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.

Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home … a review

I’ve taken a long time to write this one up. But it is a book of poems, so my excuse is that I read it in fits and bursts, on my commute as well as in bed, savouring it slowly. When Dane Cobain, the poet, asked me to review it, I expected something, I don’t know what the word for it is, traditional. But this book has been a pleasant surprise on that front. Allow me to elaborate by using some examples.

There’s no such thing as a gentleman

anymore;

just men and women

stumbling through life

in the same way they always have.

Welcome to society,

our capitalistic, gender-neutral

society;

we are all equal

in our misery.

I thought these lines were beautiful, but sad, accepting, but rebellious. It is the harsh reality of our times, put quite in a brutally honest way. I haven’t read something like this for a while. Read this

Then the web hit its terrible teens

and we signed up en masse

to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat

and WhatsApp,

and now our fragmented entities

are just stressful lives

lived out in public;

mass hallucinations and delirium

pulling us together and

pushing us apart.

Another set of lines that struck a chord for me. But it is not just the online world that Cobain rips apart. It is everything from religion to region, with a good measure of myth and mystery. Some of it is also very personal, very intimate, like having a drink with the poet and the things he might let spill over it.

I’ll leave you with a small set of lines which could be quite controversial, but are especially relevant with so many upcoming referendums and elections.

If Britain

is only for the British,

then I’m no longer

British.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have a soft corner for poetry and Cobain weaves his frustrations with the modern world deftly into stanzas which come across as masterfully crafted.

 

A Thousand Acres … a review

I read this book by Jane Smiley for three reasons. It came recommended by my friend Liz, who knows my style well. I also had to read something for the April Motif Challenge, which was Read a book that has won recognition or a literary award’, which this book has. It won the 1992 Putlizer. And the final reason was that I hadn’t read anything set in America for a while. And I was thoroughly impressed!

This books spans the lives of three sisters of the Cook family. Their father, Larry Cook, is an ageing farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. I loved this part of the novel, where this event sets off a chain of long lost dark truths and forgotten lies. As a family, their true dysfunctionality comes to light. There is some very dark bits to be unearthed as well, which I wont speak of here because that would spoil it for you if you wanted to read it. There is also a subplot around the eldest daughter Ginny and her troubled marriage and difficulties in bearing a child.

What I was interested to know was that this is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now, to be honest, I think I read that play over ten years ago and I cannot remember anything. But this book has meant that I will have to go an reread that again, now. So while I go and do that, you be sure to pick this one up.