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The End of February…..

The New Year is old and for me, time could not have flown fast enough! One of the most stressful months for me both professionally and personally, all I can say, good riddance! For the first time, I am glad to bid adieu to the winter, which brought more unpleasantness than acceptable and look forward to the new chapters of Summers; yes even hot Indian summers! As, always, I thank the powers that be for granting us books, that helped me tide over home-hospitals-sick dad-at-home-nurses-at-home-professional disappointments- home-job-doctor-job paradigm!

Thus, I bring you my February book wrap up, borrowing and combining from Helen’s monthly post of Commonplace Book post   and O’s ideas of  Wordless Wednesday  –

From The East of Eden by John Steinbeck –

But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

From A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well! “

From Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

If to live in his style is to eccentric, it must be confessed, that this something good in eccentricity

From Harry Heathcote of Gangoil by Anthony Trollope

What does a man live for except to alter things? When a man clear the forest and sows corns, does he not alter things?

From The Dairy of a Nobody by George Grossmith

What’s the good of a home, if you are never in it?

That was my reading for the month of February. I am immensely glad that despite all the chaos, I was able to stick to my only Reading Challenge of the year – The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge  and complete A Room of One’s Own as planned for the month, though I still need to post the review. In fact, I need to blog way more! Here’s hoping March brings in that much needed relief to one and all……

 

About Moving on and Reading Ideas…

In the words of the ever-wise Jane Austen, I must say that “I must have employment and society” and though the circumstances under which Mr. Wickham made the statement and mine are wholly different, there cannot be any denying of the fact that I must either resume life as soon as possible in the best way, despite the recent events in my past,  or I will probably need professional therapy! I really dislike opening my posts on such a depressing note and therefore without much ado, I will plunge forward and share with you all my reading plans for September and October!!

Naturally, with Halloween around the corner, Carl has unveiled his RIP Challenge 2014. I have been looking forward to this event for some time and have even bought books in anticipation of the reading event!! The rules are as always simple, read or watch any of the following genres and participate in the Perils as per your interest and time. The event runs from September 01st to October 31st. The genres include –

  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Supernatural

I, of course, peril my sanity by signing up for Peril The First which involves and I quote directly from the site – Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between

My reading list for this event goes as –

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – Clichéd I know, but I have not read this in couple of years and this is as good a time as any to revisit this old friend!!

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell – As I have often declared, Gaskell is one of my favorite authors and I have held on to reading this book specifically to read it through this challenge.

Angelica by Arthur Philips – This is yet another book that I had held off on because I wanted to read it as part of this event. I had heard some great things about this one and I really look forward to reading it, with all the lights in the apartment blazing!!!!

The Sign of Four – How can I even think of participating in this event without homage to the master of mystery and thriller??? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Last Year it was the Hounds of Baskerville and this year it’s yet another revisit with The Sign of Four.

This was my plan for the RIP event; but while scrolling through the other events at Carl’s post, I came across Peril of the Group Read. Again quoting directly from the Carl’s post, “For the third year in a row bloggers Andi and Heather of The Estella Society are hosting a readalong in conjunction with R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril. This year’s readalong runs from September 1st through October 1st, and the chosen book is Shirley Jackson’s classic, The Haunting of Hill House.The Haunting Hill House had been in my TBR for some time and this seemed like as good a chance as any to finish at least one book from my ever-growing list. I have already begun reading the book and I have not been able to sleep for two nights in a row with lights off….review to follow soon!!!

In other reading news, I still have to finish my Classic Spin read for the month, “Katherine” by Anya Seton; I had barely begun reading this book, when everything else took over and I had to exchange this book for some lighter reads until I was back in my gear again.

I also have the The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric to finish from last month and I have finally bought Penmarric by Susan Howatch and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler in an unintended book buying spree on one of those stressful days of past weeks. I also bought The Complete Works of Christina Rossetti in a fitful remembrance of my mother!

Finally, I am also very much looking forward to the Margret Kennedy Week hosted by Jane between 6th to 12th October! I plan to read “The Feast”, another one lying in my TBR list for a while and the author’s nonfiction work, Jane Austen, if I can get my hands on it!!

