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Where has all the romance gone?

I am not particularly fond of reading romances – I mean Elizabeth Bennett – Mr Darcy, Winter de Ballesteros and Alex Randall or Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely (Yes! I know this was a sub plot of a sub plot but there is romance and once cannot deny it!) romances apart, I have not read like a really good love story.  And no, I do not consider Eric Segal’s Love Story as immortal, in fact far from it.

romanceWhile I growing up, I had devoured, Judith McNaughts (Sigh! Yes! I know the errors of youth!), but I cannot  seem to find any more charm in them, though I know there are millions of readers who swear by her books! May be its growing up – maybe it’s just cheesy, maybe it’s too much of Champaign and caviar dreams and too little of reality, but the heroes over whom I drooled over as a young girl – you know Zachary Benedict (Perfect) Stephen Westmoreland (Until You) or even Royce Westmoreland (Kingdom of Dreams), can no longer please me – and the heroines, let me not get started. Julie who has worked so very hard for her Perfect life and is so fond of her adoptive family, is ready to give all up to run away to Mexico with a convict. She is strong woman who faints (I mean who faints in this day and age) when Feds take away Zachary Benedict and mouths such inanities like “Oh! Please don’t hurt him!” – I mean what? You turned him over because you became convinced that he was a criminal and then what do you expect Feds to do – give him a Presidential treatment????? Sherry, who is supposed to be soul of sensibility and which is why she was hired as a chaperone anyway, runs away at the first moment of recovering her memory instead of explaining things to Stephen Westmoreland who knew and in fact had rescued her after the accident. Also one cannot help but wonder at how liberal was Regency England in accepting a daughter of rancher as the Duchess of the most powerful houses of Great Britain. If you ask me, it’s stretching the Cinderella story a wee bit too much. I am not even getting into the cutesy scene of Sherry making the entire servant quarter sing carols because she needed hot chocolate or the cook’s boy was upset or both!  (Yuck! Where is my barf bag?) And finally Jennifer , the strong red-headed Scot who needs acceptance from her family so badly, that she is willing to get Royce Westmoreland killed by her promise not to harm them, though he himself practically gets killed in the process.  Having said all of this – Kingdom of Dreams is perhaps the best of all McNaughts, though Royce Westmoreland behaves like a boor and a jerk (like all McNaught heroes), he at least tries to redeem himself by even dying for the sake of the woman he loves. Also for once, there is some history and the author does try to put in some history like the conflict between England and Scotland!

romance 2Or it could simply be the timing – when I first read these books in my YA days, maybe I had lot more hope or at the very least fantasy about how love should be. These days I take up sloppy romances when things have taken a downturn with Mr Soulmate and that in itself puts me a cynical framework of mind, so I really cannot be all that tolerant towards mush! (Yes! I know the big question is why I read books only after horrifying fights with him needs psychological intervention!) Though I still believe in that one true all-consuming love, (I know I am naïve and I am proud of it!), I guess I also know life does not always work out in neat little packages which you can tie up with a bright-colored strings and one has to kiss of lot more than one toad to finally reach Prince Charming. Even when you reach Prince Charming, it’s not always necessary that it will go exactly as you plan – career, commitment issues etc etc. will act as villains and you do not need and wicked fathers or the Feds to spice up your love story!

So what is the point of all this rambling – can somebody please take pity on a struggling writer/ Project Manager with her God-only-knows-what-status-of-relationship-I-have-issues and passion for reading and suggest some good romances –not googy slop, but all time abiding love storys!

P.S. I do not want suggestions like Barbra Cartland or Nicholas Spark. These all qualify as slops, in fact the latter is so excessively sweet that anyone with even one dose of Spark, runs the risk of diabetes for live.

The Only Way Ahead…..the Classics Way!

It’s the Classic Spin time again! Yup! The Classic’s Club has organized another Spin and the rules are as always simple –

  • Pick 20 Classics of your choice
  • On Monday, i.e. May 20th, the Club will pick a number
  • You read the book that you have marked against the number through May and June

The big question is will I do it again? I mean in the last club Spin, I got Madame Bovary which I detested the first time I read it, so may years ago; but with loads of encouragement and support from fellow club members, bloggers and readers, I managed to prod through the book, a second time – net result I still did not like it!

So will I do it again? The answer is …..Of course!! Yes!!! Most definitely!

