All posts by vasudhachandnagulati

Just Another Day by Piyusha Vir

Just another day

Just Another Day by Piyusha Vir, is a set of 3 stories to delight sting in the tail enthusiasts. All written from the first person point of view each story progresses in a chronological manner – back and forth. Within the scope of limited words Vir manages to create relatable characters in a breezy style.

In the first story, Writer’s Circle, an author closeted in a room with other murder suspects only wants to get back to her writing, was perhaps the one I related to the most. Come hell or high water when there is a thought brewing in the mind, nothing, nothing takes precedence for a writer. As the story progresses the cold blooded opinions of Anuradha have one engaged right to the denouement, when the murderer and their motive is subtly revealed.

The second story is innocuously titled – Happy birthday, Saisha. Technically in this story Vir displays a deft hand at foreshadowing, which is both mature and surprising from an author with so few stories under her belt. An author to watch out for sure. But back to the story, one would have read somewhere in the news about an incident similar to what Saisha experiences on her birthday. However, one would not have read the thoughts of a girl who goes through such a birthday. Vir’s handling of the story has you gripping the edge of your seat in an innervation that rises slowly from the pit of your stomach leaving you with the metallic zing of disquiet.

The last story in this triad is Elevator Tales, a smile found itself to my lips as nostalgia hit me unawares. Everyone will relate to this story. All women would have memories of crushes on a handsome dude. If he lived next door that certainly would be the icing on the cake, wouldn’t it? For men too, I’m sure the feelings are the same. Vir’s characters rush of hormones have been experienced by all of us. Sighing and building sandcastles of a future together, embarrassing incidents and certainly being at our undignified best in front of the object of our affections might have been suffered by many of us. Yet, the fondness of those memories is what this story evokes ending with a slight twist to romance.

Just Another Day by Piyusha Vir on the face of it looks like a collection of quick shots at a day where life changing events occur for three individuals, but the depth of thoughts are more than what one would bargain for. Published by Readomania, this collection is available only on kindle @Rs 49 for now. Click here to buy.

Bonds Over Books

Whats-a-book-beyond-the-words
Picture Source

A friend reminded me, after my last post how she had been a part of my reading escapades in school. I took a long trip back into childhood and had an epiphany – that my closest friendships have always been with readers.

As I let nostalgia take me on a ride down to my early years of pre-primary and primary in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I gazed with wonder at Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Huckleberry Finn, Dicken’s and a dozen others scattered over my bed. With it came the memory of my first ‘bosom’ friend, Nanda D Gurbani she was to me what Diana was to Anne of Green Gables. Petit and pretty and oh so perfect. Malory Towers and St Claire’s made us Sigh for boarding school and our exasperated parents complied. She was packed off to MGD in Jaipur and I equally unceremoniously waved off to Welhams, Dehradun. With impressive promises and fervent oaths we hoped to keep in touch and then faced with the vagaries of the postal system lost touch forever. I name her here since I do hope there is someone reading it here who will put me in touch with her again.

My first night at boarding school is when I met a minx with a ropes of curls, who I will forever address with her surname and never with her given one. She and I bonded over thousands of pages of adventure and misadventure, classics and non-classics. Both of us would be placed together in dorm after dorm till we parted after the 10th grade. We would exchange books and read them by torchlight, sweating under the covers of our uninspiring counterpanes. After a hiatus of college, marriage and kids we were united by Facebook many years later to my delight.

During the Welham years, there were two more with whom I forged bonds over books that last till today. With one I was her partner in crime. We hid the books we wanted to read from others behind obscure titles in the school library. We borrowed for ourselves and shared with each other, breaking rules of asking the owners before further sharing their books. But, then loyalty was always towards each other and no one else. We coerced relatives and friends with well-worded letters about the horrible loneliness of boarding school, and how the mentioned title would relieve us of it somewhat. Some of our letters were heeded and some sadly went to unsympathetic postees. The one or two books that did trickle in managed to find their senders places of fondness in our hearts till they too turned unsympathetic and were relegated to the dark recesses of a hurt child’s psyche, never to trust such adults again. We read and read, then discussed each book to shreds – dismayed at a character’s sorrows and jubliant at their fortunes.

