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Posts tagged ‘Novel’

Snapshots From Here And There…..

Things are slowly coming back into its place but the pace is infinitely slow and sometimes it is very hard to keep patience. But I guess the glass is at the very least quarter full and I am extremely grateful about that! Reading is very very slow, and I have four books going on at the same time with varying speed of progress –

  • The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community by Sudeep Chakravarti
  • The Hungry Empire By Lizzie Collingham
  • The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

I have made significant progress in Book 1 and Book 4 and Book  has my attention enough to become be finished soon, but Book 3….well, let’s not jump the gun! I have only read 51 odd pages and things may improve!

Naturally I have no review to share and no books or bookish things to discuss, but I did want to drop in and say Hello to everyone again and leave you with some pictures of my recent travel to Arizona. for work I fell in love with the Desert Valley of Phoenix, and it’s low hills and open spaces and a view to take one’s breath away! I leave you with some shots from the visit!

 

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The Mysteries of Last Week…

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the week after vacation will be stressful! The events at work once again proved the very obvious theory accurate and to say I was glad that the week passed is an understatement. After 16 hrs day at work, I could not summon the courage to read Daniel Deronda or The March of Folly; great books but hardly something to lessen the exhaustion! Casting around for something easy to read, which gave a break from work reality, I found GoodReads hosting The Thriller & Mysteries week and among the various activities, they had planned, they also had listed the most popular Mysteries/Thrillers per Reader ratings! Reading through I found, Book#3 was apparently sitting in my many unread collection and this seemed a good time to get started. I finished that and wanted something more and found Book # 28 which I recollect my father had really liked and was part of his collection, so naturally, my selection for the second read became Book#28!  Now at the beginning of the brand new week, I present two mini reviews of my reads of Book#2 and Book#28!

Book#3 was A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George, published in 1988 and winner of Anthony Award. The book is the first in series of now famous Inspector Lynley series and the reader is introduced to Inspector Thomas Lynley, Eton/Ozford educted Peer of the Relm, who is also one the best inspector of CID. He is drawn from the wedding of his best friend, by Sargent Barbara Havers, the infant terrible of the police department, who has finally been paired with Lanley in the last hope of having her investigative mind brought to the fore, instead of her aggressive, belligerent attitude, which got her suspended from CID and back in uniform 8 months back! Lanley and Havers make their way to Keladale, in North Yorkshire, where the body of William Teys, honorable member of the Church, devoted father and successful farmer is found, decapitated, with his daughter, the 19 year old Roberta Teys, sitting on an upturned bucket, with an aze on her lap and with the only words spoken “I did it, I am not sorry!”. It seems like an open and shut case, ezcept there are parts to tale which does not fit in, including a cousin who gets the farm on the event of William Tey’s death, a finance, a artist and the daughter of William Teys who ran away, years ago! As Lanley and Havers dig for the truth, they discover all kinds of unholy secrets, that the quiet village of Keladale holds, which not only challenges them professionally, but also confront their personal demons, to find the killer!

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Book# 28 was Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, published in 1981. This book like the previous one is the first in the series of Arkady Renko, the Chief Investigator of Moscow’s homicide squad. The novel introduces us to Arkady Renko, one of the finest and most honest investigator’s in Moscow’s Prosecutor’s office. He is the son, of a decorated War General and grew up in the privileged circles of Moscow, attending the best schools, University and Law School. The novel opens on a cold day in April in Soviet Russia, in the northern end of Gork Park, the amusement Park of Moscovites, where the militiamen, have discovered three dead bodies, now that the snow is thawing, and Arkady has been called into investigate the corpses. Two men and one woman lay dead and  their faces have been mutilated and ends of the thumbs chopped off to ensure, there is no identification whatsoever! Arkady Renko  sets off on a trail to find the identity of his victims as well as their killers and as he slowly unravels the mysteries, he confronts, the KGB, an American Business man, a New York City Cop and happenings much closer to home, and the chase for the killer will take him to the exiled land of Shatura and then America until he finds the very truth, that lay hidden among the obvious!

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Some 100 pages into The Great Deliverance, I realized that at some point, I had read this novel and I began to vaguely recollect the end, though I hung on because of the hows and simply because it was written very well. The taut plot of the novel, is the strength of The Great Deliverance. I did not much care for the main characters – the absolutely perfect Lanley and the constantly snotty Havers (I wanted to throw a book at her), but the ensemble cast made up for the insipidity of the protagonists, who were much more life like, confronting confusion, trauma and much more, and still chalking out better lives for themselves! The ending was kind of cliched but my guess is in 1988, when such things were still not so much in the open, it must have created quite a stir and again based on the fast paced and through narration, the book must have been one  thrilling read!

