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New Month, One Rant & Some Old Books

The first month of 2017 is now over and to think 2017 had started! Time flies when you especially need more time! Don’t ask me why!

Anyhow February is here and I always have mixed feelings about this month. I get my annual bonus which is GREAT! Winter is still around, albeit to a lesser degree! Then this month, marks the celebration of Hindu Festival where we worship the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati – my personal favorite goddess, especially since the Goddess of Wealth, Lakhshmi is determine NEVER to look at me! But this month also brings on all the yucks and ughs related to the much hyped and completely commercialized Valentine’s day! I mean why the HELL do you need a special day to declare your love; I mean if you are in love with someone, why do you need to wait for bloody Feb 14th to express the same! Even the most sane and rational creatures become ridiculous to the point I do not want to know them. For instance, one of the most rational individuals that I know with brains of a genius and a heart of gold has suddenly taken to social network posting love coated honey dripped messages for his fiance which makes me want to take out my Kate Middleton barf bag!! Ugh! I mean do not get me wrong, I am a die hard romantic and I love this couple who are two of most wonderful people I know and have the good fortune to call friends, but WHY the HELL does the 500+ friends on FB have to sit by and listen to your undying and unending declarations of love, considering they will be attending you wedding in less than a month and witness it live anyway??? I am not being Groucho Marx but this day is beyond ridiculous! The other day I went to buy a dress for some social event I need to attend and all I could see was red and purple….I mean really? The half brained sales assistant infact tried to see me a red velvet monstrosity saying it was perfect for Valentines’s assuming naturally if I am buying a dress in this season, well duh! it has to for the stupid Valentine’s day!!!! What the hell is wrong with you people? Ok…deep breaths! Rant over! February also means Spring which is like two weeks in this geography will follow and then….shudder!horror! Summers are here! Oh! I need to migrate to some colder climate, I CANNOT take this heat any longer!

Atleast there are books to tide me over! Unfortunately I am as I had foreseen at the beginning of the year, very limited time of reading and when I do find time to read, I have very little energy to tackle a classic as much as I love reading it! My brain aches for some light reading and I am constantly worried that I will lose all my intellect if I keep perusing, you know light weight material! So I march forward, trying to complete The Histories with Herodutus. I am also trying to get a move on Captivity by György-Spiró, though like The Histories, my progress is beyond slow! My consolation – well, slow and steady, the tortoise did win the race! I am also loving Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus; this alternate historic telling of India’s past is very interesting, though I seem to disagree with her at several junctures. I also continue with The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, the only reading event I seem not to be lagging behind. As of now I am simply sticking to calling out these three books since I am sure, I will be randomly reading up other books per my time and mood and what I see on other’s blog! Besides the fact that this month has less days, means more work at work to meet those deadlines!! Can I simply fast-forward the next 1o months and reach December??? I guess not! Oh! Well! Onward Christian Solider and all that!

After my rant, it is only fair that I leave you with some laughs –

Piracy in Restoration England

After much wringing of hand and utter confusion and mental distress, I plodded forth to read Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier as part of my Reading England project, focusing on Cornwall. As many are already aware, I had no patience with Rebecca and completely lost my sanity with Jamaica Inn, why then would I venture to another Du Maurier? What can I say, except I was hoping for third time lucky??!! Not the best logic, but considering there is a huge reading population that swear by Du Maurier, I really really wanted to give her another chance before I shut the door completely, hence the Frenchman’s Creek adventure.

