Monday, 21 May 2018

The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

I don’t remember the last time I read an extremely power packed Book sequel, which gave me a hangover. But, I do remember my thoughts when I read ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’, the first part of the Winternight Triology; I was in awe of the beauty of the book. And, the second part has left me just the same.

‘The Girl in the tower’ is the second part of the Winter Triology Series. It is the story of Vasilisa Petrovna and her adventures as she has set out on the road alone with her magical bay stallion, the mighty horse Solovey. This traveller Vasya disguised as a boy- because respectable girls cannot roam about openly in the 14th century Russia, is eager to see the world, fearless and determinant. She is so fixed upon her decision to wander that even the winter king has failed to alter her notions. Going to a convent is not the way she imagines her life to be. Her adventures and struggles form an interesting series of events which layer the book profoundly. They make her cross paths with her brother Sasha, brother Aleksander, the monk and her sister Olga, the princess of Serpukhov, taking her in the beautiful city of Moscow. Sasha and Olga come to know of their father’s unfortune death and blame Vasya for its happening. Tired of her ways to take troubles and put others in them they give up on her, until they are dawned upon by the truth and family-blood love for each other. With a lot of secrets opened like Vasya is not the boy Vasilli but the girl Vasilisa, the fight with the bandits for the Grand Prince of Moscow revealing Vasya as a strong warrior to her brother Sasha, the reason behind Morozko’s weakening power and the story of Kasyan and Tamara. Fighting the odds and bringing the situation in her control, Vasya finally saves the city of Moscow from the threats with the help of Morozko, the winter king; giving her fans the moment of rejoice and relief.

The plot sees a lot of new characters this time (read chyertis) and a lot of new angles to visualise the story. The immortal Morozko coming in the grasp of the feeling called love left me with a soft corner for the winter king. While ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ focused only on Vasya and she coming to know of her powers, the second part involves the other members of the family, maintaining the sync of where it left last. It reveals the blood line history which Vasya carries, the story of her Grandmother. The story does not appear disconnected to what we have read before. In fact, it only adds more to it. Picking this book as stand-alone would be a bad idea. Not only will it leave you baffled, but you will lose out on the charm of reading a perfectly articulated fantasy sequel.

The thing I love the most about The Winternight Triology Series is its writing. Katherine Arden writes with such finesse, it makes it easier for you to imagine the winter king and Vasya in their snowy world, Solovey, the mighty bay stallion galloping with ease, Vasya speaking to her chyertis and the amazing beauty of the Moscow city. If this does not speak of a skilfully written fantasy-thriller book, I don’t know what does. The events are well framed, fall-inline and give you an edge-of-the-seat thrill. You wouldn’t want to put the book down unless you know it all. The thing that matters the most in a book sequel is the flow from one part to the other. I have read sequels before and they have left me with so many questions unanswered and unsatisfied. With ‘The Winternight Triology’ series you are not only a satisfied reader at the end of it, but you start contemplating on what is coming next which leaves you at an exciting note. I have spent many nights dreaming about the Winter King and many sleepless nights lying awake to finish the book. But, it’s all worth it at the end.

Why should one read it?

Pick it up to explore a different world. A world which is Vasya’s and Morozko’s. A world of magic, charm and adventures with a beautifully presented story, characters and words. I am glad my new found love in Fantasy this year has not disappointed me a wee bit. I am sure it will appeal you as well, if you give it a chance.

'For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in convent. Vasya will chose a third way: magic..' - Katherine Arden, The Girl in the Tower.

A Beautifully crafted tale. Thumbs up!!

Flip-a-leaf book review- The Bear and the Nightingale
Like the review? order your copy here:
The Bear and the Nightingale
The Girl in the Tower

Friday, 11 May 2018

Ghachar Ghochar- Vivek Shanbhag

As an Indian, it gives me immense pleasure to take pride in Indian literature. Be it then, in any language because Unity in diversity is what India has always stood for. And, it is so good that translated literature has come into existence, it not only exposes us to a variant platform to read but also imbibes the cultural aspect in oneself. One such novel is Ghachar Ghochar and discovering it was just fabulous. Right now it sits at the top of my Favourite books by Indian authors pile.

The story starts with narrator contemplating and trying to find words to talk to this waiter named Vincent, who works at an old but very famous coffee house. He is an oracular person who speaks with such analogy that he is able to answer the questioning mind of the person he is speaking to. The narrator’s tryst with the coffee house and Vincent is an old one and he still maintains it. He starts reminiscing about his life starting from the phase where every penny was to be looked after. He takes us through the day to day life of their family, how the day would wear on, what his Appa did for his living and how chikappa took over the family responsibilities after his Appa lost his job. He talks about the power they handed over to Chikappa and never questioned it even once, for it was an unsaid thing in their family. But Anita, narrator’s wife is not a person to watch silently and keep mum over the incredulous surroundings she is living in. And what does fate and this family have in store for her because of her out rightly spoken nature?

