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Posts tagged ‘World War II’

The Girls from Shepard’s Bush

This should have been posted a week ago, but I was busy playing catch up with life after a brilliant vacation and things kind of got out of control! Anyway, moving on in an effort to gain control, let me start by saying what I keep repeating often, that my blogging – universe friends really do take me on reading adventures, that I could not have fathomed let alone, explore, if it was not for their ideas, encouragement and reviews. Ali and Jane are such people; they keep finding these lost gems that I never knew existed and  suddenly I am in the world of a marvelous author, albeit now almost lost – a considerable tragedy, considering how brilliant they are! Naturally, when Ali decided to host Mary Hocking Week, I just had to join the party. I had never read Mary Hocking, but both Jane and Ali had high words of praise, and some of her books were set in genre very close to my heart – the family sagas in the pre-world war II world. How could I possibly pass up such an opportunity???

Thus I started my tryst with Mary Hocking’s Good Daughters, Volume 1 of her Farley Family Series.

Set in 1933, the book opens with an introduction to the Farley Family residing in Shepard’s Bush, London – Stanley, the father is a well intentioned, albeit a strict Methodist man, who is the principle of a Boy’s school. He is a kind, good man, wanting the best for his family, somewhat out of touch with reality. His wife Judith is a strong, sensible woman who is far more in touch with reality and changes that they need to make in the lives, as their daughters start to become women. The daughters in order of their age are Louise, Alice and Clare, who have hereto led sheltered but good lives but are now on the threshold of womanhood; particularly Louise who is seeking new freedoms and adventures, trying to break free from her father’s Methodist lifestyle and dreams of becoming an actress. Alice, is the middle daughter, a plum girl good in sports and a hidden talent for writing, trying to find her own world as she enters teenage. Clare is the youngest of the Farley girls,. the most earnest and single minded, still a child, trying to understand the world, where her sister’s are disappearing into. As Hitler starts to make threatening noises in Europe, life in Shepard Bush, also changes for the three girls as they make new friends, discover new emotions and realize that there is perhaps no simple answers to life and there is more to things than just appearances. Over the next two years that the novel plots, we see the girls making choices and settling into lives on which they did not intend to set out originally, but were now firmly trodding on and with the Farley parents, forced to accept changes, that they never thought they would need to make!

I loved the characterizations – the Farley parents outshine all others. You love them, you are irritated with them, especially when remembering your own adolescence, and you find solace and warmth in them. Mary Hocking created two perfect characters in Stanley and Judith, imbibing them with many human flaws, and yet making them outstanding parents and friends, who see you through, when they see your through. The daughters are also very well drawn out and though I could not relate to Louise, I could understand the need to breakaway and I saw strong glimpses of my friends and myself in Alice and Claire. The ensemble cast is equally brilliant – as a reader you want to be friends with the next door neighbors Vaseyelin family, the Russian family who escaped the Revolution, Miss Blaze the formidable principle of the school the girls attend, the grandparents and cousin Ben, the orphaned, studious, self made young man. Mary Hocking presents a wonderful picture of a family and their daily lives in the world which was thought to be safe, in the wake of World War I. She brings out the disbelief of the changes that seemed to be propelling the world into another war externally as well changes more at home which the Farley’s need to make in beautiful and balanced contrast. Despite, all this, I do own I kind of felt let down – like a promise that was not kept. There was too much time spent on the sexual awakening of the daughters and while I understand girls at that age are curious about things happening to them, I  do not think that is the only preoccupation – a feeling I distinctly got from the novel, as I heard of the changes and longings of the eldest two daughters, especially Louise.Furthermore, I found the ending a bit cliched and even linear,again in specific reference to Louise – what happened, we expected to happen from early on in the novel. There are things and people I would have liked to explore more and maybe in her Volume 2 and 3, Mary Hocking does do them justice. I will have to read to find more! The language is clear and concise – simple yet definitive prose that draws clear mental pictures for the reader of the kind of home and family and life that the author tried to showcase!

