Saturday, February 20, 2010


So, for a long time after I finished the book I kept wondering what I was supposed to think of it. Then, as I was walking some days later, something went off in my head and I went "Oh my god, what utter crap!"
And that sums up my opinion on the book.
I really liked the Alchemist back when I read it (yes, it was a pretty long time ago)
But this book-
And the worst part were those awful diary entries of Maria where she first spouts utterly cliched stories with utterly cliched morals that quite honestly made me cringe, and then concludes with a 'omg, look at me, I sound so mature!' Sorry, dear, you so don't.

But what the hell, my brother actually liked it. A lot.
No literary taste at all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


There exist some books which you read and forget, only to faintly recall, years later, that there was this book you really liked- and have completely forgotten. Hence, I remember little about the circumstances in which I read 'Journey to the River Sea', and my frantic bouts of searching for the memory were ended only when I was gifted another copy of the book... and the writer's name.
I've long maintained that if I could, once, manage to write something that kids under ten would like I would have achieved my goals as a writer. And Ibbotson does it so effortlessly!

So, well, Countess Under the Stairs I picked up this morning- and finished in less than half a day, having neglected integration to the point of desertation. The thing about going back to children's books is the enhanced ability to note the way in which universal truths are presented with a sense of humor- sounding preachy is anathema. C. S. Lewis for instance, managed it so well I never caught on to the symbolism till much much later- by which point I wondered why I hadn't seen through the Aslan thing a lot sooner. E. Nesbit's pieces of dialogue (such as one where a boy, afraid that he's heard rats moving around, is comforted by his mother with a 'not rats, mice.") are haunting in their accuracy.
I realize I'm not getting anywhere with this review. Suffice it to say it's a fairytale, well told. And honestly, what the hell else even matters?

Friday, September 25, 2009


First I read Anna Karenina in two weeks (those were some two weeks!) and write a 'formal critical analysis' on it. Then I wonder what to post on this blog. Clearly, I have lost it.
Also, the thing I love best about the book is it's name. No sarcasm intended, Anna Karenina sounds lovely.
And now for the heavy stuff:
-Formal Critical Analysis

To be oneself or survive? To be happy or seek the truth? These are the questions Tolstoy’s protagonists in Anna Karenina grapple with, with differing results.

The novel traces the parallel stories of Anna and Levin, and yet the two stories are directed in opposite directions.

Levin is the eccentric non-conformist, constantly questioning and doubting accepted truths. He is willing to form his own opinion about agriculture and communism, sympathize with his brother Nikolai and to denounce the zemsvto.
Anna starts out as the ideal wife, mother, aunt and sister. She is able to convince Dolly to forgive her husband though she doesn’t believe a word of her own advice. And yet, as Kitty observes at the ball, “Anna’s charm lay in always rising above what she wore.” Her present subjugation cannot continue for long.

It is at this point that Anna meets Vronsky, a fateful meeting during which a man is killed by the train, a premonition of the disastrous effects of stepping out of line. And it is when she steps out at a station at that she meets Vronsky and her fate is sealed.

The author uses a stream of consciousness approach to chart out the thoughts of each character. This is effective, because it contrasts what they think with how they behave and the positions they hold in society. The characters constantly maintain a facade for society, while bemoaning the fact that deception does not come naturally to them. Oblonsky regrets deceiving his wife, but blames society. Vronsky resents being forced to lie, but sees no way out. Anna is the only one who chooses to break this pattern, disastrous for her, but the only option through which she remained true to herself.

Levin marries Kitty and is compelled to give into some worldly trappings. Eventually, his inability to help Kitty with their child forces him to believe in a higher authority, and accept religion as the ultimate truth. That religion is portrayed throughout the novel as the last resort of the weak implies that this is a downfall from his earlier ability to question with an open mind.

Even though Anna is courageous enough to separate from her husband, she still seeks reconciliation with society and her husband’s forgiveness. Unable to obtain this, she builds a life for herself, around Vronsky, and an English girl she adopts. It is Dolly’s visit, ultimately, that forces Anna to accept that her pretence of normalcy was just as hypocritical her marriage. Her suicide then is a final act of defiance, a refusal to conform, even if the alternative is death.

As Levin asks of Koznishev in the beginning “If my ability to feel is destroyed, if my body dies, can I possibly exist? Levin’s acceptance of society’s beliefs, and the consequent suspension of his own senses, is thus a metaphoric death for him.

Anna’s literal death is a foil for Levin’s metaphoric one, and the question remains- who made the right choice?

Friday, January 18, 2008


If memory serves correctly, I've been wanting the book for almost half a year. And then when I get it, I devour it in a day!

No, it doesn't, in any way, compare with Gone With The Wind (it's the sequel to it). But then, can you really expect a book for which a sequel is written seven decades later to ever compare?

The writing style is in no way similiar to Mitchell's- it's a lot more snappy, fast paced, straight to the point. And yet, like Mitchell's- the war fascinates, the details are right, and it incorporates the protagnist's story, magnifying it, not engulfing it. And some of the lines are really well crafted.

But my dillying dallying misses the main point- Rhett Butler.

Every single word about his past fits. It makes complete sense. Things might be left unsaid, but you still hear them being said. With Rhett Butler (what inspired her? The way the name rolls of the tongue is so delightful) the book does wonders, adding perspectives that you knew existed. You can't help but admire him and envy Scarlett O'Hara.