Then there was the other friend, a delightful cuddle on whose lap I put my head and we read the great romances – Gone With The Wind, Far Pavilions, Thorn Birds; the sagas of Sheldon, Archer, Segal, Steele. A quirk she had which I never understood – reading the end of the book first!! Sacrilege, if there was any term for it! The anticipation of the end is always the most exciting part of the read, I debated. With the coolness that to her was second nature she bothered not to respond. I still have never ever tried to read an end before the rest of a story. The magic would be lost and I still wonder at her. The eternal romantic she found treasures we read, my head on her lap – one book in her hand and another in mine.

School ended and college began. Another girl became my concomitant to the bookstores in the neighbourhood. We shared the same name in addition to a quirkiness of the mind. We bonded over the stories we read and defied the seriousness of the world, laughter rang out and continues to over the love for books and the ridiculousness of the world. She is the one who brings out the ‘stupid’ in me and makes me realise that solemnity is actually a vice. To her I owe in friendship more, in madness even more.

There came a long period of lull, in which I read rather alone. Then came along a group so Drunk-on-books, sobriety suits them not. We read the woes of the world, dissect each aspect of writing and debate loudly on the author’s voice. We eat and drink with the passion we reserve only for the venerated written word. We each bring into the discussion a viewpoint that another has not thought of, a perspective brought on from another way of life. Each book we read and discuss enriches the experience of looking at it through multifarious lenses. The women in this group are erudite warriors whose reading choices make me break out of my comfort zone to read books I would never have picked up otherwise. They are also my biggest support system and champions.

Another group that enriches my reading experiences is one of women who live around me. Rocking grandmothers who redefine the maxims of age and women of my age who rewrite the expectations of stereotypes make up this sapient group. Again the discussions are designed well and structured to be deep and meaningful. A different experience which releases wisdom from the written words of so many authors stimulates my intellect. With laughter and encouragement the group grows, with love and companionship we support.

Quoting PG Wodehouse to end this post, “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.” And I have beautiful friends to share not only literature with, but my life with, too.

Exodus by Leon Uris

exodus

It was way, way back somewhere in my teens when I read Exodus for the first time. When I asked to borrow it from the school library on the recommendation of a friend, I remember the librarian asking me if I should be reading such a thick book just as the exams were approaching. Then she said in a resigned manner, “Knowing you you’ll make short work of it.” And she was right for I devoured it, so to say. As a teenager Exodus by Leon Uris was an eyeopener but then as the young are wont to be idealistic and fired about one issue till the next one comes along, so was I. I forgot the book.
Last year, I read Mossad by Israeli journalists, Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, and therein awoke an itch to read Exodus again. I was looking for a copy of the book on kindle with little luck and bookstores around me surprisingly did not have one. So, when a friend said she had an ageing copy left to her by her Grandma, I jumped at the chance and requisitioned it. After these many years I remembered the story vaguely, but knew that it had made an impact. In my teens I had read Exodus in 2 days, in my 40s it took me longer. If you are a lifelong student of English Literature and a voracious reader like me you would have read numerous books on the Holocaust seen from various perspectives. You would have researched various references to the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you would have some inkling of the rich history of the Jews. But, you would not necessarily have read how the modern State of Israel came into being, Leon Uris in Exodus gives this triumphant carving of an oasis by the Jews, within a text of 600 pages.

The fictional story begins in Cyprus where Jews fleeing from Europe are held in prison-like camps by the British and the reader is introduced to Ari Ben Canaan. A dashing mountain of a man, he is a member of Mossad Aliyah Bet. A man principled and committed to the land he is born to protect, he plans the escape of 300 children aboard the ship named Exodus, leaving the British shame faced in front of the entire world. He is aided by his Palmach team on the ground, a Cypriot sympathiser, an American journalist – Mark Parker and a reluctant American nurse – Kitty Fremont, in his audacious plan. For the plan to succeed there are two more characters essential: Karen Hansen Clement and Dov Landau. Two orphans of the holocaust, one saved by the Danes with all the faith of her people and the other condemned by the Poles filled with all the hate inflicted upon his. From there the story progresses to Palestine, controlled by the British, here more characters are introduced such as Barak Be Canaan and Avika, Ari’s father and uncle respectively. We meet Sarah who against all odds and torture by the British does not crack and Ruth who is representative of all the woman who rebelled at stereotypical roles and worked alongside the men in ditches and mud and emerged better at Dairy farming, these are Ari’s mother and Aunt. Johana, Ari’s sister, and Dafna, Ari’s love, both soldiers and members of the Haganah, the Jewish defence force redefine valour. Through the fictional back stories of the characters Uris reveals the historical truth of reclaiming of farmland from marshes and swamps by the sheer grit of the Jewish pioneers (Third Aliyah) and forming the various kibbutz (agricultural collective communities) and how each generation contributed to fighting for the dream of a homeland.

