I haven’t read an Alexander McCall Smith is absolute ages! It may have been close to five years, I went through a phase of reading his stuff (and it was great with all the Edinburgh references). I got this one on discount on the Kindle, and it is quite an unusual work. There are 5-6 old photographs and what he tries to do is to create a short story out of each one.
In true Smith style, there is a strong central theme, in this case ‘love’ and the author manages to weave the different kinds of love into the lives of the various characters. What I loved about the book was how the characters all seem very ‘everyday.’ They could be the people who sat next to you on the bus or served you at the till. It really brings to life the concept of everyone has a story and when we meet someone or interact with them, it really is two personal story arcs meeting briefly before diverging again.
In particular, I loved the richeness of the first story and how it presents a snapshot of the life of an ex-nun. It was beautifully crafted from top to tail and ends in a bit of a flourish. Very enjoyable reading – I may be getting into that phase again!
I was very fortunate to see Bill Bryson in person at a live interview about a year ago. Believe it or not, it was at a Microsoft conference! Anyway, it was his casual wit and his obvious intelligence that made me miss his Notes from a Small Island and I decided to pick up its sequel. That was about 5 months ago.
This book is about the more detailed journeys that Bryson undertakes, to the most quirky offbeat places on mainland Britain. Most of it is set in England (about 95%) which to me is a bit of a disappointment, because I’ve never lived in England and its quirks and cultural connotations are slightly lost on me. However, I could not help but snort on planes and trains as Bryson’s extremely sardonic style of writing struck again. His observations are hilarious, especially the one about the Microsoft Windows Updates (yes, he even writes about that sort of thing!) and the gag about the John Lewis shopping experience.
I would very much recommend this book in fits and bursts, it is not meant to be read in one sitting. Rather, if you have ever been to any of the places mentioned in the book, you must revisit them with book in hand! Now that would be a laugh. It was a bit monotonous in parts for me and I would have loved to read a bit more about Scotland in there too. But hey, for the most part, I enjoyed it.
I first heard about the book Jamilia a long time ago, in context of Kyrgyztan. I cannot remember what it was now… I got my hands on the Telegram copy a few weeks ago. It is only a novella, took me only about an hour and a half to read it. It is a beautiful love story and is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov.
The novel is the story if Jamilia, as told by her brother-in-law Seit, a young Kyrgyz artist. Jamilia’s husband is at the front at war and this books talks of her love of Daniyar, a local cripple. While nothing earth-shattering happens, the book recounts the tender emotions of love and the sense of society very beautifully. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was in its peak in that period.
During the Soviet era, Aitmatov was known as the “intellectual father of the Kyrgyz people” and as the “voice of Central Asia.” Under Stalin, he was a tax collector, a warehouse worker and a machinist, before studying veterinary medicine and literature and eventually becoming the most popular Soviet writer.
I’d recommend the book, and I think free versions are available on the web too.
It has been a long time since I read an Indian author writing in English. I cannot say I have read a lot of them anyway, but Amitav Ghosh has always been close to my heart. And I still remember reading The Hungry Tide a long time ago and how it touched me.
This novel by Anuradha Roy touches on some similar themes. The idea of caste in rural Bengal, the frequent floods, the ache of unrequited love are all similar and deftly captured. The story of two generations of young men and women, whose live just meander along with little or no meaning, with the passage of time is written in a poignant way.
There is a Macondo-esque village in this novel, a kind of place that has life infused in it easily and one can almost imagine it standing as a still witness to the coming and goings of its characters. I also loved the descriptions and imagery in the passing of the seasons and the effects upon the soft green lands.
Roy’s writing is very beautiful, and it lends itself well to the theme of longing. I hadn’t even heard of her but will definitely keep an eye out for more of her works. I’ll leave you with this quote…
“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.”