Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Book review of a memoir I count as an important read-  Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama is a memoir which holds in its pages her life as a competitive child, a Princeton and Harvard graduate, as a mother, wife and the First Lady (FLOTUS). It is interesting to know about the couple’s journey into politics coming from a fairly simple non-political family background. Becoming is a compilation of Michelle Obama’s thoughts. Hers and only hers. It is about her struggles, vulnerability and her coming to terms with a new life. I have always liked Michelle Obama, since years now. But this book took my likeness for her to a new found level of love and admiration. I precisely don’t know how to proceed with this review but I am going to try nevertheless.

With a status-quo comes responsibilities, fame and the sense of immense subjection to the world as self and family. With every action being taken, every word being said and every movement being guarded the pressure to do things right can be strenuous. Michelle Obama doesn’t try to curb her fears and worries when she talks about their life in the White House. She expresses happiness and remorse without a filter of words. The initiatives they took were thoughtful and driven by compassion. It showed the future they prospected together, the Obama’s. She kept herself in the forefront at a lot of places, voicing herself out fearlessly and at times was an epitome of support that his husband needed while fighting for the presidency, not in the backdrop but by his side.
I loved this book to bits. It told me - Michelle Obama is so much like us and yet so different. Her normalcy intact under her social strata as FLOTUS. Her motherly instincts and worrisome wife thoughts do not lurk behind that title. Her musings are one which every woman comes across. When given a platform she made sure to put it to use addressing the problems that required addressal.

Exceptionally written and worded, Do read it to know how first and foremost you are a person of your thoughts stripped naked of your bulky titles. And when you transform there are some things which do not get changed in the journey.

My Rating:
Glorious 5⭐️/5!
An important memoir I’d recommend.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Golden Child by Claire Adams, a family saga you would like to see as a movie adaptation so the loopholes can be rectified.

If defined succinctly can be called as atmospheric, fragmented and emotional.
When I call it atmospheric I mean every scene is like a reel running in the screen of your mind. The author with her writing skills makes it easy for us to capture the emotions, thoughts and ambience of a situation and characters really well. The story is set in Trinidad. It is about Clyde and his family with two sons- Peter and Paul. They are twins but as different as two magnetic poles. While Peter is remarked as a genius, it is Paul who raises curious eyes. He is odd is what people think. One day, Paul goes missing and the rest the of the story in shifting timelines oscillates between past and present day scenario.

Claire Adam frames the setting of the story very well. She makes us acquainted with the characters so we don’t seem to find trouble gathering a “why?” to their actions. It talks of pseudo societal bonds and fractured familial relationships very aptly. While everything seemed like working it’s magic, I felt there were fragmented parts which took away from the story. There are some harrowing moments and you feel for Paul; for Clyde too because as a parent choosing a child is not easy. Never easy. As a mother who is bound to be the most affected, Joy's thoughts over the whole fiasco of Paul missing looked foggy. It is only towards the end I found some feeble moments of remorse from her. While this could be declared as a perfect hit, little things made it miss its mark from being a perfectly written family saga. For instance, I wanted more clarity from Clyde over his decisions. Just like Rafiq’s point of view and a chapter dedication in "A place for us" by Fatima Farheen Mirza. As debut writers the comparison between the two- Claire Adams and Fatima was inevitable.

All my points to the writing- piercing, characters- framed very well and the transportive capability of the author used to make the reader travel to Trinidad in Clyde’s brick house, with Paul by the river side and with Peter while he approaches his and his father’s dream. There was something amiss making it look fractured, like disrupting the flow of a stream. It needed an element to smooth things out, to comfort and leave its mark engraved with emotions.

My Rating:

Thank you to the publishers- Crownpublishing and Penguinrandomhouse #sjpforhogarth for the review copy.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Book review of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the one lovers of The Handmaid’s tale (THT)were waiting for with high anticipation. The high adrenaline rush of seeing Gilead once again in its darkest form and meeting Offred because getting in her mind is like framing thoughts of your own. Did it deliver for its fans?It left us with a broken heart, making the wait for it disputable.