Gorky Park was much more to my taste! Firstly, it is set in Russia, which predisposes me to like it. The plot, unlike The Great Deliverance was not of sensationalist nature, but ran with with an equally tight narrative, which made the reading, as interesting and kept one hooked on. In Arkady Renko, the author had created a wonderful hero, who with all his flaws, comes through as someone, you would want as a hero of a novel. Wikipedia states that Renko has been called a Bryonic Hero and he may be, but I really liked the character that was capable of great intuitive thinking but at the same time having blind spots that enables them to fall and then rise again! The book was banned in Soviet Union after its initial release and I can quite understand why; the author captures the tense, suspicious atmosphere of the last years of Socialisim beautifully. Despite the change of regime and new laws, to guarantee freedom of rights and liberty, the citizens till live in the fear of losing jobs, of suddenly being denounced as dissidents and landing up in Siberia or worse dead, for as simple case of being religious. Even if you do your job and keep your head down, you may still fall under the scanner and your promotions thwarted because, you are not an “active” party member. The dull, grey lives of the Soviet citizens is wonderfully captured which brings out the psychological as well as economic deprivation succinctly!  What really set this novel apart, from other books set in similar settings is lack of the chest thumping glory of Capitalism; Soviet Russia is bad, but the glorious land of free is no better. So called Radicals are put under surveillance, racism exists and there equal amount of incompetence in the institutions! Well crafted, with meticulous attention to detail and a believable cast ensemble, this book was a great read, through and through! I am so impressed that I went and bought Book#2 of the series, Polar Star!

To end, let just say, the both the book, not so good and very good, helped me make it to a stressful week and to that end, they fulfilled their aim of taking me away from reality!

The Augustinian Plans….

I think this recent hiatus from the world of bloggers has been my longest. Unfortunately work and more work and now an added certification for which I signed up is taking up 37 hours of the 24 hours!  My reading is down to a crawl and to say I am neglecting housework is the a mere understated understatement. Oh! the joys of adulthood! Actually I take that back…I would rather be an adult anyday, than go back to being a school kid! I hear folks talk about their childhood with so much nostalgia, but me,I am glad not to do homework, not worry about being a wallflower, not go through the angst of adolescent and generally like being responsible for myself, without a zillion number of adults telling me how to do things better. The latter still happens, but atleast now I have the power to ignore without subterfuge; as a young kid I had to do a LOT of planning to get my own way which was yet another exhausting factor about being young!!!

That was a lot of procrastination from the main subject of reading plans, but considering how bad the last month turned out to be for reading, I am kind of wary about any elaborate reading plans. Besides I have a road trip planned in the middle of August traveling across the Western Coast of India and I am sure while I will really want to read between those spells of long drives, I am also sure, my friends and cousins will chatter enough to make sure I cannot concentrate on the book and instead join their mayhem! So seriously, keeping it simple for a while.

To begin with I am putting The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge – Reading The Histories on hold till November. I am as is wayyyyyyyy behind Cleo and Ruth and rest of the group and this certification is a lot of heavy reading on Strategy and Finances and all other non fun stuff and since my company is paying for it, I NEED TO CERTIFY! Therefore all heavy reading is for this course which thankfully will be over by November! Hence, I have decided that Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War and The City of God by Saint Augustine will have to wait for now! I am not sure if I am happy or sad about this fact! Fortunately, Mr. Dickens continue to provide much needed relief for all the stress and I am happy to progress through yet another set of adventures in the company of Mr. Pickwick and friends, as part of  The Pickwick Paper Read AlongI still have left over reading from July which includes Yasmin Khan’s The Raj at War – A People’s History of India’s Second World War . which is mind blowingly brilliant and Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy for which I am still holding my breath. I hope to also finish Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, again a Read along with Cleo, this month, a novel that I am enjoying immensely! I also have New York by Edward Rutherford to finish. Besides these, I am sure I will pick up more and get into an even more tighter spot on finding time to manage life. But it is what it is and as long as we are having fun, that’s what counts! I mean what’s the point of being an adult otherwise!!!!!

Here Comes May….

The much dreaded Indian Summers are here and much as I would want to hide away and never really come out of igloo styled hibernation, there are bills to be paid and work to be done! So May, do thy worst, I shall live for October!!

