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The Return of the Lion

Despite my varied reading adventures, there are some books and authors, I never got around to reading. This is especially true for Children’s Literature because as young child I read whatever my parents introduced me to and they did introduce me to great many, and as an adult, there were so many new books to read, that going back to explore a Children’s Classic took a back seat! But my 12 Months Classic Reading Challenge  gave me a tiny opportunity to correct this, with the September theme being – A Children’s Classic. While there are many many many works to read, there is one which has been on mind forever – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I hang my head in shame and admit that I have never read the Narnia books ever! This selection also was inspired by the absolute devotion my reading buddy Cleo has for Lewis and thanks to her I have been introduced to some of the most brilliant, thought proving essays that Lewis wrote. Therefore I was even more curious to see how Lewis handled a children’s book. As y reading projects for this year is vast, I selected only one book of the series, the most famous – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

During wartime England, 4 children, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, are evacuated to the countryside and come to live in a large rambling mansion, home of a kindly professor. The children are excited to be in such a wonderful house and plan many adventures for duration of their stay. In one of their explorations, Lucy wanders into a room with nothing but a wardrobe; curious she opens the wardrobe and steps inside it. She finds fur coats after fur coats and as she keeps walking into the deep interior she suddenly realizes that she is outside and in a wooded area with snow all over. More curious than ever, she walks on and soon meets a Faun named Tumnus. Tumnus explains to her that she has reached Narnia, the winter land where Christmas never comes and is ruled by the very wicked White Witch. He then invites Lucy for tea and entertains her wonderfully.However when Lucy indicates that she must go back, the faun is overcome and starts bawling. He reveals that he is in the pay of the white witch and he must turn over to her any daughters of Eve or sons of Adam as he find. If he does not, she will turn him into a statue of stone. Conscience and Lucy’s pleadings however make Tumnus change his plans and he quietly and stealthily escorts Lucy to the border of Narnia from where she can go inside the Wardrobe and back in her old world. Glad to be back, Lucky runs to her sister and brothers and shares her adventure with them. However she is astonished to find out that according to her siblings she had not been gone for long and furthermore they do not believe her story and imply that she is a liar. They continue teasing her often, Edmund who is nastier than the others does so even more. Lucy soon becomes quiet and retreats in a shell, but continues to be physically present with the children, though no longer with joy. In yet another game or hide and seek, Lucy and Edmund both tumble into the wardrobe and end up in Narnia,separately. Edmund meets the White Witch who gives hims bewitched Turkish Delight to eat and tell him she will make him the Prince and then the King of Narnia if he brings his brothers and sisters to her. Lucy and Edmund finally find each other in Narnia and hurry back to the wardrobe and run to tell the other two. However in the presence of Peter and Susan, Edmund pretends that nothing had ever happened and Lucy was fibbing again. Lucy after this incident retreats further and Edmund snubbed by Peter on needlessly teasing her, turns ever more vicious in his attacks on Lucy. In such circumstances, Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper who is not fond of children and has told them never to be around when showing the house to visitors, brings a set of visitors one morning and the children in a rush to avoid the very conflict which Mrs. Macready had warned against, stumble into the Wardrobe and then Narnia, setting the stage for some unforgettable adventures.

Did I love the book? Oh! Yes! I loved the simple, linear and the well knit plot that the author wrote, specifically bearing in mind the age and ability of his young audience. He uses all the delightful techniques that not only bait the young audience but also many older ones like delicious description of food, wonderful animals and of course, nail baiting, near heartbreak endings! The book beautifully covers all the emotions experienced by us, especially as children – excitement, sense of adventure, happiness, betrayal, heartbreak and exultation; all are captured succinctly. The characters are well drawn out – the children setting an example of what good behavior stands for, especially for the readers. Aslan and the Witch are absolutely riveting characters , that draw you in powerfully and involve you in their fates.However, I must admit to drawing parallels between the White Witch and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. The other minor characters of Fauns, Beavers and Giants provide an entertaining ensemble to already dazzling cast! Narnia comes alive in all its glory through the descriptions and actions of this cast. It is very interesting how C.S.Lewis drew allegories, especially Christianity based allegories into his tale – the voluntary sacrifice of Aslan in lieu of Edmund’s life  as well as his resurrections the most obvious allusion to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. However the novel stands on its own strength, even with the allegories built in and goes to prove, the brilliance of C.S. Lewis.

I now HAVE to get hold of the other books! I simply HAVE to!