Good Daughters is a great read, with some reservations, but good enough to convince me to reach out for more Mary Hocking’s novels and for sure complete the Farley Saga.

Thank You Ali for hosting the event and introducing me to another wonderful author!

All That Remains…

I finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” yesterday as part of my Reading England Project. I had heard enough of this book and again the fact that this was a Booker Prize winner put me on the guard! But seems like recent events seem to be turning my view on Booker Prize winning works – take for instance “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” and now “The Remains of the Day”. I feel like kicking myself for not reading this work earlier and having lost out on such lovely, beautiful and absolutely heart breaking experience. I think I have just shared the very core of the book, but let’s nevertheless get on with the details.

Set in 1956, the novel is written in a first person narrative of Steven’s, the butler at Darlington Hall. Darlington Hall has recently been bought by an American Mr. Faraday from the heirs for Lord Darlington, and had requested Stevens to continue in his capacity as a butler for him as well. Since Mr. Faraday was going away for some time to America, he generously offers Stevens the use of his Ford as well for providing his food and lodging cost, if Stevens chose to take a short vacation. The receipt of a letter by Ms. Kenton, the former housekeeper at Darlington Hall, in which he believes there are hints of an unhappy marriage, Steven’s proposes to take a “motoring tour” both to enjoy a vacation and to revisit Ms. Kenton and to better understand if she was likely to return to her employment at Darlington Hall. Over the next six days, Stevens drives across England and each day, he recalls his life and certain incidents in past – memories of life at Darlington Hall during the intervening war years, the glory days of Lord Darlington and his eventual fall from grace, of Ms. Kenton’s tenure at Darlington Hall and her departure from Darlington Hall after her marriage in 1935, her relationship with Stevens and Stevens own relationship with his father and his understanding of “dignity” and “duty”. His motoring trip finally culminates in his meeting Ms. Kenton after 20 years and the dawning realization of all that is lost and all that remains of his day!

What can I say about the book that has already not been said? There is tragedy, there is pathos, there is heart break and finally there is resilience! Steven’s character is beautifully drawn out as a man whose understanding and diligence at his profession, makes him loose on what is lost to him as a human and a man. His expectation from himself and his complete belief in Lord Darlington’s purpose is touching and deeply moving! Ms. Kenton is a wonderful flesh and blood character that sparkles and shines, with all the emotions of failings and triumphs! Lord Darlington is a brilliant character from the long gone past of “gentlemanly conduct” and “Noblesse oblige, a misfit in an era of cunning political maneuvers and double diplomacy, where his best intentions lead him to his ruin – a familiar tale for many once great people. The plot is beautifully woven, passing between past and present, showcasing the lost grandeur of landed gentry and the changing society of post-world war England. The language is mesmerizing…it’s not lyrical or poetic, but it is English language at its best! Straightforward, crisp, succinct and rich! Despite the tragic stain of the book, there are innumerable moments of brilliant and subtle wit which takes off the tension and makes you laugh. Finally, inspite of the pathos and the heartbreak, it is not a bleak book – it is tribute to the resilience of human soul and its ability to look beyond and move on!

Brilliant, mesmerizing and absolutely marvelous!!

Surviving Hell….

I am usually very wary of all the Pulitzer/Booker Prize kind of things. Most of these books, with a few and cherished exceptions do not make sense to me or seem downright pretentious. The last “award winning” book I attempted was “The Luminaries” and post reading that I decided that the book was of incredible value should I take up weight training one day, as it’s only utility can be as a “dumbbell” – PUN INTENDED!! Ok, now that I have offended half the reading population, let me get on to the crux of the matter. My skepticism was at the highest therefore when I picked up Richard Flanagan’s “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” despite Stefanie recommending the book strongly and as anyone who is regular at my post know that I put a lot of faith in Stefanie’s book reviews. My friend Linda from Goodreads also had very high words about this book and for a history fanatic, it was even set during World War II, what more could I want? To seal the matters, the back cover informed me the main plot surrounded a Japanese POW camp in Burma; the subject is very close home as my grandfather was a doctor as well who served the British Army during World War II and was one of the allied POWs in the China Burma India Theater. But I was still not completely convinced; the wounds inflicted by the Luminaria Goldfinches were deep.

