Thursday, February 28, 2019

A man called Ove



Everyone has to die some day and this book just focuses on the one who had to stand the death of his beloved.  Ove is portrayed as a bitter and grumpy old man.  The author starts his narration with Ove and continues to introduce more characters without names but from the point of view of Ove.  As Ove learns each one’s name, so do we.  As he reminisces his past, we learn more names of the characters in his black and white life. 

This is mainly a love story that is partly delightful and partly heart wrenching.  To soothe the heart aches, the author keeps shuttling between the past and the present.  Though we get stricken at some points, we slowly heal (along with Ove) through the happenings in the present.  So many light-hearted moments around a man, whom I suspect has ASD, is a pleasure to read.  But it was also heart wrenching when he was left to himself time and again.  It was like watching, helplessly, as a child tries to shape itself with the right principles.  On the whole the author has managed to sculpt the character of Ove with such details that it is hard to hate him even when he is grumpy.

For a life so short, the kindness keeps pouring out of their lives.  This makes it inspirational and uplifting to follow in their footsteps.  After all, Ove made Lemonades when life threw lemons at him.

I was getting more and more attached with the character towards the end.  During the end though we know the inevitable does happen, the author does not disappoint us.  The story comes a full circle and we know that we can close the book with a feeling of content.

My favorite quote from the book: 

“He was a man of black and white.  
And she was color. All the color he had.”

Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Queen Of Jasmine Country


Andal the saint poet, who lived to tell the world of a devotion so high but which can be attainted through pure love.  Her verses are very popular in the Tamil culture that the month Margazhi sounds synonymous with Andal.  Though the verses are very popular, we do not know a very clear picture of her life.  Through folklore and hearsay, we know that she was the adopted daughter of Saint Periyazhwar and she was the avatar of Bhu-devi.

The author has made a novel around the life of this saint, using her imagination and entwining it with events that are well known facts.  It really was a fresh take on Kodhai’s life.  She was christened as Andal much later, in her early life she was Kodhai.  She paints a picture that is truly human with a myriad of emotions ranging from lust to disappointment.  I do know a few verses of Andal’s “Thirupavai” and I always thought of how selfless the goddess was when she prays for the world’s benefit.  But here the author has entirely twisted the idea and made it as a yearning of a teenage girl. 

The book travels through some important ancient scriptures like the Kurunthogai, Thirupavai, Nachiyar Thirumozhi and many more.  Though I could recognise the English translation of the verses, I regret that I do not know the whole verse by-heart in Tamil.  Now when I prostrate before Andal I doubt if I will search for the teenage girl Kodhai, whose love for the lord grows quickly and erotically in each and every verse.  I had always been in awe of her love for the God, how she takes Him to be her husband, lives for Him, yearns for Him, finally attains Him.  This book only makes it easier for us to understand (though only through imagination) why and how she loves Him and cannot fathom anyone else in His place.

The author’s prose is rich and the whole novel is a monologue.  Though this is her debut novel she manages to pack an intense story in about 140 pages.  Her expressions, emotions and even the very atmosphere of the story is doused in every word with a rich vocabulary she has carefully chosen.  The author has peppered the whole novel with settings synonymous to the Tamil culture, be it the Tamil names of the characters, the millets used in diets instead of rice or the many flowers which are native to Tamil Nadu.  She makes this imaginary story her base for the events of the Pavai nombu, which beautifully says why and what made Kodai to pen those verses.  She draws a picture of the ancient Tamil Nadu with the rules for each strata of the society.  Also, a detailed account of the harvest festival Pongal is mentioned here.  Many Tamil words are literally given in English without a translation.  It made me relish the story with a native feel though I know for many it would limit their experience.  The author has mentioned about a mother for our protagonist but I would like to get to know her more.  Many a times I read and re-read the same lines a couple of times.  This is a novel you would not want to rush with.

Though the author has altered many happenings in her novel, she does give a detailed account of how the original story was told.  She also gives references to how and what made her depict a particular scene in the book.  The avatar and life of Andal has been very controversial and in recent times it had made way for heated arguments and rows.  But although the author has tried to shed a new light, that is imaginary, in the life of Kodai, she will still be known as the virtuous one who will heed to all our needs.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Panther's Moon - Book Review


This book by Ruskin Bond is a collection of 10 short stories for children, some of which have appeared in few books also.  Mr. Bond, being a resident of Mussorie, is known to write stories that capture the picturesque beauty of the hills or the plains.  This book which deals mainly with the animals covers the flora and fauna, along with other rare breeds of animals in great detail.

The tone of Narration varies according to the story.  Sometimes it’s a monologue and sometimes a narration.  However, it is, the story telling is impeccable, even if it’s in an animal’s point of view.  Indeed, his serene, picture perfect hill town surroundings are vividly described in each chapter.
As usual a mundane day is turned into the most eventful day in the stories.  His words bring forth an visual that is appalling and nerve racking as the story unfolds explaining the events that will mark the day.  It was also his narration that shows us just how impossible and hard the life of people living in the hills is.  One interesting thing to be noted is how the author has taken a keen interest on every animal and bird around him, noticing the tiniest detail and tying it in the story he builds around the animal.

The author through his stories showcases that both animals and humans must keep to their boundaries.  Any other way is only disturbing the nature’s balance.  And all the stories underline and educate the readers of this importance.  The author narrates the hunting of the prey by ferocious predators as if he had been on a hunting expedition himself.  The whole incident keeps us mesmerised with bated breath to know if the prey was safe or not.

