Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

pic. courtesy:

Wish you all a Very Happy New Year!! May you discover many more exciting books to read in 2008!!

Also, Today is my blog's first anniversary!!! Yeah!! I started off this blog merely as an online journal where I keep track of the books I read and record my thoughts on it. But then, along the way, I discovered so many other wonderful blogs publishing book reviews and suggestions. Truly, Its been a great experience reading your blogs. And, Thank you so much for all the great reviews.

I want to wrap up my final post for 2007 highlighting some of my latest reads. Due to lack of time, I could only squeeze a few lines for each one.

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer ~ A truly fascinating memoir of a Edith, a Jewess & wife of a nazi Officer and her survival in the labor camp in Germany during WWII.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan ~ Ian captures the feelings of Florence and Edward, a young couple, on their wedding night on the chesil beach. Most of the story happens in the honeymoon suite. As the night unfolds, Edward and Florence work hard to conquer their innermost demons. Will their wedding night turn out to be a disaster? or may be they can make it up after all... Not sure if I really liked this one. It had an interesting start but then, it lost me somewhere in the middle...

If Today be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar ~ Tehmina Sethna, a parsi woman, visits her son and his family in cleveland, after the death of her husband. Still coping with the loss of her husband, she now wrestles with the idea of what "home" really means to her. Should she go back to her life in Bombay or should she stay with her son in America? Umrigar is one of my favorite authors and I loved reading her previous title 'The Space Between Us'. I highly recommend this one!!

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer ~ Shortly after the Iranian Revolution, Isaac Amin, a local jeweler gets imprisoned by the Revolutionary Guards and is sent to prison. Being a Jew and someone who frequently visits Israel, Isaac was severely tortured and flogged and his chances of survival are slim. He suffers severe mental agony wondering if he will he ever see the outside world. A truly captivating story!

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah ~ A searingly painful memoir of a young boy whose life alters together when a civil war breaks out. To read what war is like through the eyes of a young boy is so heartbreaking. But, I beseech you to read this great memoir!! Highly Recommended

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Mister Pip

Title: Mister Pip
Author: Llyod Jones
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
Edition: Hardcover

"You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames".

Its 1990's. A civil war breaks out in a small tropical island, as the redskin soldiers invade the natives. All the whites flee the island, as the redskins raid the village looking for rebels and kills people who aids them. One White man chooses to stay behind. Mr.Watts. He is also known as 'Pop Eye' (as his eyes appear as if they are about to pop out of his face). On rare occasions, he wears a red clown nose, and pulls his wife, Grace (a black woman), along in a trolley, a sight that usually gathers a crowd of curious onlookers. When the local school teacher flees, Mr.Watts fills in for him. However, he has no teaching skills. He chooses to read aloud a chapter from 'Great Expectations' every day, much to the delight of the school children.

Matilda, a 13-year-old village girl, soon finds herself enraptured by the character 'Pip' and the Victorian England. When she playfully writes the name 'Pip' in the sand one day, the redskins mistake it for a rebel. They torture the villagers either to surrender 'Pip' or incur their wrath. During one of the interrogations about 'Pip', a student blurts out that Pip belongs to Dickens. When the question arises to who Dickens is, they point to Mr.Watts. Now, Its up to Mr.Watts, the eccentric 'Pop Eye', to save the village from impending violence.

Jones' writing is seductive...powerful...magical...He writes with great imagination and flair. His elegant prose will keep you riveted to the book from page one. I didn't get a chance to read all the Booker prize nominees (except Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach'). But after reading this novel, I truly felt sad that Lloyd Jones didn't win the 'Booker'. I beseech you to read this truly enchanting novel.

My Rating: 4.5/5


Lovely Lotus has awarded me the 'Schmooze Award' . Thank you so much Lotus, You are so kind!

This award is for the bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

I would love to pass on this award to Wendy at "Musings of a Bookish Kitty".

