Sunday, September 3, 2006

The Town That Came A-Courtin'


from the kind of book-mood i have been in recently and from the title of this particular book, its pretty easy decipher what kind of a novel this is going to be. this one's by Ronda Rich and it truly is a blissful little tale of happy people and happy times.. Bliss is little town in missisippi.. and as the name suggests, it is rather blissfully happy little town.. small town, everyone knows each other and they are all totally into each others business ina rather friendly and unobtrusive way (if thats EVER possible)..
so when a pretty little famous author comes from georgia for a booksigning deal in a local bookstore, the whole town decides that she's a rather perfect match for their single, handsome and very eligible mayor. what follows is a rather entertaning tale of how the town gets the two together..
this story is nothing elaborate but its kinda sweet and has the flavor and charm of a really quaint old fashioned love story..:)
quite a warm fuzzy feeling it leaves in you..:)

The Mango Season


When i came back from my cousin's rather mixed-wedding, it seemed kinda appropriate to read a novel about a girl going back to india to tell her parents that she's in love with an american guy and she wants to marry him.
i'm from a rather conservative family myself and it was easy to picture the scenario that priya was about to face at home. parents (and every other person in the neighbourhood) looking out for a suitable groom for the 27 year OLD girl, issues sorrounding intercaste love marriages in the family, etc etc.
but somehow more than the story line itself what really appealed to me was the background.. the "mundane" sort of happenings in a typical household.. priya comes back home during summer, the peak mango season in south india and just the thought of mangoes can bring back soo many memories of mango filled summers in india!
returning to india after seven years in the US, priya finds it difficult to adjust to smells, sights and feelings she was sooo accustomed to for twenty years before she left for the states.. haggling with the mango sellers and auto drivers seem alien to her, family gossips revolt her and the narrow mindedness of her relatives sickens her.
and amidst all the mango pickle making hungama, she decides to let them all know that she's going to marry an american.. she somehow cannot gather to courage to break their hearts and is pushed into a rather traditional "bride-seeing" ceremony of a typica arranged marriage..

its a simple story that been well narrated and its really brought out the true emotions of everyone.. every character seemed justified in their behaviour and it really is tough to take sides.. i enjoyed the mango season..:)

Nectar in a Sieve


Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya takes you to a completely different world.. the india of yesterday.. yes, its the story of a poor family in india in the 1950s.. the book was published in 1954 and depicted the scenario of those days. Though the book dealth with issues of poverty, it was refreshing.. there was something satisfying in reading the story of simple people who lived in south india 30 years before i was born! the stroy line is very simple and the style of writing even simpler.. this kinda makes you concentrate totally on the substance in the book.. its about rukmani.. she's the daughter of a rich zamindar who is eventually married to a poor farmer without even his own piece of land. she learns to appreciate what little they have and soon becomes a master in adjusting and living within their means(which really isnt too much!).. though she's really docile and homely in many ways, there's something oddly moden about rukmani... when not blessed with children, she takes the bold step and meets an english doctor in secrecy and gets treated.. its a really blod step for women of those days and her courage is commendable.
her courage is also seen in the way she accpets difficulties and sadness in life. seeing your infact son die of starvation, a daughter become a prostitute to make ends meet, etc etc are just a few of the difficulties she has to face in her life..and somehow she seems to survive it all. she seems to take it better than her husband.

i guess, the story's kinda feministic in view but it is really deep and says a lot! its not a really bulky book and doesnt really take ages to read. it was a perfect companion for a rather dreary flight:)

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Undomestic Goddess


After finishing the epic-like A Suitable Boy, i desperately wanted to read some really light, flippant and most importantly, short. Thats when An Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella caught my eye. The description fitted my needs perfectly and i picked it up. I wasnt dissapointed. The book was rather entertaining and i was immensely releived when i finished the book in under a day.

The book's all about a very high-strung lawyer who runs away on impulse after, what she thinks is, a rather expensive mistake. she takes a random train and gets off at some random place. knocking on a door for directions, she's mistaken for an interviewee for a housekeeping job.

what follows is a rather amusing tale of a totally "undomestic" woman (who doesnt even know to make an omlette) trying to fit in as a completely domestic housekeeper.

as expected, a little romance element is also present to add a little more flavor to the tale. Quite a refreshing break, i must say..:)

A Suitable Boy


This book has been on my bedside shelf for ages now.. and i finally got to see the end of it..(never thought that would happen so fast)..after reading An Equal Music, the beginning of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth didnt seem too impressive.. i thought i was in for a major let down. When the voluminous novel began to resemble a major weekday afternoon bollywood soap, i was even more skeptical. Powerful families with political ties, arrogant daughter-in-law tearful mother-in-law combinations, The ideal responsible son bearing family responsibilities, a black sheep, extra marital affairs, high society pseudo lifestyle, illicit love affairs and i thought i was watching re-runs of some hindi soap i had caught glimpses of during school vacations. IT was hard to beleive that the idea for this novel was construed by the same ingenious mind that had come up with An Equal Music..was that even humanly possible?? Two novels without even the sightest trace of similarity.. two totally different settings, totally different language styles, totally different styles of narrations..and the list can just go on and on..