It is a short book of exactly 115 pages with simple yet beautiful writing conveying something as strong as feminist views, the misuse of power which one takes for granted now that they are rich without calculating the time when they were once among those people living in small houses infested with ants, the silence of the family mostly men, when an innocent female is ill-treated for no good reason and finally considering yourself rightful to take someone’s life. Just like Vincent says, “Blood is thicker than water, Sir”. This family for sure sticks to this idiom.

I loved how without bragging or stretching the content, powerful words were put through. The characters are strong which the plot required and the description about each one of them helps you picture the scenarios perfectly. The character called Vincent is to look out for, his idioms have been made to co-relate the story effortlessly well. With such an intriguing book title, discovering what it actually means is like achieving the idyllic state of contentment. Vivek Shanbhag has written this miniature thing dexterously and has taken Indian writing to yet another level of poise. I cannot praise it enough.

It’s a reader’s delight!! It’s a Must Must Read, absolutely!

Liked the review? order your copy here - Ghachar Ghochar

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Men without Women – Haruki Murakami

My tryst with Murakami started when I first read his short stories online, a few years back. I remember the impact they had on me, I was hungover for a long time thinking about the story, the writing, the presentation and the ecstatic “Murakami” art that he uses to weave his content. I was floored. Fortunately, I have a reader sibling, my younger sister who shares the same passion and love for Murakami as I do. Guess, that’s one thing common between us! <wink>

Men without Women is a collection of short stories crafted impeccably to always leave your mind in a contemplative mode. Well, Murakami is very much known for its open ended conclusions leaving the reader to figure out the rest. I might be iterating this but it’s so true, writing a short story is a skill because to gauge a readers interest for a particular frame of time and conveying something strong and beautiful needs to be done adroitly. And if they impress you, you will love them all your life and if they don’t you will shy away from picking a book which is a collection of short stories.

As the name suggests, Men Without Women; it contains stories where men live a life minus the women they love and the women who impacted their lives and left unsaid. I will start by telling you about my absolute favourite story from the lot. It was ‘Kino’. It talks about a man whose wife cheats on him with his best friend and they separate. Kino, without raising a question or a fight leaves their house and starts a bar of his own. He thinks he has started anew leaving the past. But, has the past left him? His demons start calling out for him and he is petrified at the thought of facing them, as he has been avoiding them from far too long. It is written brilliantly with the prefect suspense that will not let you put it down. I couldn’t close the book until I had read it whole, even though there was a toddler gnawing at my foot. The next favourite was the story itself- ‘Men without Women’. The best kept for the last. Quoting from the book- “Once you have become Men without Women loneliness seeps down inside your body like a red wine stain on a pastel carpet”. There are many more which are worth quoting from this story. This one elaborates on the feelings of a Man, speaking on behalf of the male community on what it is like and how they become men without women. The portrayal of these feelings is so profound. While, ‘Drive My Car’ brought out the insecurity of a married man with a dead cheating wife, ‘Scheherazade’ is all about a sense of contentment in a woman who sought pleasure in breaking-in to his school crush’s house and nipping at his things in his room. ‘Yesterday’ talks about two people discussing an event of their life when they bump into each other, reminiscing a memory. And talking about it makes them feel like it was just yesterday that all of it happened. ‘An Independent organ’ speaks volumes about a loner man discovering his identity after falling in love with a woman who leaves him to die a slow death. Lastly, ‘Samsa in love’ is about the idiom- ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ or love doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be felt, both ways.

Murakami’s style of writing is very different from a lot authors. He never gives out anything out rightly. The use of the metaphors, idioms and the layering that he does to magnify his script grabs a reader’s attention immersing him in his work. He lays the groundwork that good, for you to transport in a world he is weaving. And majorly, he has the knack of putting open endings brilliantly that they do not look bizarre. He creates masterpieces is what I can sum up for his work.

Reading a Murakami comes with a disclaimer:
A lot of readers do not connect to Murakami’s work because of some reasons I mentioned before like the open ended conclusions. And I don’t blame them for it. Murakami is not everyone’s cup of tea. Like I said before, his writing is a lot different from many authors that we read today. It will only gauge your interest if you understand what is hidden in the coats of his words. My only suggestion to first time Murakami readers would be to start with short stories which are available over the internet easily. Only if you enjoy them is when you should start picking up the complete books like Kafka on the Shore or the Norwegian Wood. What it might otherwise do is make you form your views for this brilliant writer in a not so positive manner.

Some books are just to be read and enjoyed, because sometimes you might not find the right words to describe them completely. Men without Women is one such book.

Absolutely fabulous. Must read!!

Like the review? Order your copy here: Men Without Women

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...