Graphic novels challenge

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

I have a couple of graphic novels i wish to read, so this challenge seemed apt to join.
I will take up the beginner level, since I haven't had a taste of adult graphic novels; Also I want to catch up on the Asterix and Obelix saga, I used to love reading them!

1. Watchmen by Alan Moore ( i hated the movie, mostly because it made no sense at all. But the book has rave reviews)
2. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
3. Asterix and Obelix , whatever big collection I can find at the library.

Now that's a nice genre to add to your bout of reading, isnt it?? To join click on the picture above.

A year older...

Posted by Divya at Sunday, December 13, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

.....and three books happier!!

Was also surprised with a wii fit and wii active! Excited!Benefits of marrying someone who supports the reading-drive! :P

On another note, I have lots of reading left to do. Though I am loving the Murakami book, I am not finding the time to pace my reading. Have fun reading everyone!

Reading is sexy!

Posted by Divya at Friday, December 11, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

So, when I read about this wonderful reading project at Veens and the corresponding link to Shona's laborious effort at creating this book list.. I couldnt help but join.. And what is even better.. Its a perpetual project, suits my overflowing stack for the coming year!

So go ahead join!

Happy reading all!

Short Story love

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, December 08, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

5th May 2010

(9) In the south by Sulman Rushdie
It is/was one of the most popular stories in the NewYorker last year. And no one can spin words like this man. I totally loved the writing. For one the descriptions of that "southern" city so described was poignantly familiar and Rushdie's prose like writing only made me smell the smells and feel the feels. That said, the story is very powerful. It can be cause for introspection, I must warn. And very atypical of his writing, he sprinkles humor just enough to warm to the otherwise serious narration.

Dont miss it. Read it here.

14th Dec 2009

(8) Royalty by Anita Desai
This is from the collection Diamond dust:stories by Anita Desai

I have always been a lover of her writing style. This story had a strange irony which only struck me after I started thinking about the story when it ended. The old friends meet again; the swami among them expects to be fed and housed. Not an easy read, but when it ends, leaves you wanting to know more!

(7) The time of the peacock by Mena Abdullah
This is from the collection Story-wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers

A very poignant tale of faiths, childhood, beliefs and simple happiness of life. The writing style was very novelistic and hence it felt incomplete.

11th Dec 2009

(6) A sandshore wooing by Lucy Maud Montgomery
You can find the story here.

A sweet love story as the name suggests; no ironies, twists. Simple. short and feel-good. And yes, you can feel a tinge of 'Anne' Maud's best creation in the protagonist.

10th Dec 2009

(5) Curious case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald
You can find the story here.

Having loved the movie, for its bizarre innovation, I found the short story even more intriguing! Its such a make-you-think piece about how at old age one actually starts living backwards. Also Fitzgerald's style of writing has a tinge of satiric humor, it makes the read a pleasurable one.
9th Dec 2009

(4)The evening gift by R K Narayan
This story is from the collection "under the banyan tree and other stories"

Typical Malgudi scene. A man living hand to mouth, does bizarre work for a rich drunkard. And in Narayan's style ends the tale in sad irony.

8th Dec 2009

I am a huge fan of short stories, especially after my all time favorite author RK Narayanan's Malgudi days. I feel they tell you a lot more than a bulky book would.
I have completed 3 shots so far -

(1)The child's story by Charles Dickens
You can find it here.

A typical dickens to harp on the Scrooge like exemplary of a human being, who forgets, remembers, loves and lets go. The ending of the story was the best part of the read. A feel good read

(2)The overcoat by Nikolai Gogol

Inspired by the reference to the book in 'the Namesake', I fished the book online. In fact its a small book and hence can pass off for a short story. The protagonist is rather intriguing, even in the whole aura of simplicity and boredom surrounding him. He is also a plural for Gogol's definition of a living being of that era, a silent spectator of corrupt revolution and the common man. I am still figuring my interpretation of the end.

Did you read the overcoat? what do you draw from the end?

(3)The Cabuliwallah by Rabindranath Tagore
You can find the story and other short stories by Tagore here.

Poignant. Subtle. Lovely.
I love reading stories in and around the british raj; it almost beatifies me to understand a nation that once was and how it would have been if it weren't partitioned to bits today. Though cabuliwallah is not a direct indicator of british india, its somewhere there emanating the smell of fear, love and discrimination.

Oh! No!