The book is set in Restoration England, and at the very onset, we are introduced to Dona, Lady St. Columb, who has made a hasty departure from the decadent London Court of Charles II and is heading for her husband’s Cornish country estate of Navron with her children. Dona who has been married for six years, has adapted to the life of Charles II court of being vacuousness and frivolity without really ever belonging to it. After an attempted practical joke on a old Countess, that jars Dona to reality, she heads to Navron, seeking peace and trying to find her true self, away from the bustle of London and her clumsy husband Harry. In Navron, she soon discovers, that the county has been pillaged  by attacks from a French pirate and Dona soon learns that Navron which overlooks the creek that flows into the ocean is used by the French pirate as a hideaway. Her exploration of the creek soon brings her in contact with the great Pirate himself and Dona seeking adventure, soon becoming friends and then falls in love with him. She finally agrees to go on piracy expedition with him against one of her neighbor’s vessels. The attack is a success and Dona promises to return to the pirate after she has met her children; however once she is back in Navron, she discovers that Harry and his detestable friend, Rockingham are back with some serious designs of harming the pirate and Dona has very little time to decide on actions that will determine the pirate’s as well as her fate!

Restoration England, Cornwall and Pirates, how bad can the book be? Guess again! It was TERRIBLE! No third time lucky for me. The characters are all ridiculous and unbelievable.Lets start with Dona, she is beautiful and she is bold. That’s the beginning and end of her. She married a man of her choice and them she found him clumsy, though through the novel I could figure out that Harry, albeit clumsy was devoted to Dona. She finds the life of London shallow., after indulging in all manners of shenanigans for six years. She finds Rockingham impertinent, after she allowed him to flirt with her and kiss her. I mean this woman does everything she wants, without thought or deliberation and when the results are not to her liking, she claims boredom and dissatisfaction. The way she treats Harry is disgraceful; she orders him about, never giving him any explanation of her conduct, behaving in a illogical autocratic manner through the novel. In my opinion, Harry should have left her to begin with. Then we have our Frenchman, who is a rich, aristocrat who indulges in  Piracy because of boredom. Arrrrgggghhhh! What is it with this boredom??? Is there no better way to kill it than doing something criminal.The justification Ms. Maurier is quick to point out is that the Frenchman only robbed the rich. I may have lost my common sense here, but being rich is not a crime for which you have to pay through the actions of a Robin Hoodsque character. However stealing last I checked was a crime, regardless whom you steel from! The remaining cast and crew are nothing to write about, there is the cliched loyal servant and the classic evil villain and the goofy nobleman. At least in Jamaica Inn, there was some brilliant and torrid description of the land and climate, that set the stage for the adventure; the language in this book is just placid; it hardly changes or moves, except for one reddening storm, which came and went! There is no originality in the plot nor is there any real thrill and  I kept going simply because I wanted to finish what I had started, as a form a self torture for picking up another Du Maurier.

I know I have sworn this before, but I am truly never ever reading any Du Maurier again! She is completely unbearable. A complete waste of time!

P.S. As I look back on my review of Jamaica Inn, O had warned me that this was a bad book and I had said I would not even venture near it and then I clean FORGOT!! Next time as an act of kindness if you see me attempting another Du Maurier, just point me towards Jamaica Inn review and then this one!

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!

The End….

I know I was away yet again and I did contemplate a lot before writing this post – but since I have shared all almost all the highs and lows of my life – this one seems proper, though as God be my witness, the idea is not to wash dirty laundry in public or seek sympathy, but to explain that while I will try to be my bouncy, bright, chirpy self – but there might be some days when I falter and I ask you all to bear with me!
I have so often read about such things, heard it happen to other and knew that stuff like this was part of life, but the reality and the fact that it has happened to you or can happen to you, does not really occur until it actually does happen! Then you go from disbelief, to rage to complete numbness! (And yes! Insomnia and writing random blogs in the middle of the night!)
So what has happened, so cataclysmic in nature to make me spew all this bizarre thoughts – oh! the oft repeated, tried and tested sordid ending of a relationship – I have been left at the altar, not practically but metaphorically for another woman. Mr Soulmate has decided that he found another soul better suited to him and was apparently with her for the last couple of months. He told me last week Monday, at work – calling me and saying lets meet for coffee and then “Well I want you to know – yada yada yada!”
I think I spent the next 48 hrs thinking it’s a bad joke that he will come and laugh it off or a bad dream that my flatmate will wake me up from. Apparently it’s not – it’s a reality and he is marrying her in December!
We worked together and that’s how the whole thing started – but I cannot seem to understand the hows/whats/when! He was promoted about 10 days ago and within 3 days after that, it was goodbye to me and hello to someone else! I am still grappling with what hit me/us?
I can’t seem to rant or rage and I do not wish for any scenes or any drama – I just feel very tired and numb and the only thing that keeps playing on my mind is –