First thing about May was changing the theme of my blog; I was tired of looking at Classical libraries and dark paintings, which while look very cosy and comfortable in Winters, they make me feel hot and stifled in summers. Inspired by O and Cleo, I decided to finally get around to changing the theme, archiving old posts and setting things up in simpler, whiter, and less cluttered theme! I know that the banner painting is still on darker tones, but it’s one and its got color so it stays! The white background, trust me does wonders as the sun beats down on everything, outside!

I will drink lots of water, nimboo pani which is an Indian version of lemonade only more sweet and spicy, stick to cold soups and dream of cooler weathers that October will bring! In between, hopefully around end May, I plan to go running back in the welcoming and cool arms of the Great Himalayan range; now that a close friend has opened a cafe in the Dhauladhar Range, Himalayas are actually a second home, which I plan to utilize the most, especially as the plains burn in the sun, as we head towards June and July!

Anyway, so much about themes and weather, the point is what reading is happeneth this month? While I know you all must be bored of listening to me go on and on about this one book, but I shall finish one day and until then, it stays put in my reading plans; naturally I am talking about The Histories by Herodotus. As the entire, universe must be aware by now, I was reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part of The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Speaking of Cleo, I am also reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, with her. And again with Cleo and O, I continue the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event.  I am also reading The Patriot by Sana Karsikov with Brona and this is one book, I am seriously excited about!

The change in the blog theme, also brings forward a resolution about something that has one been on my mind for a while! Like in many other things, here too, I am inspired by Stefanie ………so what is this big resolution you ask? The resolution is (DEEP BREATHE)  –  I will not buy any new books until I finish the ones next to my bed side table and those on my writing desk. This means I diligently stick to finishing The Instance of the Finger Post by Ian Pears, The Last of the Mohincans by James Fenimore Copper and finish the three Terry Pratchets, The Fifth Elephant and Snuff. I also have several unread volumes lying dormant in my Kindle and its high time I finished what I bought! That is the resolution as of now…of course everyone knows of my will power and how I cannot be tempted and I always stick to my goals, especially bookish goals! Yes, you can stop laughing now! Ok…I will try, that is all I am committing to now! And I am allowed to borrow from the library! Ok…that seems reasonable, now to actual READING!

Reading Non-Stop

Whoever it was coined that “Ask and you shall receive” really knew what they were talking about. (I am really not sure that God made such an injunction, I do not quite think he/she works in pithy saying, but then one never knows!)  Anyhow, my point, there is a lot of truth in that statement, though instances often belie us! But then there are times when you actually get what you wished and then you kick yourself wondering why the hell did you not wish for that million dollars that you need? But still one must be grateful for that one instance being gratified and keep their fingers crossed, in more such events coming true.

Now I am sure what this looooooong prologue  entail? Never fear; enlightenment cometh thy way! (You have to allow me the joy of being a drama queen). Like I had mentioned in my previous posts, the work hours are getting longer and longer with no end in sight, and in fact will not be in sight for next several months to come.Add to that there are domestic complications, including the electric fuse which blew and the wiring of my apartment needed to be re-wired. Top if off, I am in midst of personal quandary, the solution to which is completely unbeknownst to me; let alone unbeknownst, I do not even know where to begin to find the pathway to the answers! Needless, to say, I am not in a happy place; atleast not in a peaceful place and I need a break – the kind of break that i really thrive on – the escape to the bookland variety! Considering there are quite a few things crowding in my mind and diverting me from focusing on the books I want to read, I thought a readathon like event would set the stage and motivate me to get going and gain some momentum on my reading and take my mind of the sundry! So I trawled the internet and after same lame ducks, I hit jackpot.

Season’s Reading is hosting a two week long Readathon, from Jan 16th to Jan 29th called A Winter’s Respite. It starts at 12:00 am Monday the 16th, and ending at 11:59 pm on Sunday the 29th. The great part about this Readathon is you can join up anytime during this period and there are no mandatory reading requirement, as long as you read and have some fun along the way.