Posted by Divya at Friday, December 04, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

When you start signing up for challenges.. there is no stopping.. This one sounded really awesome.. and it has no name! :) I am almost sure, I might not complete the challenges next year.. but then having more books on the TBR than less is better any day right??
Here is my list -

1. A book with a food in the title: Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie
2. A book with a body of water in the title: Sea of poppies by Amitav Ghosh
3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: Cleopatra's daughter by Michelle Moran
4. A book with a plant in the title: The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien
5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Enchantress of Florence by Sulman Rushdie
6. A book with a music term in the title: The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

Happy reading everyone!

The house on mango street

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

By Sandra Cisneros

Having read some wonderful reviews, I was quiet baffled by the size of the book. It is even smaller than ‘Love Story’ and you can breeze past the hundred odd pages in a single hour. But that said this book is three things – Poetic. Terse. Powerful. The writing style of Cisneros is what is defined as vignettes; and this is first of its kind for me and I enjoyed it!

The book is a compilation of short chapters that describe events, people, emotions everything in a nutshell. More than the words, it’s the unwritten language between words that makes the reading a pleasure.

Esperanza is the young protagonist, growing up in a Latino neighborhood of Mango Street in Chicago. The narrative compiles her observations of her close world of friends, relatives and neighbors. She distractedly notes the man who locks up his wife, the aunt who is forever sick and hence sickness seems normal, the friend who is beaten by her father and all the vileness around her. Before you wince, the book has way more happy moments too – of being children, of finding that you have turned a woman, of family time.

These strewn pieces of the hazy puzzle, that is at times heart-breaking and other times putting a smile on your face with the witty remarks, make a terrific lazy afternoon read. The determination of the protagonist to change her world for better and live away, yet never let go of her descent substantiates the hope and inspiration for many who are caught in the similar web of bad neighborhoods, hooting drunk men and coming of age before time. I am definitely picking up Cisneros’s poetry book next!

Suite Française

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, December 01, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

By Irène Némirovsky

Almost until a year ago, before I discovered so many wonderful book-bloggers, reading-challenges and the like, I’d randomly search the for reviews, similar books, discover new authors and all those thrills of being a book-freak. Based on one such endeavor was Suite Francaise. Though I purchased the book almost two years ago, I have still not been able to complete it. For one, I was disappointed with myself that I was disappointed with the book and secondly, I was losing the patience to complete it! So this time, though I felt the book was way more interesting than it had seemed before, I only managed to complete part one.

Suite Francaise is actually two novels which is half finished work by Irène Némirovsky, who was one of the many victims of Nazi occupation. This English translation of her original work in French has a documentary like flow, bringing reality through characters strewn across war-laden France. ‘Storm in June’ the first part, tells the story of a handful of people, who represent the chaos and cynicism of a nation at war.

At the front to flee from Paris are the Pericands, a large family, managed by the efficient lady of the house Charlotte Pericand. Their story is told in point of view of their many members and one is even from that of their cat. Then there is the narcissist writer Gabriel Corte, who is unwilling to believe the impending danger on Paris can impact the rich and mighty like him. The third narration is about the Michauds, who have a placid outlook to the war. Their only concern is for their son’s safety who is a soldier. Finally it is Charles Langelet, who is an art buff, abandoned by his servants, flees Paris alone.

The story unfolds through all these characters, slipping into ironic moments and predictably ending in tragic ones. While the optimism of Pericands ends in murder, elopement and abandonment of the various members of the family, Charles returns to Paris at the end of the war to be cruelly killed. Gabriel’s ego is slashed by the war-events and like a moral he is left unemployed and devoid of all the power he initially amasses. It is only the subdued Michauds, who are introduced as being doormats, who make the impossible journey on foot, eventually end up to find their son alive and healthy in the end.

The culmination of the people from different calls of life, whose lives have no connection except to flee a burning Paris, was an intriguing way to represent war. I believe the bond of the characters to the reader was not strong enough to feel the import of the writing. It might have been an effect of being lost in translation. Even so, the stories lacked a certain melodrama that grips the reader to stories of war. The narrative is largely pedestrian.

Another weird note worth pondering is Némirovsky being a jew didnt seem to include any incidents pertaining to jews. It is not like one has to emanate sympathy other Nazi tales do, but she even expresses distress on jews, almost like she doesnt like her descent. But, that however makes a totally different angle of debate of her work.

