Short Book Review: Poonachi, Or the Story of a Black Goat by Perumal Murugan

SBR: Having read and admired One Part Woman, I was looking forward to reading this “comeback” novel by Perumal Murugan. The most interesting part of Poonachi, Or the Story of a Black Goat, however, is its preface and not the actual content. The author’s frustration takes a witty turn in it when explains why he chose to write about a goat. The actual story itself seems to be concerned with too many things at once – poverty, authoritarian and paranoid regime, parental oppression, the lot of women in the society, agrarian distress, etc. A few more were left dangling some of which I could make out, others I couldn’t. The issues are all important, but they seem to be forced down the reader’s throat one after the other and I couldn’t quite connect with the story.  I am happy that the author has come back after the pathetic and dangerous controversy around One Part Woman had made him swear to never write again. But he appears to be in a hurry to write about everything to make up for the lost time.

To read or not to read: You can skip. Read One Part Woman, if you haven’t already. Perhaps other earlier books by the author would also be better picks than this one.

Short Book Review: Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P. Sainath

SBR: Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P. Sainath is a book that can shake you to the core. Even if the situation of the poor and most vulnerable people in our country described there is not a surprise to you, reading the hopelessness of it all laid bare is a chilling experience.
For reading in 2018, this book is old. Published in 1996, it is essentially a collection of articles written during a journalism fellowship between 1993 and 1995. So, the data is old. Some of the developments people wished for (mid-day meals in schools, for example) are more widespread. But what is also unfortunately true is that the stories have not changed.
The one complaint I have is that the book is simply a bunch of newspapers articles collected and printed together. Some additional information has been provided by the author here and there. But there are lots of overlaps in the stories because multiple stories have been written from the same region. The book would have been much more concise, and still impactful if the content had been redone to avoid repetition and bring out the themes more lucidly for the reader. Right now, you are reading about the “third crop” or high productivity of the poorest region in Orissa multiple times and the task of connecting related information in different articles is left to you.
To read or not to read: Yes. Although if you are short on time, you needn’t read cover to cover. You can pick up a couple of stories from each section and get an excellent insight into what is really going on with the people we don’t see.