When I read the book as a teen I was fascinated by the story yet being from the generation that scoured libraries for information, I did not have enough resources to research much. Now I Googled almost every detail as I read, and came across fascinating information, which makes Exodus a compelling read.

I was further enthralled to discover the manner in which Hebrew became the spoken language of a nation. The state languages of Israel are Hebrew and Modern Arabic. Hebrew is the holy language of Judaism, the Jews across the world spoke Yiddish along with the language of the country they inhabited. There is no precedent to this revival of a language without any native speakers becoming a spoken language by several million as is with Hebrew. But then, the whole story of the revival of the State of Israel is a remarkable one rooted deep in Judaism.

Judaism is almost 3,000 years old, the first of the Abrahamic religions its texts, values and traditions influenced later Abrahamic religions including Christianity, Islam and the Baha’I Faith. The history of mankind is littered with story after story of man’s brutal greed, the Children of Israel too had to defend their lands from the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Ottomans, Crusaders and an endless list of muraders who wanted to gobble them up, resulting in creating the largest diaspora in the middle ages. The Jews scattered to save themselves and their faith from the yoke of tyranny, but did the world provide them with a safe heaven? Sadly not. What followed was racial prejudice, ghettos, pogroms, The Jewish Pale of Settlement and the Holocaust. From East to West for two thousand years the Jews wandered looking for dignity and freedom. They struggled, they strived, they adapted and were loyal to the nations they adopted. Very few accorded them the dignity and freedom they searched for whereas most gifted them with persecution and legal restrictions. The Jewish Question” is a very interesting term that I came across in Exodus and was appalled to understand the implications of it. Under the covers of this innocent sounding term is millennia of Anti-Semitism. But what is both terrifying and wonderous at once, is the faith of Judaism. That refused to die. Despite the foot of prejudice attempting to choke out the very breath from their windpipes, the Jews dug deeper hugging their faith close to their emancipated bodies. To fathom how after 2000 years of savage abuse, abysmal degradation and searing inhumanity, the Jewish people still kept their faith. Their belief that they were the chosen ones and the Messiah would one day lead them to their land of milk and honey, is nothing short of wonderous.

So, how did they keep their faith? In the folds of the book you will discern many reasons for this, but none resonated with me as much as this one about the pursuit of wisdom, Uris writes: Community life pivoted around the Holy Laws, the synagogue, and the rabbi, who was at once teacher, spiritual leader, judge and administrator of the community. The rabbis of the Pale were all great scholars. Their wisdom was far-reaching and rarely questioned… Indeed the community moved as one for the existence of all…The poor donated to the poorer. The poorer – to the poorer yet. Charity was the eleventh, the unwritten commandment. Leading scholars and religious leaders had to be cared for. Nothing was allowed to interfere with the pursuit of wisdom.

There were two aspects that disturbed me in the book. The first was the way the Arabs were portrayed by Uris. He describes them with a bias that is unsettling. In Uris’ words: The air was foul with the mixed aroma of thick coffee, tobacco, hashish smoke and the vile odors of the rest of the village; Nazareth stank. The streets were littered with dung and blind beggars… filthy children were underfoot. Flies were everywhere. How pathetic the dirty little Arab children were beside the robust youngsters of Gan Dafna. How futile their lives seemed in contrast to the spirit of the Youth Aliya village. There seemed to be no laughter or songs or games or purpose among the Arab children. This could be attributed in some part to the policy of the British. On November 2, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour sent his letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann, stating that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Balfour Declaration of 1917, gave Britain the administration of Palestine, with the understanding that it would work on behalf of both its Jewish and Arab inhabitants. As an Indian, I was not surprised and this became the second disturbing aspect in the book – how the British played Jews against Arabs. It is summed up neatly by Uris’ fictional character General Sir Clarence Trevor-Brown: The only kingdom that runs on righteousness is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdoms of the earth run on oil. The Arabs have oil. It is evident from the telling of the story that Uris holds a baised opinion about Arabs and the British.