You do not have to go with my word; for the book is highly acclaimed and has received rave reviews. I hope to finish the second part Dolce sometime, which is supposed to be even more realistic than the first part. For now, my verdict rests on the advice - approach the book with a non-fiction mindset. I am sure you might enjoy it then.

YA Challenge

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, November 25, 2009 6 comments Links to this post

Well! I finally geared up some courage to brace the long list I am committing to with this challenge -

YA may be a new area i am venturing into. There are books like 'the book thief' that I read without knowing it was YA and loved it. So this time i am making the plunge knowingly :)

Suggestions are welcome. I have come up with a list from blog surfing, googling et al

1. Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott (inspired from Shona's review )
2. The boy in striped pajamas by John Boyne
3. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer(i wish to understand the hype behind it!)
4. The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
5. Prophecy of the sisters by Michelle Zink
6. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
7. - 10. The last 4 in the Harry Potter Series
11. Play Me by Laura Ruby
12. The dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (read Shona's review here)

Until next time.. Happy thanksgiving and holidays everyone! Hope to catch up on challenges of 2009!

I Won!

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2 comments Links to this post
I won the giveaway of the hardback copy of hosted by Shona -

Mood - Excited to read the book! :) :-D It will be my first of Michelle Moran.

A disobedient girl

Posted by Divya at Monday, November 23, 2009 5 comments Links to this post

By Ru Freeman

My last but one destination for the Orbis Terranum, was Sri Lanka; a land so familiar yet strangely unknown. This debut novel of Ru Freeman was a charming peek into Sinhalese-Sri Lanka - A breather of class, political turmoil and the women who are caught in the web of unperceivable changes.

At the center of the novel is Latha, the protagonist, who is difficult to be loved, but stands out for her dignity and unbreakable spirit. She is introduced to us as the servant, who also doubles as the childhood companion of Thara, the one bestowed with luxuries and status that money can buy. The life of these two women, since the time they are girls is interwoven with a great many moments of humility, love, pain that comes with it and an unattainable secret. It is interesting how by social strata Latha the server and Thara, the giver, are different, yet in life they are so impossibly human with the same wants.

As Freeman brings this uncanny friendship through immensely eloquent writing, she surprises the reader with the character of Biso, a mother of three running from a tyrannical husband. The reader is thrown into a pendulum ride alternating between Latha and Biso, chapter after chapter; while she leaps through Latha’s life in years, the story of Biso spans seventy two hours. Although the link was difficult to make as the book warmed slowly, the parallelism of the narrative takes shape eventually. Once the stories of Latha and Biso are tenuously tied, it is only an anxious wait through pages, unknowing what tragedies loom to the finish.

The men in the novel, from Mr. Vinthage to Gehan, are all displayed as weak. But in the back drop of the intriguing women – insolent and domineering Mrs. Vinthage, determined and ambitious Thara, resolute Latha, sensitive and bold Biso, the men are but unfastened links to bring their lives together.

Freeman’s writing is beautifully expressive. One only needs to close the eyes and imagine the tea estates, rich and poverty stricken Colombo, the political unrest and the calming sea-smell that wafts so easily. I totally loved the descriptions of food and flavor that more than aid in ones understanding of a nation. Even the use of Sinhala language in the right places for that perfect affection and impact left a wonderful after-tone.

If there is anything I would change about the writing, it would be to let the story flow and not be confined to the strict cyclic chapter intervals. Her characters, so brilliantly human with flaws manifold, stood their ground and did not emanate sympathy and sadly didn’t make it easy to love them either. As the novel ended, I could feel the heart-break, but it wasn’t walloped enough to leave me exhausted. I could close the book and not be haunted.

I definitely look forward to more from Freeman and recommend this book to all who wish to take a peep of Sri Lanka from a discreet stand point.

Challenges Challenges!

Posted by Divya at Monday, November 23, 2009 1 comments Links to this post
Challenges are way too tempting.. Since this one allowed cross-over, I believe I couldnt help but indulge beyond my worry that I have more on my plate than I can handle. To think of it...2010 has not even begun! sigh!

I go with the easy level -
1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - An author i am intimidated by and reading one of her books might alleviate that i hope!
2. The tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. I loved "My sister's Keeper".
3. Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie - Another author, I havent been bold enough to behold.

Phew! I am stopping right here!

