Category Archives: Book Reviews

Pavitra in Paris


Pavitra in Paris

A review by Maria Pia Marchelletta

Vinita Kinra’s short story book “Pavitra in Paris” introduces the western reader to the intricacies of the world of arranged marriages in Indian culture. A world she knows too well.

Her prose has a hint of elegance with poetic flare. The character in “The Curse of a Nightingale” compares herself to to a “blooming daffodil.” The song is so brilliantly composed.

The emotions of her characters are vividly portrayed via effective usage of the simile. “By now, Ganesh was trembling like a wilted dry leaf as he replaced the flashlight fro m near the pillow of the empty bed,…” “Vinayakji’s eyes bulged like saucers…”

Vinita effectively portrays the turmoil experienced by her characters as she delves into their thought processes.  “I smiled through my slit eye from behind my burqa on contemplating the title. Masked.I despised the merciless cloak that caged by blooming beauty in its shapeless prison.” The usage of the character’s name Nargis as a masked nightingale clearly displays her angst with these conformities. The author’s cleverness with employing this symbolism strengthens her message to the reader.

In summary, Vinita is a talented fictional writer. This fine collection of short stories is a must read.

Maria Pia Marchelletta

Poet, writer, artist and President of the Writers and Editors Network


Telling the truth about Africa – Braz Menezes

MMfrontcover. jpg

Review of: More Matata — Love After the Mau Mau by Braz Menezes
by Judy Luis-Watson
If you are looking for a book to take you places, Braz
Menezes does not disappoint.  In *More Matata – Love After
the Mau Mau*, he documents and fictionalizes experiences
during the 1950s and early ’60s in Kenya.  And, for a change,
Kenyan Indians including Goans are not just peripheral to the
story, they are at the center of it.
Like Peter Nazareth who speaks the truth about Idi Amin’s reign of terror in Uganda in *The General is Up*, Braz does not shy away from difficult topics.
Right away, in the Prologue, the reader is drawn into the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S.
Old friends Lando, and Saboti of mixed race like Obama,
connect across the oceans by telephone as they follow the
election.  Their excitement is palpable.  Even as time has
gone by, their love cut short because of racial barriers
still feels raw.
This love story provokes deeper thinking about cultural norms
and tradition.  Since their relationship must be kept secret,
their rendezvous offers excitement and hope. It also builds
compassion for people like them who dare to spread their
wings and fly. A feeling of dark clouds gathering adds to
the suspense.
The author uses clever humor to shine a light on the murky
shadows of Kenya during the Mau Mau period.  Lando thinks
about how people he knows have disappeared at the hands of
the colonial government and wonders, “Do the people in
government responsible for these crimes ever confess?  I
smile at the thought of the whole government lining up for
I was surprised to learn of the effect President Kennedy’s
assassination had in Kenya.  Braz Menezes explained that
people of every faith and race organized religious services,
and sports events were canceled.  The Voice of Kenya (VOK)
also canceled most programs and for the next two days relayed
news from BBC and VOA (Voice of America).  Because President
Kennedy “inspired hope and held so much promise,” the death
of the first U.S. Catholic president was devastating to the
Catholic Goan community in Kenya.
More Matata can stand on its own, but for the full experience
begin the adventure with Just Matata, the first book in the
trilogy.  I’m looking forward to the third book and hope Braz
plans to publish even more!
*More Matata* is available worldwide on Amazon and in ebook
(Kindle) and in Toronto, directly from the author

Judy Luis-Watson ( is based in Bowie,
Maryland. Besides writing, she is into the blues, jazz and world rhythms. She
grew up in East Africa.


Pavitra in Paris


Pavitra in Paris


A review by Ben Antao


It is to the credit of Canadian culture that new literary voices continue to emerge from our multicultural mosaic. The latest voice I am privileged to record is that of Vinita Kinra, born in Milton, Ontario and educated in Jaipur and New Delhi (India), a writer of extraordinary talent.

     Her first collection of short stories titled Pavitra in Paris is a delightful exploration of caste, class, arranged marriages, dowry anxiety, love and whimsy set in western and northern India as well as in Vancouver, places she’s lived in and knows well enough to recreate in fiction.

     At least two of the 11 stories in the collection —Kamini and The Package Deal— cry out to be expanded to novel length.

     Kamini, an old maid at 31, is finally married off to a well-to-do owner of a tea estate in Darjeeling. While her husband is away on business, Kamini has an affair with Nikhil, her neighbour’s eighteen-year-old son. This story is enlivened with lavish personification and description evoking all the five senses to lay bare a Niagara of emotions.

    Here’s a sample of her descriptive prose about Darjeeling. “We will walk hand in hand through olive green forests of cedar, cypress and chestnut, in the gathering haze and dancing mist, and the dappled sunlight will dazzle our eyes by the confusion of light and shade. You will splash your soft feet in the crystal streams tumbling noisily from rocks to stones in picturesque hillsides.”

