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Friday, 2 March 2018

Book Review : Raj Quartet I, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott

Let's just begin by saying that your new yardstick for excellent writing has to be Paul Scott and it's a sentiment well echoed by various reviewers on Goodreads.

Pushing aside all the Rudyard Kipling novels, Jim Corbet, Salman Rushdie etc,  Colonial India couldn't be more descriptive than Paul Scott's Raj Quartet and none other (I will fight you on this).

It's not an exaggeration. Scott's impressive knowledge of India is multifaceted, inter-sectional and dives vertically. I am amazed at the mammoth and detailed understanding of caste, religion, communities, landscape, politics; all craftily woven into a magnificent quartet.

At the heart of the story, we have Hari Kumar or Harry Coomer, alien to India and Daphne Manners, who desperately tries to make India her home. Both of our protagonists pursue a  frowned-upon friendship that quickly turns problematic during the dying days of the British rule. Daphne Manners is violated by a gang of hooligans and the suspicion falls on Hari Kumar.

Through their forbidden romance and  cruel love triangle, we come face to face with the riot-ravaged India. Get ready to let your heart bleed for Daphne Manners and the forged criminality of Hari Kumar.  The plot then takes an ugly turn with Daphne Manners was soon shamed by people of her own color and ranks. Scott's deft writing builds the tension yet manages to retain sensitivity of this cursed affair.

My attempt at reviewing this book in relation to its towering magnificence is feeble. There are delicate subtleties in Scott's allegory and the reader is swift ushered into darker days, lighter times, is familirised to the smells and sounds of the country, riots, war, love, and friendship.

the indigo dreams of flowers fallen asleep

It's a tragic oxymoron to have a story so searingly painful to be laced with poetic delight.

For a humble reader, The Jewel in the Crown would stand as a challenge. The timelines of incidents bounce back and forth, we are introduced to characters one after the other only for their relations to be revealed much later on, it could prove quite complicated to find the association of all the individuals mentions. I did catch myself skimmy through the politics to get to the more paced bits and this is the only reason I would cut points for.

I was introduced to this poignant Quartet when my father was watching the televised series, complete with a commentary on Paul Scott's life and work. It's a pity recognition wasn't rendered any sooner.
Both books and series are highly recommended for their skillful depictions and varied sentiments of the imperialist rule, the tragedies amidst and the ultimate demise.

For a literature lover, the Raj Quarter is a wonderful treat. Like the sweet sorrow of a lullaby.

Final Rating : 4/5

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Friday, 1 December 2017

Book Review : Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

A shocking end to an awry romance and a romance that you perhaps wished, never ignited in the first place.

If like me , you too were allured by the rosy cover, dreamy title and the credible author then perhaps our sentiments would match.

After the raving success of his Non-Fiction Crime novel, In Cold Blood and the darling endeavors of Breakfast at Tiffany's, one hardly expect anything less from Mr. Capote and his ability to enrapture you in a tale simple yet magnificent.
So just like me, you pick this book excitedly dreaming of another masterful story that leaves you longing for more, only to have your expectations sorely hurt.

Feel free to weep your disappointment or swear profusely if you must - I'm not ready to do that just yet.
It's not long before the reader understands the difference between Grady McNeil and Clyde Manzer. A young high society girl and her steamy affair with a working-class gentleman, set in New York soon after World War II (honey, it's never going to work).

Obviously, their relationship is rampant and reckless with barely any room (left) for character development or any ambition. Clyde Manzer seems insipid, Grady made me roll my eyes and before you know it, disaster has struck speedingly chased by tragedy (quite literally).

At this point, every Capote fan would be shaking their heads in disapproval wondering why would anyone want to publish this?
Don't dismiss it just yet. As many flaws and faults, there may be, this is where we see the literary skill of  19-year-old Capote and some skill did he have.

It's simple, well-strung and absolutely gorgeous if you pay attention to the language.  Capote knows how to convey sentiments and emotions with just the right adjectives and trust me when I say, it's a real treat. You can almost see why Capote would have been ashamed of this book since it doesn't really live up to the mark as some of his most renowned work.

For no real reason, I found myself oddly comparing Summer Crossing to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - both the female leads were filling the empty voids in their lives with, let's say, romance from men not quite from their alley and life doesn't seem to get better from there for either.

My suggestion would be to hang on until the end of Summer Crossing if you could endure it. An author's maiden novel almost always says more about themselves as individuals than the story itself. It's almost like a quick glimpse into their own character before they pursue more successful ventures and I'm certain genuine Capote fans would appreciate this little insight.

Overall Rating: 3/5

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Book Review : The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Feeling a tad bit rusty on revisiting my blog exactly a year later. Forgetting your login credentials is a big enough indicator to how long I have been away. 

Trust me when I say I am reading great books and as the year progressed I found myself gravitating towards feminine themes, female characters, female authors and everything that came with that package. It was exciting! 

