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!

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The Daylight Gate … a review

I was at Lancaster University last week and spending some time walking around Pendle College and ended up at their very impressive student library. What do I do when that happens? Pick up a book and make a beeline for an empty couch! I picked up this book because I had been to Lancaster Castle the day before and only just found out about the area’s connection to witches!

The book is set in 1612, when James I, a Protestant King, is on the throne. He was James VI of Scotland, of course, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. Apparently, he was obsessed with ridding his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price…

The narrative has an old fashioned writing style, it is not halting though, just different. The local sheriff at Pendle hill interrupts a strange meeting as he suspects it to be a witches’ Sabbat. I won’t tell you how, but even Shakespeare plays a cameo – how cool is that!?

It is a very short read although it looks deceptively thick. It took me a couple of hours and a bit to read, although I was totally engrossed in it. The library was fab and the weather outside was, well, underwhelming, so there.

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.”

Committed … a review

I had read and enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love when it was doing its famous rounds. I had no idea that there was a sequel. So when I came across this book in a pile, I picked it up out of curiosity. I was not disappointed.

Gilbert is a good writer, her tone is very conversational and her stories and failures come across as honest and relatable. In this book, she traces the misadventures that ensue in her life when she falls in ove with ‘Felipe’ – a Brazilianborn businessman, nearlt twenty years her senior. He cannot get into the Us because of visa issues and so they must get married even though neither of them are remotely inclined. And all this happens in the first few pages, which is quite exciting.

What follows is a mish mash of travels, adventures, and Gilbert’s own journey into history to understand the very institution of marriage and where she might fit into it. She claims to be neither an anthropologist nor a sociologist as she takes the reader to a Laotian household and lays bare some secrets of the Hmong tribe. She frequently intersperses her travelogue with the relationship stories of her own ancestors and the history of the Western traditions as well.

Another interesting thing about the book was the analyses of the role of women in amarriage unit, both historically and also in the modern day world. Gilbert navigates this with great difficulty, but has thoroughly succeeded in making the reading experience enjoyable. Humour crept up on me as she speaks about what women want, what men are thinking, and why fighting on a stinky old bus is a bad idea.

Read this book, whether you are in a relationship or not, married or not, because in the end,it will help you understand your own perspective on things better as you take sides during her narrative.

The Secret Life of Bees … a review

What a book! What a tremendous piece of literature that I had not come across until now. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, if you haven’t read it, you must do.

Set in 1960s South Carolina, this book is the coming of age story of 14 year old Lily Owens. She is white and her nanny of sorts, Rosaleen is black. When the latter gets into trouble for being vocal about black peoples’ rights and ends up in jail, Lily decides to do the inevitable – leave her abusive father T Ray and escape with Rosaleen. The only place that they know to go to is to August Boatwright’s  honey bee farm. This is from the only semblance of Lily’s mother’s life she has, a honey jar label with a black Mother Mary on it.

The honey farm takes these fugitives in and so begins Lily’s journey of self-awareness, love, honey harvesting, religion, and lessons of people reading. The greater part of the book shows the entwining of Lily and Rosaleen’s life with those of the Boatwright sisters – May, June, August. There are many instances of racism but none of them are as horrible as, say, The Bluest Eye. Rather, the distinction between white and black is presented through Lily’s eyes and is a poignant reminder of the differences that are made by man.

The book also has a happy ending. There are times when I thought that once the entire truth about why Lily’s mother was in Tiburon would come out, they would both be maybe sent back to the police or even worse, back to the father. And after all, the father was looking for his daughter in anger. But the book brings a lovely resolution at the end. So for a tender account of love and life and colour, this is one of the most uplifting books I have read. Must read!

Earth … a review

Earth is the debut novel of author Caroline Allen, and in it we found a connection to one of the elements. The protagonist of the story is a thirteen year old farm girl from Missouri, who has visions of turning into a tree. While on the surface, that seems to be the case, the novel is actually about what it means to be ‘different’. The family is slightly dysfunctional – the mother is aloof and detached, the older sister has run away, and the father is abusive and strict. All our protagonist Pearl has, is religion and a vague notion of growing up. There is an aunt too, who is referred to as having visions, but in true style of a mob, she is ostracized by the rest of the family.
What I liked about this book was the atmospheric scenes of the visions; it is reminiscent of Adiche, who I quite like. I liked the theme too; it is unusual in its mix of modern day with the elements of Pearl’s relation with The Osage, an ancient tribe that she feels a connection with, for their portrayal and respect of the elements. Te visions and their aftermath dealt with many emotions all of us have felt – confusion, a sense of injustice, the anger of having been different, and the fear of what this all means. Being thirteen is not easy for anyone, let alone someone struggling to find meaning in a rural farm in mid-century America. There is some sense of mystery that runs through the entire novel and as a reader, I could not quite put my finger on the cause of my sense of uneasiness.
The style of writing is slightly halting, in my opinion. Of course, it is the author’s first novel and no doubt, there is the potential for lucidity. It was just not my style. It possibly also did not help that I was down with the flu, but this made for a good in-bed read with a bowl of soup.

Letters from Skye … a review

The title of this book contains two favourite words, so even before I began reading it, I knew I would like it. The entire book is written in the form of letters – between a poetess Elspeth from Skye and her pen pal David from America, and parallely Elspeth’s daughter Margaret’s letters to various people. Elspeth and David correspond during World War I and Margaret’s letters are based around the Second World War. It all begins when, upon the publication of a book of poems, Elspeth receives a rather sweet letter from a ‘fan’ in America. The story spans two generations, about two decades, two wars, and two continents – finally reaching culmination at the St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh (it’s on Palmerston place on the West end, it’s beautiful).

The book is very well written. There isn’t much surprise in the way of the plot because the letters alternate between the two women’s stories and Margaret’s story fills us in on the gaps left in Elspeth’s. So, no surprises, really, but I enjoyed the concept and the backdrop of the war and of life on Skye. Skye is stunning and the idea of a poetess penning her thoughts as poems and letters and slowly but surely falling in love with a man she’d never met is just my type of thing. Let me warn you, however, it might not be everybody’s cup of tea; which is possibly why this book has got mixed reviews on websites etc

But like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought scenes from Skye, Edinburgh, and London quite vividly in my head. The writing is atmospheric and evocative; the emotions expressed are very natural and believable. I’d recommend it.