The diary of Anne Frank

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1 comments Links to this post

When Hitler had come alive in our textbooks of tenth grade, I had developed an uncanny interest in the holocaust, beyond what education demanded. This powerful and heart-breaking diary had been my first venture towards that at the age of fifteen. And I had been pleasantly surprised at how much Anne seemed like a familiar teenager to me back then. I had even stolen her idea to address her diary entries and created an imaginary friend Maya for my intermittent diary-keeping.

I re-read this diary recently and it had evoked the same emotions I had felt almost ten years ago. Anne is in no way the perfect person. She had inhibitions, immaturity, resentments and everything that marks the coming of age of any teenager. But, someone with this normal life had to be succumbed to fear and mortal hiding makes it enduring.

Anne writes to Kitty, as she christens her diary, about her life since her thirteenth birthday. The entries begin when her family is at their home in Netherlands though they are already facing restrictions, like, unable to travel by car for being jews. She writes about her whims as a school girl, of friends, of boys who have a crush on her; it almost seems like nothing can go wrong. Almost a few pages hence, the dramatic change of events occurs and her family goes into hiding; then on her writing takes a new direction. It is almost difficult to imagine how such close confinements can render members of the same family to display their worst and best sides.

Anne writes about the differences, jealousies and other frustrations that can only arise with close kin. She expresses envy towards Margot, for being the perfect apple of the eye to her mother and in later entries her relationship with her mother only deteriorates further. She considers her relationship to her father closer. As she matures, she finds the kinship with Margot and even remarks “She's not nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend.”

Adding to the troubles of hiding, Anne’s family is also accompanied by Pels family. Though she detests Peter in the beginning, they finally enter into a romantic hold, with whom, Anne even shares her first kiss. However, she is ambivalent towards the senior Pels and often blames them for sarcasm and selfishness.

Beyond all the difficulties faced, Anne often hopes to return to school after the war, has ambitions to be a journalist, and wishes a life like it had always been. To show such maturity and sanguineness in the time of dark and death may in itself be strength of character displayed by Anne. She is open to her feelings, evident from her narrative and willingness to edit the previous entries to be made readable to all.

Take in Anne’s two years, to understand the many ways living in hell had been during the worst world war. Read her entries to take in life of the innocents, who were only as human as we all are, looking forward to sunny days after the doused ones. Anne, who had never stopped dreaming or living, is definitely the most alive exemplary of a fateful end...

South Asian Author Challenge

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1 comments Links to this post

Looks like i am on a challenges roll for 2010! :)
South Asian authors have been my favorite, for driving the story home! And since I have many on my wishlist.. here goes my list for the challenge -

1. The Toss of a lemon - Padma Vishwanathan (india)
2. The splendor of silence - Indu Sundaresan (india)
3. Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh (Burma)
4. Salt and Saffron - Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
5. When memory dies - Sivanandan, Ambalavaner(Sri lanka)

Might be adding more depending on time!

Re-Reading Challenge

Posted by Divya at Monday, November 16, 2009 2 comments Links to this post
Since I am already in the re-reading mode.. I thought the challenge was apt

Here are my three books -
1. Emma, Jane Austen
2. Doctors, Eric Segal
3. God of small things, arundathi roy

Happy reading everyone!

Hooked to Harry Potter

Posted by Divya at Monday, November 02, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

The box set of the HP series is my early birthday gift! Currently I am on the second book. Re-reading the series hasn't ever been so much fun before, though only next to malory towers! Hope to complete all the challenges during the holidays!! More reviews soon. :)

Joined the Harry Potter Challenge to keep the momentum!!

Anne of Green Gables

Posted by Divya at Friday, October 02, 2009 1 comments Links to this post

The only regret I had, as I devoured this wonderful classic, was I had not known about the book when I was a kid. It made me feel that I had missed an important part of childhood, not knowing Anne; but then this book doesn’t fail to amaze anybody at any age, it is truly timeless.

Maud’s writing is mesmerizing and almost throughout the book, you may be smiling, imagining and day dreaming, like our lovable protagonist Anne. Anne is the classic talkative, day-dreamer, who wouldn’t ever let go of her childhood dreams. She is that innocent optimist, we all were at eleven, who believes in the beauty of nature and dotes on imaginations as life. And with such a colorful character for company, there is never a dull moment in the book.

Anne is brought up by Marilla and Matthew, who are contrasting characters and equally interesting. Maud cleverly factors the unpleasant details of Anne, as the orphan, before she comes to green Gables and skips matters of poverty, illness and crime which are quiet prevalent in the farming communities of Canada, during the era she refers to in the book.

