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.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Reading Lolita in Tehran-Azar Nafisi

Out of all the books I have read this year until now,this one holds and will always hold a special place in my heart.There could be a million reasons for it and if we,you and me,sat physically talking about this book opposite each other,you would find me speaking non-stop;presenting you with the affect,the intensity and the beauty that this book holds in itself.

We enter the life of the author with a scene where she is preparing for her Thursday class,at her home.Here,she and her female students read the rich and banned literature.These Thursday mornings are filled with discussions over books like-Lolita and The Great Gatsby and authors like Henry James,Fitzgerald,Nakobov and Austen. Azar Nafisi pens down her life and let’s us view it through the literary lens.

Tehran has been shown under tumultuous times of Iraqi war attacks,revolution and student rebellion for the favour of Islamic rule under Ayatollah Khomeini,putting into action rules majorly for women,like the mandatory wearing of the veil,no make up,a scrutinising check up of a female body even while entering the university.Our author who teaches at the university isn’t able to come to terms with such forced behaviour. What we read are her stances,her struggle with her thoughts and her finding comfort in the literature she taught-listening to her students present their viewpoint on the aforementioned authors and their works.While some POV’s which come from male students make you aggressive and seem baseless it is the women voices in the book which are strong and for a split second you feel proud reading their arguments.And these only made me wonder-does putting them under a veil and imposing an oppressive society shun them of their voice,of their intelligent thoughts and of their choices?It shouldn't. But they apparently do.Here are women who break the chain of repression and choose a life which they “want” and dream for themselves.“Happily ever after”an ending we often hear of,couldn’t have been portrayed better,than in this book.It made my heart swell to see these free spirits-be it the choice made over faith or their will.

The bookish references, debates, defences and acceptances have been so well explained that for someone like me who hasn’t read Lolita it was enough to know how gruelling and deeply affecting the book is.With piercing and beautiful prose it just connects you with the characters, the situations and the ambiguities faced by Nafisi.

I might have made a shoddy attempt at its review but let it not stop you from reading it. I never seem to carve out perfect words for the things which impact me immensely.

A life memoir over books I absolutely recommend!

My Rating:

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Nakano Thrift shop by Hiromi Kawakami

It was my first time reading Japanese literature, something other than Murakami. And the experience of having read them was poles apart; where one leaves you with immense number of questions and musings, the other leaves a likeable fragrance afterwords.

Hitomi and Takeo are employees at a thrift store run by Mr. Nakano. The stories that follow are unusual which demonstrate a certain kind of love or tell a tale about the objects from this thrift shop. Amidst the buzz of selling these objects and going about the day in a thrift store are some budding friendships, blossoming love, heartbreaks, string of emotions and a bout of heavy memorabilia. There are very small things which will catch your eye in the book and amuse you. I loved the last chapter where the close knit work family sits together and jokes around about the bygone days in good humour. Very seldom do we meet such people but when we read about such togetherness a lot, it only fills us with hope.

The writing is smooth and flows at a constant pace. Non-monotonous with interesting and inquisitive characters and apt chapter names for a thrift shop present the book very well. Bits of humour enliven the reading atmosphere. With no major qualms as such, I just felt that it could have been a shorter book, if some part of the narrative was condensed. It would have made it more crisp. Nonetheless, it is a book of delight and one to enjoy. Looking out for Strange weather in Tokyo now.

My rating:
Make it your next vacation book, and you won’t regret.

Monday, 1 July 2019

84 Charing Cross road by Helene Hanff

A cool breeze on a summer night, warm sunshine on a wintry morning and a rain shower on a scorching day. This book is everything which can make you feel positive, happy and loved. Helene Hanff is a reader and an aspiring writer in New York who contacts the bookshop by the name of 84 Charing crossroad in London for certain edition copies and from here on starts the series of letters exchanged between two bibliophiles which develops into a friendship, so real and across boundaries. It was heartwarming to read about it. The author with her wit and humour makes the journey of reading this memoir pleasant.

There is a second part to the book mostly referred as the sequel - The Duchess of Bloomsbury, which sees Helen Hanff travelling to London for the events in line to her published book(84 Charing Cross road) and making more friends, one’s which make her stay in London worthwhile and memorable.

I don’t think I will ever read a light, endearing and a happy memoir such as this. It talks of literary connects, Helene’s book choices and favourites as a reader and a traveller who humorously draws out differences between her home country and the one where she’s a tourist. There is no way a passionate book lover and keeper will not nod along to the bibliophile-way-of-life described in the novel.

I absolutely recommend reading this book because it reminds us that we need such little things to make good friends and be content. The friends might not stay along forever in our journey of life but they can always be a part of something beautiful that life is. If I plan to write a memoir some day, I would want it to look as blithely positive as this one.

It reminded me of the Bookstagram community too. How all of us here bond over books and how it has been a starting point for many to get into life long friendships. Has it not?

My rating:

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