Catalina sent a letter to Noemi’s dad that leads them to question her physical and mental state. It all takes place in the early 50s.

Every gothic novel has to have some of these elements: the creepy mansion with a name (High Place), the weird social/familial relationships, the haunting aspects. Check, check, check.

What makes this novel so interesting is the strongly feminist Noemi, who is pretty feisty for a woman back in the early 50s. She is willing to stand up to the weirdness demonstrated by Catalina’s new family, and try to save her cousin, all the while you sense she is in increasing danger from…….well, you don’t know exactly what, and neither does Noemi. But you knew there was going to be trouble when the family totem depicts a snake swallowing its own tail.

Noemi won’t obey the rules of the house that she is expected to follow. She suffers nightmares, and sleepwalks. She hears voices. She can’t trust her own senses. She is isolated and repulsed (you will be too!) by the wetness, mold, and mildew that surrounds her.

While not a fan of the horror genre in general, I ended up really enjoying this book. It was well written, suspenseful, and weaves in some wider horror — societal horror — to boot.

Mexican Gothic is available in print from BCCLS, in eBook from eBCCLS and eLibraryNJ, and as audiobook from eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS. You can also read a previous blog post written by one of my colleagues about this fantastic book.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

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