     The Package Deal is an inspired story, ingeniously plotted, of love and arranged marriages, really two for the price of one dowry. The author keeps the narrative flowing with apt analogies tempering the characters’ thinking processes.

     Vinita displays a wicked sense of form and style, a deep understanding of human nature, as she navigates the reader through the ups and downs of this captivating story—another novel in the making.

     The title story Pavitra in Paris is a humourous and entertaining narrative involving Pavitra, an untouchable servant and his journey with his masters from India to Paris. At the airport waiting area Pavitra left the need to rest after standing on his feet for long hours. “Looking around, he stretched his legs in front of him, letting out a muffled whine as he rested his bent back against vibrantly papered wall. The relief on his shrivelled face was similar to a bird flying out of its cage after long captivity, as he unstrapped his shoes and pressed his frosted feet lightly.”

     Splash! tells the story about a teacher teaching low caste students and his son falling in love with a low caste girl. The protagonist fakes suicide by drowning in a well to test his love for a Muslim woman. This story brings to light the caste prejudices present in the village of Bihar and its ghastly superstitions and horoscopes.

     The Perfect Match is a fairy tale story worthy of Bollywood creation. More than this, it sheds light on India’s new economy and the migration from the villages to urban centres for work and happiness, also a satire on arranged marriages in Canada among new immigrants.

     The 256-page book, price $17.95 US, is published by Greengardens Media of Toronto.


     Ben Antao, a Canadian Goan journalist and author, has published five novels, several short stories as well as two memoirs and two travelogues. He lives in Toronto. He can be reached at

Journey of the Soul

by Maria Pia Marchelletta


Journey of the Soul
Journey of the Soul
In this irrational world, poetry evokes consoling emotions which provide us with security and love.

How does Maria’s poetry supply us with this consolation? Is it a momentary lapse against confusion in her life? Does she have a spiritual crisis in her life? As I read her poetry, I feel her homesickness and spiritual journey, which now later in life, are comforting to revisit. Her images incarnate meanings of her youth, love and nostalgia in vivid ways. Her poetic passion sometimes leans toward craft-centered language poetry. In Journey of the Soul, she launches her quest for great spiritual poetry derived from memories of her home town, San Donato, and from her childhood.

As a painter, she strives to display her nostalgic feelings, even more intensified by today’s realities and images. These are reborn in the language of her lyrics. She creates her poetic equivalents, more real than the actual descriptions of visits to her sanctuary. Her inspired anguishes there give some clarification to the entanglements of her religious soul. In communion with her attachment to the Pure Spirit, her tropes appear abstract or may be a simple embodiment of her cinematic voice.

We must accept her poetic lyrics and negotiate with the strength of her intensity and lucidity. Only then can you enjoy her Petrarchan love poetry, her varying dialects of epic tales, her painful strife with Pitman’s shorthand, her heartfelt confessions on life’s florid florets, and her Shakespearean soliloquies in her Comino valley of innocence.

Stevens Han
Professor of Literature, Han Yang University
Seoul, Korea

The Priest and His Karma

Sex and faith clash in Ben Antao’s latest novel

A review by Shane Joseph

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” – Exodus 34:14

The theme of this Biblical line echoes throughout Ben Antao’s latest novel, as protagonist Sebastian Lobo, an ex-priest, agonizes between the call of God, the call of his loins, and the damage that those two forces can commit on mankind when they get intertwined and conflicted.

Lobo flees the priesthood due to corruption in the Church, becomes an investigative journalist in Goa and Bombay, drinks, frequents prostitutes and tries desperately to stifle his bi-sexual instincts. He travels to Canada to cover Expo 67, falls in love during the flower power and free love era in North America but is drawn back to complete that “unfinished business’ back home. Through this tightly woven storyline, Antao brings us into the world of the tormented priest – one who is strong-willed in places, then weak, then lost, then damned, again revived and placed on the redemption trail, only to be brutally shoved back into a private hell for having abandoned God in the beginning. Much of the narrative takes place in Lobo’s head and he is isolated from people because every time he opens his mouth to have a discussion, he seems to be drawn back to his pre-occupation with God and the Church.

I think that Antao is bold to take on the Catholic Church for their now publicly known sexual misdeeds; at the same time he hedges his bet in having his renegade priest get his comeuppance for having transgressed his holy vows.

Writing about metaphysical manifestations in novels is okay as long as they are presented through the lenses of certain characters, I think. When Antao brings in those creepy crawly demons into straight narrative sections (prologue and epilogue) or when Sandra, Lobo’s Canadian girlfriend and an atheist, also wakes up to see Lobo’s nemesis, the God-light, illuminating their bedroom and hears the same ghostly voice that repeatedly tells Lobo “I love you”, I think we as readers are being forced into a belief frame that we may not all buy into. It shifted the focus for me from literary fiction into another genre that I find difficult to classify. I would rather Antao have kept the demons and God-voices with Lobo himself and not intruded with his own authorial, moralistic scene-painting.