The Testaments has been called the sequel of its predecessor but looking upon closely it reflects two sides-prequel and sequel.The three narratives in the book bring forth more of Gilead for us, the strongest being that of Aunt Lydia which oscillates between past (prequel glimpses); for when she first got associated with Gilead and present where she calls herself a survivor and plans her insurgent moves in this dark hole. Her authoritative self still intact in her speech, her tight lipped smile, her convincing and sharp personality but with a hint of subtlety this time. It was interesting to read her POV, new and similar together. The other two narratives are of two young girls after a long gap where THT ends-Agnes and Daisy(the sequel look).Agnes has been brought up on the virtues of Gilead and Daisy is an outsider who is brought in. But for me, it was a leap episode with traumatic flashbacks and rectifying present. Having talked of narratives brings me to the most important part of the book- the writing and the presentation.

Because it oscillates between 3 people, the penmanship is poles apart. While Aunt Lydia’s looks fair and justified it is the other two that prove to be non-compelling. The shifting state of mind through our protagonists makes the book look fragmented with no binding motive. Traversing the Testaments I couldn’t help compare it with The Handmaid's Tale where the prose was like a coherent beam, streamlined because we saw Gilead through Offred’s mind. The open ended conclusion of the latter beats the predictable ending hands down. I wanted to be left brainstormed and exhausted, the time I was after having been with Offred; instead I was left non-satiated with floating question marks around me.

After a certain point of time reading through The Testaments was a duty to tick all pages as read because it gave you a feeling of deja vu, something you know is coming. Having watched the series too, I put all my efforts to join dots and imagine what it would have been like if certain cues from the series itself were incorporated in the book. The Testaments looks more like a sequel to the series than to its book predecessor.

A debatable fact sprouts up when we think of this book authored in a massive gap of 35 years by Atwood, but does it justify the write-up, plot and overall structure of the book? No. Not in the truest form.

I would still ask the lovers of The Handmaid's Tale to read it, the demarcation in both these books is clear as a crystal.

My rating:

Thank you to the publisher Penguin India and Vivek Tejuja's blogger program for the review copy.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Book review of Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup

I finished reading this book a few weeks back but struggled to articulate a review. How do you define a book which is so poetic in itself? I was in dire need of words that would explain this book perfectly well. But, perfection is a myth. No? Every word that I put across felt uncertain and unjustifiable to the beauty this book brings with itself. This is one to challenge your imagination, stretch it out and satisfy you with a prose beatific, to say the least.

We go about exploring this book, reading stories through the geographical topography of islands, faultlines, valley and no mans land(snow desert) which is the area between India and Pakistan.In four parts, the stories are like novellas with some characters making an appearance in the next. The book comes full circle as the last story feels like an amalgamation of the first which was the most impressive part for me and the one I loved the most.

The mystical aspect of the book is enhanced by the lyrical writing. Complementing it are the wonderful characters. It was a task of ultimate effort and joy to visualise the scenarios through a character’s eyes and mind. The reading journey almost feels like a time travel; one instant you are in Andaman Islands attending to wandering ghosts and speaking tree's gradually moving to Karakorams exploring the Buddhist territory in colonial times. At various other instances the hunger to know more about the characters faded them to a blur and how I wished I could read more about their lives and about them.

Majestic, imaginative and layered, strewn with idyllic words which give company to the picturesque topographical locations is Latitudes of Longing for you. It is an example of what admirable craftsmanship looks like. The writing does take its time to seep through and one must be patient in that phase of uncovering the literary prowess the book has to offer. Once uncovered, it flows like a creative saga.

I withheld my review of the book because I was unsure if it was the most opportune moment to write about it with the new JCB titles doing the rounds. This was a gem of a book from last year's list and one that was and is most loved by readers across. Such books are rare and reading them provides us with an opportunity to experience something beautiful and potent. However, I made my peace with- there is no wrong day to talk about an incredible book and it’s reading journey. Highly recommended.

My rating:


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Book review of Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale

"Bombay" isn't a word but an emotion. An emotion which is a keepsake of all the years passed by and of its transference to "Mumbai". While for some the city remains the same, there is always an ongoing debate, a series of questions mulled over its ironic changing and constant stance. We all reminisce our growing up in 90’s very fondly and why not, it was the era which brought with itself a newness. Primarily the new economy, internet boom and chat room craze. Mahale’s Milk teeth will make you rekindle those times while allowing you to see and wonder over the shifting paradigms the city of Bombay has gone through. The blurry space when it transpired from being Bombay to the Mumbai we know now is evocatively described in these bound pages.

