I have set a diminutive reading target for the coming year for various reasons. Just five novels. If everything goes well (and I’m no optimist), the list may lengthen as the calendar turns. Well!
Topping the list is Umberto Eco’s new novel, Numero Zero. The only novel of the author that I have read is his very first one, the one that sold millions of copies in the 1980s, Name of the Rose. It was a thriller dexterously peppered with philosophy, theology, history and mystery. Numero Zero will be released in India in a couple of days. It traces a conspiracy linking a long line of events in Italian history, from the death of Mussolini to the 1978 kidnapping and assassination of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigade. The Piazza Fontana bombing, the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, the Vatican banking scandal, the P2 Masonic lodge, and the shooting of Pope John Paul II, all find their place in the plot. Many reviewers have not been very kind to Eco's new novel. They accuse him of stretching his imagination a trifle too far to make everything fit neatly into his conspiracy theory or his philosophy about conspiracy theories. His novel, Foucault’s Pendulum (1989), was beyond my comprehension though I grappled with it two times. However, I’m determined to venture into this seventh novel of the eminent philosopher-writer because of a mere whimsical, instinctual pull.
Christopher Rush’s Will is the second on my list. It is a historical thriller written by a Shakespeare scholar. The novelist has admitted that much of the history in the novel is fabricated. But the fabricated history in good fiction may be truer than the history recorded by historians. The ‘will’ in the title is a pun for William Shakespeare and the will he drafts before his death. Published in 2009, this book did not attract too many raving reviews.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a debut novel published in 2005. “This book reads like a cross between Dracula and The Da Vinci Code,” says the Guardian review. The legend of Dracula mingles with the history of certain real blood-suckers in this novel which also failed to impress eminent reviewers.
There should be some romance and love too to lighten the darkness of history and its weird mysteries. Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember is a coming-of-age romantic novel published in 1999. It tells the story of the love between the 17 year-old Landon and a very religious daughter of a church minister. A romantic tragedy, it teaches the protagonist that “miracles can happen” – a lesson that I might want to learn.
I would like to begin exploring the mysterious world of Kazuo Ishiguro. His novels end without any sense of resolution, I understand. His characters are daunted by some mystery that lies buried in their past. I would like to read his latest novel (2015), The Buried Giant, which tells the story of Axl and Beatrice who belong to the ancient England of King Arthur and his magician Merlin. It deals with certain conflicts in the relationship between the couple whose past holds some secret which may enhance their love or ruin it.
I look forward to 2016 with new hopes and dreams in the company of these and hopefully more books. I also look forward to completing the novel that I'm writing, tentatively titled Black Hole and tells the story of Devlok, a godman's ashram in Delhi's suburban Asola.