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

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Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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(My Rating: 3/5)

My first Atwood book and my first dystopian novel, I kept changing the rating I was going to give The Handmaid’s Tale, as I progressed with the book – sometimes a 3, sometimes I felt it deserved only a 2 and at others undoubtedly a 4.

It’s hard to give a concise explanation of what the book is about, without giving too much away, but I shall endeavour!

The story is set sometime in the future and the premise is that the United States government has been overthrown and a group known as the Sons of Jacob have taken over control of the country (or at least a portion of it) which is now known as the Republic of Gilead. Women no longer have a say in anything, but are categorised according to what service they are meant to provide.

What struck me most as I began the book was that it felt like it was written in 2015 and not 1985 as was actually the case. It had a very “recent” feel to it, so I imagine it must have been way ahead of its time when it was first published. I appreciate the book’s premise (and what a scary premise it is!) and I think Atwood has done a great job of imagining and creating the world of Gilead. Continue reading