There is no denying it’s a lot of fun. Even if I did not like the book, I got some wonderful perspective and engaged in some marvelous debates about it. Most importantly, if it was not for the Spin, I would have never read that book again since it was part of my private dreading to read it again list!

Now for the list – here goes….

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  2. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  5. Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte
  6. Great Expectation by Charles Dickens
  7. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  10. The Way of  all Flesh by Samuel Butler
  11. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  14. The Moonstone by Willkie Collins
  15. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  16. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  17. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn      Waugh
  18. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
  19. My Antonia by Willa Carther
  20. A Farewell to the Arms by Ernest Hemmingway

Let’s see what faith holds on Monday. I have edited m y previous list a bit and put down a few more books that were in my to-read-but-never-got-around-to –it list.

Can’t wait for Monday!

Baking Breads and Tales in Wartime Germany

And now for The Baker’s Daughter

I know I was supposed to post this last week, but between one thing and the other….well, better late than never I guess!

The Baker’s Daughter is a novel by Sarah McCoy.

I had never read any of Sarah McCoy’s previous work and picked up this book solely because of three reasons –

– The back cover told me that it’s historical fiction set during the World War II

– The story for a change was from a perspective of a German and not an allied power and I already had a great impression of writings from the German perspective from books like The Book Thief and wanted to continue exploring this genre

– It seemed to blend in my other passion very well, i.e. cooking! (I mean it’s called The Baker’s Daughter!!!)

Goodreads tell me that Sarah McCoy is a daughter of an Army officer. She spent her early years in Germany and prior to writing books, she taught writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her first book was The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico and The Baker’s Daughter was published in 2012.

The-Bakers-Daughter-JacketThe Baker’s Daughter is set towards the end of World War II in the small town of Garmisch, Germany. Its 1945 and Elsie Schmidt lives with her parents above the bakery run by her father. She is being courted by a very senior SS official and her sister is part of the The Lebensborn Program. It’s an all-German family, living and believing in the values set by The Fuhrer, believing in the ultimate destiny of a superior Germany with a Third Reich. However things change for Elsie and her family, when a young boy shows up at her door one night and she is forced to take a decision that will change her and her family’s fate. Parallelly, there is a modern-day story of Reba Adams who is in the lookout for a great Christmas story and bumps into a bakery. Reba Adams is a loner who wants to move out of her relationship with her boyfriend and the town of El Paso, Texas, to start a new life in San Francisco and distance herself from her half-truths and the memories of her past. As the novel progresses, the two tales collide and become one story of valor, humanity and the ability of a human spirit to survive!

Now for the book – it’s wonderful! I know this is like stating it right out there, but it is absolutely wonderful. Maybe because I read it right after The Shell Seekers, I felt the impact more. But I really really liked the novel and would seriously recommend it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the novel does not have flaws – there is the stereotypical sexually aggressive, pseudo masochist Nazi, who conveniently shows up to bring a twist to the tale. There is also at the other end of the Nazi spectrum, the tortured Nazi, who is trying to come to terms with his own harrowing deeds and then meets a very non original end. Towards the end of the novel, it seems like somehow, the author was in hurry to end the book, so she neatly packaged out what could have been a more meaty middle and epilogue of the book.  The writing is also very linear and sometimes too simplistic.

Having said all of this, I still say that this is a marvelous book! To begin with, in the character of Elsie Schmidt, the author has created a wonderful heroine, who is both human and yet capable of great kindness, even at personal costs. She is warm, intelligent and sometimes absolutely hilarious character, whose voice echoes through the book. Another wonderful character is Elsie’s mother, a strong resilient woman, who will stop at nothing to save her family. The book is filled with some interesting insights into Nazi Germany including The Lebensborn Program.  The Program, per Wikipedia, was a state-run program to boost the number of racially pure Aryan children, including those born of extra marital relations. Through the book, the author tries to give an authentic feel of a country at the brink of losing a war, struggling with shortages and poverty and death of thousands and thousands of her men. The reader has a very strong sense of a raging war and its impacts unlike the very superficial layering of it in The Shell Seekers. Lastly, the book has some wonderful description of food – especially German breads and other bakeries and some lovely detailing on how the bakers managed their supplies and kept the business going, as the country spiraled towards scarcity and poverty.

I know there are great many works written about Germany during World War II and of course this book does not stand in competition to such works like Schindler’s Ark, but it is great read and I recommend atleast one read!

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