The sensible, plain yet full of inexpressible love, is Marilla, who is quick to counter Anne’s unprecedented imaginations with “FiddleSticks!” On the other hand is Matthew, who going by the taciturn disposition, has very few lines in the book; but has enough presence by the descriptions and body language. It is not difficult to understand that a gregarious person like Anne, was the sweetheart of the school had many friends ('Bosom' one being Diana) and even arch enemies!

Towards the last few chapters, one would miss the Anne we had known to get into mischief, blunder due to her 'hopeless-romanticism', and exclaim about everything that gave a ‘thrill’! The diligent, ambitious and matured Anne still had the child in her, though her transition is well rendered, you miss the child like a parent!

Anne may be one of the most honest and sanguine characters ever created. She can always put a smile on your face, leave you in giggles and embrace childhood like never before!

In other rooms, other wonders

Posted by Divya at Sunday, September 20, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

By Daniyal Mueenuddin

This book is a finely honed collection of stories, artfully interwoven across the steep and concentric societal hierarchy. The characters are all part of a complex system of feudal legacy; though varied in their monetary place, the emotions and subtleties remain the same through every story.

The center of the book is KK Harouni, the complacent residue of an ancient Pakistani feudal lordship. The stories circumscribe his extended kin of managers, servants and workers, who are pilfering yet serving his comfortable inheritance. The prime characters are almost always women and though only two of the stories are titled such (Lily and Our lady of Paris), the others follow the same pattern.

The men in the stories are in a comfort zone of power, sufficient wealth and authority to govern their lives. And in the imperfect world, their faith is shaken by concupiscence, combined with prowess of a woman that they feel threatened and humble to succumb. However, in all his stories, there is no triumph; like a pack of strangers at a gambling table, they all take back loses and few victorious moments to relish.

The stories are all hauntingly beautiful and that is totally owing to the prose like writing. Daniyal’s expressive writing and the peaceful exposition may be compared to Jhumpa Lahiri, which leaves a downy ringtone at the end of each tale. His ability to pack ironies, loose ends and nonjudgmental realities may be almost similar to Malgudi Days, but the element of satire is dark.

There were also other details; the author combines in his stories that give a peek into a Pakistan I had never known existed. In ‘Lily’, Daniyal, gives a glimpse of modern Pakistani life, a copious Islamabad society ousting orthodox fundamentalism. In ‘Provide Provide’, he comments on the gypsy realm and in ‘Our lady of Paris’ and ‘A Spoiled man’ he describes the affluent Pakistani, who almost lives as a westerner.

With a package of strangeness, unwarranted longing, perfect relationships undone by idiosyncrasies of love and moments of unattainable passion, Daniyal has created a ‘wonder’ in itself. I recommend this book for a peaceful vacation in the countryside; it may almost be a cue for self-analysis!

Kane and Abel

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, September 08, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

By Jeffery Archer

Having found a lot of recommendation for this novel and having enjoyed a couple of Archer books, I decided to read Kane and Abel to understand the fervor that surrounded it. Honestly, I might have very easily transcended the book to be an all-time-favorite, if only, I had read it when I was sixteen. It so happens that the impact books create has a lot to do with age and some are ageless.

Aside from that bout of regret, I must say that I loved the book. In parts the pace of the novel was in tandem with the likes of Sidney Sheldon in its quest for power, wealth, slums to riches. But other than that, the story was extremely well rendered and a pleasure to read.

Summarizing the book may be unnecessary; I may be but a few left on the planet that read the book so late in life. I must however mention that it is a book that must definitely not be missed. It’s inspiring, exalting, heart-breaking yet intriguing! Many a times I wanted to shake the protagonists and ask them to let go of the stubbornness and futile rivalry; and like an answer, the ending left me numb, if not close to tears. I look forward to reading prodigal daughter sometime, to continue understanding a saga that I never wanted to end!

Mansfield Park

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, August 26, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

By Jane Austen

When I read Austen, I give in my full; I devour each sentence slow and steady, to not miss the hidden ironies and meanings. It was the same with Mansfield Park; though, this book depicted societal anxieties and graceful feminism more than the usual ironic humor her other novels are full of. To say that Mansfield Park may be Austen’s most solemn work may be right in every way.

