His writing spans crime thrillers, essays, literary criticism, fiction and mythological retellings. The New York Times credited him with making mythology the most successful category in Indian publishing, describing his work as being "better written than many books in the genre that have followed — introduced the Ramayana to a new generation of readers. May Agnes Smith had been born and raised in Ceylon. When that country achieved independence, all other members of her family chose to claim British citizenship and either return to the UK or migrate to other countries. May Agnes was the only member of her family to move to India.
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About the author: Ashok K. Banker is an internationally acclaimed author of mixed-race and mixed-cultural parentage based in Mumbai, India. He aims to retell all of the major myths, legends and itihasa of the Indian sub-continent in a span that will cover over seventy volumes. My thoughts on the book: The power of a story is not just in the plot, but in the narration as well.
The ability of the author to hold the attention of the reader through the book with just his words to me tells a lot of the book itself. I found this book to be that sort of end-to-end brilliance. I usually associate that phrase end-to-end with thrillers, but this mythology masterpiece definitely merits it.
The language is poetic, as befits the great epic, and the author shows that he is not just a writer, but a raconteur, as his voice takes one into a trance. Narrated by a raconteur Ugrasrava Romarsana, son of Suta and hence named Sauti, we are taken right to the heart of Naimisha-van, to the hermitage of Kulapati Shaunaka and his many disciples as he does so.
For a magical tale, a magical narration is needed. The book has that. Right when you are lost in the book and may have missed a line of thought, the narrator brings it back to your attention by a wise interruption and question from the learned sage Shaunaka. The imagination of Sauti, where he sees not just the people at the hermitage but also the many souls of those who were lost in the epic battle, is well-drawn.
I was especially drawn to the tale of Jamadagneya Rama. The pause in narration happens at exactly the right places, and split as the Mahabharata epic is. Closing thoughts: With the first book ending at a place where the birth of Ved Vyasa and his existence is shown, it sets the stage for the second book to continue.
This is my favorite fiction of the year to date. The book is a personal copy. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced. Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to.
But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.
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The Epic Mahabharata
Book Review: The Forest of Stories (Mahabharata Series #1), by Ashok Banker