Romancing the book in the time of rain (IANS Books)

July 27th, 2010 - 9:39 am ICT by IANS  

Facebook By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) What better time to leaf through love stories than the monsoon. Take a man, a woman, an edgy locale - sprinkle passion, mystery, a whiff of history - and you are set for some perfect reading in the rains.

Romance is the flavour of the season as new books, fiction as well as non-fiction, reveal.

“All women are in love with the idea of a manly man who has an abiding passion for a woman for a lifetime,” says Toronto-based novelist Sarita Mandanna, whose new novel, “The Tiger Hills”, was released in India last week.

The book, published by Penguin-India, is woven around the ancient Coorgi tradition of tiger hunting and modern sensibilities. It is the story of a triangular love between Devi, a Coorgi girl born, Devanna, a motherless boy, and Machu, a tiger hunter.

Mandanna’s inspiration, as she says, “was the handsome men of Coorg who still hunt”.

Coorg and its romantic history recur as the subject of C.P. Belliappa’s new racy non-fiction “The Lost Princess”, a Rupa & Co publication.

Belliappa chronicles the life of 11-year-old princess Victoria Gowramma, who fled to England with her father, the last Raja of Coorg, her love life and the crown jewels of the Coorg that disappeared with them.

The princess, who was struck by the glamour of Victorian London, pined for a handsome husband, writer Belliappa says. She was chosen to wed Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab, but a chance affair with a stable boy changed her life.

Novelist Salman Rushdie, a great believer in love stories, says dancer-poet Tishani Doshi’s yet-be-launched “The Pleasure Seekers” engaged him “… by the love that carried the book to powerful metaphorical heights”.

The book narrates a humorous and rather poignant tale of Babo, a boy from a Patel family, who migrates to Britain in 1968 and falls in love with “a cream-skinned girl from Wales, Sian Jones”.

“Theirs is a mixed-up love in a topsy turvy world,” Doshi says.

Veteran writer and book reviewer Purabi Banerjee Panwant told IANS: “Romance is an important genre of literary fiction. But the 19th century romances were better. In today’s world, romances are so mechanical. Most readers look at contemporary romantic fiction as a means of escape which is why it combines fantasy and thrill.”

Even the titles of Mills & Boons, the classic examples of romantic pulp fiction, are “more explicit and physical now”, she says.

Writer Namita Gokhale says “romance, over the decades, has remained a consistently popular genre”.

“Personally, I have outgrown romances, but there are millions who yearn for romance in their lives. They keep the genre alive,” Gokhale told IANS.

Publisher Hachette Book Group describes its kitty for “July and August as the heat wave of romance”.

The three July titles published by Hachette under its imprint “Evergreen Romance” - “Barely A Lady”, “Dangerous Desires” and “Tempted by A Warrior” - are stories of passion set in locales as diverse as the “Battle of Waterloo”, a Colombian jungle infested by the drug mafia and medieval Scotland at war with England.

Romance charts an unusual course in “Hostel Room 131″ by R. Raja Rao published by Penguin in July.

Rao, the author of the book of same sex love story “Boyfriend”, scripts another irreverent gay romance about 23-year-old Sudhir, who meets 20-year-old Siddharth in Pune and falls in love.

The latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine describes “PS, I love You” - a tale of two childhood sweethearts - as a sensational debut novel of the month that proves “love never dies”.

The history of a complete romantic fiction in India dates back to “Kadambari”, a tale of epic love in Sanskrit by Banabhatta in the 7th century.

Europe picked up the thread nearly 400 years later in 11th century when balladeers narrated tales of courtly love. The romances of King Arthur, the earliest European tales of love, are rooted in these ballads.

“Love happens when you least expect it,” Jill Jones, a California-based writer of contemporary and paranormal romance, says on Facebook, explaining the global appeal of romantic fiction.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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