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Falling Man

Title: Falling Man
Author: Don DeLillo
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 246
Edition: Hardcover

9/11. The Twin Towers are burning...And then, as the world watched over, horror-struck, the towers came tumbling down... south tower first..then the north..."He heard the sound of the second fall, or felt it in the trembling air, the north tower coming down, a soft awe of voices in the distance." Enormous plume of smoke rapidly engulfed the entire region. "It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night".

Keith, a 39 year-old lawyer, who worked in the Twin Towers, emerged out of the rubble, glass shards jutting out of his skin, ashes coated all over. He appeared at the doorsteps of Lianne, his estranged wife, in a stupor. He carried a briefcase that was not his. It was handed down when he was waiting on the staircase, to escape the burning towers. He forgot to pass it on and now carried it with him. Lianne, a freelance editor, lived with her son Justin, a 7-year-old. Lianne wanted to reconcile their differences, after nearly a year of seperation. But, Keith, a philanderer, proved her wrong once again. When Keith seeks the owner of the briefcase, Florence, he was attracted by her. His affair with Florence was short-lived, however. His interests soon turns to gambling and poker games.

Two parallel stories run along the main plot. One is that of Hammad, a hijacker, who trains in the US to carry out his secretive mission. Second is, Falling man himself. Falling man is a performance artist who stages public stunts (wearing a safety harness tied to his suit) in an attempt to evoke dreadful memories of people falling from the burning towers.

The individual sections of the novel are vividly described. The final chapter is definitely worthy of mention. Hammad wrestles with his emotions on the hijacked plane; the plane hits the tower; and it beautifully transitions into Keith catapulted back and forth as the towers swayed due to the impact. The ending was perfect; beautiful. However, the overall plot fails miserably to engage reader's attention. The characters are shallow, and seemingly disconnected from each other. The prose is fragmented, incoherent and frustrating at times. I won't recommend this book to anyone. Very Disappointing!!

My Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Attack

Title: The Attack
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 272
Edition: Hardcover

Dr. Amin Jaafari works as a surgeon at a local hospital in Tel Aviv. Jaafari, an Arab-Israeli citizen, is apolitical and highly revered by his colleagues for dedication to his profession. One day, a deadly bomb explosion causes havoc in a local restaurant. Atleast 19 were dead, 11 school children among them. Several people sustained many catastrophic injuries. Jaafari slogs his guts out all night at the emergency room saving as many lives as he can. Not soon after he reaches home, he is summoned back to the hospital to verify the identity of a corpse. It was none other than his lovely wife Sihem. What Jaafari finds more devastating is when the police officials deduced that his wife must have blown up the restaurant. She is bearing injuries similar to that of a suicide bomber. Her whole body is reduced to a pulp, except her beautiful face.

Jaafari feels completely befuddled when he tries to fathom why Sihem, his lovely wife, known to be an intelligent and caring woman, would commit such a crime. How could he knew so little about someone he loved and cared about all his life? Did Sihem leave any cues for him to pick up before she chose her destiny? Did she not enjoy a perfect life with him? Was he not a good husband to her? Why would she choose to suffer a horrific death?

At his wits' end, he quits his job and embarks on a treacherous voyage to find out why someone, his wife, in particular, would choose to become a martyr. He travels to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jenin searching for answers. Jaafari learns that deprivation of homeland could bring endless suffering and why martyrdom is a better choice for them.

Yasmina Khadra proves once again that he is an adept storyteller. Today, we live in a world where terrorism threatens to endanger our peaceful lives any moment. Hundreds of civilians lose their lives in suicide bombings everyday. Its aftermath is always horrendous. This novel offers a chilling look into a world, of terrorism, only a few people are beginning to understand. Another beautifully written novel!!

My Rating: 4/5

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fire in the Blood

Title: Fire in the Blood
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 138
Edition: Hardcover
Publication: Alfred A.Knopf

"When you're twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you almost delirious. When it's over you can hardly remember how it happened. . . . Fire in the blood, how quickly it burns itself out. Faced with this blaze of dreams and desires, I felt so old, so cold, so wise. . ."

