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.

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.”

Girl on the Train … a review

A while ago, I came across a list that had names of books people who liked ‘Gone Girl’ might enjoy. I really enjoyed that book so this blurb caught my eye. I then picked it up at the airport in the summer this year at 4 am when I had a 4 hour wait, perfect. It was only when I saw the cover that I realised that the movie was about to come out this year as well.

Now, this book was really good to kill those four hrs and some time on the flight as well. It is fast paced, suitably written, and the plot is quite tight. I was, however, slightly disappointed at the end. Not because I had guessed anything by the way, but just the way the entire sequence of events unfolded. If you have seen the movie, you know the plot already, but I will not give away spoilers here.

My favourite part of the story line was the way the unreliable narrator theme was handles. It has been a while since I read a book which really made me uncomfortable as I just couldn’t trust what the narrator (in this case, the protagonist) was telling me. So definitely worth a read, also a pretty good movie, faithful to the book too, so also recommended.

Goats from a Small Island … a review

It is very obvious why I picked this up, yes? Such a definitive play on Bill Bryson as well as having goats in the name. Seriously, this was begging to get picked up from the library. Especially as after my Spain trip, I was looking for some Spain themed books to read. Any good recommendations in that field?

I sort of enjoyed the book. It is quite humorous, but it was a bit repetitive. It follows the adventures of a young English woman who moved to live on the Spanish island of Mallorca. While the differences in culture and habits are brought out beautifully, the style of writing, I felt was a bit stilted. So the reaction from me would definitely be a bit mixed. The parallel plot lines are quite entertaining, from the Russian model to the crazy neighbour – they all bring their idiosyncracies into the story.

So would I read any of the author Anna Nicholas? Probably, yes. I would love to know more about her adventures and I am sure that I will find styles of er writing in other books that I like better.

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.

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.