The central character of this story is Fanny, the girl who comes to live with her rich cousins, as a symbol of goodwill shown by a wealthy sister to a poor one - with an enormous family. Though shy and timid in the beginning, Fanny transcends to make Mansfield her home, learns to love and find happiness, even though she is constantly reminded of her position and liberties in comparison to her cousins who share the same roof. And as the story progresses, Fanny returns to her own family many years after, only to realize that her heart resides at Mansfield, even though it has its painful moments.

There is a clear merit of countenance and attitude that is depicted in each character of the story. While Austen comments on the impact of a change in morals based on “London ideals” which interferes with the traditions of a country side, she is also adept in mentioning that mismanagement and undue austerity can result in rendering a house-hold in tumult. Such is the foundation of the novel; where she portrays Fanny to define scrupulousness in a society that is tending to be fluid.

Though quiet and demure by nature, Fanny is what one would define a mature feminist, as the story evolves. She is all calmness and propriety, yet never deters from her principles for anything or anybody. Sometimes the distinction is so blatant, one is to wonder if Austen deliberately, wanted to compare good and evil; love and compromise.

Then again, nothing is evil forever; even the most immoral character, shows remorse and has moments of reform. There are also philosophical endeavors and moments to welcome change, which is natural. And all of this is done in shades of black of white; while Edmund’s compassion and attachment is handled with patient disposition, Maria’s is all edginess and amoral; while Miss Crawford is blunt and impolite in her wants, Fanny is modest and all-enduring.

All in all, though I did not enjoy this novel the way I loved the other Austen books, it was indeed a pleasure to read. Take up this classic to draw in a complex, severe and compassionate world, so well rendered to burn the reading lamp.

The Septembers of Shiraz

Posted by Divya at Sunday, August 09, 2009 1 comments Links to this post

By Dalia Sofer

I must admit when I picked the book for my Orbis Terranum list, it was the memorable title that drew me more than the content, but when I turned the last page of the book today, it had transcended to be much more than an attractive label.

The novel in a nut shell is evocative and powerful; and like they say, a good book like this one leaves you a little exhausted in the end. ‘The Septembers of Shiraz’ is a story of a Jewish family in the wake of revolution in Iran in the early eighties. The tale is narrated in view points of the family members, at times divulging in prose and poetry that depict the culture of a nation that once was.

When Amin is arrested on reticent terms, which include being a rich Jew in a country that is undergoing an Islamic revolution, their perfect world is shattered in seconds. Sofer has woven this suspenseful tale, so real and poignant; you could be up all night reading till the end. The narration is fresh and soft; with the mention of many Iranian terms of agha, kahnoum, samovar and others which were indeed a pleasure to the read, read aloud and you can smell the minted tea or smoky kebabs in them!

Besides the romantics of ghazal like prose, I believe the story though simple had conveyed something deep; the author had wanted to insist that roots of a person belong to the land he comes from. Irrespective of the religion you follow, your love for your motherland is more pronounced. And when this allegiance to the nation is questioned it is only because of the religion tag one has inherited.

The book is an engaging one, presenting a peek into the life of Jews in Iran, which I had no knowledge of before. It is also about passion to ones land and of hope and faith. And above all Sofer’s writing is extremely beautiful, poetic and mellifluous. I would recommend this book very highly and look forward to more books from Sofer.

Japanese Literature Challenge 3

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, August 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Having heard a lot about authors like Murakami and Mishima, I am but apprehensive about reading the books; not because, I'd judge the content, but, I am not sure I have the aptitude for them! And so when I came across this challenge, it suited me fine to get over my cynicism.

My entry for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 is
The wind-up bird chronicles - Haruki Murakami.

And with this, I am hopefully "winding up" with challenges this year! :)

Peony in Love

Posted by Divya at Wednesday, July 29, 2009 1 comments Links to this post

By Lisa See

Reading this book is like being caught in an abeyance of disbelief; for the story is a coalesce of myths, beliefs and mayhem of imperial China, so much that even life after death is depicted in all its apparent utopia. That said it is also one of the most passionate tales, crafted in conformance to the famous Chinese opera (The Peony Pavilion ) and the publication of ‘The three wives’ commentary’ of that work.

The story unwinds through the narration of the protagonist, who is the sixteen year old Peony, the typical nubile of fragrant bound feet, eyelashes like bamboo leaves, painter of lilies and all that was the view of the perfect daughter-wife-mother in that era. However, like in life, the perfection is not contained and Peony falls in love with a man she meets at the opera, though she is betrothed by her family to a suitor she hasn’t met.