We follow the life of Ira and Kartik in their building Asha Nivas, Matunga. A close knit neighbourhood, a building which is to go into redevelopment and the residents weighing their chances when it does. Their childhood is like a fond memory and peek into our’s. Ira is a journalist with civic beat and her story gives way to Kaiz, a very interesting character who sways in and out of the plot. His vision about the city of Bombay form the most impressive parts to read. And then there is Kartik, struggling with a job he is pinned by but also dreaming about a fancy life in Mumbai.

Revolving around dextrously crafted characters is a story which pulls you in with contemplating conversations, heartfelt and forbidden love, nostalgia and a vibe of warmth which encompasses it all. The analogous writing ties it all together. Mahale’s words flow with a sense of assurance, only making you delve deeper in the book.

The book brings to life the essence of Bombay; tea at Irani cafe’s, stroll on Juhu beach, lanes of Colaba, never ending BMC grumbles, a quintessential middle class family life and memories of bygone events such as the Babri Masjid. Merging societal taboo topics with references, historic and prevalent, the author brings to light a view of the city which has withered it all, always developing and always letting the inhabitants dream.

Milk teeth proves to be satiating. Every wave of word, an insight, a marvel.

My rating:

The book has been longlisted for JCB prize 2019 and the love that the book has been gaining in such short duration is proof of it securing a position in the shortlist as well. I can bet all my money to see this one make it through.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Book Review of Sula by Toni Morrison

Sometimes we are quick to decide if we loved a book or not so much. But some books trick their way into your heart and mind. They just give you a momentous adjective to remember them by but sink in much later and for longer. Sula was one such for me. I always felt reading a Morrison would be pleasing. I was pleased to read her but her work is something more extravagant than being called “pleasing”.

Sula is about the mostly black community in Bottom, Ohio which is ironically an up hill area above the wealthier white locality, Medallion. Thriving in this town where National Suicide Day is a thing started by a WWI survivor, Shadrack to combat fear of death and amongst the typical black and white animosity is a thick friendship of Sula and Nel. Despite their contrasting backgrounds they are attached to each other all through their adolescent life. As the story progresses we see the graph of this friendship shifting patterns. The societal norms intervening, shaking and questioning a fond relationship and its beholders.

Morrison very ambiguously talks about good and evil, right and wrong, human morals, emotions and social conventions. In a way she challenges the reader to form opinions of their own about the aforementioned. Her writing backs up the idiosyncrasies of Sula as a character, while she talks of people and their lives, who are constantly caught up in the chains of race and gender.

Sula, as a character is one with whom you form a love hate relationship. You like how she is so non-withered with social obligations, distinct and you are furious and hurt when she tends to not think morally. Nonetheless, as a book Sula is highly recommendable as it explores female companionship unbelievably well, apart from the other elements of family and relationships.

Every page worth the time is Sula for you, concisely.

My Rating:


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Book Review of The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas

I was exceptionally pleased to discover this hidden gem. My piqued curiosity to know how art can form a base for the book attracted me towards reading it. It is a theme I enjoy exploring. The Empty Room is a piece of exquisite writing. It highlights some important aspects needed for a progressive society giving us glimpses of patriarch, dominance and political rifts in a state.

The Empty room is a book set in 1970’s. We are in Karachi, Pakistan and enter a household with Tahira, in which she is newly married. This household fails to mark its first good impression on the reader and what sparks up is inquisitiveness, plethora of questions to ponder over.The story proves to be immersive at its start. It revolves around Tahira adjusting in this family of jeering females and a husband whose character is like a hologram sticker showing various reflective sides. She struggles to make a connection with her work of art until an accident seizes the two pillars of support she always turned to.In her moments of grief, solitude and memorabilia she finds her way back to her passion and creates a series of paintings; which is also an ode to her loss.The book showcases the power of politics,how it can uproot people and their lives and affect a family so deeply.

The hero here is the writing. The kind of writing which carves the characters, eventually making them the driving force of the book. Sadia Abbas takes supreme care to intricately sketch her characters, not very distinct as we often read about a dominating abusive male/female fraternity yet demarcated with a finesse of portrayal. The vision that she brings to you with the mere power of her words is commendable. She makes it easy for the reader to imagine the scenarios which run in the book, pertaining to specific characters. The prose is elaborate,lustrous and poetic; a sublime combination of the three. I had minor qualms with some situations in the plot and wished it were presented a bit differently and didn’t agree to, nevertheless not stealing the light from the positives.

An addition to Pakistani literature which mustn’t be ignored and which certainly needs to see some limelight.

