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.

Our Voice Matters

‘Weakness is treating someone as though they don’t belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.’

-Yaa Gyasi

Today, contemporary literature is gaining massive importance and with that the Young Adult genre is winning hearts of youth, hence, it becomes imperative for writers to talk about long-standing social problems that don’t seem to draw to a close after years of stagnancy. Racism is one such problem that still haunts lives all around the world. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement and the death of innumerable black youth in the USA, Angie Thomas stepped into the world of book writing with her novel The Hate U Give.

The novel begins with a sixteen year-old girl witnessing her friend being shot by a white policeman when they were on their way back home. The novel traces the racist dogma that exists in the so-called developed American society where the life of a white man takes precedence over coloured folks. It traces the journey of a sixteen year old girl who sets out to seek justice for her friend and many other lives that have been erased from the pages of history.

‘We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print… We lived in the gaps between the stories.’

-Margaret Atwood

I had heard a lot about this book ever since it was published. Instagram, YouTube was flooded with praises for this book. Every so often, when this building up of hype takes place I often end up feeling disappointed after reading the particular novel. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen with this book. I loved this book; I loved how it talks about the prejudices, injustices existing till date. There was so much of truth in the story she has written, peeling out all the cloaks of sugar-coated ideas and beliefs to reveal the inherent hypocrisy deeply embedded in the system. In my opinion, this is one of the best Young Adult Contemporary books I have read till date, and I would urge authors to write books like The Hate U Give, that will make the youth think and that shall stay with the individual in the years to come. I would suggest all you readers to go ahead and read this book irrespective of any social constructs you identify with.

flat800x800075f-u6

Feats of Valour, Wicked Horns

‘Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven.’

-Jack Kerouac

Being born to a family in a metropolis, fortunately, I have never felt religion being imposed upon me. However, the drawback of this lack of imposition is that I have heard very few stories mentioned in the Vedas and other religious texts. Nonetheless, I believe nothing can be out of one’s reach if one is a reader. My belief was proven by an email I received from one of India’s best-selling author, Anuja Chandramouli. She blessed me with a copy of her widely acclaimed novel Yama’s Lieutenant.

The novel opens up with a scene unfolding one of  the sweetest bonds a human being ever gets to share with one another in her/his lifetime. The story starts gaining momentum when the readers are slowly brought face-to-face with the forces of hell, heaven and earth colliding and the universe heading for war and destruction. Agni Prakash, the protagonist, picks up a manuscript left by his twin sister and realises a new dimension to his life that he has never discovered before.

What does the manuscript contain?

What will Agni Prakash realise?

Will his realisations be any good for the world that is leading to an apocalypse?

‘But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?’

-Anthony Doerr

To begin with, I really liked the way the novel began and I couldn’t have asked for anything better to prepare a reader for a book packed with fantastical and mythological adventure. I was impressed by the author’s inclusion of caste violence as it seems to be an issue persisting in the Indian society since time immemorial. On the down side, I seemed to be a little confused with the story as there were a lot of characters and I had to re-read things to get it clear. Being a reader not akin to fantasy, I did feel lost in between the world-building. Admittedly, I took to the chapters in the manuscript and I loved the way the novel drew to a bitter-sweet close. Lastly, I would like to thank Chandramouli for letting me read her work as I got to know about a varied set of characters from the Rig Veda that I hadn’t known before.

 

Shifting Winds, Static Thunderclaps

The frame around which one builds one’s life is a brittle thing, and in a city of souls connected one snapped beam can threaten the spikes and shadows of the skyline.”

-Lisa McInerney

8th of July, 2017 would always be a day remembered and cherished by me because I finished reading the first series or Trilogy of my reading life. Yes, it does sound a little stupid and funny but I am proud of it nonetheless. The trilogy was none other than the great Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh.

ibis_trilogy

For starters, the Ibis Trilogy consists of three books namely, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire, published in the aforementioned order respectively. The books are set in the Early 19th Century Asia and India in particular. It is an epic tale of a multitude of characters from different race, caste, class, sexuality, sex, nationality (basically, all the social constructs one could think of) woven intricately into a tale of wonder and adventure. Sea of Poppies sets the stage for the epic, bringing into light the various characters and the beginning of the journey on the ship named Ibis that would change their lives forever. River of Smoke takes the reader to Canton where the Opium War is fuelling up and the two boats Anahita and Redruth starts writing a different story of the characters altogether. Lastly, Flood of Fire starts preparing the reader to bring the story to an epic close when the Opium War is at its height in China and lives are at stake.