Written in 1941, only a part of the manuscript of 'Fire in the Blood' was thought to exist before. Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt, who were commissioned to write Némirovsky's biography, uncovered the missing manuscript amidst other papers Némirovsky had given for safe-keeping to her editor. Originally translated from French by Sandra Smith, the novel is now published nearly 40 years after her death.

Years before the onset of WWII. A small rural village in France is warming up to the chilly draughts of Autumn. Sylvestre (a.k.a Uncle Silvio), a middle-aged man, is back in his hovel, after a lifetime of travel seeking fortune. He enjoys a perfect evening smoking pipe by the fire, while sipping a bottle of warm red wine. Although Silvio relishes his solitude, he treasures the time spent with his cousin Hélène's family. A family reunion brings out some intimate stories of the past. As Hélène and François reminisce about their youth, it turns out that Hélène's first marriage to a sick old man left her with some unhappy memories and François had to wait for years before he took Hélène's hand in marriage. Now, all they wished for their daughter Colette is a happy married life with her fiancé Jean Dorin. But, Colette's heart lies somewhere else. Not too long after their wedding, Jean meets a mysterious death. Suspicion arises; investigation follows; treasured family secrets and betrayals are out in the open; a whole slew of unexpected events slowly unravel. And now, not just Colette, but Uncle Silvio is in the thick of it, too...What started out to be a slow read, raced to the end for a nail-biting finish!

Némirovsky's previous novel 'Suite Française' achieved phenomenal success selling over 1.5 million copies worldwide since its publication in France in 2004. In this novel, she proves her mettle in portraying the complex emotions hidden beneath the many facades. Not a literary masterpiece, but definitely an entertaining story. If you are looking for a quick engaging read, go for it!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Anne Enright was tonight named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel "The Gathering", published by Jonathan Cape.

According to the Booker prize website, Howard Davies, Chair of the judges said:
"The Gathering is an unflinching look at a grieving family. It’s the bleakness of one woman’s vision, a bleakness rooted in her family, her marriage and the death of her brother".

Born in Dublin, Anne Enright is the author of three previous novels: The Wig My Father Wore (1995), What Are You Like? (2000) and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002).

For a short Q&A with Anne Enright, click here.

Divisadero, Rockin' Girl Blogger

Title: Divisadero
Author: Michael Ondaatje
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 288
Edition: Hardcover

First of all, I must bashfully admit that I've never read any of Ondaatje's works before!! And Oh, What a fabulous read it turned out to be...

Set in the 1980s, the story begins with Anna, Claire and Coop living in a small farm in Petaluma, California. Anna's mother dies in childbirth and her father brings home not just Anna but Claire too, another orphan born in the same hospital, to raise them as his own. Coop, a boy in the neighborhood farm, joins Anna's family after his parents were killed in a local violence. Coop works in the farm all day, tending the cows and horses, while the girls swoon over him. Then, the inevitable happens. Anna and Coop fall in love. While Anna and Coop enjoy one of their most intimate moments, her father storms in and launches an assault on Coop. Despite Anna's plea to save Coop, her father, raging with anger, tries to murder Coop. Coop manages to flee and settles down in Nevada to become a gambler. Anna's resentment towards her father forces her to abandon the farm and go to France. She seeks refuge in an old mansion, whose former owner is a famous French Writer named 'Lucien Segura'. Claire makes living as a researcher for a public defender office. The family divides and tears apart. One event alters everything and their paths don't intersect for many years later.