I am told by a dear friend that The Haj by Leon Uris gives the Arab side of the story. I am now searching for it. Readers who own any Leon Uris books do hold on to your yellowing pages, these books are not easy to procure.

To just Leon Uris was an American Jew who as a war correspondent covered the Arab–Israeli fighting in 1956. His experiences and discoveries led to writing the Exodus which was first published in 1958 by Doubleday. Exodus went on to become an international publishing phenomenon, the biggest bestseller in the United States since Gone with the Wind (1936). It remained number 1, on the New York Times bestseller list for 19 weeks after its release. It initiated a new sympathy for the newly established State of Israel and fed the American minds with a twisted view of the Arab people. Celebrated by many it has also been denigrated equally, “As a literary work, it isn’t much. But as a piece of propaganda, it’s the greatest thing ever written about Israel,” said Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

The reason I liked the book immensely is stated in Uris’s dedication message : all those good folk who spend their chapters hating themselves, the world, and all their aunt’s and uncles…all those steeped in self-pity…all those golden riders of the psychoanalysis coach…I have shown the other side of the coin, and written about my people who, against a lethargic world and with little less than courage, conquered unconquerable odds.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

9780735220683

Books like this one make it easy to fulfil my promise of writing reviews. A much recommended book by two discerning reader friends (Devna & Kiranjeet: Thanks from the bottom of my bibliophilic heart), I downloaded it onto my kindle.

The story is rather straightforward. It revolves around the main protagonist, most obviously, Eleanor Oliphant and her dealings with the world. Ms Oliphant, as she would appreciate my addressing her, is not your run-in-the-mill kinda girl, she’s got issues. And her issues are not minor skirmishes with the world we all face, for she is a girl who looks at the world with different lenses from yours and mine. If you’ve read the Rosie Project or seen The Big Bang Theory, you would recognise in Eleanor similar oddly charming and socially challenging characteristics as Don Tillman and Sheldon Cooper. But, where the difference lies is that there lurks a sinister shadow in Eleanor’s life which the writer peels away layer by layer.

Eleanor Oliphant is 30 years old and a weird creature of habits. She needs her days to run just so. She has her meals in a certain way and at certain timings. She has worked at her first job for 9 years and has not ever thought of making any changes. One day Eleanor is thrown out of her comfort zone of her regulated schedules by two incidents: the first is when she sees the man she decides is the one she must marry and the second when she is drawn into helping an old man who has collapsed on the street. Both these incidents compel her to begin making serious changes in the way she lives. While the romantic interlude is planned by her in meticulous detail of self-improvement. The other results in throwing her life into a kilter. Where Gail Honeyman walks away my five star rating is how she makes Eleanor slowly creep into my heart as living, breathing relatable character.

Eleanor’s is a story about loneliness so intense it took my breathe away. She is 30 years old and asks: I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. She has not a single friend in the world, there are days when she is lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether her to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. She has worked in the same firm for 9 years and the threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday, but no one knows anything about her. Besides a social worker no one has ever walked over the threshold of her home. This is where the story begins. Honeyman points out a facet of modern day society which is alarmingly true: These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.

This also a heart-warming tale of friendship, of finding there are people who care, if we let them. Eleanor finds in Raymond a friend with whom she finds the gentle heat of something opening, the way some flowers spread out in the morning at the sight of the sun. I knew what was happening. It was the unscarred piece of my heart. It was big enough to let in a bit of affection. There was still a tiny bit of room.

But, for Eleanor Oliphant to be completely fine till she faces the sinister demons lurking on every page of her life. She needs to acknowledge the ghosts of her childhood in order to overcome the scars on her heart, just as thick and disfiguring as those on her face. Despite her self-imposed loneliness hope lingers in her heart, as she confesses in her own words, I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.

Reading up till now you might consider the book to be a sad and heavy story to be picked up with care. On the contrary Honeyman has incorporated delightful moments with Eleanor navigating the perplexing world. Eleanor’s self-improvement endeavours are hilarious, her observations on bikini waxes, manicures and high heels and why Starbucks needs to write her name on a cup had me in splits. She is shamelessly judgemental and delightfully perfect in her assessments of the human foibles. Her tactless comments are so refreshing, and to be honest we all think the same stuff as her, but just don’t utter it out aloud.