In spite of all these apprehensions, i continued to read A suitable Boy coz of the rave reviews.. i just had to see what made this book such a favourite. And surely, if not for the volume i guess i wouldnt have been dissapointed. The main story line revolving around lata and the hunt for a suitable boy for her is rather entertaining and eeriely close to home.. Makes you realise that arranged marriages all over tend to happen the same way.. and all girls tend to feel the same way about the whole marriage deal. The fact that a male can totally capture and explain the feelings a girl undergoes during such times is rather fascinating..

Another commendable aspect about the book, is the way seth has handled the enormous cast of characters. Each character, however minor in order of appearance in the novel, is unique and easily distinguishable.

Though i thoroughly enjoyed this line of the story, the million side stories got me rather tired of the book.. i mean, i might have completely enjoyed reading a novel about the life of maan and his friends and his wayward life style..but that coupled with lata's boy hunt and a generous serving of indian politics was quite an overdose.

Inspite of the length of the book, nothing ever happens.. really.. that was one other aspect of the novel that reminded me of a soap, miss a hundred episodes and get back to it after a couple of months and nothing much would have really happened.. well, that was the case with this one too. There are so many parts of the book that just faded into nothing-ness.. constant references to meenakshi's infidelty make you wonder how the whole issue would end and when the novel finishes you suddenly realise that nothing whatsoever has been done to that issue. and then you realise that amybe thats life.. not every thing gets resolved and ends in a rather fairy tale kinda way. The way lata finally chooses one of her 3 suitors seems rather abrupt.. seems like she could have put in a little more thought to such a life altering decision..but then again, dont we all do what she's done?

As you can see, i have mixed emotions about this book. Cant proclaim that i love it but at the same time, i cant write it off as trash.

Overall, A suitable boy - unsuitably verbose.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Sons and Lovers


We always tend to wonder what harm could come out of love.. liking someone is a positive feeling and nothing harmful could ever come out of it.. well, atleast i looked at it like that until i read Sons and Lovers by D.H.Lawrence... In desperate need of a change from contemporary literature, i sought refuge in a classic and i wasn't dissapointed.
I picked up the book not knowing anything about it.. the title and brief descriptions from here and there gave me an impression that this was a light comical kinda book.. i couldnt have been more wrong..
there is a strong undercurrent of discomfort throughout the book.. a stiff suffocating feeling.. and you soon realise that it is brought about by love.. never having really looked beyond the positive side of maternal love, this book was a total eye-opener.. the perfect description of the possessive mother's feelings towards her son and the woman he seems to be in love with brings to light the reason behind out typical "saas-bahu" fights (mother-in-law, daughter-in-law fights)..

Somehow, many parts of the novel reminded me of india.. the story could have very well been taken in a rather poor home in a village in india and the setting would have been perfect.. right from neighbourly gossips to all the relationships and under-currents..

i wouldnt call the book disturbing.. there is a negative trend throughout the novel but it doesnt really get to you.. the whole story has been narrated in such a way that feel the novel without actually feeling it.. i guess thats the most arbit explanation but i cant find better words to say it.. i never thought i'd feel soo strongly about a book if i dont totally get immersed in the story but again i guess i was wrong!

sons and lovers has been quite a novel literary experience..:) a welcome respite..:)

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed


When i was drowning in the epic-like "a suitable boy".. i badly needed a break.. and talks of kaavya vishwanathan and plagiarism caught my eye.. girl of south indian origin, sophomore in harvard, $500,000 for twoo books, accusations of plagiarism.. well, this was too much to resist.. i just HAD to read the book..
frankly, i didnt expect too much from the book... firstly, the title didnt impress me much.." how opal mehta got kissed, got wild and got a life".. it seemed to say too much about the book..and then there was the fact that kaavya was what? 17 years old?? what could she possibly write about???
i guess i was in for a shock.. the book turned out to be better than i expected..looking beyond the obvious, it was infact, relate-able! parents charting out children's lives is nothing new for us indians.. it happens all the time.. but opal's parents were a little over the board i guess.. all the plans and the prep for first HOWGIH and then HOWGAL seemed a little too unrealistic..a little too exaggerated..and i doubt if my mother would have ever jumped with joy with a camera in her hand if she'd found me sneaking a kiss with my boyfried!!:) but beyond the obvious, the book spoke volumes.. career decisions or in-decisions!, dreams that are your dreams just because it was imposed on you, trying to "fit in".. these are things that everyone goes through at som age or the other.. and the book talks about all this..

