Saturday, May 29, 2021

One Part Woman - Book Review

I am writing this review for all three books of the One Part Woman set - One Part Woman, A Lonely Harvest and Trial by Silence.

Via Google

One part woman is the story of a childless couple, Kali and Ponna who endure the insults and social stigma of the village.  The story deals with the tender romance and the intense intimacy of this married couple.  Ponna is portrayed to be a very story and good natured woman.  Her portrayal is so down to earth that we can still see someone alike her if we go to any rural part of Tamil Nadu.  The attire, the village settings still remain the same, save for technology like  Mobiles and Televisions.  

The first part ends in a cliff hanger and I found myself craving for more.  I couldn't resist reading the first sequel A lonely harvest though Trial by silence seems to be the most favourite.  The author continues the story promptly from where he left in the first half.  After having written a superb first half, the second half also demands a similar effort.  And the author has given us two endings to suit ourselves.  After having finished this version I thought this was a more realistic version but the second version too proved to be realistic.  

Ritual or custom, still a mere one night stand would mean infidelity.  One may argue that it happened at a time when there were no advanced treatments like IVF available.  But infidelity in the name of god is even worse.  I still see couple who are childless in spite of all these medical advancements.  One way is to sever all relationships start afresh or adopt.  For someone who had been honest and faithful, Kali's anger was justified in both sequels.  And the measures Ponna takes to redeem herself is quite painstaking and depressing in both sequels.

The second sequel was also quite depressing as we witness the relationship wither and there is no way to salvage it.  But somehow it ends on a happy note.  All is fair in love and war and so they forgive and forget as they forge a new life.  Some incidents depicted just question the very base of our culture which advices and advocates that virtue is above life.  No wonder the author got into problems with the hypocrites and bureaucrats alike.

One interesting character worth mention was Uncle Nallayan.  His experiences, stories and talks were an antidote to the suffering couple.  The character gave a lighter vein to the whole story, but his character had not been given a rounded ending.  It was a huge disappointment.  The first sequel showed the author's interest in farming and rearing.  The setting and picturesque surroundings were portrayed with great detail as the author was born in a farming family in the same locality.

After having read the depressing second part two times I was quite sad when the story ended on a happy note in just a line.  I was craving for more happy episodes.  The translation by Aniruddhan Vasudevan was a delight.  Nothing was lost in translation and since Tamil is my mother tongue, I could see how precisely he had translated the native slangs and proverbs too.  On the whole it was a good read, all three books.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Esperanza rising


Growing up I had always heard stories of Eelam Tamils being chased away from their country, become refugees in various other countries.  I used to wonder how they would ever adjust to a life without any support or the things they are used to.  But becoming a refugee doesn't stop here alone.  It has been and is still happening all around us.  Israel, Bangladesh or Mexico to name a few.  Mexicans enter US everyday and the government has been taking measures to control it everyday.

Well, you may ask if I am ever going to review the story.  But this is the story.  Its about Esperanza and her family who are forced to flee their own country and take abode in USA.  The story starts all rosy and warm but young Anza's life is upturned when her father dies and every wealth is taken over by her scheming uncles.  

She leaves Mexico with her mother and friends and face a life she had never imagined.  But luckily she already has acquaintances in USA who arrange for a job and accommodation.  It would be a night mare to think of life if there were no support in a place too foreign to us.  It would be like walking in the dark.  The story is not about riches to rag with depressing details.  The author has not held any grudge or disappointment about the past or the turn of events, instead she focusses on hope, love and support without which no one can endure the wrath of fate.  The story also focusses on how they are being stereotyped, the poor living conditions and the toiling workload.  It also explains about how they have to put with a lot of things like no protest, poor wages and still show empathy towards each other.

The last remnants of her previous life become her comfort now esp. the crochet and hook and rose her father planted.  She finds solace in the fact that she has someone to lean on to.  It is not about revenge or becoming rich again, but its about something more practical and powerful - starting over again.  This ending is what makes it more touching and realistic.

In the author's note, she mentions that this story is based on her grandmother and her recollection of events in her life.  Its a promising and uplifting story of how one should "never be afraid to start over".

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Bridge Home

I am not sure if I am sad or inspired.  It was hard to see if this was a fairy tale story or the real world story.  To categorize this as a kids read may be difficult.  This is an emotional rollercoaster or maybe that's just me.  Just towards the end everything gets fine and the ending is happy but the story just lingers on in the memory.  Maybe because I have watched many kids in the same predicament and have accepted that this is the way that these kids are.  Finding out their stories will surely leave a lump in my throat.  I am sure the author who is a social worker herself, has put the situation very mildly here as its a middle grade novel.  I am sure that there are far worse situations for these so called street urchins who keep popping out everyday in the city. 

The narration goes on as the protagonist writes a letter to her deceased sister, much akin to Night Diaries.  The length of the novel may be short, because its a middle grade read, but the story leaves an impact.  I cried many times, both when I was happy and sad.  It was so true and real that it never felt like a story, but rather something happening somewhere right this moment.  I think its a great read for all ages, let alone the kids.  I love it how the author has stringed together so many messages like bravery, hope, disability, the bonding, the forgiveness and last of all faith in a way that it was subtle yet bold to leave an impact after reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Fish in a tree - Review

I think all the kids should read this book.  Not just kids every adult should also read this book.  Of course its an uplifting novel with a fairy tale ending, but what sets it apart is the bravery of the kids.  It deals with the world of Ally who is the protagonist and who has a different learning ability.  When the parents are busy to deal with the kids (well, not intentionally), the kids have a hard time dealing with big problems posed their ways.  And when a kid is called dumb umpteen no of times their whole life, they starting believing it and they also have a hard time to face their world.  Not just kids, I think everyone has the same psychology.