Thank you Zubaan Books for the review copy.

My Rating:

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Book review of I, The Salt Doll by Vandana Mishra

My experience with memoirs this year has been extremely satisfying. With each, I got to peek in the authors life but what’s worth mentioning is the way these have been presented and written. Starkly different and impressive. Vandana Mishra paints a picture of Bombay, one which I have never known, and the charm of reading something which you have never known and know it differently now is unsurpassed.

We meet people who are honest, warm, friendly with humanity ingrained in their characters. Where do we find such people now I wonder? The author traces her life from moving in the city first, her chawl life, struggles her mother took to raise the children up and her first step towards one thing she loved- theatre. Theatre is abundant in this memoir. My feeble knowledge of it didn’t allow me to rejoice it completely but for connoisseurs of theatre, this book is a keeper. The theatre sees her as the rising star, as an established actress stepping down for a better family life and a come back face in her later years.

Vandana Mishra’s writing is simple yet effective. The puns and satire she pulls over the songs made today, over the prices of groceries and nature of people in comparison to yester years is witty and remarkable. I found myself giving her the nod. Apart from the book being a sea of people, it is full of cult movie references and theatre life. I browsed through her life with ease observing the shifting paradigms of Bombay as a city. As the city is very close to my heart, I love whatever is offered to me bound in these pages. The translation from the original Marathi text has been done commendably by Jerry Pinto. The staple and traditional food, culture and typical Marathi household has been very well described, brought me happy nostalgia.

In here is a strong woman, will power cemented in her personality, plaintive and so it seems, with no lines of worry on her face, sailing through the ocean called life.

My Rating:

Friday, 23 August 2019

Book Review of Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra

Reading Remnants of a separation was intensive for it encloses in itself the stories on partition which give a jolting but lingering aftertaste, similar to one which is observed after savouring a hot cup of tea.

We time travel into the lives of people before, during and after partition through material memory- a concept of memorabilia through objects.We walk hand in hand through this emotional journey of revisiting a past which one deliberately doesn’t want to recall for all it brings back is loss. Loss of an era where humanity was held prime, of a culture which depicted oneness and of their home and loved one’s.

In here are 19 handpicked stories emotive, evocative and colloquial, you almost feel you are a part of that conversation hearing them in the same living room they sit to talk about it. The recollections of past made is stimulated by the objects they have with them in possession now from across the border, which they once called home. Be it a regionalist who often slips “farak toh hai”, there is a difference between Hindus and Muslims in their dialogues or a nationalist who keeps India and its people as a whole in his heart, we hear a unanimous voice saying- Partition will always be a horror, a massacre to never be remembered. And so when questioned - do you remember those times and what it was like, were answers only justifying the reason of time. “Eventually and Inevitably, one does forget”. Reading about kinship among people before partition with zero grounds of religion felt like a tender keepsake.

Calling It a beautifully written and compiled book would be an understatement with respect to the work that has gone in creation of something so substantial and harrowing. It makes your heart skip a beat, there is a lump in your throat and you don’t realise how long you were holding that sigh inside of you when you finally let it out, in awe. No matter how much I try to express it, reading this book will always remain an aesthetic experience, one that won’t blossom with magnanimity in my words but will stay wrapped up in my heart, only to be re-opened at certain instances.

If you are looking for that one perfect book on Partition, your search ends here. This is "A must must read".

My Rating:
Nothing less than ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 glorious stars.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Book review of Don't Run, My Love by Easterine Kire

The anxiousness of trying out a new author is like exploring a new city. You don’t know what you might end up loving. With no clue of how an author writes and what her literary strength is, a book is worth the time when you close it feeling happy and satiated.

My first encounter with Easterine Kire and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Her prowess of weaving a world and filling it with a simplistic beauty of words is what I admired the most. Don’t run, My love by Kire took me back to my childhood when hearing and reading Indian folklore and folktales were a special part of growing up. I was in a phase of sheer nostalgia while reading this little black book.

It is a simple story of Visenuo and Atuonuo, a mother and a daughter who are going about their day with their routine work when they meet Kevi, a young Hunter. With his loving demeanour and persona he easily slips into their life until they come to know there’s more to him. Kevi’s vicious angry nature with turn of events reveals a side of him which is animalistic. The rest that follows is their will to escape him. The story is inspired from the folk tales of “were-tiger” (tekhumevi) which was believed to be prevalent in earlier times. A legend we must have heard stories of in our childhood too.

