When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro : BOOK REVIEW

“All I know is that I’ve wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I’d get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don’t want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow’s sky. That’s what I want now, and I think it’s what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We’ll become too set to change. If we don’t take our chance now, another may never come for either of us.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

It is precisely after having read this quote that I waited for the whole of 2018 to get my hands on this novel. After months of stalking the book on amazon and other websites, I managed to procure it and finally read it. In all honestly, the wait has not gone in vain, my patience bore the fruits I expected from Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans.

Ishiguro, through his aforesaid novel brings into focus the period of Second World War with the help of a famous English detective Christopher Banks who is the narrator of the story. The period that Ishiguro deals has been dealt by him in his other novels like An Artist of the Floating, the story of Masuji Ono who put his work in the service of the imperialist movement that led Japan into the Second World War. However, in When We Were Orphans he uses an Englishman to narrate the war from the perspective of the West. Banks is a celebrated detective in the London society; however, one case that he is intent upon solving and that has remained unsolved since his life in London began was the disappearance of his parents when he was a child living in Shanghai.

Before I delve into what I felt about the book, I would like to write something about the voice of the narrator in Ishiguro’s novels. I have read four books by Ishiguro now, and in three out of the four books male narrators have been used. All the three male narrators have been from different social setting but they have been present against the background of the Great Wars, be it the butler from The Remains of the Day, or the artist from An Artist of the Floating World, or the detective from When We Were Orphans; the three voices have had the same detached tone and listening to their stories have always made me judge them as highly complex and ambiguous. I feel that’s exactly what Ishiguro wished to achieve while he drew up the characters, and I must say he achieved it pretty well because I could sympathise with these narrators and understand their sufferings but after a point they become difficult to understand and it becomes somewhat impossible to judge them on moral grounds. The narrator in When We Were Orphans was a man of “high London society”; he has this air of arrogance and feeling of superiority around him, as we get to see how he dealt with Sarah Hemmings’ rejection when he approached her for the first time or the time he irritatingly refused to be considered as a ‘miserable loner’ in his school days by one of his classmates. Throughout the narration one gets to have a sense of how highly the narrator thought of himself and it was in a sense a representation of the English spirit at that time. The novel is a satire on the English colonial expansion; it is a story that unmasked the reality of the so-called civilised West, the narrator, like his mother, were voices in the story to denounce the imperialist nature of England that was marring the East. By referring closely to the Opium trade in China, the author shows how the English were perpetrating it for their colonialist goals and the price the East had to pay for the high society of the West, particularly the Whites. The novel is a satire on war itself, the effects a war can have by tearing families apart, and the death. Ishiguro puts his narrator right into the war field to experience war from his own eyes by making him look at people writhe in pain, scream and howl for life and taste war in every way possible. The novel is a tale of memory, intrigue and the need to return, the need to belong which war and the modern society has taken away from man.

Milkman by Anna Burns : BOOK REVIEW

‘Coffin after coffin

Seemed to float from the door

Of the packed cathedral

Like blossoms on slow water.’

Seamus Heaney

Northern Ireland has been a state fraught with conflict and violence since time immemorial. The period of The Troubles (late-1960s to 1998) has been one of the most significant periods of unrest in Northern Ireland which had its origin in the Catholic-Protestant fiasco. The former vouched for the rule of the Catholics giving Northern Ireland independence from the British rule whereas the latter believed in the goodwill of the monarchy of the ‘over the water’ in Northern Ireland. The civil war that struck the landmass had rippling effects across Europe and the land ‘over the water’ too. The magnitude and the catastrophic impact of the unrest were widely captured by Irish poets and writers. To name, Seamus Heaney in his collections North (1975) and Field Work (1979) has captured the apocalypse that had struck Northern Ireland and the loss of innocent lives due to the political turmoil engulfing the nation.

The war may have subsided but its impact still resonates in the families residing in Northern Ireland. Born and bred in Northern Ireland, and The Man Booker Prize Winner of 2018 for her book Milkman, Anna Burns excavates the political unrest and turmoil during The Troubles in an unnamed city of Northern Ireland through her 18-year old narrator in the aforementioned, award-winning novel. The novel captures the feud and its consequences in the lives of the people in the most brutal and realistic manner. The book begins with the narrator making her circumstances known to the reader- about her may-be boyfriend, her rendezvous with the milkman and her resolution to keep mum about it, however, things don’t turn out the way she intended them to and gossips of her strange meeting spill out in the war-torn society and the narration gradually starts to uncover the aspects of the social situation persisting around her.

