Book Review – The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai

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(My Rating: 3/5)

These 3 short stories by Indrajit Garai, set in France, have the theme of sacrifice running through them all. In each story the protagonists are so passionate about the responsibilities they have assumed that they are willing to sacrifice it all to achieve their goal, whether that be saving a forest or caring for a child.

Garai’s style of writing takes us to the very heart of the emotion of his characters.

The Move

Gulliame is a good man, trying to do the right thing for his son and for the legacy that has been left to him, and so it is difficult for him to sometimes see things from a different perspective.

The story is a reflection of what often happens in life – things have to sometimes reach the stage of a crisis before change can take place.

Something has to move us so deeply before we can decide to do things differently, even though the signs may have been there for a long time.

I found the scene towards the end between Hugo and his dog particularly moving and an accurate portrayal of the feelings of a true animal lover for his pet.

The Listener

This story, in which Garai employs interior monologue, centres around a young boy who is passionate about trees, (with one tree in particular) and who has a damaged relationship with his mother. It seems almost as though the boy’s love for the tree gives him hope and something to cling on to; something to fight for and something to experience love for.

Again, as with the first story, things have to reach a crisis before a change for the better is made – in this case with the mother realising her responsibilities to her child.

Some of the dialogues were poignant I thought, such as:

“What does he need that gun for?”

“To kill animals.”

“In the forest?”

“Yes, when there are too many of them.”
“There are never too many animals in this forest.”

And then later in the story when his mother starts spending ‘quality’ time with him, and he ponders…

“I’m too young to know, but maybe this is how it happens: when two people know that their relation is going to end, they come closer.”

How perceptive and also how very sad for a 10 year old to be worried about this in relation to his mother!

The Sacrifice

Francois, a man in his sixties is left to look after his young grandson Arthur, after the latter’s mother is no longer able to.

He finds new meaning in life, changes his entire way of living and goes about doing whatever he can to be able to support his new responsibility and do right by him.

I think Garai captures beautifully the way (most) people ALWAYS have their children in their thoughts once they become parents.

In many instances in these stories, the characters don’t necessarily lack good intention; rather the problems arise because they just don’t seem to realise the fallout of their actions on those closest to them, while they are in singular pursuit of a particular goal.

And isn’t that often the case in our lives? We want to do good, but sometimes we just aren’t aware of the implications of our actions (thought our intentions may be noble), until it is too late.

The stories have many layers and can be analysed from various perspectives, leaving the reader with a lot to reflect on long after they have finished reading. I’m quite sure that every reader will find something that personally resonates with them in at least one of the stories.

I feel that the book lacked good editing, especially in terms of grammar and syntax.

But the stories and the emotions they depicted, coupled with Garai’s style of story telling appealed to me enough for me to want to keep reading, in spite of numerous grammatical errors – something that is usually a deal breaker for me.

I also felt that an adequate description of the setting wasn’t conveyed – I would have enjoyed it more for example, if I was transported to a farm in rural France or if I could feel some of the vibe of the city of Paris. But perhaps those things are insignificant to the important message Garai is trying to deliver to his audience.

All in all, a good first compilation of short stories that could have been elevated by sound editing.

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Book Review – Nemesis by Agatha Christie

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(My Rating 3/5)

While the Joan Hickson Miss Marple TV series has long been a favourite of mine, this is actually the first Miss Marple book I have read, thanks mainly to my newfound interest in crime novels. I must say that I think this is one of those uncommon good adaptations of book to TV series.

In Nemesis, Miss Marple receives a posthumous request from an acquaintance of hers to solve a mystery for him. He doesn’t however give her any information as to what the mystery is! What a brilliant way to draw you into the book! I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s layout of the book with bits of information given at just the right moment, her writing style and of course the endearing character of Miss Marple. However the final outcome of the mystery was a bit of a letdown for me – it wasn’t extremely surprising. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book a lot and will be reading more Miss Marple, especially as it’s been a while since I watched the show, so I’m sure I’ve forgotten what happens in most of the books/episodes.

The 35 books I read in 2016

 

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(This is a hurriedly put together post that I just wanted to somehow get in before the year was over, so apologies for grammar, spelling and other errors if any!)

2016 has been an extremely rewarding year reading-wise for me.

I hadn’t done any significant reading for about 4 years and I had begun to worry that the once treasured habit had faded away. But I guess the habit of reading is something like knowing how to ride a bike or swim.

I read a few books at the end of 2015 and then, to get back into the swing of things, I decided to set myself a reading challenge for 2016 – to read 15 books that I already owned (or from my parents’ vast collection) at the end of 2015 but had never read.

I am happy to report that not only did I complete my challenge with 16 books, but I also ended up reading a further 19 books, bringing my grand total for the year up to 35! I did surprise myself, as I had thought I would struggle to complete even 10.

Below is the entire list of books I read, with links to the ones I have reviewed.