 

Love and Longing In-Between Wars

I read The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford for the 12 Months Classics Challenge Event (August – A Modern Classic) as well as my Women’s Classical Literature Reading event for the month of August. I am choosing to overlook the fact that I was supposed to read this in August, but finally ended up reading it in September. Like I say better late than never!

The Pursuit of Love is set after the end of World War 1 and follows the lives of the Radlett children, until the end of World War II, through the eyes of their cousin Fanny . Fanny is the daughter of the youngest sister of Aunt Sadie, being brought by her other aunt, Aunt Emily. Fanny’s mother is called “Bolter” and has had a string of affairs and marriages leaving her daughter to the care of her sister to be brought up. Aunt Sadie is married to Matthew Radlett, who owns Alconleigh, where Fanny spends her holidays in the company of her Radlett cousins, especially Linda, to whom she is closest too. Their childhood is spent hunting with their uncle and forming plans in the wardrobe, for their secret society “The Hons”.  The Radlett girl cousins are not educated too much, Uncle Matthew being of the belief that girls to retain their feminine virtues, must know some French, play instruments and read and write, but no scholarship is needed. Aunt Emily however beliefs in education of women and ensures that Fanny receives a good education, even moving towns to enable her to attend a good school. At the age of 13, their lives are disturbed by the news that their Aunt Emily is getting married. Davey Warbeck is introduced to their lives and this gentle brilliant man with hyponchdriac tendencies is soon an accepted member of the extended Radlett tribe!  Soon the young children grow up and Louisa the eldest of the Radlett tribes debuts in London and marries a solid, albeit boring Scottish peer.Linda and Fanny spend days dreaming of the “true love” and waiting for their time in the society circles. The years pass and Linda and Fanny debut and in one of the balls hosted by her parents, she meets Tony Kroesig a young banker, brought in the last moment, by the glamorous neighbor and Linda’s mentor Lord Merlin. This sets off an unprecedented chain of events over the next decade that sees Linda failing and then falling and finally finding the expected  promise land.

I had heard much and much and much about this novel. It was cried out as one of the best coming of age stories and its humor and sensitivity was to touch one and all. It is a good book, it has many humorous touches. I loved the initial years of the Radlett children growing up and I loved the well drawn larger than life characters of Uncle Matthew,. Lord Merlin and Davy. I loved the brusque humor and the simple nostalgia of days and nights of doing everyday things and finding pleasure. I loved the relationships not bound by social stereotypes which spring forth and bring heart to this novel,. like Davy’s unvarying love and devotion to his nieces and Lord Merlin’s constant watching over Linda and the kind of care Aunt Sadie and Uncle Matthew bestowed on Emily and even her truant mother! These were wonderful relationships and I wish we had stuck to them instead of chasing Linda and her happening and non happening love life across the length and breath of Europe. I am told Nancy Mitford wrote this novel from her own recollections and experiences and I don’t know what to make of it; anyone who reads closely, will find that there is no bigger chicken head than Linda Radlett! She pines for true love; hello! who does not? But because she does not find it, she spend a whole decade doing nothing – I mean nothing!! She does even bother to take care of her daughter! She becomes a social butterfly then a communist before settling down to become a Mistress to her one true love! In between she does absolutely nothing, she does not read, she does not cook, she does not do anything except shop and spend days in parties and moan about her disastrous life!!Goodness! You would think, she is most unfortunate under privileged woman ever!Then I have a serious problem with the War; I mean there is a war on and the only thing Mitford focuses on is Linda’s pining away for her lover! I understand that the society then was different form us and society women doing nothing was the norm, but history testifies to many many woman who pinned for their lovers and still drove ambulances, worked in communal kitchens and patched up the wounded. During the war, there was no time for indulgence of grief; there was so much to do just to survive and all Linda does is lie in her bedroom in the posh London apartment! Ms. Mitford’s treatment of the war comes across as minor civilian disturbance; I am not sure what genre she was trying to fit in because she does not manage to in any!  The plot that begins with so much promise ends in a ordinary cliche, which you know would have been the inevitable conclusion some 80 pages into the book.

I read the book and I now of read of “the books” but frankly I have read better and I am still bemused at the kind of rave reviews it has received over the years!

Something Old & Something New

And no, I am not getting married and anyway in a Hindu wedding, there would nothing old and all new! But at the very onset, I digress! The plan originally was to post about The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, but something has been brewing in my mind for sometime and it finally being put into motion!