Anna Burns’ resolution to delineate the atrocities of the civil war is praiseworthy. In my opinion, the author has covered a multitude of themes and aspects of social life in the historical fiction unmasking what a war could do to a society and its individuals in general, and a religiously orthodox society in particular. What stood out most in the story was the fiercely involved yet a peculiarly detached voice of the narrator, an 18-year old girl viewing war and society around her; I could imagine Saoirse Ronan excellently pulling off the role of the narrator if a film were ever to be made on this book. However, I would admit that in the first 150-180 pages the willingness to continue with the book would not develop and one would want to put it aside because of the world-building that goes into the narration. The narrator grasps the attention of the readers by narrating an incident taking place that moves the plot and then the narrator goes into recollection or traces the historicity of the incident and that did get slightly dry but once one crosses 150-180 pages, one gets attuned to the world the narrator has chalked out and the story starts to fall into place. The author has brilliantly mapped a dogmatic, war-torn, orthodox society and yet a society of the West by emphasising on the aspects of child marriage, teenage pregnancies leading to irresponsible parents and juvenile delinquency, sexual violence against both men and women, toxic masculinity, the mental impacts of stalking and gossips in society, exploration of the catholic faith, social exclusion, insecurity of old age most importantly, the feminine identity. Burns’ modicum to bring out the identity of the woman and a girl in society through her narrator is one of the highlights of the novel. The book deals with the status of a girl in society, the threats they are continuously posited owing to their feminine identity on a day-to-day basis, and the insecurity with losing the charm and being less attractive for the man; the author has shed light on it by the use of various characters in the girl’s narration. My favourite aspect of this book would be the love stories in the novel; some broke my heart into pieces and some warmed my heart. Alongside, the characters, Milkman and the real milkman, the contrast both the characters offered were crucial to the story and in a way both the characters were symbolic, one symbolised the turmoil killing Northern Ireland and the other represented the people of Northern Ireland and the humanity that lay underneath the rebellious, dystopic façade.

‘I who have stood dumb

when your betraying sisters,

cauled in tar,

wept by the railings,’

Seamus Heaney

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The Only Story by Julian Barnes: A BOOK REVIEW

‘True love can survive absence, death and infidelity.’

-Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

To write a review on Julian Barnes’ novel is a challenge that I shall partake in the following minutes because what more is left to say when you have read a book that pushes you into a valley of question when all you wished to do was read a story, a story about some people whose lives throws questions smack into your face. Barnes’ latest novel The Only Story published in February 2018, is a tale told in 200-pages piercing and penetrating into the life of nineteen-year old Paul falling in love with forty eight-year old, unhappily married Susan. It is a story exploring a young boy’s first love; the one that starts as excitement, fun, smiles, sex and love, lots of love which gradually develops and grows as years pass by and love starts placing demands when all he thought was love fulfilled all his demands, love starts asking more than what his youth had foretold.

The book is tender; it is a tender, delicate work of fiction that is written with different and intelligent narratives in all the three sections of the book. The book begins in a typical Barnes’ style and the voice of the narrator rings in your ear as you peruse the book and you immediately know you are in for something that’s not going to be a typical boy-falling-in-love-with-a-girl love story. The way the author develops his story through the use of flashbacks in no chronological order is noteworthy, initially I was sceptical if that would work well but one can never go wrong when one has a book of Barnes’ in hand. The themes of youth and maturity are not new in Barnes’ work. The Booker Prize Winner The Sense of an Ending does come into mind while reading Paul’s story. Paul and Tony Webster are two characters that Barnes has intelligently used to understand and map the trajectory of the process of growing up, of understanding that what we see in life at youth is something entirely different when one looks at it with the years falling down on them as they get nearer to the inevitable. In all honesty, Paul and Susan’s relationship also reminded me of Geoffery Braithwaite and his relation with his wife from Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot, the anagnorisis both the men experience can raise questions about human beings and their hearts; which is one reason why I believe Barnes maps the human heart in the most realistic manner. What is most touching in Barnes’ book and all his other books are the truth, the truth about human beings, the truth of our existence, the honesty that flows throughout his story which one cannot deny and at the same time is so painful for one to accept. In The Only Story, the author has very skilfully dealt with the themes of domestic violence, toxic masculinity alongside the themes of youth, love, growth and maturity. The story tore me apart; it made me cry with every turn of the page. Admittedly, the story is not something you have never heard of, it is not a story the ending to which one would not know but what makes this novel one of my favourite Barnes’ composition is the manner in which the story has been told, the way Barnes tugs right at the most delicate strings of your heart and dismantles it into tiny fragments that shall come back together but not in the way it was pulled tight earlier, Barnes changes something; for better or worse it is for the readers to decide.

‘It is only a metaphor- or the worst of dreams; yet there are metaphors which sit more powerfully in the brain than the remembered events.’

