Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Witch Of Portobello

Ever since i read and re-read the Alchemist, i have been wanting to read some other book by Paulo Coelho. So when i found "The Witch of Portobello" i couldn't resist picking the book up.. It had the author and a unique title. I actually liked the book..though it had all the components i dont really enjoy..religion, philosophy, inane theories, etc..
the first thing that drew me to the book was the narration.. interviews, tapes, stories etc have been complied by a narrator(whom we do not know until the end) and thats his way of writing a biography.. he feels that the author's view would give a biased biography and he decides to let different people talk and then he records their views..
the biography of athena.. the enigma, the saint, the sinner, the leader, the mother, the lover, the bank teller, the gypsy,....the witch of portobello..
one other thing that i really like about the book is when paulo brings out the current adaptation of religion.. it longer is what it was intended to be and this is brought out very strongly in this book..
from the beginning you are told that athena was murdered..and you keep turning the pages to figure out why that happened.. and the story of athena from birth to death is told by people who knew her..they either loved her or hated her or just knew her or taught her or learnt from her..
i am not a very philosophical kind of person and concepts such as that of the vertex, etc..concepts that the book is basically built on did not sit very well with me..
but i guess you dont have to completely agree with a book to totally enjoy it.. the style of writing, some kin of vague mysterious element in the story, the strength of athena's character more than made up for all the philosophies..:)
since we are not given one view, we are allowed to reach our own conclusions about athena...its refreshing to have that kind of a freedom when you are reading about a person..
if you have read or are going to read this book..i'd love to have a discussion about it.. if you can ever figure out why she had the urge to give birth , or where she got her predictive powers from, or why she discussed "diet" in her last sermon, or...(the list is kinda too big!).. let me know!!:)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dispatches from the Edge

This is definitely not the best time to write about a book you just read...or is it? the images are fresh in your mind and you have soo much to say. I just finished "Dispatches from the edge" by Anderson Cooper..yes, THE CNN Anderson Cooper. It is his memoir of war, disasters and survival. Andy Cooper doesn't talk about anything new.. the stories covered are all the same old stories we've heard over and over again.. the tsunami, wars in rwanda, bosnia, iraq, starvation in somalia, hurricane katrina, etc. THough we've heard about all these, reading the crude brutal facts makes you want to cry.
Why is it that when i change channels from a war report to a comedy-sitcom, i feel like the world's become a happier place? people dying are still dying..its just that i chose to change channels.. move away from their reality. i have done it soo often that its become a habit for me.. by not listening to the horror stories of attacks and disasters, i feel that those incidents have not happened.. and i know i am not the only one who shuts out the truth.
So what does it feel like to be in these places right in the middle of action? how does it feel to constantly face death? how does it feel to watch people cry after losing someone special in life? Anderson Cooper has been through it all and his crisp desxriptions are heart rending. It makes you feel guilty for curling up in the couch ready to watch "the break up" , when there are millions of people dying all around the world..
the book is of course not just a description of events..there is a human side to it.. he writes about his feelings as he moves from war sticken iraq to starvation filled somalia to flooded new orleans. What makes the book more personal is ofcourse his personal story.. the loss of his father when he was 10 years old and the even more tragic suicide of his brother when he was about 10 years older..
the book definitely does fill you with grief. in this book, cooper reveals for the first time how deeply affected he has been by the wars, disasters and tragedies he has witnessed..who would'nt be?
another endearing quality about the book is the honesty that is displayed in it.. the reality is not covered and the truth is exposed.. very honestly.
being a public health student, i have come across various talks about the inefficiency in disaster management that was displayed after 9/11 and yet again after hurricane katrina. the reality about how bad it actually was, is brought out in this book. cooper spends about half the book duscussing katrina.. first covering the disaster and then covering the disastrous management of the disaster. the scenario seems so unreal..
i think this book is a must read for all.. it is rather depressing..but i guess it is something that al of us have to face sometime in our lives. we cannot go on living like life's a bed of roses..
it is a definite eye opener..
go read it right away!!:)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Prince Of Tides

I didn't know Pat Conroy.. never heard of him or his books and then i saw his review on the cover of Shantaram and friend commented that he was her favorite author.. that made me pick up "The Prince of Tides".now i can't wait to read his other famous book - Beach Music.
Prince of Tides is about Tom Wingo (who is as southern as southern can be)..from South Carolina.. He comes from a highly dysfunctional family with parents who don't understand each other and a brother,luke, and a sister,savannah. The story line shifts easily between past and present. the present is pretty unhappy - savannah is in the hospital after one more of her numerous suicide attempts and tom goes to new york to meet with her psychiatrist, susan lowenstein. savannah has lost large parts of her memory and susan is trying to help savannah by making tom re-create her past.
if you are looking for a happy book, this is definitely not your pick...i don't think even one character in the book is happy. everyone is plagued by their own worries. Each one deals with their issues in a different way..savannah goes crazy, tom shuts it all in, his wife has an extra marital affair, etc etc. i kept waiting for something happy to happen till the end and i didnt get it. but that of course didnt stop me from liking this deep and emotional book.
the book is very well written and characters are very well defined. by the end of the book, it was as though i had known the wingos all my life.
the book is definitely not dry.. every incident is deeply imprinted in your brain . one of the most unforgettable scene is where tom discovers savannah with her still-born sister in bed one night when they were kids. i guess this is where you start knowing that she's very deeply disturbed..
i dont think any amount of describing will bring the essence of the book out. you have to read it to feel it.
i think that this novel is brilliant and very powerful. the book is like a collection of various short stories.. there is the story of the white porpoise, the story of their grandfather's religious parade, the story of the giant and the black widow spiders,etc.
finding out who the 'prince of tides' of tides is half the suspense in the novel..and the author enthralls you with teasers as he narrates the past and those teasers make you want to complete the novel to find out what actually happens.
i totally loved this book and i truly dont know why.. this is not the kind of book i would typically like.. but i loved it. if you ever get to read this book..let me know what you thought of it!