After 23 years of its existence, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides finds it way in my  GoodReads Challenge last year.  The fact that this review is way overdue is epically understated. It took me a while before I latched onto the play in the book title but let's just begin by acknowledging a glaring fact; Eugenides knows prose. He lets literature carry on this grim subject with poignancy in this gut-wrenching and heartbreaking narrative of the Lisbon sisters. There is no room for mindless dilly dally nor any sympathetic romanticised idea of the tragedy that occurs.  

The book starts with death, teases you with the idea of young long, the kind that has sunflower fields, sunsets, power ballads and then all of sudden, in one swoop takes it all away. In all of that time, the five Lisbon sisters were forced to live a life they never wanted, find the kind of love that their families never understood and stay locked in like caged birds never to see the outside world again. The choice was obvious to them and with their actions, the impact last 20 years on the neighbourhood boys, the only people they remotely considered as friends.

It's sad, it's disturbing, its mesmerising. It's also only 250 pages. 

Honestly, it is indeed quite difficult to describe the way The Virgin Suicides makes you feel. How do you recommend a book on suicide to someone? Yet, this is one book that leaves you with a lull and a want to read more it. After the tragedy occurs, the book does impart the idea that the Lisbon family fogged and disappeared little by little before the all eventually vanished with no trace.

Aside from the suicides, Eugenidies subtle commentary on the sleepy oblivious town and the marred memories of the neighboorhood boys are worth note. How does no one see the Lisbon's sister isolation as a plea for help? How does no one reach out to them with a second chance at life? A counter-argument would say how is it fair to the rest of the town, the schools and their lovers to proceed with their lives with all the trauma that left deep dents for years to come.

In the end, we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name." 

This quote from the book sums it up accurately.

 If I was to take a highlighter to choose all of my favourite lines in this book, I would probably end up with neon pages. Every single sentence is well constructed and supported by strong theories to thoughts being delivered here. Sofia Coppola does a smashing job on the film as well. The AIR's soundtrack is one of my favourite albums till date. 

This book is by far unbeatable on the subject of suicide and I can't wait to re-read it again.

Overall Rating: 5/5

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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Book Review : Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

:  250

Read on : Kindle

Review:  All the wonderful things in life are often obscure. We try our best to disintegrate them into little meanings that would or could make sense to our lives not realising that such things are best admired when left as is. 

I compare Murakami's work to this theory. May be it was the timing in my life that made Sputnik Sweetheart hit the soft spot and every page was like lyrics to a background melody of an episode that was detailed but got over way too quickly. 

The whole book is rather small and feels like poetry, with the delicate balance of reality and magic that laces the plot so perfectly. The descriptions of the characters emotions are well reflected by the atmosphere around them, the time of the day and other inanimate objects that are within their parameters. 

We don't always make the smartest choices with the people we hold most dear to us and our actions towards there are clunky even though in essence they were/are good intentions. Sumire is puzzling and nothing short of an interesting study, someone I would observe from a distance with minimal words exchanged. Miu is as charismatic to me as she is to Sumire and I'm sure her grace would intrigue a cat-like interest in me, where I would just move around her feet and gaze at her wide-eyed. K, our narrator is who sets the mood of the whole ordeal. There's a slight wiff of pity for him and the gentle, bruised pain from his unrequited love that he harbours so deep. 

The three of them are bound by baffling circumstances. The three of them love so desperately. And lose so painfully. It feels like waiting at a train station with all the trains whizzing past and K is stagnant.  

By saying goodbye to Mui, K knew that it would mean that everything was lost, over and he had to accept it regardless. Seeing Mui's face for the last time is what hurt most because it reflected everything that was gone. This was most definitely a part of the book I cherish with all the feels. I'm not going to ruin it for you by telling you what happens next but it's exactly what one would do in real life. Being able to capture all those sentiments and actions in such a small book is a feat and Murakami has to be applauded for that. (A Noble prize would be nice).

I hold this book close to my heart and will look forward to revisiting it with the same feeling when I'm old.

Final Rating : 5/5
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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Like Oil and Water

'What is meant for you will reach you even if it's beneath two mountains. What isn't meant for you, won't reach you even if it is between your two lips'

This is the verse I remind myself when I run into bad times. It comforts the anxiety of the pits of my stomach, it makes my heart breathe a little easier.

Trials and tribulations of life will not cease as you get older. At times even experience, the 'big there, done that' jargon fall short to rescue you. It's not the situation but more how you react to it, is what matters. Or so I've been told. And react I did.

A puzzling situation,  unforgivable to most, stood right in front of me and stared at me in the eye. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to do the right despite knowing my inevitable pain. Probably out of defeat or being well aware of the fact that there really was no way around it. Damage it is, I was the one picking up the pieces and getting cut at the same time.

Strange people happen in your 20s. They drag you into stranger situations and before you know it, you're entangled in that web. You question the point and purpose to no end. No answer is an answer by itself.  You know cobwebs. Invisible. You walk through them and it clings to you. No matter how hard you try to pry it off you, you can still feel the remains.