That said, Antao gives us nostalgic and vivid descriptions of Canada in the 60s when prospective immigrants had to be coaxed to reside here rather than have to go through the act of “getting through the eye of the needle” that it is today, when sex had no stigma of AIDS, and when the Toronto Zoo was not in its present location. There are also detailed descriptions of the ordination process for priests, vivid images of Old Goa, and of Bombay when it had only four million residents. And of course, there is always the sex…

The writing is fluid, the scenes move fast and I was able to read this book in a couple of sittings. Given Antao’s prolific output in recent years, I am awaiting his next book.

(The above review appeared on Goodreads website in September 2009. Shane Joseph is a Canadian fiction writer whose latest novel is The Ulysses Man.)

The Bridge Club

Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

A review by Ben Antao

The most rewarding outcome upon reading The Bridge Club was that I felt like a fly on the wall, listening to the chatter of women, their secrets and their social lives spread over 40 years in Toronto and Ontario. And the bonus is that these Caucasian women, middle-class and well-educated, come together once a month to play bridge and have a ball of a girls’ night out.

I congratulate Patricia Sands, a member of the Writers and Editors Network of Toronto, on writing and publishing this story involving eight women as a work of fiction that allowed her the freedom to crawl inside the heart and mind of each woman, and weave a story filled with humorous incidents that reflect and refract the character of each. It’s a commendable feat.

The range of personalities covered in this gem of a novel should give you an idea of what to expect. Here goes:

There is an intrepid woman named Cass, trained as a nurse, but whose dream is to sail around the world. So she ditches her husband, a doctor no less, and takes up with a marina deckhand, a much older man to boot, and they refurbish a boat and live on the high seas for five years. No fear of flying for Cass!

And then there is Jane who at age 32 discovers during a ski run in B.C. that she’s strongly attracted to her companion who is a lesbian. “Jane’s energy and zest for living was boundless,” writes Sands, and the Bridge Club referred to her as “fully caffeinated.” Jane’s shocking revelation to her bridge friends is handled sensitively, as well as the parents’ acceptance of their daughter’s gender orientation.

Then comes Bonnie, a fun-loving woman with a family farm in Halton Hills and a mansion in Toronto’s Rosedale, who just loves a cocktail or two. Her descent into alcoholism and eventual recovery through AA receive well-meaning support from the bridge club.

Next comes Lynn, a tree-hugger and an environmentalist, who was adopted as a child. Curiosity takes over, and when the Ontario government allows the adopted sons and daughters of the province to trace their birth parents, Lynn decides to get in touch with her mother. Their meeting is poignant, filled with understanding, but they decide not to take it any further.

Pam is a stay-at-home Mom, with a caring husband, and her response to any dilemma is “It’ll all work out.” Unfortunately, she loses her husband Peter to cancer at the age of 49. This event triggers a flood of sadness and loss, making her story rather melodramatic. The bridge club helps her to get over this sorrow and Pam learns to take one day at a time, one breath at a time, and it’ll all work out!

Then comes Marti. When she was a 20-year-old stewardess (flight attendant today), she had an affair with the pilot, a much older man. Eight years after the affair ended, she plunges into marriage with a twice-divorced father of two, a charming adventurer with a way with women. Marti who always had a great figure goes for plastic surgery for a facelift and to get her boobs reduced when she hits fifty. “How nice to have guys looking into my eyes when they talk to me instead of at my boobs,” she tells her bridge club friends.

Dee, a golf enthusiast, arrives at Pam’s cottage in the country for a party, and blurts out the news. “I’ve got a lump in my breast.” Her husband Ken is in China on business. As her breast cancer is diagnosed, her fear and self-pity are balanced by the strength and compassion of her husband. She recovers ands finds inspiration in these words: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”

And finally comes Danielle, a staunch Catholic, who has to deal with her husband Bryce’s ED condition. “Goodness knows that when it comes to sins of the flesh, so to speak, the Catholic Church doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” says Dani to her bridge friends.

Sands’ writing style is impressive, suggesting that she’s aware of the ways of the world, and what makes the world go round. The sixty something women in this novel came of age in the late 1960s and the reader gets a nostalgic playback of those psychedelic times, when drugs, LSD and grass left their ambient smell and taste everywhere, when hippies scorned tradition to live free as they liked in communities such as the U of T`s Rochdale College on Bloor Street in 1968.

The Chinese expression Ti-Ming for coincidence appears a lot in this book. I was a speaker at the recent Ontario Writers Conference in Ajax, and at lunch found myself seated at the table where Patricia Sands also sat. I didn`t know her for she joined the WEN only recently. She drew my attention to the silhouette of the Queen of Hearts on the back cover of her book, suggesting that I might want to mention the cover in my talk on book covers. And she promptly autographed a copy for me, and said goodbye saying she`s off to Europe and be back in October. T-Ming, indeed, I said after reading her book.

The Bridge Club is published by iUniverse, Bloomington, IN, a 388-page paperback priced at $21.95.

(Ben Antao is a journalist, novelist and financial planner living in Toronto. He has published both fiction and nonfiction: five novels, several short stories, two travelogues, two memoirs, and essays. His email: )