BOOKS READ IN 2016:

  1. My Sainted Aunts by Bulbul Sharma
  2. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
  4. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  5. Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)
  6. Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  8. The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
  9. Hindu Gods – Priya Hemenway
  10. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  11. The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
  12. Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick
  13. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
  14. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  15. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  16. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #4) by Alexander McCall Smith
  17. The Full Cupboard of Life (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #5) by Alexander McCall Smith
  18. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
  19. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  20. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  21. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  23. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
  24. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  25. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  26. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  27. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  28. Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden
  29. Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella
  30. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
  31. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gabraith
  32. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Nemesis (Miss Marple #12) by Agatha Christie
  35. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #6) by Alexander McCall Smith

And now a few trivia-style snippets:

A book I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did: The Bridges of Madison County and The Call of the Wild

A book I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would: The Girl on The Train

A book that made me want to travel to a new country: Burial Rites

A genre I discovered wasn’t for me: Magical realism

Most rewarding genre: non-fiction, including Women of the Raj, Golden Rules and The Power of Habit.

Favourite series: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Favourite topic: The Raj, including Women of the Raj and Kingfishers Catch Fire and self-management, including Golden Rules, The Power of Habit and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (currently reading)

Favourite new genre (for me): – Crime/Detective/ Mystery, including Nemesis and The Cuckoo’s Calling

Most difficult book to get through: The Sound and The Fury

Books I admired for research, layout, writing, style and editing: Women of the Raj and Burial Rites

Favourite Classics: Villette and The Secret Garden

Christmas Read for 2016: Little Women

All round favourite read: How Green Was My Valley

That’s it for now. I shall return in the new year with the pending reviews.

Here’s to more reading in 2017! Happy New Year everyone!

Book Review – The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

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I haven’t, as I usually do, given this book a rating, because while I have finished reading it, I am not yet done with it! This is the most difficult book I have read and I intend to return to it again. What follows then is not so much a review as an exploration of my first impressions on reading the book for the first time. In fact, I think this is a book that must be discussed, not reviewed. And so, this ‘review’ might not even make sense to someone who hasn’t read the book!

The story, which is split into four parts revolves around the Compson family and is set in Mississippi. Three parts are set in 1928 and one is set in 1910. The main characters are the father – Jason Compson III, the mother – Caroline Bascomb Compson , their four children – Quentin, Caddy (Candace), Jason and Benjy – and Dilsey, the maid who, along with her children, looks after the family. It attempts to describe the circumstances that lead to the falling apart of the Compson family, by explaining events through the thoughts of three of the main characters.

The first part is told in the first person by Benjy, the youngest of the four Compson children. He has a mental disability and is 33-years old at the time of narration. This is an extremely disjointed section as Benjy’s thoughts flit back and forth between the present time and the time when he was a child.

While reading this section, I thought I understood parts, but more often than not, I realised that what I thought to be true a few pages earlier, might not in fact be the case! I nearly gave up a few times, but then when I realised that the first section was only 60 pages long, I decided to plod on.

Then an odd thing happened. The confusion I felt while reading the first section, seemed to disappear when I had completed it and the fragmented thoughts, on reflection, seemed to make sense, in retrospect, as a whole. I felt like I was immersed completely in Benjy’s head. And I’m guessing that that was one of the main reasons for Mr. Faulkner writing the book this way – to put us into the minds of each of the characters, without any distractions in the form of third party narratives. Continue reading

What will you be reading this Christmas?

“Sleigh bells ring…it’s the season…la la laa!”

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IT’S ONLY 5 WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS!

About a year ago, when I had just about got back on track with my reading habit, after a 2-3 year hiatus, I decided that every Christmas I would read a ‘Christmassy’ book!

Last year I read and reviewed A Chirstmas Carol by Charles Dickens and this year I hope to begin reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the next few weeks.

Do you have a Christmas book ritual too? Do you like to read something that reminds you of the spirit of Christmas? Or a story set in a picture perfect winter land? Perhaps you prefer a nice chilling winter murder story instead! Or do you have one favourite book that you read every Christmas?

Whatever your Christmas reading plans or recommendations, I am eagerly waiting to hear all about them!

 

Book Review – Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

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(My Rating: 4/5)

Published in 1953 and set in pre-Independent India, (or perhaps just after Independence – I could not ascertain which) Kingfishers Catch Fire is about fickle, illogical and dreamy Sophie, a British lady, who after travelling around India with her two young children, as and when a new fancy struck, finally decides to settle down in a remote part of Kashmir.

She is of the firm belief that she will fit in seamlessly with the locals and that she and her family will be accepted as one of them. Of course, the reality is something quite different and this is what the novel explores. It brings into focus much of what the situation in India was, specifically the hierarchical relationships between the Indians and the British – the unspoken barriers that existed, where everyone had their place and no one questioned those places or tried to alter things. Sophie however, is an exception; she does question and does try to change things. The scenario that unfolds – what happens to this single mother of two – as portrayed through Godden’s story, is a very believable one.

The characters are very interesting and well fleshed out. Sophie is the kind to go off on a whim and make plans without examining the practicality of their execution. For example, when she is short on money and decides to settle down in rural India, she emphatically declares to her daughter- “We shan’t be poor whites. We shall be peasants.” Continue reading