It’s sometimes hard to fathom that people look at different things, different people, in varied ways. Why shouldn’t everyone hate the one you hate and love the one you love? It would be a boring world, though, if we all felt the same thing all the time. After all, a diversity of opinions is what gives life its flavour, a tadka of excitement that makes you want to keep living, just so you can engage with the world in your own particular way. This month’s column is about those divisions of opinions: Who is a hero, who is a victim? Who gets to tell the story and who is reduced to passive voice? What does it mean to look at a classic from the outside: Whether it’s a shift in a point of view, a change of language or as an adult reading a book meant for children? For me it felt like a shift while I was reading the books themselves. But, as always, here are the three books I feel you should read this month, for those reasons and for many more.

Water cooler

Sometimes the backstory of the book you’re reading adds to the experience of the book itself. For example, you’re reading The Satanic Verses and thinking, “Oh cool, I’m reading The Satanic Verses !”


A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes I) Jin YongHachetteFiction₹399



It’s like a well-plated meal, or that moment, right in the middle of a dinner party, when you look around at the fairy lights and candles in satisfaction, your guests making earnest conversation, and you think, “This is a good party”. So you should know that A Hero Born by Jin Yong, the first in a 12-book saga called Legends of the Condor Heroes , is China’s Lord of the Rings , but only because we have no other equivalent in the English language to compare it to.

It’s called a wuxia novel, which is a specific genre for martial arts and chivalry, and took wuxia novels to a whole new place, slyly tossing in allegories about the communist regime and so on. Everyone in China has read Jin Yong. Everyone. And you should too. The book is totally OTT, lots of warring kung fu tribes, lots of jumping-in-the-air action, but also a quest and two boys separated at birth, and mistaken identities, your basic martial arts movie plot. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t let my terse plot summary put you off. There’s so much breadth to this tale that there’s room to go into motivations and lengthy character descriptions, plus the small vivid details that make you feel like you’re right there: Watching the battle, watching Genghis Khan before he’s Genghis Khan, and wishing someone would take you on and teach you kung fu as well, even if you’re about as athletic as a sheep. Ah well, that’s what reading and dreaming are for.


This is quite literally a “watchlist” this month. Everyone’s been going on about The Wife , the Oscar-nominated movie starring Glenn Close as the wife of a Really Famous and Important Writer. Of course, before I could watch the film, I had to read the book it was based on, by Meg Wolitzer.


The Wife Meg WolitzerPocket BooksFiction₹594


 It’s a small book, with the same title, and a back-and-forth narrative that never gets old: Joan is brought into Joe’s life when he is a professor at her college, they stay together, she supports his writing, stays in the background, brings up his children, turns her face away from his extramarital affairs. All the while there’s the history of writing in America unfolding through her eyes — the ’60s, ’70s, and all the way up to when Joe is about to win a prize. And Joan can’t take it any more. The writing is terrific, but mostly, if you’ve been around the literary world at all, you’ll recognise these powerful famous men, and their quiet wives in the corner, even now, 60 years later. Perhaps next time you’ll talk to the wife too.

Way back

Ah, bunnies. So cute, so furry, so... lethal? At least, you’ll think so when you read Watership Down , the seminal 1972 novel by Richard Adams about a little rabbit called Fiver who has a vision of terrible things happening to his warren.


Watership Down Richard AdamsSimon and SchusterFiction₹350


Fiver enlists his brother, Hazel, an enterprising leader of a rabbit, who gathers together a few others to make a new home, and adventures follow, as adventures tend to do. For a book about rabbits, it is surprisingly vast and epic, proving that stories can be found even in a quiet countryside, and heroes made out of creatures you wouldn’t normally think about. It’s definitely worth a read (or a re-read if you already discovered it as a child) and then follow that up by watching the mini-series on Netflix, but in that order for full pleasure.



Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan


Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of seven books, the latest being The One Who Had Two Lives

Twitter: @reddymadhavan