and the book actually is a lot of fun.. though the whole scenario is kinda bizzare.. you cant help wondering what drastic step the mehtas are going to take next.. you cant resist turning the page to read what opal's upto now.. there's no part thats even a little boring..and in a couple of hours, you actually have completed the book.. easy!:)

maybe it is a "girl" book.. i dont know how a guy can read through pages and pages of talk about fashion and gossip and etc etc..but it definitely is a girl book..:) its short, easy to read, and i must say, mildly entertaining.. surely much more than what i expected..
its for those times after a really serious or heavy book.. when all that you want is something light and non-taxing.. this book reminded me of th much raved about "5 point someone" by chetan bhagat..maybe it was because both were first novels, both involved students, some romance.. etc etc.. i cannot pinpoint it..but they are very similar..
anyways, its a mildly entertaining book...and makes good reading for a short break..surely not a total dissapointment..nor is it over-hyped..:)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stolen Lives


When you finish reading this book, its hard to beleive that its a true life story.. its hard to beleive that people can actually undergo such things in this world.. it really is! stolen lives is an autobiographical account of malika oufkir's real life. What started as a life pampered with luxury, fun, frienship, affection, joy etc etc turned to one filled with misery, hopelessness, struggle etc etc.. heart wrenching!
malika oufkir is the daughter of general oufkir, who happened to the closest aide to the king of morocco.. yes!.. the king had a daughter of malika's age and adopts malika at a tender age so that she can be his daughter's companion.. though malika lived inside the palace and had the best things she could ever ask for, she missed her home terribly.. she was allowed to see her parents very occasionally and had hardly any touch with them or her siblings.. a few of whom were born after she was adopted..(so, she didnt even know them!). she grows to think of the king as her father and he's pretty fond of her too!..her life was totally sheltered and secure and luxurious..but she was bound to the palace and didnt have her freedom.. despite all this, she lived a happy existence completely unaware of the misery ahead..

One fine day, out of the blue, malika gets to hear that her father had tried to assasinate the king. he was killed and the rest of the family was put in jail, malika included..for malika(then 19 years old), this came as a total shock..for one, she couldnt understand why the king was being so cruel with her..she was like a daughter to him and yet, he even refused to speak to her! she was shut in one desert jail after another for 20 years! the misery they experienced in the jail followed by their attempts to escape and finally their release - this is what this book is essentially about.

The story is gripping and the fact that it is a true life story gives it a totally new dimension.. there has been no exxageration of the conditions of the places where they were imprisoned and their state is really really pitiable..

for all the suffering, the book ends on a happy note.. after 20 years of torture, malika and her family have been released and now lead "normal" existences..("normal" because they are still getting used to the life outside the jail and the technological advances that happened in the 20 years).. this book is really worth reading..

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Earth's Children Series

The whole series, by Jean M Auel, is set in prehistoric times.. the neanderthal age to be more precise.. the author has done a lot of research for each and every book in this series and has tried to re-create the scenario to the best of her abilities.. a wonderful effort!
(please pick these books up only if you have a lot of time to spend reading..they are HUGE!..:) but its really worth the effort and the time spent!)



Book 1 : The Clan of the Cave Bear



When i first read about this book in hillary clinton's bookshelf, i wasn't too sure if i would like it..firstly, the name sounded wierd..and secondly, shesaid something about liking archaeology being the reason she liked this book..but despite this, i decided to pick this book up anyways.. at first sight, i was terrified.. i have read big books but this one seemed humongous..about 700 pages of small print and i wasn't sure if i would ever complete it! and complete it i did! it was more an epic than a story.. the story begins with a little girl losing her family to an earthquake.. she survives and is saved by a bunch of wandering people.. the book is how she is accepted amongst them though she is different in many ways.. she looks very different from them and this is the main reason she is shunned by them in the beginning..eventually, they learn to accept her differences and treat her as one of them..they are the clan of the cave bear and ayla, the girl, grows up with them.. the life of the clan is described in detail in this book..the clan doesnt talk..they communicate with each other using hand signals!!.. when you finish reading it, you know you'd be able to survive if you were suddenly transported back in time and left with the clan..you really would.. their customs, their mannerisms, their food habits, huunting habits etc is vividly explained.. ayla is adopted by the medicine woman of the clan and she starts learning about various herbs and their uses etc.. its really interesting to learn the ways of the people of the ice age.. things we tend to take for granted these days didnt even exist at those times.. the book ends with ayla being sent away from the clan by the new leader who has never liked her from the beginning.. you can't wait to start the next book and see what happens to her..