The book begins with the first very first remembrances of Dorrigo Evans, the son of a poor railway worker who works his way through colleges and university to become a doctor and a surgeon and finally as World War II erupts, a Colonel in the British Australian forces. Before joining the army, he had worked to make a place for himself in the society and was looked upon by the Melbourne upper class as an up and coming young man of great promise. His life is all set and he has even found a girl, Ella of an old Australian aristocracy and money to settle down with. During a visit to a book store, he meets a girl who suddenly disturbs his well laid plans and things begin to get complicated as he discovers that this girl, Amy is also his uncle’s second wife. As Amy and Dorrigo get more involved, the world heads towards the cataclysmic phase of the war and with the fall of Singapore, Dorrigo Evan, finds himself held as a POW by the Japanese in the Burma Railway project. Though he struggles with memory of Amy and his expected obligations towards Ella, he is forced to set aside his personal turmoil, in order to not only survive, but help other men, other soldiers survive the hell of “The Line” with shortage of food, medicines and horrific conditions and merciless treatment meted out by the Japanese, that makes each day a struggle to just exist. The war eventually ends and the POWs are liberated, but Dorrigo fails to find a personal peace, despite a successful career, marriage, children and eventually a resounding status as a war hero. As things come to a full circle, around him, he finally grasps at what matters, when everything is said and done and even when some of things are left unsaid in the end.

This is not an easy book to read. The descriptions of the POW camp conditions are enough to give one a nightmare. You cannot dismiss them as simple fictional work, because these things happened and to think that our grandparents went through this hell is enough to start syndromes of “survivor’s guild, 3 generations removed.” Historically the work is absolutely and succinctly accurate, there is absolutely no effort by Mr. Flanagan to embellish the reality; it is served to reader as is harsh, dark and difficult, in a take it or leave it style! The characters are all very human and though I could hardly relate to anyone of them and some of them completely lacked depth, they are all everyday people – people who walk /breathe/live among us. People, who vacillate on making any of the critical decisions of life, stand tall as heroes because they simply have no choice. People with pride and people with a love of life all come together simply because they have to survive, when surviving each day equates to “living”. There are lies, deceit and fecklessness, but there is also courage, love and a belief of good to overcome the bad. Finally what really really impressed me were Mr. Flanagan’s words – beautiful, soul searing poetic majestic words, that brought forth sensitivity, hope and feelings. Words like “He felt more soft raindrops, saw bright-red oil against the brown mud, heard his mother calling again, but it was unclear what she was saying, was she calling him home or was it the sea? There was a world and there was him and the thread joining the two was stretching and stretching, he was trying to pull himself up that thread, he was desperately trying to haul himself back home to where his mother was calling. He tried calling to her but his mind was running out of his mouth in a long, long river towards the sea” and “Amy, amante, amour, he whispered, as if the words themselves were smuts of ash rising and falling, as though the candle were the story of his life and she the flame”.

It is this power of words that makes this book, despite its immensely dark subject, beautiful and hopeful.

The Cliff and Morality…

I just finished my first of the two Margaret Kennedy for the Margret Kennedy Week that Jane is hosting. I read “The Feast”, published in 1950, has  had been in my TBR for a VERY LONG TIME! And now that I have read it, I cannot help but kick myself and think – why the hell did I wait so long to read this novel????!!!! It has completely blown me away!