-Julian Barnes, The Only Story

 

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Between the Age of Innocence and Experience

Having promised myself to try out diverse genres in book and books which have caught the interest of various readers, I decided to pick up Benjamin Alire Saenz’s The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Recently, Saenz had won the Pen Faulkner Award, Stonewall Book Award, Pura Belpre Award, Lambda Literary Award and many more for his book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (which I haven’t read yet).

So, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life begins with the story of a seventeen-year old Salvador, who is bullied in his school by one or two pricks because his father is gay. Being an adopted child, he often wonders who his biological father might be and if he has picked up the skill to punch bullies by his biological parent because his real father is the kindest and understanding human being one could come across in their lives. Trapped in the inexplicability of his various life decisions, his future and the failing health of his dearest grandmother, he starts unhooking various straps of his limited boundaries and tries to understand life and death as two essential entities of life and how beautiful it is to love the ones who love you and relish in the imperfections of life.

How is Salvador going to deal with the idiosyncrasies of his mates?

What is he going to learn from people around him?

Will he be able to simply the inexplicable logic of his life?

“And the angel told Tom, if he’d be good boy,                                                                            He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.”                                                                                                                                                               -William Blake.

I listened to it as an audiobook and it was 11 hours and 30 minutes long which is WAY too long for a contemporary. To begin with, I really liked the way the novel began; perfect beginning to a story with well-thought out characters but… but then the novel happened.
Salvador’s father, a very inspiring father indeed but how can a human being exist without even ONE fault. He seemed completely faultless to me, totally, and I found that absurd.
Everything is happy-happy and full of love among the three friends (not anything against having such a healthy relationship but…), how can three teenagers not have a little, even a little fight among themselves!?
This book actually read more like a moral education book. God, that pissed me so much. I mean, yes, I agree that every book inculcates some kind of moral values to the reader but this book was jaded (YES, JADED) with stuff being good and all. For instance things like,  Don’t use the word “bitch” “fuck”, don’t drink; I mean, why?
It was pretty dramatic in some parts of which I cannot talk about as it’d be a spoiler.
Lastly, the phrase “No, boy, no.” pissed me off and I felt like pulling out the vocal chords of the narrator (I am so sorry for conjuring such violent imaginations but the incessant use of that phrase totally ticked me off.)
Okay, so the reason why I gave this novel a 3 star even after ranting so much about it was-:
1- Salvador’s Father (haven’t read anything about a father who’s gay so I was quite interested in knowing him as a person)
2- No romance or anything cliché between a boy and a girl who are not related through blood ties.
3- Focuses on Friendship and Family which is generally ignored by contemporary writers.

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The Beginning of Unknown



“CHERRy LIPS, CRYSTAL SKIES

I COULD SHoW YOU INCREDIBLE THINGS

STOLEn KISSES, PRETTY LIES

YOU’RE THE KING, BABY,  I’M YOUR

QUeEN FIND OUT WHaT YOU WANT

BE THAT GIRL FOR A MOnTH

WAIT, THE WORST IS YET TO COME....”

-Taylor Swift

 

I have been really excited to write this review as this is the first book I have listened to.  Believe me, it was awkward at the beginning but as the first chapter flew by I got used to it and swam through the voice taking in the penmanship of the author. However, audio books can NEVER surpass paperbacks because reading a book has its own significance!

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Book cover. Photo Credits: Google Images

 

Summer, friendships, family ties, politics, young adult romance, scavenger-hunting, dog-walking, pizzas, ice-creams; doesn’t these sound exciting?  Well, to me, it sure does. And Morgan Matson has wonderfully packed these into one book to make our time a little interesting. The queen of summer contemporary genre has come up with her fourth book The Unexpected Everything which follows the story of Andie, a seventeen-year old, who has everything planned out for the following summer. She intends to intern at a university which gets called off as her father, a Congressman, gets involved in a political conspiracy and all her plans shatters leaving her and her father together in their house for the first time in years. Incidentally, she takes up a job to walk dogs and comes across Clark, the cutest nerd she has ever met in her life. This summer changes her life; she is walking dogs, doing scavenger hunt with her dad, getting too close to a guy who is irresistibly cute and talented.

 

Is this going to last only for this summer or things might take a drastic turn by the end of it?

 

Is the worst yet to come after summer?