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This is just what the doctor ordered, some company for focused, albeit relaxed reading! So I sign up with joy and list below some of the books, I am planning to make significant headway with, before Monday takes over –

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth and many others, as part of The Well Educated Reading List for Histories and I am SIGNIFICANTLY behind!
  2. The Hindus by Wendy Doniger – Yet another History and this one controversial at that. Banned in India, I bought the copy well before all the fire and fury was raked up and then because of the uber hype, I gave it up for a later read! (Everybody was pretending to read the book, without actually any idea of what Dr. Doniger was saying and it was “cool” to support or refute on very shallow understanding of the subject!!) Now is a good time to rev-visit the book finally and I look forward to the this pioneering and exploratory work on the Ancient Hindu culture!
  3. The Curse of Mohenjodaro by Maha Khan Philips – Since I am reading ancient Indian History, it made sense to mix it up with a easy historical read and vary the pace a bit. Based off recommendation from a friend, I am going to see what the author makes about a civilization, which remains a mystery!
  4. Politics and The English Language by George Orwell – This is not a book but an essay by George Orwell on the politics of using English as a primary language. I have Cleo to thank for this one!!
  5. Lucky Jim by Kinsley Amis – Just because I need some laughter among all the serious reading!

That’s the plan for now! I bid all of thee adieu with promises of updates every few hours!

The French Girl & The German Boy

After much deliberation and delay, I finally delved into All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Yes, I am aware I am really late for the party, but atleast I got here. This is especially significant, considering, I usually give prize winning novels a wide berth. Anyhow, I spent the two weekend nights all being super comfortable in my bed, drinking cups of Rose tea and reading this 2014 Pulitzer prize winning work!

The book is set during the World War II, briefly covering the year of 1934, before delving into the events that occurs 1940-1945. The novel tells the story of Marie-Laurie, a young blind girl, the daughter to the locksmith to the Natural History Museum in Paris. Marie-Laurie spends time in her father’s museum, talking to the curator and reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, knowing of her father’s love and care for her. Her orderly life is shattered and brought  to a standstill, when Hitler’s Germany invades France and she and her father are forced to flee Paris, in wake of the occupation. In search of refuge of some kind, her father finally reached Saint Malo, the home of her great uncle. Her great Uncle, an erudite brilliant man, has shut himself up from the world, being afraid of shadows, since his experience in World War I. The father and daughter are however kindly looked after by the house keeper and days begin to melt into month, as Marie-Laurie tries to adjust herself to her new surroundings. Across the border, in a orphanage, Werner and Jutta, the orphaned children of a mine worker, listen to distant voices in a hand made radio, made by Werner,that tells them of miracles of science and wonders of the world. Wener’s brilliance with radio sciences and engineering is soon discovered by those in power and he is sent to an elite school to get trained to mold the future of Aryan Germany. It is at this school, that in the angst to ensure, he does not end up with a life like his father, he makes choices, that he knows Jutta will never forgive and which in his heart he knows is never acceptable. However, these choices seem to drag him down until he ends up in Saint Malo, with one chance to redeem all his past.

Now come the part about how I liked the book…well, I liked it a lot!! I thought the descriptions whether of the sea or of being stuck inside the rubble was mesmeric. The prose of the novel, lifted me and seared my soul and painted some breathe taking pictures. I loved how each character was drawn out, not by the descriptions that the author wrote but by their actions and how each of the character was etched out and stood out clearly and independently of others. I loved how Marie-Laurie’s life was made independent of her visual inabilities and made her do brave things, without any dependency on any other character.  I loved the subtleties in the characters like Etienne LeBlanc and Frank Volkheimer. It was wonderful getting to know them and see their lives unravel. The plot deviates from the usual boy meets girl phenomena and delves into relationships that are just as rich and yet cannot be defined by the standards set by the society. However despite all the brilliance of the book, I cannot help but feel that in the end, Werner’s fate was a bit of cliche; like he had to made to pay for all the betrayals in a de-la grande style. I could not help but feel that Mr. Doerr, kind of treads on the line of Flaubert and Tolstoy in making the fatal flaw, the unforgivable flaw. I somehow cannot help but feel that Werner’s fate had it been a bit different, would have been less maudlin and made more sense. Finally, speaking of fatal flaws, I have a one – that is never of quite liking a historical fiction, if it is inaccurate in its facts. Mr. Doerr unfortunately ends up making a minor error, but to me, it glares like a red hot iron, taking away much of the credibility of the book. In page 135, Kindle Print, Etienne talks about listening to broadcasts from Pakistan. The chapter is set in 1940, full 7 years before Pakistan came into being!!! How can the author not check his facts? How can his editor ignore such a blatant mistake? Or is it to the North, events of the South do not matter? Mr. Doerr should know that while many French, American and German soldiers died, there were more than 2 million Indian troops who also fought defending a nation, that was not theirs, fighting for a cause they had no say in, all because as a country they belonged to the Great British Empire. Their identity and their heritage is disparaged by such errors, and their efforts negated, by the complete ignominy that is assigned to them by the careless stroke of the pen!

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