The story begins with Father Bott putting off his age-old ritual of playing chess when his dear friend Reverend Seddon visited him. Father Bott explains that he has to prepare for an unexpected Funeral for 7 people, who died when the edge of the cliff collapsed over Pendizack Hotel. The narrative then reverses back to the last 7 days preceding this event. Pendzac kHotel is run by the Siddals – rather Mrs. Siddal who is a lady and forced to convert her husband’s property into a hotel to educate her sons because her husband, though perfectly intelligent, with all functional limbs is incapable of earning or maintaining his family’s livelihood. It becomes clear right at the very start, that Mrs. Siddal though proclaiming that the conversion of the house to the hotel is an effort to improve the lives of all her three sons, it is actually to put her youngest and favorite son Duff through to Oxford that is her primary concern. In fact she is so determined and engrossed in making this happen, that she is ready to sacrifice the lives of her other sons including her eldest son’s marriage to make this happen. Gerry is the eldest of Siddon sons and a doctor by profession – responsible, sincere and self-effacing; he bears his mother’s inattention to him with equanimity. He tries to help out in the running of the hotel as and when possible and accepts that his income is critical to make his mother’s ambition a success, regardless of his own wishes and aspirations. The hotel is run with the help of Nancibel and Ms. Ellis. Nancibel is a lovely, generous local girl who worked in ATS during the war and was on the brink of getting married when her fiancée cried it off. Now she lives with her parents at the cottage and works full time at the hotel. Ms. Ellis is an impoverished gentlewoman who feels the loss of her status bitterly; she believes herself superior to performing such menial tasks as changing beds sheets and often shy’s away from all work and spends her time in malicious gossip. The guests occupying the hotel at the time of this event include Canon Wraxton and his daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Paley, Lord and Lady Gifford and the Cove family. They are soon joined by Anna Lechren and her secretary cum chauffer Bruce. Cannon Wraxton is a loud, unhappy quarrelsome man who argues and contests everything and constantly bullies his daughter. Evangeline Wraxton is his young daughter who abides by her quarrelsome father, because of a deathbed wish made to her mother, that she would always take care of Cannon Wraxton; however this has unexpected results as Evangeline slowly succumbs to neurosis caused by her father’s temperament and bullish behavior! Mr and Mrs Paley, an unhappily married couple who no longer find any joy or companionship in each other’s company especially since the tragic death of their daughter. Sir Henry Giffordis an aristocratic upright kind gentleman, who takes interest in his work and understands his obligation to the country as a statesman, though he is no longer happy in his marriage. Lady Gifford is a lazy hypochondriac woman who lives beyond her means and flouts all laws, believing that nothing can touch her because of her place. They have three children, of whom three have been adopted. The Coves family consists of a mother and three daughters who seem to live on the strictest economy as funds for them seem scarce. Finally this motley crew is joined by Anna Lechene, a famous novelist and her secretary cum driver cum aspiring writer Bruce. Over a period of 7 days, this group interact with each other, through incidents and daily lives routines, that propel the story forward with wonderful re-grouping of old loyalties and changing of dynamics – there are two romances, several friendships, self-realization and freeing oneself form his/her “prison soul”! On the 7th day, the poor Cove children who always dreamt of holding a feast, are finally able to organize one, with help of others. There are invitation cards sent out, fancy dresses selected and a whole range of food and wines! Everybody who attends gets into the swing of this grand party and then…the cliff collapses!

kennedy-badgeThis is a social drama, a morality tale, a romance and so much more! Ms. Kennedy draws complex characters that have their whimsical follies and non-sense as well as a realization of self-worth through daily everyday occurrences and no miraculous fictional turn of events. They are all rich, powerful and intriguing characters that draw you to the tale and keep you glued on. It’s the characters more than the events that actually propel the story forward. More than anything else, Ms. Kennedy understood both the most noble and the very base instinct of the human heart and her characters brought them forth with force and unerring honesty! Simple percepts on human behaviors’, like the less you have the more you give and the more you have the more you covet, is brought out beautifully through the story, without once steering to a high moral tome or sounding even remotely pedagogic. The book was written in the back drop post World War II when England was recovering from the aftermath of the War and the left inclining Labor Party was in power; this change in political – social order is beautifully portrayed through the everyday lives and decisions made by the characters. And then there is the language of the novel, such beautiful metaphors – such lovely phrases, Ms. Kennedy sure knew what would touch the reader’s hearts – “Their shoulders hold the sky suspended. They stand and earth’s foundations stay!” or “We are members of one another. An arm has no integrity if it is amputated. It is nothing unless it is part of a body, with a heart to pump blood through it and a brain to guide it.” And my favorite “Do you pay enough? Does anybody pay enough? Has any man repaid a millionth part all that he has received? Where would you be without us? Did you ever read Helen Keller? Blind, Deaf, Dumb…a soul in a prison, an intellect frozen by solitude….unable to reach us! All alone!