Many of you may be aware from my About page, that outside of Reading like no tomorrow and writing constantly, the other ruling passion of my life has been Traveling. I was travelling since I was 3 months old and have always been wanderlusting as far back as I can recollect. The prize for doing well in school was books and a new place to visit. Money for meagre paychecks were added/deleted/divided in an effort to buy all the books in the world and explore some new part of the world!Planning vacations, besides adding to the To Read list in my GoodReads has been and is a major way to de-stress. However despite all the energy and efforts spent in traveling I rarely if ever posted on my adventures, and what I did was a cursory overview more to give everyone a chance to see why I was away . Somehow I could not seem to bring in the very personal touch in my travel writings as I did on my book reviews. So I held on and then recently, an idea stuck me – I wanted to start website on Women and their Travels.

Now, I think most of you would agree with Mark Twain when he wrote that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” But in the context of women traveling, it becomes especially important – it provides  a time for the woman to discover herself , her true identity and instills in her the confidence that if she can do travel to a new place without the patriarchs of her life, she can do practically anything. Women traveling on their own or with a bunch of other women is one of the most empowering experiences and it is these experiences and adventures I wanted to share. I have the extreme privileged and honor of travelling with some of these amazing women over the last couple of years and their stories of being caught all alone in the middle of nowhere in Columbia or traveling alone to the heart of Iran with a 3 year old in tow is not only an exciting adventure, but truly liberating and empowering!

Therefore, I seek an extension  your patronage and ask you to join me in these adventures, which my friends and I share at A Smooth Round Stone! You have always, always supported me in not only visiting my blog, but sharing your thoughts and ideas and showing me a whole new world, I hope you will do the same in this new adventure of mine. Furthermore, I hope you will also share with me your stories – stories of your travel or when you played host to travelers and enrich this humble motley collection of travel tales!

And, thus without any further ado, let’s us travel!

Come September….

Yay!! September arriveth and summer goeth! If that is not a reason for me to celebrate I do not know what is! The fact that Summer recedes from this month on is enough to add vigor and excitement to my life! However besides this fact, there are several reasons to rejoice the onset of fall.

To begin with, ahem! ahem! Moi, the 102 Kgs (224lbs), plump personality completed a marathon! Not a full event, but what we have in the geography called Half Marathon event, which is more for beginners! Now for the more fitter personalities there, I know its a not a big deal, but please understand when I say that running with 102kgs on your back, as in on your body is bit of a task! Add to it the fact, that I have never run before this, let alone compete in any event. However, I was and am blessed with some awesome friends, and one of them, when couple of months ago over late dinner, I expressed my fascination with running, took it on herself to get me trained and ready. She devised all kinds of training plans, diets and kept egging me on. All of this when she was sitting 1700 kms from the city where I stay, working as the HR Director in an MNC, getting her house constructed and generally following up on all the lose tie ends of her life! If my completing the run is awesome, then the fact that Rups could get me up there and ready, especially from a confidence perspective was a miracle only she could have pulled off. I have not lost any weight and yes I practically crawled to the finish line, but I did it!!! I am so kicked. One of most amazing aspect of this marathon was that instead of being given medals, participants were given little India puppet dolls, made by the survivors of the Tsunami which hit Souther India, back in 2004. I loved it all and I hope to do more!

Ok, now for Bookish news – well, needless to say, I am falling BEHIND! August was a busy month. I played a host for a bunch of cousins; then myself went on a 12 day road trip across Himalayas and for the first time , the beauty so overwhelmed that I did not get much reading done. Then, there was the Read Along which I LOVED hosting, however research for its background, to help my fellow readers understand the socio-cultural context of the novel, took some time! As a result, I am now in September and need to play catch up like never before. To begin with, from my 12 Months Classic Literature Event, I have Dombay and Son’s by Charles Dickens to finish from July, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford for August and The  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis for September (September Theme – A children’s classic). For Reading England, yet another event I have neglected (I should stop saying that, considering I neglected  all my monthly reading plans!!!) I cover Berkshire with Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. This would be a re-read but I have not read this book in a loooonnnngggg time and I am in a mood for some fun books!Finally for my Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event, I will go back to a novel, I started and then just stopped – Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cathar. If this was not enough, I continue with The Pickwick Paper Read Along and give Cleo company in reading The Brother Karmazov’s by Foydor Dostoyevsky and Jane Eyer by Charlotte Bronte Read Along, the latter, hosted by Hamlette. I have also bought some books and been gifted some over the last couple of days which I will atleast attempt to start this month; The Silk Road – A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan and Jerusalem, A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

That’s the attempt plan for September….I know its a LOT, but I am hoping to conquer most! Happy September Reading!!!

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