Some books leave you dissatisfied with the way they end. Some may feel the same for this one, however, I was not. Gail Honeyman has, with the end of the book done what is rarely done by authors: she has acted with a mature restraint. Would love to know if you agree. Read the book and do let me know.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

images

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder By Emma Donoghue, begins with a gloomy portrayal of a beautiful country, Ireland. Having visited the vibrant island a few months back, I was disconcerted to read Donoghue’s lacklustre words. What a contrast I thought to myself. Was the author, I speculated, giving credence to the main character Lib, by reflecting a British nurse’s prejudices towards the Irish? As I read further it struck me, that Emma Donoghue was employing the Gothic style of writing. The term Gothic in itself is intriguing, isn’t it? Gothic Literature refers to the style of writing that employs elements of fear, horror, gloom, death as well as romantic elements, such as nature, individuality, and very high emotion. These emotions can include fear and suspense. Set just a few years after the an Gorta Mór, The Irish Potato Famine (1845 – 1849) a period of mass starvation and disease, the famine remains a formidable character in the background of the story.

With hunger a dominant theme in the book, the story revolves around 11 year-old Anna O’ Donnell who has refused to eat for four months and still survives. The devout believe this is a miracle and flock to the O’ Donnell’s cabin to kiss the hems of this living saint. The cynical believe it is a hoax. So how is the dilemma to be resolved? A committee is formed comprising the influential of the village: a landlord, a doctor who believes Anna is his greatest scientific discovery, a priest who wishes to protect his church at all costs and a tavern owner. Each one has their own vested interest in proving the child is indeed a miracle. Anna needs to be observed and a period of two weeks is decided upon where the girl will be watched every waking and sleeping moment. But who would do the watching? Two nurses are hired – one from England, a pupil  of Florence Nightingale, the other a Sister of Mercy,  who has devoted her entire life in service to the sick. One nurse is an Irish Catholic nun and the other a British woman of science. What could be a more impartial watch.

I know a book is good when I read and get sucked into it. When I can see the characters as if they were walking parallelly with me. As I read The Wonder, I could feel the coldness of the rain and roughness of Lib’s tweed nursing uniform. The starched rustle of Sister Michael’s habit sent a my nerves jangling. I fell for the handsome William Byrne, so jaded by his profession who recognised the truth of Anna’s condition quicker than the trained nurse, Lib. I recoiled from the squalor of the O’Donnell’s cabin just like Lib and wanted to straighten out the sheets of Anna’s bed with her. I could taste the peat in the oatcakes served to Lib and identify with the guilt of eating in front of a child who had not eaten for months. While I could understand the love of a father in Malachy O’Donnell, yet like Lib not reconcile to his dumb acceptance. As a mother I could not even begin to comprehend the character of Rosaleen O’ Donnell.  I felt sorry for the slavey, Kitty who collapsed every night onto the hearth. But most of all I could relate to Lib’s scepticism, her determined pursuit to expose the fraud and then her horror at the unimagined truth she uncovers. The revelations at the end are not really surprising, yet had me gasping in horror.

This book reveals the power of religion over a devout child misguided by the adults who should have been protecting her. Zealotry is not something I understand. Not overtly devout, I found Anna’s faith difficult to connect to. With all kinds of deafening religious debate blocking out all sounds of sensible discourse these days, I found in this book the dangers of being ‘God fearing’. When the tenets of religion provoke only a sense of fear in the minds of children, there is something very wrong with what is being preached. Saying that, I cannot help but admire the power of religion over individuals. Or is it the power of the so-called upholders of religion – the preachers screaming from the pulpits? This is not a comment on one, but on religion at large. Today we see a world where children are used as suicide bombers, where in the name of saving cows they are lynched, and mobs attack a bus full of school children in the name of upholding the honour of a fictitious historical character. Which leads me to ask that one question which I’m sure all of us ask: When will they, the preachers, realise that they have an obligation to the people for whom they have made their bond of reverence?

I am part of three Bookclubs, I read The Wonder with one of them. A question asked there had me stumped: Who was or what was The Wonder in this book? I cannot find the answer, as I debate with myself: Was is Anna, the girl who did not eat? Was it Rosaleen O’Donnell’s style of mothering? Was it Lib’s commitment to her patient? Was it a priest’s need to protect his church at all costs? Was it a Doctor’s need to leave a legacy? Was it the acrid aftertaste left by the author’s skill that made me reluctant to write this review? What was it that overwhelmed me, I do not know. I hope, dear reader, you can answer this one for me.