Book 2 : The Valley of the Horses



If i thought the first novel was gripping, the second was even better.. after getting banished by the clan, ayla learns to live on her own in the valley of the horses.. in the process of living alone and hunting for herslf, she discovers new things and makes many inventions that would benefit the future generations immensely.. she adopts a horse and a cave lion and leads a peaceful life until her fate's crossed with that of jondalar.. jondalar travels from his settlement for over 3 years with his brother.. their journey is described parallely with ayla's stay in the valley of the horses..eventually, ayla saves his life and they fall in love..only when she meets jondalar does ayla realise that the people who saved her life and brought her up are actually primitive beings called flatheads..they are not as developed as the rest of the people in the ice age..the rest of the people (referred to as The Others by the clan) can actually talk and are more advanced.. they actually consider tyhe flatheads as animals and hate them! She learns to speak from Jondalar and learns about the other things happening outside the flathead world.. by the end of this book, they decide to leave the valley and start moving.. they take the horses (the horse has given birth in the middle of all this and lion has moved away)and begin their journey..

Book 3 : The Mammoth Hunters



In the third book of this amazing series, ayla and jondalar stop at a cave of the mammoth hunters.. they get along beautifully with the mammoth hunters and soon the whole cave is soo fond of them.. they learn to love ayla despite the fact that shes been with flatheads all her life.. they become so attached to the two and ayla's adopted by them.. ranec is a handsome man in that cave and he falls in love with ayla.. she finds herself attracted to him too and doesnt quite seem capable of making the decision between Jondalar and Ranec.. Ranec and Ayla plan to get married. but then, a mammoth hunt and circumstances make ayla realise her true love.. at the end of the book , ayla and jondalar leave the mammoth hunters to go back to his place..

Book 4 : The Plains of Passage



The first book in this series that kinda dragged a little.. i personally thought it was a little below par.. but i guess it was unavoidable... the fourth book is about ayla ande jondalar's travels.. they leave the mammoth camp and start travelling towards jondalar's home.. now, basically, the whole book is set in europe.. jondalar lives somewhere around where france is right now and the mammoth camp is roughly somewhere to the left of czech.. but i am not too clear about that.. i didnt study the map in that much detail.. so its basically a pretty long journey and it has been described in detail.. they meet all the camps that jondalar met on his way south and those were the interesting bits.. and they also have na encounter with a "bad" camp.. that was pretty interesting too..but the part that dragged was the travel bit.. i was not too interested in the flora and fauna description of europe of those days and detailed descriptions of the different kinds of vegetation and the animals that survived there etc etc kinda got to me after a while.. i soon started skipping the description bits..(just a cursory glance so i dont miss anything) and that kinda helped me finish the book faster too!:)
by the end of the book, ayla and jondalar finally reach his camp.. wonder what the next book has in store!!:)

Book 5 : The Shelters of Stone



yet to read...:)

A Fine Balance


Rohinton Mistry, (though personally, i'd prefer calling him Rohinton MISERY), came out with his much acclaimed second novel, A fine balance, in 1995.. it was very highly acclaimed and praised by the time magazinre, new york times, wall street journal, the guardian and any other famous reviewer in sight in the US! Rohinton was brought up in bombay and his novel revolved around india..
ever since i crossed the seven seas and came over to the new land, i have had an inscrutable urge to bond with anything even vaguely indian and to an extent asian.. it somehow links me to home and i derive satisfaction from it.. my reading has also followed the same trend...mills and boon, robin cook, sidney sheldon, wilbur smith, jeffrey archer etc have been replaced by bharati mukherjee, naipaul, r.k.narayan and chinese novelists like amy tan and jung chang...anything to give me a feel of home..:)along the same lies, i picked up the much raved about novel - a fine balance.. with absolutely no itroduction to it whatsoever, i had absolutely no idea what i was getting myself into.. really..
the book is completely indian.. in fact, when reading it, i've even had the funny sensation of being able to smell the oil dripping vada described in the novel! you're transported totally to the streets of india..
the beggars on the streets, the crowded trains and the inane conversation happening between randoms, desperate attempts at making "fresh" conversation in hot and sweltry chennai buses and mumbai trains.. well, its all so familiar.. the hawkers in the station, the irresponsible police, the crowded streets, the dirt on the road, the hawkers, politics talk, over-friendly aunties!! - havent we seen them all?? we have! and the book is full of such descriptions.. descriptions that make you yearn for home.. i thought i only missed my family, my friends, the places i studied in, the coffee places we hung out in, the theatres we watched movies in etc etc.. but while reading this novel..i realised that i was missing more than that! i was missing the road side pani puri stalls, i was missing the "sundal" in the beach, i miss having beggars haunt us all the time.. i miss fighting tooth and nail with chennai auto drivers for 5 rupees.. i really miss all that!!
well, i can go on and on about the stuff the book made me miss.. it does seem like a beautiful book right?? but, it actually wasn't.. it turned out to be rather depressing and pessimistic.. when i finished reading the novel, my first reaction was to hate it.. i've always liked the "and they lived happily ever after" endings and the way this novel ended was a rude shock.. and in many ways, i thought he was portraying the wrong india to the people here..a complete novel about the miserable life of beggars in india, the poverty, the unhygeinic conditions, the politicl plays.. it seemed so unfair that he was portraying just just side of india to the americans..
but as time passed, i began to appreciate the book more.. it was an honest portrayal..nothing was falsified.. it was a true depiction of the poor india.. a true depiction of the lives led by soo many indians.. when in india, just closing my eyes would make me forget that though there were barristas, mcdonalds, pizza huts, subways etc etc, there was a major part below the poverty line.. and this book hit me with reality.. made me realise what i've been pushing out of my brain.