Now, the story comes to an abrupt halt. Halfway through the book, Ondaatje begins a new story, that of a French Writer named 'Lucien Segura'. He recounts Lucien's life history through Anna and how it mirrors her own life in a bizarre way, bringing back memories from the past. As a reader, it bemused me a bit in the beginning, as it all seemed totally unrelated. But, as I continued to read (and reread quite a few times), I could appreciate the sublime beauty hidden in the passages and how the similarities reveals itself in a most beautiful, but subtle way. It proved to be a difficult read at first, but Ondaatje's writing style is so divine and mesmerizing, I began to savor every page and every word. Not too often you come across a work of such calibre. The luscious details, the poetic style and the captivating story could simply leave you awestruck!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Rockin' Girl Blogger

Guess What, Lovely Lotus has named me as a 'Rockin' Girl Blogger'. Its very nice of you, Lotus!! And, Thank you!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Sirens of Baghdad

Title: The Sirens of Baghdad
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 320
Edition: Hardcover

2003 ~ American Invasion of Iraq. Missiles Dropped. Gunshots Fired. Bombs Exploded. Thick plumes of smoke blanket the sky. It's the end of Saddam's regime. The political repression and the growing insurgency results in hundreds of fatalities. The entire city of Baghdad is burning...

An unnamed young man, the protagonist of the novel, returns to his village Kafr Kafram, as the university of Baghdad shuts down due to the American Invasion. His hopes crushed; his future bleak; his dreams thwarted. His family pride torn apart.

In Kafr Karam, the young man, taciturn by nature, lived on the roof in a remodeled laundry room. He whiles away his time listening to his "tinny radio". The local men meet up at the café to engage themselves in heated arguments about the invasion which may end up in an occasional brawl. However, our young man sticks to his own; He wants no violence, no blood, no fight.

Though Baghdad is going up in flames, the little village of Kafr Karam offers a safe haven to its people. Until one day, When the American troops set foot in their muddy grounds. The village men witness the atrocities of the war first hand. For our young man, a Bedouin, three disturbing events transform his life forever. First, A local village idiot gets killed accidentally by the American troops at a checkpoint. Second, An American missile dropped over a wedding party on the outskirts of the village. But, What pushes him over the edge? When the American troops ransack the young man's home for terrorists and humiliate his father in front of everyone in the family. The young man takes it as an assault on his family honor. In his own words, he says "For Bedouin, honor is no joking matter. An offense must be washed away in blood, which is the sole authorized detergent when it's a question of keeping one's self-respect." and he swears to himself that he should avenge the American troops for their despicable act. He leaves for Baghdad and undertakes several small undercover operations before chosen for the most dangerous mission of all times. Will he accomplish his mission?

The novel offers a chilling look at the life of an ordinary young man who is lured into the world of terrorism and why he chooses to become a martyr. Life altering events happen. But, What makes one choose death over life? The story left me with many questions to ponder over. Like, when people shed blood and lose their dear ones in the name of war, what does it do to them? How does it affect them? And, How do they seek revenge? What lures them into becoming a terrorist or a suicide bomber? Why must anger be washed away with blood and gore? For God's sake, Why wage war? What do you gain after losing thousands of lives?

Yasmina Khadra is a master story teller and I devoured his novel 'The swallows of Kabul'. Here comes his latest work offering a great insight into the Middle eastern culture and the World of Islam. I was so captivated by his writing style that I found it really hard to put down. He narrates the story with such ferocity that it was hard to believe its a work of fiction after all. Highly Recommended!

My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Peony In Love

Title: Peony in Love
Author: Lisa See
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 304
Edition: Hardcover

Not too long ago, I attended the Book Club Event hosted by Sacramento Bee. Lisa See was the speaker. See's enticing speech about her latest book 'Peony In Love' made me want to read the book right away. When I read it I was in for a delightful treat!

'Peony in Love' is based on a true story about three young women who were married to the same man. They were part of a category known as 'Lovesick Maidens,' women who would catch a case of love sickness, waste away and die. Obsessed with the opera 'Peony Pavilion', the lovesick maidens made copious notes which were later published into a book called 'Three Wives Collaborative Commentary on The Peony Pavilion' - the first book of its kind to be published anywhere in the world.