I was in such a web about a month ago. I let go and almost instantly found my sorry self leaning on a shoulder that I didn't notice was there. One that lurked in the shadows. I was grieving and still hadn't noticed. There were black clouds looming over me, my feet dragging that abominable lull like chains. So easy to destroy something so fragile that nursing it back means more aches and pains. You wince at the thought of it. Forgiveness is no longer an option, It's a choice one has to make. Reaching that choice would only further your pain. A little suffering to ease your selfish soul is most likely a sin itself. Again, there was no giving more than I already had. I chose to be greedy for my betterment.

Some one opened a door behind me, grabbed my hand and yanked me through. Funny, the way things work, you miss a chance so closely while only later on you realise what was right in front of you. May be the door behind me was what I was meant to stop and look at. I smile meekly in an attempt to repair myself from the cords that unravelled. But I was already feeling better. Relieved precisely speaking, I could breathe again without being choked up.

I know that I am safe. I know that I will be okay.


To all those who are worried about my well being or were wondering about my absence from the blog, I'm absolutely fine. Took a break to clear my head and heart of some emotional turmoil that took momentum couple of weeks ago but thankfully that has ebbed. I'm recovering fast and well. I'm blessed with well-wishers, friends who are family to me and of course, family itself. Hope this Ramadan is treating you all well. 

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Friday, 29 April 2016

Book Review: Eat The Sky, Drink The Ocean

Pages :  240

Read on : Book

Review:  The first time I ever heard Annie Zaidi speak dates back to my post grad days when she has a special session with us filled with her page-3-kinda-like-ermygod stories. As expected, massive eye rolling happened. Fast forward 3 years later, I see her again, this time with Mandy Ord at JLF 2015. More eye-rolling and subtle scoffing, until she and Mandy spoke about alternate endings to iconic tales in our culture, such as the love saga of Salim and Anarkali. I was like a dog who picked up a new scent. That one story and the epic cliffhanger was sufficient enough to itch my mind and click 'add to cart' on Amazon.

What delightful book. I felt as if I had just won the English Elocution at school and was beaming in pride to take home my 'Enid Blyton' prize. That feeling resonated. The brilliant concept behind  this book is that it re-imagines so many various situations or classic tales that it's can safely be handed to people of all age groups, starting say 12+ and on. The visuals in some of the stories are raw and no nonsense, while some of them are whimsically clever. 

The beauty lies in the little snippets on how the Indian and Australian contributors collaborated. Some of them never even met, but the sense of sisterhood was strong enough to keep them bound to this project. Matters that plague the two entirely different cultures were glued together by this vision for a female-friendly world and I applaud the start. It is not as hard for women to connect as people assume. In most cases, what we have endured, what we see, feel, do and receive remains the same universally and we are ever ready to aid our fellow sisters.

The mix of short stories, classic folk tales, dystopian fantasies, graphic stories make it such a collector's delight. Brag points for the bookshelf. We know 'Zubaan' is the house of feminist themed publishing, nonetheless, the backdrop of feminism was so subtle that it made me want to jump into the book and live in that world. No cliched words are casually thrown around, the concept goes beyond wishful thinking to make it a seeming reality - a very refreshing change. 

One point. And the only point that troubles me is that most of the stories are established centuries after modern times, as though to imply that this idea that they have set up will materialise only after practically everything on earth has stormed revolution after revolution, mass destruction etc. This could be just me but the feeling of a dystopian society was strong and that did make me think.

Regardless, it did leave me happy which my readers would know is quite rare. The attempt is fantastic.

Do pick it up. It may not be the most literary read, but it sure is enjoyable.

Final Rating : 4/5
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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Quicksand Worrier

If my thoughts were constantly displayed on my face, they'd be two kinked lines running across my forehead with a furrowed brow. It's just that the year 2016 has been overwhelmingly different right from new year's eve. I didn't realise that the last week of December and the new year was going to whisk me away so frantically that all constants would change. Evolve. Right in front of my eyes. I'm not complaining. Changes have been kind to me for once or may be I'm 'growing up' to accept them. It feels like the same me though. Same face, same hair, same girl, same exterior, same heart and mind. Yet so so different. Like the axis of my daily life has shifted.

With the onset of new challenges, old worries become new concerns. Yesterday's problems seem so insignificant. Tomorrow is an anxious mix of nervous excitement and I seem to like the taste of it. Overthinking is still a part of me that won't go away so swiftly. Whenever I have to dip my toes into something new, I wince, half expecting icy prickles, only to find warmth and comfort envelope me. It welcomes me like a protective blanket. It fills me joy, with new reassurance.

There are golden beams of the sun, glistening on my face. I close my eyes and take in the glow, most contently. I don't blink, I don't burn, I don't look away.

I smile from within, from my toes, from my gut, from my hair follicles to my face. It feels like for once my worries will melt away soon enough. It feels like may be, just may be, this might be my time.

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