Confessions uncensored
Rumina Sethi
Cutting Free: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Pakistani Woman
by Salma Ahmed Roli Books. Pages 262. Rs 295.
Cutting free from what? In a woman's autobiography, it will not be too difficult to hazard a guess: from male bondage, undoubtedly. Earlier books in this genre, notably Tehmina Durrani's My Feudal Lord and most recently, Asra Nomani's Standing Alone in Mecca, recount injustices meted out to women by the Islamic patriarchy, their shame of living in an Islamic society and their strength to overcome it.

Books received: ENGLISH

Tracing ashes
Ranjit Powar
Sati: A Historical Anthology
Ed. Andrea Major. Oxford. Pages 466. Rs 650.
Nearly 178 years after it was banned, ambers from pyres of satis still smoulder with mystifying and intriguing questions about a custom which invited horror and criticism from most of the world, awe and fascination from some and devotion from others. Europeans projected it with a more or less motivated agenda to reinforce the picture of an India with a tribal face and gory ancient rituals.

Of lives far from rosy
Deepika Gurdev
Two Caravans
by Marina Lewycka Penguin. Pages 310. 16.99.
Promises of a strawberry field, the idyll of the English countryside, beautiful summer days, fields far away and caravans, of course. Not enough to tempt you to this one. Then how about meeting Irina, off the coach from Kiev, straight into the hands of the sinister Mister Vulk: "Life in vest is too much expensive, little flovver. Who do you think vill be pay for all such luxury?"

History you can bank upon
M. Rajivlochan
The Evolution of the State Bank of India: The Roots 1806-1876
by Amiya Kumar Bagchi SBI and Penguin. Pages: 1,280. Rs 1,295
THIS is an important addition to the history of institutions in India. Without being hagiographic, it is true to its subject. Without being pedantic, it manages to be insightful and informative. Without being boring, it is detailed. Without being jargon-ridden, it manages to locate the history of the State Bank of India within the local times and social climes from whence it emerged.

Good riddance, Harry Potter!
Danuta Keane
Millions of readers around the world may be shivering with excitement at the thought of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being released at midnight, remembered as Harry Potter and the Nightmare on High Street. To them, Harry Potter is a loser. That, ironically, may well include Bloomsbury, the publisher who found a diamond in the rockface when it discovered author J.K. Rowling.

United colours of tolerance
V. Krishna Ananth
The Clash of Intolerances
by Ramin Jahanbegloo. Har-Anand Publications. Pages 156. Rs 295
Modern history is replete with instances of wars being fought in the name of God. The crusades and the 100 years war that ravaged Europe, the two World Wars in the short 20th century and the savagery now being witnessed in Iraq and Palestine; all this and also the discrimination against human beings of Asian descend are all leading intellectuals to look for explanations and solutions to save human race from certain destruction.

Love lives of three generations
Carol Birch
by Penelope Lively. Fig Tree. Pages 305. 16.99
Penelope Lively's latest novel begins in 1935, with an unhappy rich girl sitting weeping on a bench in St James's Park. Nearby, a young man sketches the ducks. Their accidental meeting will later be described as the opening of a game of consequences, from which flows a long, rich narrative. Lively's chronicling of the experience of love in the lives of three generations of women in one family enables her to explore the changing tides of English society and the role of women throughout.

She refuses to stop evolving
Almost 70 years after her first publication, Nadine Gordimer is still breaking new ground as a writer and a reader.
John Freeman meets the Nobel laureate
Nadine Gordimer has been doing some re-reading lately. Since last November, when the 83-year-old Nobel laureate first convened with Colm T`F3ib`EDn and Elaine Showalter, her fellow judges on the second Man Booker International Prize committee, she has read through a small library of work by the 15 finalists, from Don DeLillo and Doris Lessing to Carlos Fuentes and Alice Munro.