Peony Chen, the protagonist of the novel, is a young 16-year-old girl who grows up in a wealthy family. Confined to the house, Peony's only view of the outside world is through the lookout pavilion in her garden villa. Peony's marriage is arranged with a man she has never seen. On her 16th birthday, her father brings in a small theatrical troupe for a screening of Peony's much beloved opera. Despite her mother's disapproval of the idea, selected scenes from the opera were staged in the garden of the Chen's Family Villa.

In those days, unmarried women should not be seen in public. Hence, Peony watches the opera from behind the screen. Through the little opening she catches the glimpse of a handsome man whom she falls in love with. As Peony suffers from love sickness, she is drawn to the opera and spends all her time poring over it. Eventually, like all the 'love sick maiden', she wastes away and dies. Peony reaches the after world and wanders as a hungry ghost. The story then follows the footsteps of Peony and her quest to unite with the love of her life.

Not having read many Chinese based novels, 'Peony In Love' offered me a wonderful insight into the Chinese traditions and customs. The intricate realm of Chinese after world, Ghost Weddings, Feast for Hungry Ghosts and ancestral worship were some of the fascinating segments of the book. A few pages were devoted to the excruciatingly painful foot-binding custom practiced in ancient China. I really enjoyed reading this novel, even though it was a bit of a drag towards the end. I look forward to reading her bestseller 'The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan'.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The GraveDigger's Daughter

Title: The Gravedigger's Daughter
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 582
Edition: Hardcover

Joyce Carol Oates is quite a prolific writer and touted for her works on rural poverty, sexual abuse, violence, female childhood and adulthood. She has churned out 36 novels so far, averaging two books a year. She has won numerous book awards and nominated for pulitzer prize thrice. 'The GraveDigger's Daughter' is her latest work.

Prologue ~ 1959, Chatauqua Falls, New York ~ Rebecca Schwart on her way back from her factory job was troubled by a stalker who mistakes her as 'Hazel Jones'.

1936, Milburn, New York ~ Rebecca's parents Jacob and Anna Schwart along with their two sons flee Nazis Germany in 1936 to immigrate to the United States and settle in upstate NewYork. Rebecca Schwart, the protagonist of the novel, is born in the boat crossing over. Jacob, a former school teacher in Munich, works as the gravedigger and the cemetery caretaker in Milburn. The Schwarts family were tormented by their past memories and they find no peace in Milburn either. The local townsmen taunt them for being Jews and Jacob despises every single one of them. An unprecedented event upends the family once and for all. Jacob kills Anna and commits suicide not before attempting to kill Rebecca.

Rebecca flees home and marries Niles Tignor and gives birth to Niles Jr. Apparently, Rebecca was not destined for happiness in life. She flees once again from her philandering husband Niles Tignor, when he brutally beats her and attempts to kill her. Rebecca adopts the identity of Hazel Jones and Niles Jr. the alias of Zacharias. As hope and happiness eludes her, she finds herself constantly on the run. Rebecca finds solace in the arms of Niles Jr, who grows up to be pianist.

Rebecca moves on to seek a new beginning, a promising life with happiness and hope. Will she ever find it?

Even after the epilogue, some questions do remain at the end, as some parts of the story were left dangling for the readers to comprehend. An emotional and touching story turned out to be rather a boring read because of the writing style. The prose was very exhaustive, slack and repetitive. I couldn't help myself stifling a yawn now and then. Having won so many accolades, I was curious to discover more of her books. Now, I am skeptical if I would ever pick up her book again! Quite Boring...

My Rating: 2/5

Friday, August 31, 2007

Prisoner of Tehran

Title: Prisoner of Tehran
Author: Marina Nemat
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 301
Edition: Hardcover

1982. Tehran, Iran. It was turbulent times then. The 1979 Iranian Revolution spearheaded by Ayatollah Khomeini had forced Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran to go into exile. Khomeini was gaining power and had become the Supreme leader and founder of Islamic Republic. Chaos, Killings and Rallies paralyzed the country and protesters suffered horrific deaths under his brutal regime. The ubiquitous political propaganda evoked anger and political outbursts among different cultural groups in Iran. Anyone who spoke against Khomeini was sent to Evin, the notorious political prison, to be interrogated, tortured and executed.