For that matter, you can't help but sympathize with each and every one of the characters. And that really is something. And what's more, this sequel really answers question that Margaret Mitchell deliberately left there.

But... Scarlett O'Hara makes no sense. For a person who hasn't read GWTW it won't make sense for Rhett to fall head over heels in love with her. In fact, most things won't make sense. The fact that Rhett Butler has a moustache isn't put into words, I believe, till very late- at that point, a sudden moustache can ruin whatever image the reader might've formed.

Some of the details don't match, but I guess you can overlook it if, unlike me, you haven't almost literally memorized the entire thousand page saga.

Unlike the 'other sequel' I don't regret reading Rhett Butler's People. Speaking of it, the one thing that strikes me is- the writer's intelligent. There is no way he would've been able to do the job he did if he wasn't.

And of course, another thing I like about the book is the interspersing of French throughout. Did I mention I have an interest in Romantic languages...

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A Pulitzer Prize winning book by a Nobel Prize winning author. Fascinating, and a delightful read.

My copy of the book said that it is an 'epic of a China that was.' But more than that, I felt that it was about the people who lived in that time, a normal farmer, like any other, distinguished only by the time he was in, and the clarity of thought that brings him alive in the pages. Wang Lung, and his family are average people- but the way their thoughts and lives are brought to the fore is amazing in its very simplicity.

Once again, the language is deceitfully simple and agonizingly spellbinding. Phrases like 'There was this luxury of living' might seem easy enougfh to construct, but they aren't, and it's her amazing prowess that is revealed in the effect created while reading it.

The story starts of with Wang Lung getting ready for his 'wedding' to O-Lan. As I read somewhere later, the story has a very 'watery' beginning, with many references to water. While it didn't say what it symbolized, my guess is that it referred to the continuity of life, as seen by the fact that Wang Lung starts of with his marriage, then has children, even as he takes care of his father till he dies, ending with him becoming a grandfather and his experiences thereon.

The whole sub story based on the pondering on whether it was necessary to be beautiful to be loved, and not just very wonderful otherwise is moving. The answer it reaches is- yes, love is but based on beauty, and it moved me to tears. The horror with which you read of the cruelty of human nature- and despite that- unwitting cruelty- makes you shudder, and realize that evil is not so easily definable, humans not so easily classifiable.

The ending is haunting. The words langorously leisurely.

Enough said.

Friday, October 19, 2007


"I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best blue suit in the little blue cloth my mother used to tie around her hair when she did the house, and I am going from the Valley "

I have about three copies of this book in my house, all of them tattered, such a readable book is this. The ending launches you to the past, making you wonder about the present and the future, consequently keeping you reading. But don't misunderstand me, the book's not a thriller, it's the kind you read at leisure, over a few weeks.

And what a wonderful way to spend those weeks! The language flows, the Welsh-ness of it music to the ears. The words flow, the unaccustomed way in which they are arranged being delightful.

The story is of the everyday life of the miners, strikes and industrialisation, the gradual growth of the slag heap, that swallows up the beautiful Valley, death and loss and parting. It's the way it's written that makes it memorable. It's possible to lose yourself in the sea of lovely descriptions that fill the book- of food, and music notes, and kisses, and, of course, the lovely, lush valley, and daffodils.

The tale's told in first person, by Huw Morgan, the youngest member of the family. There are the intertwined stories of all the brothers and sisters, their loves, some truly heartbreaking, told through the eyes of a young boy growing up, and busy with his own experiences.

Sad and tragic and memorable though the ending is, a sense of humour pervades that makes you laugh at the sheer simplicity of the pleasures they had.

Flipping through the book now, trying to find passages to quote, lines catch my eyes, making me laugh, and, cry, and wonder at the irony of life and the cruelty of humans, and their amazing endurance, too. None of the passages I can quote, for the story behind them is what makes them poignant, and pretty beyond words- other words, I mean.

There are sequels to this book, by the same author, thankfully, but I can't find them anywhere. However, this in itself is as complete as it is possible to be.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


One of my favourites, for a variety of reasons.

Most readers would say that the first line "Scarlett O' Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the tarleton twins were" was captivating. For me, however, the end of the first para "...magnolia white skin- that skin so carefully guarded by bonnets, veils and mittens from the hot Georgia suns." was the decider. I knew that the book would be good.

Sometimes I wish I'd never read the book, for the sheer joy of being caught up in the magic and reading the book for the first time. I never really had any idea what the book was about, except the ending- which was wonderful and still made me long to change it- and never had any idea whom the love story was about, till the ending.

Of course, there was a lot more to it than the romance, the only one that's managed to captivate me so far in my reading. There's the whole beauty of the way it's written, that dreamy, exquisite way, the description of the war, the sheer sweep of it.

Some have called the book racist. Personally, I didn't find it so. Of course, the views expressed in it are racist, but since the book is essentially from the viewpoint of the Southerners in the Civil War, it's expected. Some people's views is politically correct, giving both sides of the question.

The characters are wonderfully three dimensional, living, breathing, sometimes without the help of the author. Rhett Butler, Scarlett, Melanie Wilkes and the main characters are there of course while some not so important others are also well drawn out. But in certain cases, like in the case of slaves, or aunts, or sisters, it's rather stereotyped, but they still manage to breathe.

The most intriguing thing about this book is that it was the first- and last- of the author. It's amazing how it managed to become that popular, and win the Pulitzer Prize. Worth reading merely to know what's in it to make it that.