After reading non-fiction titles* for the largest part of the year, when I learnt about this brand new book from one of my all-time favourite authors, Ruskin Bond, I couldn’t stop myself from picking it up.
The simplicity of Bond’s words, yet the profound impact each of his short stories leaves has been the main reason why I love returning to his books.
And though most of his short-story collections have a mix of new and old stories, I am always more than delighted to re-read the stories I have loved in the past.
A second (not-so-small) reason why I love picking Ruskin Bond’s books is that my daughter loves his writing just as much.
Though for this particular title, full of bad men and women of all sorts, I have marked the stories that I believe she can read at 7 years.
Without much ado let’s talk about the beautiful book at hand.
The blurb on the back cover reads,
For the first time ever, a gallery of rascals brings together the most memorable rogues to feature in Ruskin Bond’s fiction. A few brand new stories—‘a man called brain’, ‘Sher Singh and the hot-water bottle’, ‘crossing the road’— headline this collection and rub shoulders with much-loved tales like ‘the thief story’, ‘The boy who broke the Bank’, ‘tigers for dinner’ and ‘a case for Inspector Lal’. thrilling and effortlessly readable, the thirty stories in this book show exactly why Ruskin Bond’s fiction is irresistible.
I’d be honest, I was initially drawn towards the book by its catchy cover illustration. It’s warm indigo shade and the vibrant sketch of a group of men celebrating life, got me all cheered up to get hold of this title.
The night scene on the cover (from the story, Sher Singh and the Hot-Water Bottle) depicting the author holding a lamp to throw light on the band of young men accompanying him with a drum, a bugle, a trumpet and another simply singing is quite symbolic of what lies beyond the cover.
The book cover promises unforgettable new stories and that’s exactly what makes up the opening of this entertaining collection of 30 short stories.
From interesting titles to the punch line with which each story ends, this book is loaded with moments where I couldn’t help but giggle and chuckle.
The fast-paced, short and succinct stories make for a fantastic companion in the cool, rainy season with hot tea or coffee to give you company.
I loved visiting Mussorie and Fosterganj in Ruskin Bond’s words. Spanning for over a hundred years these stories feature villains of a variety of shades committing errors and crimes of varying degrees.
The rapscallions (my brand-new favourite word) in the book outnumber the real villains, though the author has left the decision of whom do you consider who totally on the reader.
From flirtatious suitors of the author’s mother to his grandfather’s unusual pets to the local milkman to author’s uncles and aunts to jinns and prets (ghosts) this book has room for the rogues of all sizes, ages and personalities.
Ruskin Bond’s rascals are only rarely murderous types (though there are stories featuring cyanide and arsenic too).
Drawn by a variety of motives-love, hate, jealousy, envy, lust, greed, ambition, hunger for power or wealth or plain laziness, the characters in this book beautifully capture the fact how the villains make life so colourful.
Like every Ruskin Bond book the simplistic, charismatic appeal of his writing will leave you wanting to read more of his works.
The seemingly simple writing that never fails to capture the mood and chemistry of every interaction is the highlight of the book.
The warmth of nostalgia, the tenacity of curiosity, the joy of kindness tenderly fills my heart with the flip of every page in a Ruskin Bond book and this book is no different.
The occasional spelling errors that would make me cringe in any other book, were easier to overlook when I was having a good time learning more about the crooks and rascals of Mussorie and Fosterganj.
Who is this book for?
I highly recommend this book if you are a Ruskin Bond fan or are looking for a balmy, quick-paced, entertaining read.
This book is for all adults (with a few stories suitable even for kids) who are eager to explore the joys of life in a hill station made exciting by its many crooks, rogues and rascals.
The book would make a relaxing weekend read or a good travel companion.
About the Book:
Title – A Gallery of Rascals –My Favourite Tales of Rogues, Rapscallions & Ne’er-Do-Wells
Author – Ruskin Bond
Publisher – Aleph Book Company
Genre – Fiction
Pages – 196
Price – INR 399 (Get the best deal on Amazon)
ISBN – 978-93-88292-74-0
About the Author –Ruskin Bond is the author of several bestselling novels and collections of short stories, essays and poems. These include The Room on the Roof (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), A Flight of Pigeons, The Night Train at Deoli, Time Stops at Shamli, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award), Angry River, The Blue Umbrella, Delhi Is Not Far, Rain in the Mountains, Tigers for Dinner, Tales of Fosterganj, A Gathering of Friends, Upon An Old Wall Dreaming, Small Towns, Big Stories and Unhurried Tales.
Ruskin Bond was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delhi government in 2012 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.
More Ruskin Bond books that I loved and reviewed.
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