I specifically love a book which does not boast of its literary power. Adorned with meaningful writing, however simpleton it might be Kire swooped me in with the first page and made her case with a strong story dusted with thrill, a little message of reflection over human behaviour and modest characters.

There is no bad time to read this one. It is one which can be picked up at any moment and relished, especially if short books are your jam.

My Rating:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 ( I loved it more than a 4 star but since I do not have any comparison scale of her other works it would be a 4 for now)

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

“The world was hers for the reading.” – Betty Smith

I get asked this a lot of times- How do you manage to read? And with a kid? My first reaction to this question most of the times is a very casual shrug implying- I don’t know. Doesn’t it happen on its own? I used to take this question for granted thinking, it is embedded in me that my free time is an automatic action of me going and picking a book and spending that half hour without any distractions until I realised that it might not be the case for all. When I spoke to my peers and they said they don’t find time to read is when I gave this question a closer and grave look. It took me nearly a year to get back to a full-fledged reading schedule after my son was born. What I never left doing was, trying.

The prime importance to do a task is our intention of doing it. We might put our heart into it if it appeals to us and if we intend to see it as a success or we might just let it pass giving ourselves excuses which we know are make-believe things when we don’t want the burden of guilt on us. It goes the same way for inducing a reading schedule in your day. If you have always been a reader it will not be hard for you to come face to face with your choice of reading genre and immersing yourself in a good book. For starters, it can get a little tricky. The phase of exploration will be much longer for you, where you get to know yourself as a reader. Does mystery thrill you? Are you a classic lover? Or more of a YA (Young Adult) reader? These are some questions you might want to answer in your mind.
Moving on to the “how” part of reading- How to fit reading in my schedule? How can we read more? Etecetra. I am listing down easy tips and tricks to get started with reading after a gap or sneaking in a good reading time in your busy day.

·    If you have always been a reader, pick a book or a genre you know will not disappoint you. It could be your most favourite book which you read years back.
·   Always travel with a book. I cannot stress enough on this point. Travelling with a book brings in some handy reading time. Your commute to the office would never have felt better nor waiting for a friend in a café who is in a habit of getting late.
·   Indulging in a solitary tea break at work is no sin! Scoop up some 10-15 pages with your tea or coffee and return to your desk feeling refreshed. This also applies if you are a freelancer or usually work from home.
·   Bedtime isn’t just for kids, it’s for you too! Cosy up with a book before your bedtime and give yourself this half hour of mindful therapy. The benefits are numerous, primarily offering you a de-stressing sleep.
·   Last but the most important of all- We are so much habituated to our phones that even one notification makes us jump and look at the screen. Take a break! At least, during your bed time reading try keeping your phone away for this half hour.
·   A special tip for the mums out there- Never shy away from reading because your kid is around or may spoil your books. The more he/she sees you with your book, the more interested he will be towards reading as well. It’s okay, give him his own picture book to read and if he doesn’t want it, let him have his own sweet time while you devour some pages before getting back to regular mommy chores.

These are some general hacks to read more or get back to reading for anyone willing to. To the new moms and moms of fairly younger children, I just want to say to you- Let this new role of parenting not deprive you of the person that you were before. Take out time for the things you always loved doing. These form a part of our self-care routine and is important for us to function better. Don’t you think only then can we enjoy the giggles of our little one’s more.

I have some more posts planned with respect to reading better. So, let me know in comments if you like the post and what more would you like to read about here on Flip-a-leaf.
The unlikely adventures of Shergill Sisters-Balli Kaur Jaswal

Reading the author’s new was like taking a route travelled before. It had similar traits and along I drove on to meandering paths keeping my keen eyes open for any new discovery. It was a good journey nevertheless.

It is the story of Shergills.Mother Shergill leaves a letter for her daughters upon her death asking them to take a pilgrimage trip to India and dust her ashes.The three Shergill Sisters are not very happy about this plan as they do not get along.They still do it for the sake of their mother. What sheds on this journey is their baggage which each one has been carrying since a long time, their self doubts and fake assurances to themselves. We see the wall between them and their emotions melting giving way to a newly formed sibling relationship and respect. The book also talks about how as immigrants they view India, a lot of keenness towards the locales and little struggles to establish connect to their mother’s roots.I liked how Balli Kaur Jaswal maintained the plainness of their immigrant status.No over enthusiastic patriot-ness. The story touches emotional grounds where the daughters are seen reminiscing their mother together and sometimes in solitude. The author is immensely talented to eloquently articulate humour squeezed out from very real, relatable and everyday situations binding you in splits of laughter.