The author gracefully takes the story to a whole new dimension; she boldly hints at the female strength of mind and emotion in a period that succumbed women to the inner chambers and away from worldly matters. The melodrama ensues with Peony dying of lovesickness, caused by undue indulgence in the opera ‘The Peony Pavilion’ and her state of having fallen in love. While this is nothing but the present day anorexia, the desperate attempt to control one’s life and to be heard.

From here on, the recitation is told by Peony’s apparition. Here the various customs and credence of life of the dead is well rendered, transforming the reader to a suspension of fantasy. Peony’s struggle even after death to find the love she died for and cause her writings about the opera to be heard to the world fills the reminder of the book.

The twists in the tale and the complexity created by love and death, is written in elegant lucidity - of passion, fear and poignancy. The dynamics of the relationship of Peony with other women of that genre, including her mother and dead grandmother take center stage to move the story further. The author concludes with fervor, the impact women's poetry and writings had on the way their world looked at them.

The book is heart-wrenching yet valiant; it is passion’s apotheosis; it is a book you might devour and apprehend. But it is certainly a book you must not miss.

Classics Challenge 2009

Posted by Divya at Friday, July 24, 2009 3 comments Links to this post
When you are twenty-something, married, while enjoying the stand-stillness of life; there is nothing better than to indulge in reading and with all these challenges that Preeths seems to dig up, I am more than happy to follow suit.. amen!

Being reputed as the impatient reader, I remember having taken the whole summer vacation to read a classic. I would at times give way for a tinkle digest to replace 'wuthering heights'. However, it wasnt until I was running short of time, juggling from one text book to another, that I had secretly devoured the Jane Austen-s between study breaks.

Been a while since I read a classic and considering I already have a long list of books to be completed this year, which seems to be piling, I am adding three classics to my 2009 challenge. So here goes -

Anne of Green Gables - L.M.Montgomery
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
The Diary of Anne Frank

so, whats your list?

The interpreter of maladies

Posted by Divya at Thursday, July 23, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

By Jhumpa Lahiri

I began reading this collection of short stories to fill my hours in between chores; though by the time I ended it, I had realized that all the chores were pending and I had immensely underestimated the intensity of t he stories.

Lahiri crafts one tale after another, with depth, tinge of irony and open ended-ness, which render perfection to a short story. The stories are told in first, second and third person contexts, encompassing lives of Bengalis in America, Bengalis in India, first and second generation Bengalis. The story telling is simple and flows mellifluously from one page to next and suffices to get you involved in the characters and their lives without any effort.

The narrative circumscribes various nuances; the turmoil of the Bengal partition, the hardships of living life away from home-country, the paradox of relationships in and out of a marital bond, the incongruity of a mob are but a few. The cultural of Bengal is well depicted through the food, the traditions, the attires and attitudes, that you can almost smell the spices and experience the specter she creates.

However warm the stories, the aspect of centralizing the motif to Bengalis’ and Bengali immigrants’ lives lingers like the piquant after-taste of a heavily spiced curry for the reader. Having read Namesake, the author seems to be recycling what she knows best and wants to be part of. I wish Lahiri, keeps her writing style to deliver more books that are drifted away from the Bengal coast.

Enjoy the book with a hot masala chai on a lull evening; you won’t believe how therapeutic that can be!

The death of Vishnu

Posted by Divya at Monday, July 20, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

By Manil Suri

The book is my Indian entry for the Orbis Terrarum. This novel is mostly cruel, morbid humor, much unlike other Indian author novels that I have read; and this distinction in itself, makes it an interesting read.

There is nothing much to say about the storyline, which is simple and made into a good read by Suri’s well delivered prose like writing. The tale unfolds through present, past and unbelievable visions of the odd-job-man and drunk Vishnu. The dwellers of the building are comically depicted in their paralyzed faiths and notions, which are again entwined with the dying Vishnu in the landing situation. The element of humor comes by easily, which gets darker as the story proceeds.

However, there are three intriguing elements that stand out in the book – firstly the time period of the happenings is only made known through the references to the various hindi movies, songs, actors from that era; the English translations of the hit song lyrics was a first and nostalgic!
Secondly, Indian mythology is the benchmark to envisage the faiths and actions of the various characters that flow in and out through the pages. The hallucinations of a dying man Vishnu and the belief-troubled Jalal hold more references to the Indian myths than our generation would have ever known.