it feels like you are in a dark tunnel and somehow you know there's light at the other end..its right there..you can just almost see it..its dark now and you know somehow that everything is going to be alright..and then suddenly, the tunnel ends..there is no light at the other end..its been closed..there is no exit..its just darkness.................
thats no fair you might say.. unfortunately, life doesnt always necessarily become better for everyone..
its a gripping tale and a book so honest is hard to come by..

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Color Purple


I heard about the movie before i heard about the novel.. in fact, i even heard about the broadway show before i heard about the book.. and then , i saw the book in hillary clinton's bookshelf.. i just HAD to pick it up.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker..
Somehow when i read the reviews, i had formed an opinion that the book revolved around the life of this strong willed courageous black woman ho stood up for her rights blah blah blah.. and i was totally wrong! there's nothing strong willed about Celie.. maybe except for her determination to live.. raped by the person she beleived to be her own dad repeatedly since she was 14 years old.. has two children but both are taken away from her and she has no idea about their existence..and then she's separated from the only being she loved, her sister nettie to marry some man who's in love with someone else and all that she has to do is clean his house and take care of his chlidren.. you keep thinking she's going to get the courage to break free..but no..she never does..she resigns to fate and seems to be happy that she's alive..doesnt ask for anything more from the world.. and then, hr life turns around when her husband's lover comes to stay with them.. this is not the end of the tale.. the book is the form of series of letters... letters from celie to god, and then from her to nettie and also letters from nettie to celie..just letters.. it starts with the first time she's raped by the person she beleives to be her dad at age 14 and just goes on for more than 30 years!!
the story is about opression.. black opression and opression of women.. of women who'd tolerate any behaviour from men and the society just because they are black women..the lowest strata of society..
its a powerful book and transports you from the present to the age this book was set in.. the crude language and the grammer and the spelling only adds to the power of the book..its surely not a book that would ever be included for a literature non-detail in school..never.. it feels like you'll forget english before you're done with the book..thankfully that doesnt happen..:)
somehow to me, the character of sofie stood out more than that of nettie herself.. sofie's the strong one..the one to resist male domination and white domination..the one to stand up for her own rights.. sofie's the strong one.. even when you read about her, you wish celie would be more like her..stand up for herself.. but celie is just who she is..a typically opressed black woman.. it a beauty to see her come out of shell with the help of her husband's lover.. you can feel the transformation.. you can sense the change in her wrting..you can feel her confidence..all from just the way she looks at the world around her..
i loved the book.. i really did!:)

Friday, May 5, 2006

Miguel Street



When in India, you can't miss a slum.. slums are an integral part of your life.. you see it everywhere.. you just choose to ignore it.. what does a slum represent? poverty? depression? unhygeinic conditions? uneducated children?.. well, all this..and you realise.. much more!
when does a slum look like a clolorful attractive place? i guess, only in a V.S. Naipaul novel..
thats miguel street for you..

Miguel street is just a slum area in a corner of port of spain, trinidad.. (but somehow, as i read the book..the picture that formed in my mind could have easily been in chennai/bangalore..i dont know what it is that makes me indianize his books.. maybe its because i always thought he was a indian or maybe he does have that "indian author" touch to him.. i would never know.. my mind is prejudiced now!)..

Its just a noisy little street and its really funny! the story is narrated by a little boy who grows up in this street.. he describes the people as he sees them.. he describes incidents as he sees them.. he grows up in miguel street and one fine day finally leaves the place (end of book)..naipaul has the amazing talent of depicting poverty in a colorful and joyful manner.. drunken jobless men, nosy neighbours, bullying husbands...the list just goes on and on..
the narrating boy is highly perspective and has a keen observation and doesnt miss anything tha goes on in this little street..
never once during the book does the poverty and the living conditions affect you in the wrong way.. the residents dont seem to mind it and you forget to mind it..and when you finish the book..all that you can think of is a happy place with happy people..(thought they dont exactly seem too happy!)..

reading this book is a joyful experience!!:)

