The Memory Keeper’s Daughter … a review

I had heard a lot about this book so when I chanced upon it, I picked it up. It was meant to be a travel read, and it is a good size and weight for that. So if you are going away on holiday this summer and want something interesting, I would recommend this book.

The plot hinges on Dr. David Henry, who lies to his wife and tell her that one of their twins, a daughter, was stillborn. In reality, she had Down’s and he gave her away to the nurse to put in a home. The nurse Caroline, couldn’t bear it however, and decides to raise the child herself. The plot is a bit too iffy. There are too many coincidences and the fact that Mrs Henry is totally obsessed in her grief but manages to mother her son and have a life anyway (however grudgingly) is a bit strange. She also questions her husband surprisingly less in the initial year after her daughter’s death, even though she cannot get past it.

But, but, once you get past all that, and assume the plot is a given, the portrayal of the fragility of relationships is actually brilliant. The slow decay of the Henry marriage, the dysfunctional family unit for Paul – the surviving child, the evolving relationship of Mrs Henry and her sister, the secret between Caroline and Dr Henry, and the struggles of Caroline with her ‘dauhter’ Phoebe are all excellently handled. Life can sometimes be stranger than fiction and the various people in their individual journeys are well-bound by this strange secret – a disabled child.

The treatment of peoples’ past as well is nicely written and you can see how each character’s past shapes their thoughts and behaviour. This is generally always true for good books, but this one is particular was standout. Down’s children as well are very precocious  in some ways and through Phoebe, those sentiments are nicelyconveyed. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can see why there was a hype about it.

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Mad About the Boy … a review

Bridget Jones returns. Need I say more? I genuinely thought that with Bridget getting married and with a baby, things had more-or-less reached a head. And boy, was I wrong? Somehow, in true Bridget fashion, she has managed to land herself in a situation where she is still self-critical, under-confident, single and on the market. Oh, and she got nits!

The fact that I write about Bridget like she’s my friend is testimony to Fielding’s great talent. The character remains relatable, lovable, and totally flawed in a way we all are. And yet, as life goes on and we are all older and none the wiser, there is a certain sense of misplaced maturity even in Jones. Motherhood adds a special extra dimension, and the old friends and the ever charming sleazy ex-boss Daniel bring familiarity.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I had no idea it had come out, I just happened to pick it up from the local book swap shelf. You’re probably wondering about Mark Darcy but I won’t tell you or it will spoil it. But rest assured, it won’t be as you expected and the ending is quite heart-warming too. Enjoy!

Jamilia … a review

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.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing … a review

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.”

One Day … a review

I read this book over two long haul flights. It was a recommedation from a friend who knows I enjoy books set in Edinburgh. This one starts off in Edinburgh but then is based in some other places, depending on where the characters are.

The year is 1988. Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have woken up from having spent the night together in Emma’s flat in Edinburgh. It is the day after their graduation. As the book progresses, the story follows the lives of Em and Dex, on that day, every day, for twenty years. The characters meet, unmeet, and then go their separate ways. Life goes on, as do their individual trajectories.The book weaves in and out of their lives with each other and with other people. Many characters come and go, some stay.

There are a couple of things very good about this book. First of all, it is an unusual way to write a book. It is evident that the narrator is witness to these two peoples’ lives and that in itself is like someone has held a lens to their eyes. The other thing is that the ending is extremely believeable. It is not a rom-com ending, and it is not a typical ending. I will not spoil the ending by saying any more but I very strongly recommend the book, it is like reading the story of you or I. It is one of the very best I have read of modern fiction and I thoroughly enoyed it.

The Fault in Our Stars … a review

I remember when this book came out and it took the world by storm. Everyone was talking about it, rcommending it, and were writing rave reviews about it. Somehow, I didn’t quite manage to get a copy from the library at the time and consequently, forgot about it. Then the movie came out and it was everywhere again. But of course, I didn’t watch it then because I hadn’t read the book… duh!

Anyway, I picked this up at a second hand bookstore the other day and ead it over a weekend. The story was very easy to read. The language isn’t lucid, but it is very free flow. It is about two teenagers who have cancer and who fall in love with each other. And then, eventually, as is the case with all such cancer plots, one dies and the other lives to carry the burden of loss.

Overall, this book was average and I don’t know why it created th hype that it did. I liked the storyline of a book plot within the plot, and I liked the overall predictability of it. But, the way the characters speak to each other felt fake. It was too philosophical, too big of them. Having been a carer to a close person who died of cancer, I can safely say that when a loved one suffers, philosophy, the greater theme, the bigger picture of life all sounds like a load of rubbish.

So I wasn’t big on the book. However, while reading it I did think that it was movie material, with sufficiently engaging characters and dialogues. So I will watch the movie at some point, even though I am not a big movie person. It has got to be seen right?

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All … a review

Remember, a few years ago, the world was taken by storm by the debut novel of Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, called The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared? Well, since then, I haven’t read any comedy I don’t think. After all, the world has been rather busy with psychological thrillers like Gone Girl etc. Anyway, I digress. I missed Jonasson’s scond book about the girl and the King of Sweden, but this one, I picked up recently.

Now, this book, in similar fashion, is the totally random story of a receptionist at a hotel, a hitman who ends up at the hotel, and a priest who doesn’t believe in God. I know! It is a great book that follows a now familiar structure of loose threads, weaving and interweaving beautifully until they all tie up nicely. Jonasson is a great author because I feel that his stories are like life – you know how you sometimes look back and life makes no sense at all,like that!

However, I do have to say that this book didn’t make me laugh as much as the 100-year-old man. Maybe that book had just set the bar too high for me, as it might be the one humourous book I have actually enjoyed a lot! Having said that, this book is still a great read and an especially good length for a good travel read if you are looking for a change from the usual crime thriller.