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.
 

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