While I loved how warm, funny and smooth this book was I also felt that the predictability factor was quite high. It was easy to navigate through the book for the same reason. Nevertheless, it keeps the reader hooked and you want to know if what you guessed was right or wrong. Had it been any longer it would have felt dragged.I think this could make a great screen adaptation. I really enjoyed reading it.

It doesn’t beat Erotic stories for Punjabi widows hands down but makes an ideal pick for days when you feel gloomy and sick. This one will just perk your mood up.

My rating:

Thank you Harper Collins India for the review copy.(#gifted)

Thursday, 1 August 2019

10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

Every time I enter her territory, it is with a clean slate.Knowing her writing flair and her presentation capabilities I take pride in knowing her work before I delve into her book only to be proven wrong.Each time! And it is the only time I don’t feel berated of having been done so.This blue beauty just left me with a gaping sigh of relief, which came from the awe of reading it.

It begins with The End,the story of “Tequila”Leila-a prostitute.Reels and snippets of life run in her active brain for the last 10 minutes and 38 seconds before she would be found dead and eventually buried.Her memories traverse from her childhood to the day she left home to arrive in Istanbul.Reading about Leila’s strenuous childhood was accompanied by excruciating bouts of anger and distress. She continues to think about the brothel street,her friends and love, found and lost.Each phase of her life is associated with a flavour or an aroma.The author presents the book seamlessly recording the thought going on in Leila’s mind at every minute introducing us to characters which are broken, flawed and yet adept of piercing us with their persona.

The book is divided into three parts:The Mind- which has Leila’s closest thoughts,some which she says out loud and some which she keeps for her own musings. A very strong character and one that you will remember for a long time.

The Body-which decides she should be buried in the cemetery of companion-less. It was upsetting to know this exists in real. People who have no family to perform a funeral are buried here, as the name says- "companion-less". What is really debatable is why should Leila be buried here. She has friends like family and she isn't alone or abandoned. Her friends take it in their stride to move Leila's body from this cemetery and burying her with the respect she deserves. What follows is the hassle accompanied by some light moments her friends have together. I loved how the human relationships have been explored in the book. Not tied by blood but similar situations in a city which has silenced them speaks volumes about Shafak's dexterity in giving them a voice and a reason to be heard. Leila being the prime character was present through out the book; before and after her death in their thoughts, actions, prayers and the slightest thing which would begin by -"If Leila heard that.." and trail off with a sigh which showed how much her presence was missed. I highlight this to say that though we see Leila's five friends in action after the first half, her aura remains.

Lastly, The Soul-which sees her free in her spirits, just like she always wanted to be.

With its poignant and beautiful writing it talks of eternal friendships and identity crisis in a multi-faced city like Istanbul,one which is caught in political rift.For once I saw how moroseness can be encapsulated in words of solace and solidity.Not only is the author a brilliant storyteller with a writing finesse, she drafts her characters with a weight which isn’t easy to shake off.It is their verve, fervour and will which catches immediate attention.

It was everything I wanted Shafak’s next to be and everything which I couldn’t fathom.

My rating:

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

For a year this book was on my to-be-read stack.Every time I saw someone praising it on the net was the time I’d say myself-next month for sure.The excitement had built up and I’d often imagine what it’d be like when I finally read it.The fear came along; what if I don’t like it much just as everyone else.But,the happiness of reading this beauty was extraordinary.It was like opening a can of soda after it has been shook,the bottled emotions bubbling out subsiding eventually.

It is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze and how they strive to keep their love alive even after being separated geographically.Ifem moves to New York for her studies as the conditions in her home country Nigeria become politically grave.While Obinze,nurturing his dream of going to America never makes it there and deals with his own set of challenges until he settles down in Nigeria.What is it that the future holds for both of them? This might look like a very stereotyped love story,but it is not. What makes it special is Adichie’s craftsmanship to sew a book which talks about race,immigrants, challenges when you are a Non-American Black,hopes and finding roots simultaneously focusing on people which remind you of home and which define “love”.

