A unique, entertaining attempt to reconcile the ambiguities of an ancient myth with its archaeological record.

The Making of Bhishma

From the Great War, Re-Imagined series , Vol. 1

In this debut installment of Ramakrishna’s retelling of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, warrior Devavrata Bhishma recounts a long road of intrigues and misunderstandings that led to his renunciation of a crown and the eventual eruption of a war.

Devavrata is captured by his grandnephew Yudhishthira and mortally wounded by his former lover, Amba. Knowing that the arrowhead lodged in his lungs could kill him at any time, he agrees to tell Yudhishthira his life story. He starts with his mother’s suicide, which was caused by the harsh limits on the number of children that Devavrata’s father, Shantanu, had placed on Hastinapura families. After her death, Shantanu fell in love with a Naga girl, Satyavati, who—to protect her future children—demanded that Devavrata give up his royal claims. Devavrata had fallen in love with her as well and yielded to her desires, but they treated each other as enemies ever after. Tragedies haunted Devavrata through the four regencies he served, including the mysterious death of his nephew Chitrangada, which earned Devavrata the title of Bhishma (“The Terrible”), and the murder of his only son, Shikhandin. Yudhishthira and Vyaasa Shukla—Satyavati’s brother and the leader of Hastinapura’s society of poets—listen and contribute to Devavrata’s tale as the archivist and mnemonist Lomaharshana preserves the words for posterity. As they each take turns illuminating their corner of the story, it’s a joy for readers to watch how the characters, and their understanding of each other, shift. Ramakrishna’s explanations of the relevant traditions of Hastinapura, and the other societies around it, help to pace the heavier revelations. He also uses Devavrata’s descriptions to capture the Hastinapuran civilization, drawing from historical records and explaining details in appendices and frequent asides. The sheer amount of reference material can be overwhelming, especially when it repeats itself—for example, the etymology of the name “Drona” is explained three separate times—but the complex narrative and sociological elements justify its inclusion.

A unique, entertaining attempt to reconcile the ambiguities of an ancient myth with its archaeological record.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939338-05-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kashi Software Architects

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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