This one of the best books I have ever read and going by this and my previous experience of Ms. Kennedy’s work, she is soon joining my personal high gods of best-loved authors! Viva Ms. Kennedy, you were truly marvelous!!

P.S. I am now about to start The Wild Swan!Yay!

On Becoming a Brook…

I know I have taken another one of my hiatus from blogosphere, but that can be completely attributed to my illness which kind of took a turn for worse this one month and threw all my grand plans and projects in a tail spin.  It was hardly a pleasant time and I am glad some part of it is over. And therefore I am back and ready with my endless prattle and updates and all the unbound enthusiasm of embracing everything that I can fathom!

I could do a book review of the several that I read over the last month, but since this is kind of like my welcome back blog, I thought I will keep it light and frothy and kind of give you a breezy update on all the “exciting” things that have happened in my life!

I naturally read a lot during these weeks – some of the books on top of my head which I read through were Paris by Edward Rutherford, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCright, Miss Majoribanks by Margaret Oliphant, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Perfume y Patrick Suskind, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, a travelogue called Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller by Raza Rumi and finally two on history – The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman and the iconic Band of Brother by Stephen Ambrose. I have also been reading some poetry and have discovered anew love for Emily Dickinson (whom I always loved) but also a respect and deep enjoyment for Tennyson. Maybe because he is optimistic and forward and his descriptions are so idyllic, whatever from not liking Tennyson to devouring Tennyson has been needless to say a very pleasant journey. Regarding the books, naturally you will be subjected to the reviews in the upcoming weeks!

Speaking of Band of Brothers, I finally watched the series during my illness – one of those days when I was too weak to even read and yes, I know it’s more than 10 years old and where was I burying my head and all that. My only apology is that it was first aired when I began college and being new in dorm, I did not want force my audienceship on all. Anyway the only thing that I was trying to say is I loved the series; the fact that it was a historical piece naturally helped; but I think one of the main reasons why I so loved it was the authenticity and the lack of one man ship – since the series was based on a company of soldiers and not a piece of fiction, there was no one hero, but rather a company of heroes. And yes, I read the book first and saw the series later!

I will end here and I will confess – I was kind of worried that after not writing for more than a month, I will struggle to put words on paper; but I have made a profound discovery, that if you really like doing something, you will thrive, no matter how and no matter where. And while, practice does improve the form and the application, the original self-sustaining love of what one does, will carry one through, through ages!

On that very happy note, I will leave you with a poem by (Yup! You guessed it) Lord Tennyson – I especially found these lines very close to my heart (I have highlighted them in bold) and thought was apt for the occasion – I will chatter and survive!

THE BROOK – By: Alfred Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally,

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,

Or slip between the ridges,

By twenty thorps, a little town,

And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

I chatter over stony ways,

In little sharps and trebles,

I bubble into eddying bays,

I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret

by many a field and fallow,

And many a fairy foreland set

With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may comeand men may go,

But I go on forever.

I wind about, and in and out,

with here a blossom sailing,

And here and there a lusty trout,

And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake

Upon me, as I travel

With many a silver water-break

Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,

I slide by hazel covers;

I move the sweet forget-me-nots

That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,

Among my skimming swallows;

I make the netted sunbeam dance

Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars

In brambly wildernesses;

I linger by my shingly bars;

I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

In the Twilight of British Raj…

Two books both set in Colonia India; both set in early 20th century, in era of World Wars and Mahatma, told in the back drop of Himalayas and both written by women in 2000s!!