That is my reading agenda for now. I am sure; I will edit and add some more books in this list, while others may be left behind for a better moment. But the idea as always is to read and read more and then to read some more….

A Sonnet…

I realize that I have been away from blogging for nearly a month and this has truly been my longest hiatus from the blogosphere since I started this blog more than 2 years ago. But life took a really crazy and unexpected turn since Aug 17th 2014 when I posted my last blog and I am still trying to come to terms with it. My mum was visiting me when she suddenly fell ill on 15th August, slipped into coma on 18th and passed away on 1st September. The suddenness of the whole thing is still sinking in; it somehow seems unacceptable that my mum who did have a congenial heart problem but was not ill in the sense of being really ill, should suddenly one day complain of low-grade fever and then lose consciousness and before a blink of an eye is, no more. I was not ready for any of this, but I realize since last year September, things have happened to me for which I am not ready and maybe that’s a good thing, because if I start to think on how my life has fallen apart over the 12 months, I will have to see a therapist. Nevertheless, it’s still difficult to really believe that she is truly no more and while our relationship was far more smooth and was in fact quite difficult, the fact that she is no more there to fight with, argue with, talk with and be with is heartbreaking!!

Thus in the memory of my Mum, I publish this poem written by Christina Rossetti, a poet whom both she and I loved….

Sonnets are full of love

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome

Has many sonnets: so here now shall be

One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me

To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,

To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;

Whose service is my special dignity,

And she my loadstar while I go and come

And so because you love me, and because I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath

Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:

In you not fourscore years can dim the flame Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws

Of time and change and mortal life and death.

 

Take care Ma….be in peace wherever you are!!Love You!

Picture Story….

There are times when you read a book that takes your breath away…you sit for hours on end trying to internalize what you have just read…. trying to piece together the storm of emotions as your brain tries to re-direct itself to the more practical and realistic matters at hand, but for all its effort, neither the brain nor your heart can process the catharsis that you have gone through!! It’s an emotional trauma, not necessarily bad, but definitely something you cannot ignore nor can you afford to overlook, because you stay completely stunned and mesmerized by what you have just read.

As usual one may wonder exactly what am I blubbering about?

I am talking about “The People in the Photo” by Hélène Gestern (Translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz). Now on the face of it, it may not be a book I usually pick up – I mean its French (can’t abide by it!! I love France and its people and its food, but I somehow cannot make up my mind about their literature – I think the tragedies of Madame Bovary and Les Miserables hangs over me!!) its set in present day and as everyone knows I am most comfortable in 19th century and a brief synopsis looked suspiciously of a Kate Morton novel married to a romance chick lit. (I like Kate Morton and like all chicks I do dig into romance once in a while, but somehow put them together and it seems like a Rebecca wanna be!) But the cliché of never judging a book by its cover came absolutely true in this instance.

The book opens with a description of a picture and “the people’ in the picture and this unique start to the narrative is in itself a wonderful beginning. Hélène an archivist is looking for some answers – she wants to know who the two people are in the picture and if they had any information about her mother, the third person in the picture. Hélène’s mother Natasha died when she was very young and was brought up by her father and her step mother Sylvie. Now Sylvie is the last stage of Alzheimer disease and her father has already died couple of years ago. In an effort to understand her roots before it completely slips away, Hélène puts out an advertisement in the paper seeking more information about the other two people in the photograph. Stéphane, a Swiss biologist settled in England responds to the advertisement stating the two men in the picture are known to him – his father and his Godfather. However he has no idea how the two men knew Hélène’s mother! As they begin to communicate more often they delve into the past of Natasha and Pierre and Jean and Sylvia and how they all were connected and how each of their lives were shaped by the actions of the past!