 

Pick this book up and read it if you want a light, fun read. I heard the audio book which was narrated by Bailey Carr, she was excellent, she narrated the dialogues of both the male and female characters really nicely and her voice carried the emotions required to express it. Interestingly, Matson has used quite a few emoticons in the book; I would have to appreciate Bailey Carr as she perfectly expressed those emoticons without the slightest disruption in the flow of the story. Surprisingly, this is the first Morgan Matson book I read or heard. I read Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour a few days back and I am currently reading Second Chance Summer (reviews will be up soon). Honestly, I would not say that I loved the book but I did enjoy it. I found the story too predictable. Anyway, I enjoyed the flow of her writing and obviously CLARK.

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A snapshot from one of the conversations in the book. Photo Credits:Google Images

 

 

 

Unforgivable Commitments

“I calmed her fears, and she was calm,

And told her love with virgin pride;”

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There are so many bonds and relationships we humans have to commit to, there are so many commitments we have made and we are to make. And with every commitment comes our sense of responsibility and it ought to augment. Sadly, we are not equipped with skills to tackle all our commitments, well, it is even sadder when we aren’t capable of dealing with our most intimate commitments.

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Rosamund Pike as Amy Dune in Gone Girl

It is not very often that you pick up a book, start reading it, enjoy it and shut it down with literally nothing to say. One such book which has left me in such a bizarre state is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The thriller begins with Nick Dune finding his wife, Amy Elliott Dune, missing on the morning of their fifth marriage anniversary. An investigation begins, search for Amy begins; but she is nowhere to be found. The policemen doubt Nick, close friends of Amy reveal that she was afraid of him, Amy’s memorandum unravels the status of her marital bond, alarming searches from Nick’s web history has left everyone baffled and there’s a number constantly flashing on Nick’s mobile phone.

Why and where has Amy disappeared?

Or is she dead?

What had been so faulty in their lives?

What is that Nick is hiding?

Is Amy ever going to return?

This book has been written in more than two styles and perspectives. The first perspective is Nick Dune’s and the second perspective is Amy’s, her diary entry which the policemen discover and the other? Well, it is for you to find out! Flynn’s writing is crisp and shaped neatly to leave the reader’s gaping and astonished. However, I was slightly taken aback when she went on to jade the novel with too much descriptions. Nonetheless, the way she presents her characters, good Lord, they are so ridiculously flawed that it will make you question your understanding of your fellow beings.   

Without further ado, rush to your nearest book store or place an order for this book if you haven’t read it yet. DO NOT participate in discussions where this book is being mentioned or watch the trailer of its film adaptation, just STAY AWAY.

“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on a paper.”

-Arthur Golden

 

Creation and its Creatures

“We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust.”

-David Leviathan

None of the beings on this planet, be it a human or a plant or an animal are born the way we choose. We cannot make choices of our destiny if one unique destiny has chosen us. We cannot let our opportunity to live trail behind just because we realize that the opportunity was imperfect. All we can do is live and make the best out of it no matter what trains of absurdity we board or have boarded.

R.J. Palacio has magnificently brought into light the life of a ten year old boy, August Pullman, whose facial features are different from what we may imagine, in her book ‘Wonder’. Beautifully, she entails the story of August who is going to begin his middle school, after being home-schooled for years. Being masked from the stereotypical facial features, August’s life is surely not going to be a jolly ride.

Is August going to adjust in his life away from his primary inmates?

Is he at all going to attract friends to giggle with and talk to?

Will August realise the perfection cradling in his so-called imperfection?

Is August a wonder?

R.J. has surely done a wonderful job with the craftsmanship of this art. To begin with, it is exciting to hear the story right from August’s to the minor character’s point of view. Admittedly, the language is simple, sweet and it is highly recommended for all the age groups, both children and adults. There is so much to learn, so much to experience. There is so much of the world we haven’t discovered, there is so much of ourselves we haven’t looked into. There is so much to introspect, so much to think about. Give it a read, I am sure you will love it and realize how simple and important it is to live and let live.

“You’re gonna reach the sky

Fly … Beautiful Child”

-Eurythmics

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Some important characters from the book.

Maze of Untitled Shores

Who doesn’t like travelling? Who doesn’t like travelling in the greens? Who would refuse to have a peek in the World’s largest Delta? The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh explores the journey of a Bengali-American cetologist, Piyali Roy who embarks on a journey to conduct a research on the Orcaella Dolphins inhabiting the Sundarbans. On her way to Sundarbans, she comes across Kanai, a businessman who offers her to visit his place Lushibari and later becomes her translator. Along with Fokir, a native fisherman, Piyali traverses the forests, bãdhs, rivers, mohona, villages of the dazzling archipelago. It is a story painted and sparkled with adventure and history, separations and unseparations, happiness and unhappiness, told and untold truth, inevitability of life and death.

Will Piyali be successful in her research?

Is she going to leave the Sundarbans empty-handed?

Will this journey bring about a change in the lives of other characters as well?

 

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