The first book is my long overdue review of “The Kashmir Shawl” by Rosie Thomas. To begin with grammatically, the name is incorrect – like the French Perfume is called the French Perfume and not the France Perfume, it should be “The Kashmiri Shawl”. That in itself put me against the novel, since the very name displayed a very superficial understanding of the land and not a lot of in-depth research. Anyway I soldiered on and I cannot say the story was all bad. After the death of her father, Mair Ellis discovers a shawl belonging to her grandmother. Exquisite in the riot of bright colors and hand-woven embroidery, Mair realizes the shawl is completely out of sync with her missionary grandparents’ lives and characters and sets off to India to discover the story behind the shawl. It is 1941 and Neyrs Watkins is a newlywed bride when her husband is assigned a remote missionary posting in Ladak. In order to recover from a miscarriage, ill-health and address some of the issues that is creating a distance between herself and her husband, Nerys moves to Kashmir in the company of her friends Myrtle and Evan McMinn. In Kashmir, she discovers the true life of British Raj – Shikara’s of flowers, houseboats on Dal lake, the social events at the Regency and new friendships which would change her life and course of  Mair’s life as well. The description of Kashmir is beautiful and from the back cover I gleaned that the author has spent several months in Ladhak and Kashmir which would account for the some lovely word portraits of the land. The friendship between Neyrs Watkins and Myrtle McMinn is warm, humane and alive only in the way women who have close girlfriends would understand. Kashmir in British Raj comes alive with all its gaiety and social hierarchies and hypocrisies even at the height of World War II which is as genuine a description as it gets! But despite all these redeeming factors, the story is bordering of improbabilities and fantasy. There are Swiss citizens walking about Kashmir during World War II and that in itself is a questionable fact. While Switzerland was not officially at war, all citizens who did not belong to the Allied Nations were treated as Alien Citizens with limited movements, especially in the border regions, like Kashmir. Then there is a “magical” disappearance of an Indian child and her “adopted” mother and how she was brought up in Switzerland! I do not think there were too many Indian children growing up in 1940s in Switzerland. All lot of this seems like taking the tale too far and while there is something to be said about poetic license and liberty, it leaves the reader feeling slightly incongruent with the plot line. This especially becomes highlighted as there the very epitome of stereotypes – the evil Indian Prince – Yawn! Indian Princes are soooooo evil and the only good Indians are the menials and underlings! And of course, the very old and boring reason for being unfaithful – your husband swings the other way! I mean why? Why cannot we come up with a more plausible reason for an illicit affair between a British Memsahib and an Indian Prince? I mean she could have just fallen in love or does the author still lie in the morasses of colonial mindset where the Memsahib cannot sink “so low” unless there is a very good reason for it! Otherwise it’s all very “Chi! Chi!. All in all, not a bad yarn but not a good one either ….your literary endeavors will not be incomplete if you give this one a pass!

The second book with similar heritage is “Ragtime in Shimla” by Barbara Cleverly. Set in 1922 Shimla, the Summer Capital of British Raj, the book follows Commander Joe Sandilands who is heading to the hill station in the company of a famous Russian Opera Singer, when he is shot dead. Why would anyone kill a Russian Opera singer in a part of the world, where he had apparently no past acquaintances? Joe Sandilands begins to discover all is not what it seems and just as he seems to have unraveled  a knot, a new one appears! From Shimla to South of France, Joe finds surprising connection between a brutal train accident and the death of not only a famous opera singer, but also a lost heir and a political plot! Now for the review, British Shimla is live and throbbing through the pages of the book – there is the famous Christ Church, the Cecil Hotel and The Mall. There are Residency balls and fashionable shops and rickshaws!  And then there are the majestic Himalayan Mountains – borrowing heavily and acknowledging the sourcing of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the author describes the land beautifully with its conifers and pines and lovely houses, which, for all their beauty seemed a higgly piggly motley crew, much to the disgust of Lord Lytton, the architect of New Delhi. The tale in itself is a very good whodunit. Just when you figure out, oh! I knew that all along, a new twist comes along and you are thrown off the rock again. The characters though not really written as multilayered or with depth in some cases, are nevertheless believable – they are neither very good nor very bad, mixture of all that is humane – wanting success, wanting better lives, angry of past actions/injuries, believing in the joy of future.  Very real and very endearing, and even the morally wrong ones are fun. Thank fully there are no justifications for the whys of a fallen woman and no need to expatiate her past of make her sound like a victim, a la “The Kashmir Shawl” style – they are what they and no apologies. There is the clichéd Indian Prince Villain – charming, seductive and crooked! Yawn!! At least, there is not too much time spent on him. Like in the naming of “The Kashmir Shawl”, a minor flaw revels the lack of complete of understanding of the India on the author’s part – the Indian Prince is a Pathan and a Muslim; son of King of a princely state on the North West Frontier Border – the author calls the Prince’s father the “Rajah” which is Hindu epithet and not used by Pathan rulers of the North West Frontier Border – they rather used terms like Shah or Amir.  However the overall book is very good read, for the mystery alone, if not the era. Again your literary endeavors will not be enriched by this book, but some time one reads for fun and this book us great fun!