It’s a beautiful work narrated through letters, emails and texts; the only descriptive chapters are the ones a photograph is explained. The details of these photographs are richly drawn and one can practically see those pictures in one’s mind, so vivid are the imagery of the words. The characters are rich and more importantly, they are all human – there is good, bad and ugly and the ability to repent and to forgive, the wide array of emotions that make a human, humane. Most importantly, what could have been a clichéd story, has been very cleverly crafted into a lovely heart searing sometimes tragic and sometimes optimistic tale. This novel is a testimony to the fact that while the stories of mankind are more or less the same, how you choose to tell those stories, proves your worth as a storyteller. Ms. Gestern has definitely proved she is worthy and so much more – an awesome debut!!

A last word of Thanks to Jane; it was her wonderful review of this book that prompted me to read it. Like her I am not particularly very modern in reading tastes, and this book smacked of it!! But her tastes in books are excellent and I have been introduced to many great authors thanks to her. So I plunged in and as always, it was a great experience!!

All About Gs

I know I have stated this many a times, but one of my biggest inspirations for blogging and reading is Stephanie. Like a younger sibling, looking up to her elder sister, I look up to Stephanie for all great books (including books I would have never read had it not been for her review), blogging discipline (though I am nowhere as diligent as her) and of course adventure (online courses and carrot soup to name a few!) Naturally when she posted this, I had to give it go, only I did not realize just how difficult the alphabet G was!!

The task and I quote verbatim from her post is –

Say your favorite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

Here goes, my love affair with finding the right “G”s –

Favorite Book – I racked my brains and racked it all through the week before I concluded on this one. It’s off beat but perhaps one of the most sensitively written novels on racial discrimination, equality and traditions. It’s a novel by Rabindranath Tagore and it’s called “Gora” literally meaning someone who is white, i.e. of European descent. The story of “Gora” an orphan adopted by an orthodox Brahmin family and his journey of self-discovery set in the late 19th century Bengal, India, transcends borders, time and cultures to make one question the common understanding of religion, caste and patriotism

Favorite Author – I was not sure if “G” had to be the alphabet in the first name, middle name or last name; so like always, I choose three with “G” being placed in different places in the names:

  • Gaskell, Elizabeth – Well, what can one say about this brilliant and sensitive author from Victorian England. Whether it is her sensitive portrayal of the trails of the factory workers in “North and South” or her humorous take on the “genteel” lives of a small Victorian town in “Cranford” or her bone chilling “Gothic Tales”, she was a mistress of all that she wrote, infusing all her works with a succinct understanding of those with lesser fortunes and abilities
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel Prize winner, author extraordinaire and humanitarian. I cannot think of anyone who wrote with such imagination or depth of understanding of human feelings and relationships than this great man; the man who wrote about a beautiful love affair in the golden years of ones lives or decried the violence and mourned about the loss of freedom of his fellow countryman in the aftermath of the Columbian Civil War that affected so many lives
  • G.K. Chesterton – Humorous, contradictory and witticism personified, G.K. Chesterton was an author of wide ranges, whether he wrote about Father Brown stories or satires about modern materialistic lives like The Man who was Thursday, he was a modernist who understood traditions and mocked it, while capturing the gentleness of the lost era

Favorite Song – This was easy! My grandmother used to play this on the loop – Ella Fitzgerald was her favorite artist and the ever optimistic person that’s she was, this naturally appealed to her, though the religious aspects of the song she ignored, being one true blooded agnostic that ever was there ….(yes! Optimism and a love for Ella Fitzgerald run in the family and are DNA type of things, passes on from one generation to another!)

Favorite Film – Sigh!! I know this is clichéd and god knows, I am not really fond of the book, but I do love the movie – Clarke Gable, brilliant period costumes and sets, some lovely shots, awesome music and of course, did I mention Clarke Gable? Of course, I am talking about Gone with the Wind

Favorite Object – Dang!! Most of my favorite objects start with a B (Books) or F (Food and Friends), but finally, I came up with this one – God!! I know this one is not an object, and I have probably committed 989 blasphemy by quoting the Great one as an object, but here’s the thing – I am not particularly religious, (not with agnostic grandmother and father DNAs) and I am not at all into pious rituals or orthodoxy, but I do believe there is a greater force at play. Like I always say, I will never have the luck I want but I will always have the luck I need, and someone somewhere is taking care to make sure that I get the luck I need. It’s good to have someone to be thankful to and of course rant and rave and blame at when things do not go right and I think, selfish being that I am its more for the latter than the former, I keep “the great one” close to my heart!! The other “G” related object very close to my heart right after “God” would be my girlfriends – where would I be without their crazy adventures, disastrous love lives, existential crisis, all night gossips, ice cream binge sessions and shoulders to cry on – thank god for the crazy, lunatic, brilliant and lovable bunch of girls, I have the privilege to call friends, life is so much more worthy and wonderful, because I have them in my life!!