Dancing in the dark


"A searing new novel that reimagines the remarkable life of Bert Williams, the first black entertainer in the United States to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune".. said the cover of this book.. and i picked it up..Dancing in the Dark by Caryl Phillips.
As i read the book, i realised that the theme of the book is there in the title.."dark".. in this book, you are made to see beyond the success of the first successful black entertainer in the US.. you are made to see beyond the applauses, the accolades, the awards, the fans.. you are made to see beyond it all..
all that you see is a man torn..torn apart by the guilt that he has let his parents down by becoming a comedian.. torn by the rejection of the black community that considers him someone who makes them all look like fools.. torn by the fact tht he cannot give his wife what she wants - love..

a man who makes the rest of the world forget their troubles and laugh heartily while watching him is plagued by the worst feelings.. none of the applauses, the awards, etc have brought him the peace of mind that he is looking for.. and that is how this novel proceed from beginning to end..

it is a very strong book.. fiilled with strong dark emotions.. makes you feel gloomy..but yet there's something about it that makes you go on reading. you know that there's just more gloom ahead.but there's some invisible force that keeps you moving till the end..

The style of writing doesnt make it any simpler.. if i thought any of the previous books i read had a "discontinuous" style of writing..i was obviously wrong..this book defines "discontinuity".. ech paragraph is different.. sometimes its in first person, sometimes its in third.. sometimes, its bert williams talking, sometimes its his partner walker..sometimes its his wife lottie and the rest of the times, its aida..the wife of walker.. you start reading each para without knowing where you are heading..after the second line you realise who's point of view you are seeing..and then you are forced to go back and start the para again and read it from that person's perspective.. and the paras are not too big too..every few minutes you are made to stop, think, re-read and process.. the flow of reading gets cut at the end of every para..

why read the book amidst so much confusion you might ask...read the book and then you'll know..

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A Million Little Pieces


When one browses the oprah website in search of books to read, its very tough to miss this one - A million little pieces by James Frey.. I eventually picked the book up from the library and sat down to read it.. it is one of the fastest moving stories and you just cant put the book down until you hve actually finished reading the whole thing.. its not a suspense or anything even remotely close that keeps you glued to the book.. its the narration and the story itself..
This book is an autobiographical account of the six weeks the author spent in rehab after having been an alcoholic and a drug addict for more than a decade! right from the age of 12! when kids around the world were concentrating on computer games, tests, assignments etc etc.. our buddy here was getting high over and over again.. by the time he reached his early 20s he was done for.. a valuable life totally down the drain!
as a last chance to save his life, he decides to go into rehab.. and the book is just all about his struggles and the lives of others he meets in the rehab.. the strength and the determination prtrayed throughout the book is really commendable.. it sure is a life saver for millions of people out there in the advanced stages of addiction..those who think that they've reached the end.. here's a book to save them all..the book with the message" no matter how deep in shit you are, there is always a way out..and all that you need is determination"..
it sure does give hope!
there was a big controversy about the book a few months after its publishing.. it was discovered that there were parts in the book that were actually not true but were altered.. oprah winfrey even had the author over for a second interview where she ripped him apart for his crime..
personally, i dont think it matters.. the truth is there.. an addict, in his advanced stages managed to save his own life with just determination and the will to live.. and that is the main essence of the book..the minor petty details dont really matter..
this is a short and extremely powerful tale and takes you to a world you have heard of vaguely but dont really know.. reality hits you hard!!
a must read for all you bookworms out there. if you've missed reading this, grab a copy immediately..:)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Evidence of Love


A simple cover attacted me to the book..a powerful story with the strongest of emotions kept me glued to the book until i completed it...and a perfect ending made me immediately come here and write about it..:) Evidence of Love - Melissa McConnell..
The cover of this book is nothing elaborate.. it is a simple picture of an empty closet with just one clthes hanger in it.. just a bare cupboard.. but just looking at the cover sends a feeling of loneliness and desolation in you.. simple and powerful.. beautiful!
the story goes likes this:
A 33 year old woman seems to be absolutely content with her life.. a boyfriend who she loves and is soon to marry, a good relationship with her mother and a job in the white house! what more could she aask for at this stage?? well, actually, everything is not perfect.. the perfect boyfriend has been a little less than perfect recently and has been a little too attached to his job as the personal advisor to the president of united states.. as she thinks up of ways to revive the flame and get the romance going again between them.. a bomb drops out of the sky in the form of a note he leaves for her one day when she gets back from work.. the note's simple.. he's going out of town on business but will not return to her at the end of it!
the near-perfect world suddenly shatters for catherine.. the book is all about her and her feelings in the weeks to follow... i guess its not a "guy" book.. its a very "girl" book and thats the kind of books i kinda like.. have you ever seen a guy write a book which has nothing in it but emotions?? it wont sell!:)
it touches you deeply when she recollects all the fun gtimes she's had with harry.. their first meeting..their walks around NY...their frequent trips to flea markets.. their devotion to each other.. and in the middle of all this, she realises that though she thought she knew harry.. she actually didnt know him at all! why would he just leave her and not even have the courage to face her and tell her about it?
the story line is kinda discontinuous and is interrupted frequently with recollection of her childhood and ofcourse, the present.. her mundane job and the likes..
the book is beautifully written and is very perceptive... now thinking about it, it does have a lot of details!! as in, it is nothing but details.. ery little story..but a lot of details.. but the details keep you glued to the book.. details of her childhood.. details of the love between her parents.. details of her life with harry... details of her job...details of everything under the sun..
the book's in first person narration and as you read it , without your knowledge you enter the character yourself.. you can actually feel the pain of separation..you can feel the anger..you can feel the confusion.. you can feel the book.. i think thats the most beautiful part of the whole book..:)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Never let me go