Onwards Towards Backwards Glory…..

It was one lazy sunny vacation afternoon when I searching the World Wide Web for some potential additions to my TBR pile. I am aware that my TBR pile does not need any more additions, but that’s the whole point – the never-ending list makes us all feel so good; so much to read and so little time and all that! Somehow or the other at some indefinite point of time trawling from one bookish blog to another and clicking through some historical and some fiction and some historical fiction sites, I tumbled on to this – Historical Tapestry!! It a blogging site about historical fiction and till yesterday, I had no idea it existed! From the pages and lists, I can see the site is popular and it talks so many lovely and innumerable nuances of historical fiction and I had no idea the site existed – some historical fiction fan I turned out to be! Jeez!

One however cannot continue crying over spilt milk and an error like this needs immediate correction; so I subscribe now to the blog and to complete my devotions to all things holy in the genre of historical fiction, I participate in the 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge! Woohoo and drum roll please!

The rules of Challenge are pretty simple (Or so I thought; the concept of look before you leap alien me!) – (I quote verbatim from the blog)
• Everyone can participate, even those who don’t have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
• Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
• Any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult,…)
• During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:
– 20th century reader – 2 books
– Victorian reader – 5 books
– Renaissance Reader – 10 books
– Medieval – 15 books
– Ancient History – 25 books
– Prehistoric – 50+

So I who never settle for anything mediocre should have straightway signed up for the Prehistoric levels; but I have learnt from my Historical FictionNovember sojourn and I take due care – only so much! I instead sign up for the Medieval levels – 15 Historical Fiction books should be a cake walk (Or so I think!) If I end up reading more, well so much the better and if I do not, at least I will not fall into a complete looser category; though going over my 2013 reading list, seriously, 15 should be easy.

I do not stop here but sally forth with a potential reading list that includes some books I have been trying to get around to reading for some time and this challenge may be a good time as any to try to strike out some of these –
1. Katherine by Anya Seton
2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
3. War of Roses by Conn Iggulden
4. The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick
5. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset
6. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wife by Sigrid Undset
7. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross by Sigrid Undset
8. Sacrilege by S J Parris
9. Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal
10. The Devil’s Disciples: The Fourteenth Chronicle Of Matthew Bartholomew by Susana Gregory
11. A Maze of Murders by Paul Doherty
12. The Fallen Princess by Sarah Woodbury
13. Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
14. Tales of Alhambra by Washington Irving
15. Affinity by Sarah Waters
16. Possessions by A.S. Byatt
17. The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell
18. The Great Stink by Clare Clark
19. Angelica by Arthur Phillips
20. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
21. The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas
22. The Book of Madness and Cure by Regina Melveny
23. The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden
24. The Death of Kings by Conn Iggulden
25. The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden
26. The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden
27. The Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden
28. Penmarric by Susan Howatch
29. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
30. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

I know I said 15, but having double the number of options is so much more fun; besides there will be some books which I will pick up and never finish and others that are not included in the list. Anyway as I sail forth, I wonder how I will fare at the end of 2014; for now I sail away with War of Roses by Conn Iggulden and Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal! Bon Voyage, I say!!

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