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, Oh how do I live

If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything
Need you with me
Baby ’cause you know
That you’re everything good in my life
And tell me now
Ms.Twain really hit the nail there! But I will be back, sooner than you think, but bear with me until then!

The Happy Sad Syndrome

Is there anything called Happy Sad? You know when you are filled with joy of knowing someone and yet there is sadness of parting? I am truly blessed not to have parted with someone like that in real life – I mean I do have close friends and family who have moved away and I do miss them terribly! But there is always the hope of meeting again and starting off from where we left. Therefore, all my Happy Sad relations are limited, (sigh and thank heavens!) with books.There are those books that make you laugh through the whole bloody tale, only to make you cry (because otherwise the lump in your throat would choke you) in the end and yet when you close the book, you are smiling, cause you have just formed a Happy Sad relationship!

I know I am being maudlin, but bear with me! I just underwent such a cathartic Happy Sad moment! I just finished reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. This was my first book by John Green and I had no idea it was a young adult book and even if I did, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damm!

The story sounds very mushy and sentimental – Hazel Lancaster is a terminally ill girl who is forced to go to a Cancer Support Group meeting by her mother so that she can deal with her illness. At such a meeting, she meets Augustus Walters, a Cancer survivor and they start seeing each other. As their relationship develops, so does their obsession with author Peter Van Houten who had written a book called An Imperial Affliction, which does not really have an ending. In order to find an appropriate end to the story, Augustus uses his Wish from The Genie Foundation, to sponsor a trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author and get a closure on the book they both love.

But there is so much more to this book than teenage mush and of course the whole tragedy of young people dying of cancer. This book is filled with sparkling wit and wonderful humor and some absolutely marvelous prose and some heartbreaking moments. Let me elaborate –

When Hazel is worried that she would break his heart by dying of her illness, Augustus says ““Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

The humor crackles through the book; here a sample when Augustus’s sister try to cochie coo him, making him uncomfortable –
“It’s just that most really good-looking people are stupid, so I exceed expectations.’
‘Right, it’s primarily his hotness,’ I said.
‘It can be sort of blinding,’ he said.
‘It actually did blind our friend Isaac,’ I said.
‘Terrible tragedy, that. But can I help my own deadly beauty?’
‘You cannot.’
‘It is my burden, this beautiful face.’
‘Not to mention your body.’
‘Seriously, don’t even get me started on my hot bod. You don’t want to see me naked, Dave. Seeing me naked actually took Hazel Grace’s breath away,’ he said, nodding toward the oxygen tank.”

And the heartbreaking moments like when Hazel worries what will happen to her parents after she dies and she makes them promise to be together and continue leading a good fulfilling life.

The sensitivity with which a very difficult subject has been handled, without sentimentality and loads of fun (in fact the book is replete with mockery of all those books with cancer patients who do such courageous things, when in reality there is nothing poetic about dying a slow and painful death). There is a lot of good sense and practicality and an unearthly sense of reality. There is THIS whole piece of talking over the phone just before you drop off to sleep which is even better than being with the person, because it is togetherness beyond the obvious. I know exactly what that Hazel is talking about. While I am not 16 and I am not sick, I do talk to Mr. Soulmate every day just before I drop off to sleep and it’s one of the most wonderful experiences, where it seems like I am with him no matter what the time and space and there is something intransient about us!

