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.

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.”

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?

Motif Challenge Mar

For the March bit of this challenge,

MARCH- Take a Trip
Time Travel or read a book set in a country different than where you live”

I read Air, by Caroline Allen, a couple of months ago. This book is mainly set in Japan,although some parts of it cover the protagonist Pearl  travelling to/from Missouri. But I have been to neither of those two countries. So I am just sharing the review,

HERE

Dubliners … a review

The only Irish author I can claim to have read extensively is Oscar Wilde. At the end of this month, I might be travelling to Dublin for work and so I thought, as part of the Classics Challenge, why not James Joyce? I have always associated Joyce with Ulysses and the size of it has been off-putting. I have also been under the mistaken impression that all of his works are long.

I was wrong. Even at the bookstore, I was surprised by the thinness of this book. ‘Practically a novella…’ I thought to myself. Wrong again! As it turns out, Dubliners is a book of short stories… major Joyce ignorance.

It is a delightful read. Enthused by the short story dip in and out aspect, I delved into it with gusto. The stories are like walking down the city streets. It is a mix of all the caricatures that you would see on city streets – the jilted lover, the reluctant wife, the whore, and the saint. The stories, themselves, cover the entire gamut of emotions. The style of writing reminded me of Dickens, but without the ramblings. The plot delves in straight to the point and does business.

Dublin is brought out through its residents, isn’t that lovely?  I was transported to the Irish country capital even before I got there. I would thoroughly recommend this book as a quick but meaningful read. And ths has definitely made me want to read more of his works. I am looking forward to Dublin.

The Silver Skates … a review

A couple of months ago, I went to the Netherlands. It was my first trip to continental Europe and Amsterdam (and its surrounding towns) did not disappoint. As I tend to after lovely travels, I picked up this classic set in the 1840s Holland. If you have never been, if you have and want to revisit your memories, or if you just want to renew your faith in miracles, this should be your New Year read.

The Silver Skates is the story of Hans and Gretel Brinker and an annual tradition in Holland – ice-skating on the frozen canals that abound the country. The Brinker siblings are poor, with an ailing bedridden father and a mother who works to make ends meet. The Brinker children are good, honest, and hard-working. So good comes to them in the form of an expected present. Good skating shoes to participate in the race! The novel then leads up to the race itself. It follows the local children through the country as they train for the race, it follows the dynamics of a society when the rich and poor brush shoulders, and it takes the reader through the humble dynamics of every day family life in the Brinker household.

When Hans, like his sister, is given money to buy new skates, he decides to approach the famous Dr Boekman to treat his father. The gentleman doctor takes a liking towards him and agrees to take a look at Mr Brinker for free. The book then comes up to a tantalising climax of the treatment and the agonising wait to find out if the father will be alright. At the same time, Gretel is flying along frozen canals on the new skates and has the reader rooting for her victory.

The style of writing is very lucid, with Dutch history and folktales interwoven with the storyline. The narrative is fast paced at times and slows down in comfortable bits that takes the reader along the streets and towns of Holland. This book was a bestseller right away after publication and one can rightly see why. It has the excitement of travel, the redemption of problems and will leave you with a renewed outlook towards life and living.

Windmills at Zaanse-Saans

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web … a review

I enjoyed the Millenium series immensely. I read them in the summer of 2011 and all I remember of that summer is the entirety of those books and reading them at various places battling the Delhi heat. So when I heard that there was going to be a fourth book, I was surprised that it had almost next to none publicity. I mean, when Mockingbird‘s sequel released in July, the world practically drove themselves into a frenzy!

Anyway, the original author is dead, so this is controversially written by David Lagercrantz,who has continued on from where Larsson left off. I will not tell you about the controversy here because you can Google it. What I will tell you is that the way he has done it is impressive. The book is very well written and reads seamlessly like the previous ones (although I am mindful that I have read them all in translation).

Lizbeth, one of the most striking and unforgettable characters in modern fiction is portrayed with class and finesse, something that readers have admired bout her. Our journalist Blomkvist and his business partner Berger are just the same, like old friends to the reader. And the plot too, is well thought out and well researched. As usual, Nordic noir is set in the backdrop of a cold frigid winter and that always heightens the excitement. But the action spans across various locations and the inclusion of a child with special needs just ties up everything brilliantly.

What I will say is though that the pace seemed a little slow as compared to the previous books. Those ones were thicker and more complex plot-wise. But I suppose that is where the difference of the actual author comes out. For what it’s worth, Lagercrantz has done a fine job and I really hope that he continues to rite more novels with the same beloved characters. Especially if Craig and Mara are around to act in the movies!