The story starts cold and dark with the many problems Ally has been facing all her life in school.  But I did not understand why she doesn't ask for help.  Not even to her mother.  And she is in sixth grade, so I think these kind of difficulties could have been caught a lot earlier.  Maybe that is why the author mentions that the family has been moving a lot.  Still I think its kinda late.  But her courage and creativity are something to note.  Later when I read the epilogue I understood that the author has gone through a similar, if not the same, problem and Ally just mimics her strategies.

I thoroughly enjoyed how the kids handle constant bullying, not just the protagonist, but every kid their own way.  And its not just bullying, the author shows many different problems a child's world can pose.  But the good thing is without being preachy, the story leaves a subtle message.

And the most important message is that the marks don't define if you are intelligent or dumb.  Creativity and problem solving go a long way, far from marks and assessment.  The author draws inspiration for Mr. Daniels from her own teacher Mr. Christy, which is touching.  Because a good teacher can shape a child's life for better.  Maybe parents, students, even teacher can take a point or two about how to handle kids with difficulties.

I just know when a child with dyslexia read this book, or rather hear it,  he or she can readily place herself in Ally's shoe and feel uplifting, hopeful and bright.  I recommend it to 4th to 6th grade children.

A movie with the same theme was Taare Zameen Par.  It was released in 2007 and was an eyeopener about dyslexia (atleast to me).  Similarly Aamir Khan potrays a teacher who change the life of Ishaan the boy with dyslexia.  Watch it if you like this novel.  It sure will leave a warm feeling.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Amal Unbound - Book Review

Amal leads a very content life and dreams about becoming a teacher one day.  But the powerful Khan family rules over her silent village and life takes a serious turn when she finds herself a slave at their enormous estate.  The story set in Pakistan is very much like what happens in India too.  It is so heart wrenching to learn about kids who take on the family burden when they should be enjoying their childhood and pursuing their future.

The author has portrayed Amal very mature and responsible.  But I wonder if a 12 year old kid would be so mature, maybe because their life is very different from ours.  What we take as granted is a luxury for them.  There were episodes which were provocative and portrayal of some violence, but nothing too gruesome.  It sure is a kids read with gripping facts about the nature of crime all around us.  It gives the idea of indenture servitude which still exists in our modern world.  It showcases stereotyping and gender discrimination along with socio-economic status quo.  But as with any children's book, this too has a fairy tale ending which brings a mood uplift.  I think this would be a inspirational read for middle grade kids

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dear Mrs.Naidu - Review

Dear Mrs.Naidu is a letter that a child writes to the late Mrs Sarojini Naidu, the freedom fighter.  If you are wondering why, the child draws more and more inspirations and strength from her life, the life we all know so little about.  We would think we had learnt about our national leaders sometime in our history class.  But we are wrong.  It was for marks and nothing else.  Learn, vomit and forget.  I had never had such insight into Sarojini Naidu's life like I had from this novel.  Also the author has made effort to bring the story and the life of Mrs. Naidu parallel so that our protagonist draws her will and inspiration from her. 

The whole book is based on the Right to Compulsory Education act of 2009.  This book has brought a whole new light on how this act has been drafted to help the community and how the schools are made to participate and how they escape using loop holes.  Though what I have said can be rather boring, the book makes it interesting.  The author has made a very good effort to educate and hook the readers disguising the educating part very well.  Though it is a children's read, it can very well be enjoyed by the adults too. 

The author has also made an effort to elaborate the meanings and usage of idioms and words in an attempt to educate the children.  It is in fact a  worthy mention as this is a children's novel.  The author deals with issues that we normally shun ourselves or downright neglect to look at.  The book deals with the life of people below poverty line and that makes us think if we can take a step forward to make their lives better.  What we take for granted is something they work really hard for. 

The society has stereotyped these economically weaker section as a bad influence and this book explains how those children would feel when they are treated unfairly and denied opportunities.   Here we are trying to convince and coax our children to cut off the screen time and be more proactive towards creativity and learning, whereas these poor kids are more (street) smarter and are drawn towards books and learning like a bug to a flame.  But the irony is that they never have the opportunities or the money.  The end is predictable but thats what happens if it must inspire the young hearts.  I would not categorise it as just a children's novel, it is a light but informative read for the adults as well.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lucky One - Review

This was one of my impulsive buys a decade earlier.  Since it was Nicholas Sparks, I didn't even go through the summary before buying and I hadn't regretted it.  Now its these Corona lock down days and I ended up reading it again.  I remember how much I liked reading the intro of each character, especially how they got introduced into each others life.  And each chapter is named after the main character, so we are totally hooked and never realise the pages or the no. of the chapter.  when I first read it, it made me think if I am going to cry after reading this. (FYI: I cried buckets for a couple of days after reading The notebook).  But as predicted one of the main character did die, but it didn't leave a painful feeling at the end (like nights in Rodanthe or a walk to remember). 

The human emotions and bonding which is the forte of this author has been peppered through out this novel.  Be it the bonding between the mother and son or between two lovers or between two ex or even be it the dog and its owner has been well portrayed.  The logic as to whether to believe in luck or not, forms the crux of the novel and towards the end, it is simply a test of faith. what I mean is the author didn't go too overboard and handled 'the luck or lucky charm' part very well.  The plot, even though being predictable, has its own kind of twist and turns.  I remember reading the epilogue with bated breath to see who lost their lives, because Mr. Sparks tends to kill a protagonist at the end.  If you are a sap for romance or Nicholas Sparks novels go for it.  Though its kind of too late, I still have to watch the movie part of this novel.  I heard it is as good as The notebook or Nights at Rodanthe.
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