I cannot begin to describe how much I loved each book. The journey has been unforgettable and this trilogy shall forever remain close to me. The characters have made me think about a lot of things again and the author has thrown a light upon the lives of people when the English was dominating the world. I liked the amount of diversity the author has showcased in his books. I think this is what makes an author great, when you throw in characters with varying colour, religion, sexuality even when the book is set some 200 years back. It is pretty difficult for me to point out which one I liked the best so I’d suffice it to say that the three books are equally close and dear to me and I would encourage all you readers who are into historical fiction to grab these beasts soon and relish in the amount of work and research that has gone into making these word-filled pages a masterpiece of literature.

Summer Shenanigans

“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”

-Kurt Vonnegut.

June has finally come to a close and with that summer is slowly ebbing away leaving way for monsoon to draw in. Decidedly, I had kept a book aside which I had gotten last year for the summer of 2017. I intended to get it done with by May but it didn’t happen and when I realised July is about to begin in a few days I stopped piling it for the next month and picked it up. June wouldn’t have been anymore good without the queen of summer contemporary, Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone.

The Kelly Clarkson song inspired book title follows the story of Emily who finds her best friend, Sloane, missing without any notice just when summer is about to begin. Incidentally, Emily finds a letter left by Sloane scribbled with the things she has to do. Assuming the tasks would lead her to her best friend, she starts considering the tasks enlisted but…

Kiss a stranger? Umm…No..ugh

Sleep under the stars? WOW… done!

Go Skinny-Dipping? Wait… whaaaat!???!!!

All these cumbersome mileposts without Sloane to guide her or be there with her?

“…sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice.”

-Yaa Gyasi

To begin with, I cannot begin to describe how much I adored the cover of this book! The cover showered vibes of summer with greenery, ice-cream, pizza, clear skies, the girls moving about giggling and the fonts; it is so gorgeous that I could stare at it forever.

rsz_gs_52278377-5548-4738-aa48-2a2a0aa613db
COVER

 

Moving toward the content of the book, I liked the story a lot. I was worried when it was apparent that I had started to reach the end because I didn’t want it to end so soon. Matson’s writing is like butter sliding along the edges of a sharp knife; it is smooth and doesn’t make you feel lost at all. Additionally, the book is pinned with a couple of playlists which kept me even more excited. In spite of such praises, I gave this book a 4.75/5 stars on goodreads because of the lack of diversity in the book. Considering the fact that it is a Young Adult Contemporary book written a few years ago, it didn’t have the theme of diversity we want authors of the present day to talk about. There was no presence of people of other colour or races other than white Americans, there was no mention of any LGBTQ characters; this was book all white and heteronormative and Christian just like all her other books which is totally a turn-off factor for a reader like me who loves books that subsume a variety of characters. Anyway, I would recommend the book despite the minor faults as it will make you smile and jiggle with happiness with every turn of the page, i.e. if you are looking for a teenage fiction with friendship, love and family.

 

 

Love; for the Explosion to Begin

‘Home is where we have to gather grace.’ – Nissim Ezekiel

Human Beings start their first day of life with their family, their home. Over the years, our home is what shapes us for the years to come. It is the place where you have a place and will always have a place ever and forever. However, we often forget that our home is not us when we are lost in it; each one has their own role to play, each one of us is a separate branch sprouting from the expansive tree. We forget the fact that we define home, the home doesn’t define us.

Focusing on the aforementioned thought, Nicola Yoon penned down the story of Natasha and Daniel in her latest, award-winning novel The Sun is Also a Star. Natasha’s father’s wish to lead a beautiful life in America has toppled down when they get the notice of their deportation to Jamaica in the next twenty four hours. Daniel’s parents’ wishes to see their son become a doctor are worrying them as they see Daniel being reluctant to pursue the Dream. Daniel and Natasha, both under their family’s pressure, seem to have forgotten that their Home is depleting as the family push them ahead and ahead until they are lost.

Are they going to survive the calamity?

What is going to happen when these two stars collide?