To read more of my Book Reviews please click on:

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/the-truth-about-the-harry-quebert-affair/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-before-we-were-yours/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/book-review-a-window-to-her-dreams/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/in-the-light-of-darkness-book-review/

 

 

 

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair

the truth about the harry quebert affair

As I mentioned in my last post, I made a Godawful promise to myself and as a result spent 10 bookless days. Since January is too soon to give up on a New Year resolution and I must stick to it till February at least, I had to write the review and fast. This time I was smart, I wrote the review as I read along.

When I got my hands on this 615 pages long innocently titled The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker, to be honest I wasn’t very thrilled. Would you be with a title that long and cover page revealing an empty town? However, once I began I couldn’t stop. Hastily prepared meals, ignored emails and exercise regimes, and  feigned ignorance towards the needs of the spouse and kids, I finished the book in two days flat. Well…two days and one all-nighter.

By now I must have piqued your interest, so without further ado, let me share the many reasons why you must read The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

For a good juicy Mystery

If there is one thing I absolutely abhor is the Rubix Cube. I am convinced Erno Rubix invented the damn thing to flummox the likes of me. I manage to solve one colourful (generally blue, since that’s my favourite colour) side and then the all the other sides resemble a punk’s dream come true. In school and college my friends gave up and now my kids have given up on trying to explain the ‘simple’ funda (as they call fundamentals) behind solving it. My daughter when she was 11 shared a YouTube video too hoping I would get it, but NADA. And then the Piramix, astride my Whizkid son’s palm, walked into our home. Let me not even get started on my battles with this Rubik’s cousin from hell. You may be wondering why I’m lamenting on my incapability to handle this ‘simple’ puzzle when the post is about a book deceptively named The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair.  The reason is rather simple (please, detect sarcasm here).

Fanny Blake of the Daily Mail describes the book as ‘An expertly realised, addictive Russian doll of a whodunnit’, I cannot find a better expression than hers. Having read whodunnit’s from an early age, there is not much that comes as a surprise in books anymore, and even though I had guessed who had ‘dunnit’ early into the read, Dicker made it tough to say: Aha! I knew it, at the very end. Every turn of the page became interesting as new information was revealed and confused the hell out of me on who would be the inglorious murderer. Joël Dicker can probably solve the Rubik’s cube and the Piramix with a few twists like my progeny, but I’m convinced he also can break it down to its spare parts and join them together without breaking a sweat. For he sure broke the plot of this book down, scattered the pieces, let his pet or offspring run riot over it and then put the pieces back together in the most ingenious novel within a novel. If that isn’t reason enough for you to pick up the book here’s the next.

You should read it for the protagonist, Marcus’s Mom

The most fun conversations happen between Marcus and his Mom. To the son’s frustration he just has to say something and the mother twists it into something else entirely, these conversations brought out many a chuckle of delight as I read on. She is the quintessential mother, always questioning all her son’s actions and choices resulting in hilarious conversations with her bewildered  child, who needed to get on with investigating a murder, exonerating his mentor and writing a book all at the same time. If I were Marcus, I wouldn’t have lasted, I would marry the first woman I came across just to shut her up. Sarcastic Moms have always been my favourite characters in books and Mrs Goldman lives up to the expectation and more. Need more reasons to read the book? Well, here’s the next.

If you are a budding writer

Read it for the dollops of writing advice dished out by Harry Qubert to his protégé Marcus. The many doubts I constantly deal with, are answered in this book with equanimity.  Here’s one to whet your appetite: “A new book, Marcus, is the start of a new life. It’s also an act of great generosity: You are offering, to whoever wishes to discover it, a part of yourself. Some will love it, some will hate it. Some will worship you, others will despise you. Some will be jealous, others will be curious. But, you’re not writing it for them. You’re writing it for all those who, in their daily lives, will enjoy a sweet moment because of Marcus Goldman. You may say that doesn’t sound like much, but its actually quite something. Some writers want to change the world. But who can really change the world?” 

You still need more reasons, right? Phew! Demanding, aren’t we.

Well here’s the last one. Every book should leave you with having something you would like to go back to again and here’s one from this one I wanted to share for all those who spend most of their life worrying about reaching the top of the mountain.

Harry:   “So you felt like you’d won?”

Marcus: “Yes, I did. Even if technically, I lost the match, I felt as if I had won.”

