Posted by Divya at Saturday, May 09, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

By Vladimir Nabokov

Reading Lolita is like learning to fish, or so it is said. But, the one who said this forgot to mention how the experience of fishing is for a person who does not eat fish or enjoy its stench. My experience reading the book was somewhat similar; I was understanding its undertone and depth without getting involved.

For starters this book is a treasure of words that somehow transcend to constitute a new language in itself very much unlike English we have been taught. To be honest I couldn't get past a few pages without flipping the dictionary. Nabokov plays with words and complicates sentences, which if made simple might run the risk of sounding like porn. Hence, one has to keep the mind open to understand a simple noun in terms of three different adjectives all compacted in the same sentence.

That said, the story is clearly despicable and that is no surprise, since nobody who reads or wishes to read the book expects to come out of it feeling good. But then, I was definitely not ready for the depressive tone and morbid humour it carried. The story itself does not need a review and is only too well known. Though, the protagonist's turmoil comes across as visceral through the course of his narration, end of the book, I had no involvement in the story what-so-ever. 

I suppose the book is not for everyone; Even if one picks it up for the raunchy matter suffused through the pages to get a good dose of porn, it doesn't work, for if to get through one sentence after looking up three different words to form that steamy hidden meaning, in itself is a turn off!

A thoroughly disappointing read. Unless you are stuck on an island with nothing else to do but read or you wish to learn as many words in one sitting for GRE this book isn't worth your time!

The Book Thief

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, May 06, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

By Markus Zusak

When the story is set in Nazi Germany, the protagonist is a child and death himself narrates the tale, you might imagine the pages to be as dark as dark can be; but here is where Zusak astonishes the reader. The story is all of this and much more.

I believe there are Samaritans in all times; good and bad. For throwing bread at a procession of emaciated Jews in Nazi Germany by a German could have been the worst of crimes, worse than being born a Jew. Yet someone dared to do it; not out of arrogance or pittance but basic humanity. And that's where this narrative touches the heart. The story of war, love and redemption is woven through the life of a German girl Liesel who is 'the book thief'.

With death giving his view point in an era when right and wrong had confluence to be almost unrecognisable was the most interesting object of the author's writing. He could comment on a human's inhumanity to another without being judgemental. And he does so by being callous and understanding; simply being death. The descriptions of the color of sky and the little notes he fills the succinct chapters with, hold a lot of significance and were as intriguing as the story itself.

The story-telling itself is beautifully rendered with a glimpse of events in the future, yet holding back enough to keep the reader engaged. The characters are very well painted and each of them form a firm impression on your mind. Rudy, Liesel's close friend and accomplice; Max who writes her a story of words; Liesel's foster parents; Ilsa Herman the mayor's wife always dressed in a bath robe with a swastika sign.

The book took me little getting-used to in the first few pages, but once the rhythm was met there was no looking back. Though I had initially wondered why the Book has been hailed as a children's book, towards the end I could feel the import. It is a depiction of righteousness in a vile world, happiness from little things and honest feelings. It is a true master stroke and I couldn't recommend the book more highly.


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