I especially like the chapter of “A crow for all seasons”.  It was really funny and the way the author chooses to tell his story is fresh and imaginative.  Then there was “Eyes of the cat”, which I had to read it again to check if I indeed caught the crux.  I wouldn’t say it as paranormal but it definitely was vindictive and vendetta.  This will make a good read for the middle grade kids.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

You and Me, Always


This book by Jill Mansell is the second book I am reading by this author.  The first book had not impressed me at the first go, but when I picked up the book again (purely due to boredom) it did impress me.  So, this time I went ahead and read this book, You and me always.

It has all elements of a feel-good contemporary, romantic chick-lit.  Main highlight of the book is the chemistry between Dan and Lily.  Though it was nerve-racking sometimes, it also got me smiling at some of the shenanigans both were up against each other.  This is a book that showcases not just one, but three love stories revolving around the three protagonists.  There were several romantic moments like a bouquet for a romantic fool like me.  The story was funny and intriguing and sensitive all at the same time.  The whole set of Stanton Langley was like a warm sunny morning in Winter.  The author has vividly drawn a picturesque town aptly becoming the romantic setting.  Moreover she makes even a parking lot seem like a romantic place.

All set for a promising romance novel and throw in a handsome movie star, you wonder if this novel will get made into a movie (I mean in real life).  The author has managed to pin some thrilling moments pivotal to the story.  But the result of these twist and turns, though predictable, also makes us flip pages in bated breath.

The only downside was that the pages or rather the chapters could have been cut short.  But I like how the author has included chapters to have a concrete ending though she could have cut short a couple of chapters.  You can curl up and spend your holidays with this book and when you finish you will have a warm feeling of content like after watching a good romance flick.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

What Maya saw


This novel is a Young Adult read belonging to the Fantasy-mystery genre.  The first thought is that this novel runs parallel to DaVinci code.  Though I cannot compare both the books, the latter being more like a master piece, this novel fares well with the famous city with history, clues hunting, treasure seeking and all.  I wish I could have seen those famous spots mentioned in the book, for all the glory and history and the fine details to architecture.  But it does not matter, because the story kept me engrossed. 

I normally keep off the horror genre and picked this book innocently, knowing Shabnam Minwalla as a Children’s author.  The paranormal activities were a bit provocative and disturbing.  But I think it was just me. (I was a bit jumpy as I was reading this novel when I was alone.  Also, I don’t think this is hard core horror with spine chilling gore).  The bits where a strong friendship blooms between the girls with a lot of girl talks made a refreshing break from the pursuit.

The author made me follow the story in shoes of Maya and I was often guessing if I could spot the real mystery (or the culprit) till the very end.  Right from the first chapter it was totally engaging.  The chapters were short and racy as this is aimed at Young Adults.  But I would recommend it to teens around 16+.  Being an alumnus of St. Xavier’s college, she gives a detailed account of an ancient college to make us feel the environment around it.  The author was a journalist and has made painstaking efforts to include the city in the clue hunting.  I really admire her knowledge of the city and her meticulous efforts for tying its history into this story.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Happy Birthday! and other stories

Happy birthday is a book of 13 short stories.  Each story gives us a glimpse of the present and delves into the past explaining the current situation.  The cover illustration was a bunch of balloons and my first impression was that they would be happy moments of life.  But life is life and mostly the stories cover an array of emotions with glimpses of happiness.  Majority of them are set in India and America.  Mainly one can see the selfish, cut throat nature of our society that pushes us to go above and beyond to protect ourselves. 

Do I need an intelligence to read this book.  Probably! because after every short I had to take a break to let it sink it and relate to what the author was trying to say.  I had to have some kind of emotional intelligence to understand the message which is written subtly under the many shades of each characters.  She does not come forth and draw a line, in black and white for us to understand.  After Ashes story was much more than I thought it would be.  The lemon and chilli story with episodes of life around India and America touched my heart.  It could have been anyone's story.  But I had to choke back a sob.  Sometimes I too fear of the future.  Every time I reminiscence I think of a different meaning.  The same character who was an protagonist of the story suddenly turns antagonist and I was too overwhelmed then to understand such workings of the human mind. 

The author is a journalist.  So her characters are very structured and I think the characters could have been etched from her personal and some professional experiences too.  But all together the stories are being told with such audacity that we would think it is happening around us, perhaps to a neighbour or a person showcased in media.  Some were open ended stories.  I know they are shorts and only a glimpse of the story would be given, but somehow I cannot help pondering how it would have gone, positive or negative!  The author has already won many accolades for her novel One and a half wife and I am really psyched to read it one day.

Friday, January 25, 2019

SuperZero

Hate exams? Hate studying past your bedtime to pass your exams?  Then think how life for a superhero must be for he has to prove his worth to pass his exams.  You think its easy-peasy? Maybe but not for our Super Zero.  Though his parents are convinced he has super powers, that is not the case with Super Zero at class.  His assessment mainly consists of Morphing, X-Ray vision, Flying and all those super human stuff.  But still he cannot accomplish even a single thing.  Rare things happen and we (even he does not) do not understand what triggers it.  So does he really have super powers? 

The narration is funny and intriguing.  Any child who has watched Marvel characters, would understand what is expected and how Super Zero keeps failing.  Its just like any ordinary school, where the pressure to perform keeps building on.  Its all about an underdog becoming a superhero and in the process the author assures the kids its not tough if you have confidence and can rise above your shortcomings.  Her flair for humour keeps us in peals and giggles all the way to the end.  Throw in an adorable but monstrous dog and a kind but deaf grandpa, the story becomes even more hilarious.  And how she has selected to educate the kids on spelling is another notable point.  This book is funny and the short chapters will keep them tuned.  The author "gets" the way a kid thinks and has given a good account of their angry, self empathy, surprises and every other emotion apt to the situation.  Even the acknowledgements section, especially about the illustrator, was written creatively. I recommend this to the middle grade readers.
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