Would the universe witness the saddest or the happiest stories of two innocent, confused teenagers?

twitter_the-sun-is-also-a-star_atpub_3

I am glad to have not been disappointed by Nicola Yoon after her debut novel. My expectations were pretty low with this story but the satisfaction surpassed the expectations as the story came to a sensible close. I love the premise of Nicola Yoon’s novels, she drops her characters in one of the most complicated situations possible and it pushes me right at the edge of my seat to know what is going to happen with these characters. Besides the minute cheesiness, this story was good. I liked the fact that she brought forth the perspective of various characters into view and how they are important for the movement of the story of these two protagonists. The ending was a little exaggerated, yes, it was sensible and okay but I somehow thought it was an unnecessary add-on to the already well written story. Last but not the least, the cover of this novel is beyond pretty. I can’t but fall in love with the cover over and over again.

‘Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.’

-John Masefield.

 

facebook_thesunisalsoastar_3d-book-cover_1
THE COVER OF THE BOOK IS everything, everything.

Everything Beyond Nothing

Love, a theme or a feeling which has given birth to wonders of literature and shall remain the core of literature for ages and beyond. It amazes readers to find how interestingly authors deal with the indispensable theme by merging it with lesser known situations. One of the most common situations is when one of the protagonists is sick and their future seems bleak. Books like The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You are a few to suggest with a certain storyline.

Nicola Yoon, an author who stepped into the world of writing with Everything, Everything warmed the hearts of cheesy, mushy, love story fanatics through her debut novel. ‘Everything, Everything’ follows the story of a girl, Madeline Whittier aka Maddy who is suffering from a disease which suggests her being allergic to the world outside her home. She keeps to her home with her caring mother and her loving nurse. She lives her life through her books and the window overlooking her air-filtered bubble of a room. Incidentally, a new family turns up in the house opposite hers and then she discovers the cutest guy she has seen in her life, Olly.

“It made me think that everything was about to arrive- the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever.”

-Jack Kerouac

I was really looking forward to the ending; it kept me at the edge of my seat. I loved the way this book was written. Admittedly, I was enjoying the first two hundred and fifty pages. Unfortunately, I was pretty dissatisfied with the climax and the unprecedented turn of events. Nonetheless, I really liked the illustrations, snippets of conversations attached to the story; they made the reading enjoyable and fun.

READ IT BEFORE THE FILM HITS THE CINEMAS!!!!!!

the-everything-everything-trailer-is-here-and-its-2-30112-1487110010-2_dblbig
Still from the Film 

Inglorious Bastards

Nowadays, I am on the hunt for books which have been awarded for its contents and story line. On my way, I came across a book by an Irish author who had won the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction in 2016 and Desmond Elliott Prize in 2016 for her novel depicting the underworld of Cork, Ireland.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney published in 2015, begins with the story of an old woman murdering a lad who had barged into her house. The story then focuses on her son Jimmy, the most feared gangster in Cork, who lures his buddy Tony, stuck up with five kids and his teenage kid, Ryan, who, Tony believes is on his way to wreck his life, to clear up the mess his mother had created. Things move according to the plan until the lad’s girlfriend, Georgie, embarks on a search for him.

“… for how good intentions so easily dishonoured ever have a chance of saving her?”     -Lisa McInerney

Is Georgie going to find out the murderer?

What are the truths that shall unfold amidst the hullabaloo?

Will justice prevail?

I was a little confused by the movement of the story in the beginning but the moment I identified the different characters and their relations to each other it all got sorted. I loved the novel, the storyline, the complexity of each character and the amount of themes thread together in the making of the story. It was worth it. No wonder it won two laurels. I would highly recommend this book to people who are in the mood to pick up some moving yet disturbing novel in the adult fiction.

24515225

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.

inexplicablelogic_hc_cvr_060716

New Year and New Beginnings

My resolution for 2017 is to try and step out of my comfort zones and lay my hands on genres which do not attract me every so often. One such genre is Science Fiction. The name itself sends impulses to retract my steps even though I don’t want to.

With a challenge ahead of me, I placed an order for Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff after binge watching booktube videos. I will keep the review pretty short because the lesser you know the better it is to actually read it. Basically, the story is set in 2575 when a planet is attacked by a villainous megacorporation and it follows the journey of Ezra Mason and Kady Grant.

Admittedly, I loved the manner in which the book was penned down. The use of graphics, reports, IM conversations, emails was unique and impressive.I would highly suggest all you science fanatics and computer aficionados to pick this up if your looking for dystopian thriller. Unfortunately, I realised this genre is simply not meant for me and I was disappointed in this book.

4c99cdc91d6c8cf924ccd2f471f997ee
A small look at what’s inside. Photo Courtesy- Google Images.