Americanah speaks of race like no other. With abundance knowledge it pulls a satire and explains what black immigrants go through when they first move to US. It was appalling to know that hair could be such a major racial issue.I always thought hair was hair,is it not how it must be looked at?The blogs Ifem writes,about such differences were eye opening and entertaining,together.The book talks of black-stratum not only in the US but UK too.They appear parallelly co-incident.
I was amazed at the propensity with which the words came hitting.I welled up to them sometimes, they made me smile and often cracked me up.The part which describes Obama’s win as the US President emancipated the hopes with which people had clinged to him.I got so emotionally bound to those words that after ages a book found me tearing up.It brought me the memory of his winning speech which I saw on the television.It gave me the goose bumps again.

Not only does Adichie write with gravity,it is her characters that carry a similar persona.I admired the way Ifem voiced out her thoughts.I wished to be blunt like her. I loved how Obinze was so placate in his demeanour.They aren’t flawless characters but that is why I love them more. This is a must read book to explore Adichie’s power of transporting you with her words and placing you in the characters shoes, to admire her writing prowess and to know the factual importance of race when it comes from one of the most developed countries in the world.My mind lingered on to this book for days refusing to leave me.I was able to write only when the cognizant waves calmed down after hitting the shore.

Must must must read!

My rating:

Saturday, 13 July 2019

The Aunt who wouldn’t die- Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

This book came to me at a very opportune moment. Just when I was reeling with after effects of Americanah feeling heavy headed, I picked this little up. The Aunt who wouldn’t die is a light and entertaining novella carrying in its undercurrents societal issues concerning women. Translated from Bengali,it is a story about three generations of women who have distinct personas; Somlata mature for her age and intelligent, Roshomoyee-repressed by society but bold and Boshon-a feminist in the making.

It is a short book which revolves around a household of aristocrats in Kolkata who are exceptionally rich.They are brought to the verge of nothingness as the males in this family have never been conditioned to work for a living. It is then that newly wed Somlata decides to steady the household again.She convinces her husband to work and they start and establish the business together. While at it,her Pishima(Roshomoyee) who suffers an untimely death keeps haunting her. She troubles her(a lot) but also provides her information about her own family. She was a child widow and was guarded under extreme societal norms made for widows during that time.Her voice in the book made me realise how much the women especially widows in our country have been deprived of.Years later,Somlata’s daughter is born- Boshon,who is a vibrant girl,non-fearing and opinionated.But there is more to her identity. The story is presented through the narratives of both, the mother and daughter.

Being a very breezy book,with no hiccups and a smooth story with hints of magical realism, it very efficiently targets patriarch, female status in society and some fierce feminist opinions without making you feel exhausted because most of the times books dealing with such topics in prime can be gruelling. It is finely translated and maintains the essence of a Bengali household. I love it when as a reader I can feel the originality and the roots in a translated literature novel.

Looking for something small,nice and meaningful? Pick this up!

My rating:

Thank you to the publisher bee.books for the review copy #gifted

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Of love and other demons by Gabriel García Márquez

Can he surprise me any more by his magical realism prowess? The answer to that is Yes (of course) but it is beyond my imagination to look for the “how” in it. If his short length books are so impressive, I cannot fathom the havoc his longer books will create. It will be nothing less than a tornado uprooting me inside out.

Before I dwell into the plot of the book I want to take a moment to marvel and applaud the metaphoric narrative used by Gabo to describe love and situations alike. Just as love can rekindle joy and hope it can also destroy; be it self destruction or a relationship being murdered at loss of love. This wonderfully manufactured book talks of love as a disease, the most ecstatic feeling and a demon. To comprise all this in a well knit prose is a mark of literary excellence.

Sierva Maria is bit by a rabid dog but doesn’t diagnose of rabies for a long time although it plaques. With an instigated fear and superstition, mislead by people around town her father, the Marquis sends her to convent where a priest is to perform exorcism on her to relieve her from the demonic possession, as concluded. Instead of giving her copious doses of love that she was stricken of since childhood, the Marquis chooses otherwise. The conclusion of the book is breathtaking and magical.

“Of love and other demons” is morose, brimming with love; deprived, found and lost gilded with Márquez’s lustrous writing.

I can’t wait to read his two other works- Love in the time of Cholera which bears certain resemblances to this one in terms of love metaphorised as an epidemic and One hundred years of solitude which is considered his masterpiece.I hope I read them this year so I can declare myself a true lover of Gabo’s work.

My Rating:
Must read! Highly recommend.

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