Harry:   “Well, there’s your answer: It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. What matters is how you fight between the first bell and the last one. The result of the match is just a piece of news for the public. Who can say you lost if you feel like you’ve won? Life is like a foot race, Marcus: There will always be people who are faster than you, and there will always be those who are slower than you. What matters, in the end, is how you ran the race.”

Amazing, right? So simple, yet a resounding message about what life should really be about.

I now gleefully reach out for my next read The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. Watch this space or rather my blog for the review.

 

 

Book Review: Before We Were Yours

Before-We-Were-Yours-Cover-Web-Res

As a year-end promise to myself, I decided to write a review of every book I read in 2018. To ensure I fulfilled my intentions, I further restricted myself to not beginning another read, before I wrote the review. Phew! Did I set myself a tough one. Any voracious reader will understand how difficult restraint is. Reading is like a drug, I go from one fix to the next with scarcely a break.  And here I am like the lawyer in Anton Chekov’s The Bet stuck with my own capriciousness, I sure hope I  don’t end up disillusioned like him. The thing with promises we make to others is,- we can get out of them by breaking them with maybe self-righteous justification or disappointed begging-off . However, when one makes a promise to oneself you, or rather me, gets stuck with Launcelot’s ‘hard conscious.’  Now with multiple goodreads lining up my bedside table towards which my fingers repeatedly stretch out, till my promise smacks them away, you can surely understand the predicament I’ve stuck myself with.

So, here are my thoughts on the first of the many books I will read in 2018.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Based on a notorious adoption scandal involving Georgia Tann, a child trafficker who separated children from their birth parents under the cover of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, an adoption agency in Memphis, Tennessee. From the 1920s to when the home was shut down in 1950, Tann perpetuated numerous adoption frauds. To the public Tann was the acclaimed ‘mother of modern adoptions’ consulted even by Eleanor Roosevelt and feted by the rich and influential. She owned a mansion, threw lavish parties and roamed around Memphis in a chauffeur driven Limousine. To the families whose children were taken away, Georgia Tann was their worst nightmare come true. For all who were taken by her were not unloved orphans, but infants taken away from unwed mothers who were told their children were born dead, kidnapped toddlers from their doorsteps or when they were on their way from school, snatched children from destitute people claiming they were unfit parents, and the list goes on. The children were then sold to wealthy families via advertisements in newspapers with catch lines like “Yours for the Asking” and “Perfect Christmas Presents”.  Over thirty years Tann got away with her despicable acts with the promise that the children “They are blank slates. They are born untainted, and if you adopt them at an early age and surround them with beauty and culture, they will become anything you wish them to be.” There is much more to the sordid story of Georgia Tann, but then the book is not about her, it is about the lost children of Tennessee.

Before We Were Yours is a fictional story straddling the past and the present. The past is of 90 year-old Rill and her siblings who were torn by Georgia Tann, from the loving arms of parents who were poor, yet the children were loved. The present is Avery Stafford who looks uncannily like Rill’s sister Fern. The story speaks of an old woman who due to Alzheimer’s is losing her memory and her sister who remembers too much. It is about a family which has too much to lose if the truth gets out and about women who do not want to disrupt the lives of those they cherish. Wingate’s novel is also about a young woman who has to make many choices about her life, her career and the man she should marry, and each choice, as often in life, is tough and will hurt those she cares for the most.

I love to read and often beyond a beautiful story I get mesmerised by an author’s skill at weaving words which pierce through my very soul. As I read a book I mark these to go back to and feel them again and again. Here are some by Lisa Wingate that will hold me in thrall for a long time to come.

“Worry scratches a setting spot inside me and takes up nesting.”

“I awaken from it like an early-day medical patient coming out of an ether sleep. My mind dawdles. My wits take a moment to line up properly and force me to look away.”

“I drop her in the cot and turn away and grab my hair and pull till it hurts. I want to pull all of it out. Every single piece. I want a pain I understand of the one I don’t. I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.”

“The argument ends where all arguments end − on the altar of compromise.”

“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.”

“A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

Beautiful are the words that “Before We Were Yours” is adorned with. Read the book for the story which is a heartbreaking tale of survival or for the words with which Lisa Wingate shares this poignant unravelling of the adoptees who never forgot.

And now since I have accomplished the first review, I’m going to pick up my next read – The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. Watch out for the review very soon.