I have never been good at writing book reviews.. even when wev had to read a book and write its review as a part of our english classes, i could never do it right.. the essence of a review is that it should cover the important aspects of the book and make it look as interesting as ever without actually letting the cat out the bag(if you know what i mean).. i learnt that when i picked up a perry mason detective novel for reviewing and landed up writing who the murderer was at the end of the review.. it was a valuable lesson..but i have never managed to really follow it..
why i talk about that now is because i have been trying to figure out what to say about this book..Never Let Me Go by Kazo Ishiguro.. it is the kind of book that gives you absolutely no indication about what its exactly about and that's the best part of the book.. what seems like a simple story seems to go on and on..and not in a continuos style.. its a very discontinuous kinda writing style when there are abrupt jumps from the past to the present and mysterious breaks.. while reading it..you know something's not right somewhere but you just cannot point a finger at it.. you break your head about what it might be.. when you put the book down and turn in for the night, you continue to think about it.. you try to prepare yourself in advance so that it wont affect you too much when you actually know whats that "wrong" factor in the book..
and when it hits you, it hits you hard.. you want to cry..your heart feels heavy and you wish it werent true.. you wish you had never started the book in the first place.. you wish you hadnt been so involved with it..but thats the beauty of the book..when you look back at it after a few days/weeks/months..all that you think is..wow! that was one hell of a book.. a deeply marking book..
i guess this is all i can say about the book without actually letting the cat out of the bag.. but i cant stop myself.. i want to go and on about the book.. i want to say things that would make you want to run to the local library and pick up a copy of this.. i want to write a beautiful review for this book..a review that would do justice to the quality of this book.. but i know i can't.

i dont assure you that you'll like the book.. i dont know if you'll even feel as strongly as i did.. i dont know if you would just fling it back into the delivery can at the library mumbling something about trashy it was.. i dont know.. but i loved it..in some deep inane way, i liked it a hope and i hope you do too..:)

The Poisonwood Bible


I picked up Wild Swans from hillary clinton's bookshelf on the oprah website and i loved it. This made me go back to her bookshelf and pick up aother books that she had enjoyed reading.. the books that she picked had a political element to it but that was not the major factor...the politics merged with the story lines soo beautifully that you dont even notice it.. the next name that caught my attention in her bookshelf was this book ..The Poinsonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.. It is a very unique book.. esp in the style of narration.
The story is basically about an evangelist baptist who takes his wife and four girls to congo in the 1960s..This is as a part of the missionary work. They have a one year "contract" and they all move to the wild forests of congo not really knowing what they are getting into.. Living in the forests among native africans to induce a beleif in some one called Jesus Christ and make them move from their beleifs and embrace this new faith is surely not an easy job..
And to add to all this, there is the political element.. this is the time when Congo is getting its independence and there is a lot of internal conflict.. the baptist is asked to leave congo and get back to america coz the missionary cant find a replacement..but being dedicated to the cause, he decides to stay on in congo with his family( much against their wishes) and their lives change drastically..
The naivete of the family and their total lack of foreseeing of the conditions in africa is depicted nicely when the mother packs betty crocker cake mixes to bake cakes for the girls during their birthday..its a total shock when they see the shack that they had to live in.. let alone a oven, they didnt have a sotve/refrigerator..stuff that they had always taken for granted in the US..
The best of the novel, however, is not the story.. its the way the story has been narrated..
there is not one narrator..but 5! each chapter is by one of the four girls and a few chapters by the mom herself.. so we get to see the whole scenario from four different perspectives..
its a beautifuly written book...

Wild Swans


This is easily one of the best books i have ever come across. At first sight, this seems like a rather bulky novel with a really small print . When you start reading it, the language seems very simple and at times even amateurish. Constant references to people as "my grandmother", "my mother" etc seem quite irritating in the beginning and you'd wish that the author had stuck to third person narration and made things better..
But as the novel progresses, your thinking drastically changes. The simple language makes it easier to grasp all the facts presented in the book easily. There are numerous facts presented here and the author describes the life of the chinese people in detail.. their beliefs, their customs, their habits, their way of thinking, the political scenario etc etc.. i thought india was one of the very few countries with such a rich heritage and no other country could even get close to it..but china has it too..and i learnt all about it after reading just this one book! The complication of chinese names slowly dawns on you and you are really thankful for references to "my grandmother" etc just to avoid confusion. The length of the book soon becomes a pleasure and you can feel the sadness ebbing in you when you are nearing completion of this gripping tale.