Thirdly, food is a significant factor to comprehend the many relationships in the book – While Mrs Pathak and Mrs Asrani, who share the kitchen and pilfer each other’s supplies, describes the animosity between the neighbors, the midnight snacking of tandoori chicken by the young bride and groom sets a giant leap to the relationship between Vinod and his wife. The author describes chai and the past evoking effects it has on Vishnu, while he also gets into gory sexual narration with the loved Indian mango.

Read the book for the writing. If it is a feel good factor, you are expecting, this book may not be the best choice. It simply leaves you neutral and from time to time smirking through the pages; and like any common man that RK lakshman so well conveyed to us, we would simply shut the book and carry on to ignore the harsher ironies of India Suri tries to portray to us.


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.

My Sister's Keeper

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 27, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

By Jodi Picoult

I had picked the book solely based on the Author's reputation for page turning fiction. I am glad I read this one, for I am already a fan.

Living life as a spare part for her ailing sister is what the protagonist Anna seems to battle as the story begins. Picoult renders the controversial designer-baby balking and wanting rights over her body situation through the view points of all the characters that play a part. It helps look at this sensitive issue in a multi-dimensional way and keeps the reader unbiased.

The book has enough and more surprises stored and some leave you teary-eyed by just reading the truth as is. If honesty is the book's forte, sarcasm that leaves you ticklish is its accomplice. The author does this through one of the most interesting and prime characters, Campbell, Anna's lawyer.

Understanding one's purpose of existence is what the book finally drives at and serves it with enough suspense, court-room drama, courage and love. I only wish I had been prepared for the ending which was perfect, yet left me feeling defeated.

Read the book not as fiction, but put yourself in all the shoes, devour the core of the situation and you will see yourself part of this labyrinth, seeking justice on all sides.

Crow Lake

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 27, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

By Mary Lawson

Crow lake was my first book for the Orbis Terrarum. Set in the isolated farming communities of northern Canada the book tells a tale of a determination and faith. The opening paragraph of the novel, I daresay, is the real stunner; The single best sentence that carries the crux of the story and keeps you engaged to burn the night lamp and finish the book.

The story unfolds through the narration of the protagonist, who after having been the sole success of the Morrison clan, continues to remain in turmoil. The past has a stronghold on her like no other and that keeps you hooked to know what had really happened; what had gone wrong?

I loved the way she narrated without being teary-eyed and even peppered in humor from time to time. The tale is not a dark one, that pins on to irrevocable mistakes or torture. It is but family drama, we have all been part of sometime in our lives; Of brotherly wars, sibling misunderstandings, growing up before your age and running away from all that to start anew only to realize that the heart is where the home is, not matter what!

Lawson's idyllic writing about even the simplest things like the trip to the lake or genuine joy of doing dishes as a family are the real things to not miss about this book. The read is a feel good one, leaving you with an all's well that ends well feeling. Definitely an enjoyable read.

Malgudi’s child

Posted by Divya at Friday, April 24, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Malgudi days is my true unfaltering favorite till date; Swami and Friends my second best. I have re-read the books so many times as to lose count. It is honestly unnerving to be writing about the author’s work that I have devoured without raising a brow, but simply taken in all that he wrote without a single lull moment.

The magic of Malgudi is in the haunting aura it created to believe in the existence of this town; so true in its map, people and teeming life that it was almost impossible to not know its geographical location. The stories were left deliberately open-ended to read between the lines, take in the strangeness of human emotions and yet interpret the ending to the reader’s discretion.

Having read the books since I was twelve, I fail to pinpoint a single best story that formed a stamp in my mind. At each age there was a different story that drove a point home or made me realize something new that I didn’t know before.

I love Engine Trouble for that subtle humor peppered against the sloth-like rules of administration. While, The missing mail had hidden messages of how we take an integral person like the postman for granted; at the same time Leela’s Friend left me feeling poignant and incomplete. Whatever be the irony or hope the stories depicted, they left enough and more room to dissect the inner meaning, so much so that you could spend a whole lifetime understanding what R. K actually wanted to convey to us.

If a plural society was what Malgudi expressed, its most loved character Swami had been the epitome of every child. His childhood is synonym to our own, even before we are old enough to read his adventures. We might have already lived a good amount of it, without realizing how adventurous and utterly satiric it had been!

 If a good book is one without an ending, Malgudi’s heritage is indeed a timeless one!


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