Phew! Finally all done; kind of exhausting but oodles of fun, especially vis-à-vis making those choices to select “the final one”…try it and do let me know if you need an alphabet to help you around!!

Awesome Mom’s Some….

I know this might be a bit clichéd but I cannot think of a more proper way to celebrate Mother’s Day that to list some of the most amazing and coolest moms of fiction. Like all our awesome mom’s these moms embody the qualities that makes the them so wonderful – courage, wisdom and patience. So here’s a list of some of greatest mother’s in fiction, dedicated to all the real mothers, in a testimony of art imitating life.

In random order –

  • Mrs. March – I know I have written about her in the past, but she is such a wonderful mother that I have to evoke her example again and again. Left alone to rear 4 daughters with limited funds, while her husband fought for the Union, during the American Civil War, she is tested in every possible way. Strained financial conditions through which she tries to give her daughters a good life and gentle lessons of truth when they turn wayward, she is brave, wise and generous; leading by example and never loosing hope or her faith in the ultimate triumph of good!
  • Molly Weasly – She is perhaps the most unconventional of the great mom’s literature. She yells at her children when they step out of line; she is generous in her love when she adopts an orphaned Harry in her family, caring for him like her own sons and a roaring tigress when anyone harms her brood! (Remember her battle with Bellatrix Lestrange,in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) She is one fierce woman demonstrating the best of motherhood – pride, kindness and protectiveness.
  • Mrs. Joad – I feel she is one of the most overlooked characters in John Steinbeck’s books, but The Grapes of Wrath stands tall not only because she is the matriarch, but she holds the family together when there is no land left, no job, her favorite son has become a fugitive again and her son-in-law has left her pregnant daughter alone! She practical, strong and brave who faces all the odds, leaving aside her own grief and loss for the greater good of others, even when they are not part of her family, but just people in need!
  • Pelagea Nilovna Vlassovna aka Mother– How can any list be complete without “Mother”. In Pelagea, Maxim Gorky creates a character who from being a scared forever petrified of her husband’s beatings transforms into a brave and independent person because of her love for her son. She becomes part of the revolutionary movement to be useful to her and in the process becomes a strong courageous woman who loses her life for her and her son’s beliefs.
  • Rosa Huberman – She must be the most loud and foul-mouthed mother in the history, but in Rosa, Mark Zusak in The Book Thief created a believable chartecter of a mother trying to do her best in extremely difficult circumstances, who cares for her foster daughter Liesel as her own and is generous even when there is little if anything left to be generous about!

Well….that’s my list!! Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Mommys out there!!

Turf Wars and more in Victorian England

I am still very ill so I will make this post short and sweet. While I have some pending reviews,  let me review what I have just finished reading and fresh in my mind so that I do not labor myself too much (Yes! I am reduced to dithering hypochondriac except I really cannot seem to take on too many tasks!)

Therefore without further ado, I present to you Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I had bought this one way back but for some reason or other I did not get around to it; recently this book came back into view and seemed like a perfect staple for my Century in Books project.

Framley Parsonage is the fourth instalment in Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire and was published in 1861. I do not know why I took so long in getting round to this book, because I had so far read three of the Chronicles and loved them – The Warden, Barchester Towers and my personal favorite Dr. Thorne.