The story is set in China and covers the life of three generations of a family. The grandmother, the mother and finally the daughter who is the author of the book. They are all women with a strong will power and determination and manage to outshine in the totally male dominated china of those years. The book eradicates all the misconceptions of Mao Zedong and Communist China. To an outsider not well versed with chinese politics, Mao is the saviour of the peasants and the supporter of the needy. He is the ideal leader of the poor who beleives in communism and equality of wealth and happiness.
But the book bring out the true tyrant nature of his. At times, he even seems dictatorial.. His thirst for power made him take china away from the path of development and the chinese suffered.
The suffering and the true nature of the scenario at that time has been beautifully brought out by Jung Chang. There are photographs of the family too and we can relate to them and their sorrows.It is a heart wrenching tale and a total eye opener.
Not only does it deal with the political scenario, it also brings out various other qualities of the chinese. There is immense concentration on thier culture, their moral values, their family traditions. It is a total whirlwind tour of China and in many ways, better than touring the land yourself..:)
A must read for all those who would love to have a peep into the world of the chinese and for those who would love to know about the true nature of Mao Zedong and Chinese communism.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Exodus



I got a rather special copy of this book to read.. it was from a friend i met in hyderabad.. he was a collector and so was his mom.. the copy of exodus that they had actually belonged to his mom and aunty had had it for a really long time.. he's been meaning to get a new edition of the book bu its off the press and there are no new editions! so i got to read this wonderful story from a rather old and battered book with crumply pages.. but reading from such a precious book is an experience in itself!! like Roots, the book that i have already written about, this is also a tale of struggle and agony over many years...still in a totally different environment..
In this book, we are taken to Palestine. Yes, its about the Jews. The story revolves around a Christian nurse, Kitty Fermont. She falls in love with Ari Ben Cannan, who is a very determined leader of the Jewish underground. It is set against the bachground of opression of jews in europe and the misreable plight of those forced into concentration camps. With all the injustice and cruel torture in the background, the story revolves around the lives of these two young people. He is totally dedicated to his cause..his main aim being to bring the jews out of their torture caps and take them to the promised land- palestine. In the course of the novel, kitty meets a young girl karen who is a refugee. She grows very fond of the girl and in no time karen becomes like a daughter to her. This is the time for her to realize that both the people who she loves more than anything in the world would never give her the first priority.They are completely committed to working for a country for their people inspite of any danger. She is torn between the decision to move with them or leave them both and finally decides to go with them. starting life in the "promised life" is not a bed of roses and the jews have to continuously fight against bandit groups etc etc..
the life of the jews is brought out beautifully in this book and i learnt quite a bit about how they were ill treated and tortured..the stories of the "ghettos" really tore my heart out..:( the book ended with a rather non-optimistic tone.. it didnt have the "and they lived happily ever after" kind ending and i usually hate books like that.. i felt so let down by the book for a while after seeing it end soo abruptly..but then thinking about it now.. the book has been soo true to the jews and been soo honest in its portrayal of thier picture..anything but for the truth as the ending would be a let down to them and to the cause of the book right??


Roots


I just re-read this book to see if i felt the same way about the book as I felt so many years ago.
When i first picked this book up in 11th grade, i was more interested in the name of the book than the actual contents..(my dad and mom worked for Roots Industries, Cbe).. but once i began reading it, it was just a whirlwind tour - right from the forests of native africa to the developed streets of america.. yes.. it describes a tour..not of a single person..but of 7 generations of a single family.. The book begins in the equatorial dense jungles of native africa.. the tribes, their way of life, their crude customs etc is beautifully brought out through the story of a little boy, who's birth co-incides with the beginning of the book..
when you think that you are comfortably transported to this peaceful world of the natives, people unaware of the civilised world sorrounding them, you are cruelly hit by reality.. you then realise that the book has nothing to do with the life of kunta kinte(the boy) in africa.. it deals with torture, slavery and forceful bondage.. the most disturbing part of the novel is ofcourse, the travel from africa to america by sea... the way the african slaves are tortured is heart wrenching..
And ofcourse, as expected, illtreatment and misfortunes dont end with the journey.. the book goes on to tell you about the lives of the black slaves in america.. all through the eyes of the successors of kunta kinte..family separations as members are sold to other places makes you want to cry..
but its not a dark and gloomy book.. without stopping at the bad times, the books go on to describe the freedom from slavery for the blacks and their development in america.. the book ends with the seventh generation successor of kunta kinte.. a free african-american in america - Alex Haley, the author himself!
It is a beautiful book and its quite an eye-opener too. An guess what, reading it the second time was just as interesting as reading it the first!