That’s another thing about John Green’s book – he is a man; but the story is written from a girl’s point of view and boy! Does this man know the soul of woman or what? It’s like he is sitting in living room of a girl’s heart and writing from there.

Like I said, I could go on and on about the book, but it’s just something you need to read and savor on your own, like Hazel says –
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

The ‘romance’ of romantic novels…..

I was just 12 years old and I wondered into a book shop. The owner showed me all the books a young adult would like – Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Anna of Green Gables. I picked them and one more – a vague book with green cover, called Shadow Princess. I picked it up because the back cover said that the heroine was a Ph.D student and even at that age I knew a doctorate was ‘the thing’ for me; so I was going to read up everything even remotely related to it. My ever encouraging dad paid for the books and we walked out.

However it was not till two years later that I got around to reading Shadow Princess….I do not quite remember what happened; but  I think I lost a couple of books traveling and then found them two years down the line. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is at the age of 14, I read the “Shadow Princess” and after reading the slim book, I decided that romance was a piece of nonsense! It took the protagonist (who by the way was supposed to be intelligent; what with a Ph.D in chemistry) 180 pages realise that she loved the male protagonist for no better reason that one point his father had dated her sister!!! Oh! Lord!!

That was my introduction to Mills & Boons……..

So many years down the line, my view has not changes. It has just expanded to include Silhouette romances and all flowery cover jacketed books with apparently, the key word is “apparently” intelligent heroines and the silent strong men. Give me a break!!!
I defy anyone to show me such a piece of work which does not adhere to the following premises – 
  1. The writing is always from the woman’s point of view considering most these things are written by women
  2. The obviously stunning girl whose looks are played down in the initial part of the book for the “wow” effect later with large black/blue/green eyes (they always have large eyes!) meets “the guy” at some gathering
  3. The girl is obviously someone who is supposed to have substance though she has done very little in the first 10 pages to show it and might be in some kind of trouble which only “the guy” can rescue her from.
  4. The Guy” is obviously extremely tall, extremely good looking, extremely intelligent, extremely rich, extremely popular among opposite sex, extremely in love, extremely rude…extremely annoying!!
  5. They get off to a rocky start because they have a past or because they are trying to deny their attraction for each other because of some weird twisted logic that will be revealed at the end of novel that will want to make you barf!
  6. We will now spend 80 -100 pages skimming through various ups and downs where the two fight, detest each other and end up making out (Have you ever made out with someone you truly detested?????)
  7. The novel ends with “the guy” doing some incorrigible act of daring and chivalry that will make the girl declare her undying (yawn!) love for him (now that was an ending I never so coming!!) with some trite vapid wannabe joke!

Oh!! Please!!

Long back, a friend’s brother told me at an impressionable age, when I voiced my disgust for such writings that we can thank Jane Austen for introducing us to such plots via, Pride and Prejudice.

Agreed…. P&P does follow this plot line….but Jane Austen actually originated it. Furthermore, she addressed some very serious concerns of that age – marrige as the only security for educated women; the case of entailment of estates; marriage between people of unequal status….I can go on!! Besides, her humour is subtle and sarcastic!!  I refuse to believe in today’s day and age, women marry for security and in a more and more democratic world where Princes are marrying commoners, one writes about an unequal marriage where a rich ‘the guy” marries our woman of apparent substance, albiet of lower social standing and there is an ado about it! If she has substance, she will cope!!

I know this will put many in a tizzy, but can’t we do a book, a romance novel, where the heroine is fat or taller that the hero. Also what if the hero is an average guy with a good job, but is not a power wheeler dealer. I am told such books would not sell….really? Is our reading population so insipid? Maybe there is a certain section of the population that will never read such books and thrive on traditional romances, but I am sure, if a romance is a good book that truly depicts the poetry and humour of our lives, people will read.

In the meanwhile, if you like many of my friends feel the need for an out of the world, so unreal romance, there is always Messer’s Mill & Boon!

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