Framley Parsonage continues the saga of the Cathedral Town of Barchester and follows the life of Mark Roberts – a young Vicar who is blessed in every possible way when our story opens.  Mark Roberts is a son of country physician who had done well and had sent his son to a private tutor; as luck would have it the only other pupil at that time was the young Ludovic, Lord Lufton. The dowager Lady Lufton impressed by young Mark Roberts and encourages the friendship with her son as a fitting companion including convincing Dr. Roberts to send his son to Harrows and then Oxford and upon graduation, presenting Mark Roberts with a valuable living in the rectory of Framley Parsonage. Furthermore, Lady Lufton also finds him a suitable wife in Fanny Mosell who is the closest friend of her daughter Lady Justinia Meredith. Fortune smiles on Mark Roberts and things are looking up when Mark decides to increase his hold and place in Church of England by interacting with such Nathaniel Sowerby a Member of Parliament in serious financial trouble and Duke of Omnium, an unprincipled libertine and a staunch Whig supporter and an opponent of Lady Lufton. As Mark is taken away from his home and rectory and is implicated in Nathaniel Sowerby’s debt, he also incurs Lady Lufton’s displeasure by consorting with a worldy group whom she violently opposes. In the meanwhile, Dr Roberts dies, and his youngest daughter Lucy Roberts comes to stay with Mark and Fanny. It is here that the young Lord Lufton meets and falls in love with her and though she also feels the same way, she refuses to marry him unless Lady Lufton consents, which everybody agrees will not happen, since she has decided to make a match of her son with the beautiful and wealthy Griselda Grantly, the only daughter of daughter of Archdeacon Grantly. What ruin does Mark’s future hold and what happens to the star-crossed lovers is the core of the novel. Other staple characters of Barchester intermingle with these new entrants including the Proudies, Dr .Thorne, Miss Dunstable and the Arabins.

I am told by Wikipedia, that Anthony Trollope said that Framley Parsonage is a “thoroughly English”. I think this is the perfect description of the novel with only a footnote – thoroughly Victorian English! This novel is Victorian at its best – there are church wars and there are wars raging in the Parliament on India policies and French diplomacy. There is as Mr. Trollope rightly points out fox-hunting and I add seasons in London. It is a beautiful vibrant picture of the golden age of the British Empire in all its grandeur and all its folly. There is never any pedantic voice on the follies but a gentle mocking humor underlining the need that is clear even today of a great nations that stops itself from greater glory because of the pettiness’s of its people. The narration is linear and very straightforward and the plot line though simple touches upon some of the everyday facts of life and the challenges we all face ins resolving them. There is a lot of humor and a subtle irony.

The real show stealers of this novel are its characters. They are wonderfully drawn as usual and like life there are really no black and no real white characters. Mark Roberts is not the hero, though he shows heroic tendencies in the end nor is Lord Lufton the hero, though there is much virtue in his conduct. The heroines and I do say the heroines because that’s what they are; and are an absolute pleasure to read. Fanny Roberts is intelligent bright and sensitive and though not blind to her husband’s faults, defends his character with as much gusto as possible.  She has thoroughly developed sense of propriety and can see the rightness of Lady Lufton’s actions, even if they are against her husband and is a complete champion to Lucy Roberts. Lucy Roberts is one those remarkably fine characters – though to world in general and in terms of Lady Lufton seems insignificant; she had depth, principles and courage of the bravest kind – the courage that requires you live knowing you have sacrificed every happiness of your life for the sake of another. She is a marvelous character and her episodes are a joy to read; I especially enjoyed her interactions with the Crawleys.  Lady Lufton while masterful  is a wonderful woman, capable of great love and it is love in the end that always steers her actions in the right directions despite her pride and her constant urge to take charge. Nathaniel Sowerby though he comes through as dyed in the wool villain is also shown to be capable of honor and even sensitivity. The Arbins, Dr. Thorne and Miss Dunstable are as always delightful to be reacquainted with; with their sense of integrity, delicacy of mind and in Miss Dunstable‘s case a brilliant sense of fun!

I know I promised this to be short and sweet, but remember this is Victorian novel and it is long. Judging by current standards, this novel could have been a 100 pages less; but I am not complaining. This is one of those books that you read and immerse yourself slowly and bit by bit.

I had mentioned earlier that Dr. Thorne is my favorite among the Barchester Chronicles – here’s the postscript – it’s just been replaced by Framley Parsonage. Like a fine wine, Mr. Trollope keeps getting better and better!

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