When Marina Nemat, a Christian, then sixteen-years-old, protested the calculus teacher who digressed from her subject to Koran and political propaganda, she was asked to walk out of the class. She did and other students followed. Little did she knew that her actions that day would change her fate forever. Marina was accused of speaking against Khomeini's regime and was sent to Evin with hundreds of others who dared to speak out.

Marina was tormented mercilessly by interrogators to give up names of her friends. Fear and despondency gripped her and she awaited her execution with an overwhelming sense of despair. She was dragged to the execution grounds, blindfolded and about to be shot. Just minutes before execution, her life was spared by the jailer of Evin, Ali. Using his family ties with Khomeini, Ali reduced Marina's sentence to lifetime in prison. But, What was the price she had to pay? Ali confessed that he fell in love with Marina on the first day they met in prison and couldn't imagine a life without her. He forced Marina to marry him. When Marina refused to succumb to Ali's wishes, he threatened to torment her family.

Marina had no choice but to marry Ali. To convert to Islam. But, Will she ever escape from the depths of abyss that threaten to engulf her? Will she ever be able to go back to her family? Will she ever find solace in life after being tormented for years in prison?

What I liked about the book was that it was deeply disturbing and a touching memoir. Her style of writing made the book so compelling. Life in prison has never been a rosy experience for anyone. But, the memories of Evin, Marina shares in this book were horrendous. Her many struggles to hold on to her dignity under severe torture was deeply moving and made me feel sick at heart. I begin to appreciate the many gifts life has offered me so far and what is yet to come. I found this book hard to put down and I highly recommend it!

To listen to the author's interview on NPR, please click here.

My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club

Title: The Hindi-Bindi Club
Author: Monica Pradhan
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 431
Edition: Hardcover

I am not a big fan of chick-lit novels, but after reading 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', I had to go look for one. I needed it like some sort of a breather. And 'The Hindi-Bindi Club' perfectly fitted the bill. Immigrant stories always intrigue me and one that has mouth-watering recipes sprinkled all over was something equivalent to a double-chocolate delight waiting to devoured.

Kiran Deshpande, a 32-year-old doctor, is a headstrong valiant girl, heart-broken from a divorce with a rock-star musician. Her home-coming for the holidays, after nearly 5 years, makes her rather nervous as she is about to confront her parents with her struggles from the past. Will she be able to reconcile the differences she had with her father, Yash, as he never consented her previous marriage? Will she find the strength in her to cope with the shocking truth her mother, Meenal Deshpande, is about to reveal? Is the arranged marriage, an idea she once scoffed at, the righteous choice after her past failure?

Preity Chawla, happily married and mother of two children, enjoys a picture perfect life. Atleast, that's what everyone thinks. She torments herself with a love affair she was forced to let go by her mother. She feels disheartened as her mother, Saroj Chawla, fails to acknowledge her feelings and encourages her to move on. Will Preity reconcile her differences with Saroj?

Rani Tomashot, daughter of Uma, abandoned her career as a rocket scientist to become an artist. Even after a successful solo exhibit, she suffers from bouts of depression and feels apprehensive about her future as an artist. Will Rani be able to fight the inner demons that threaten to engulf her?

Meenal, Saroj and Uma, members of the 'Hindi-Bindi Club' (nick-name given by their daughters), have compelling stories of their own. Meenal fights long and hard to make the relationship between Kiran and Yash work. And she is yet to reveal to Kiran an agonizing experience she recently underwent. Saroj harbours a secret that could prossibly wreck her marriage and struggles to come to grips with her past. Uma, wife of an Irish-American, started her life fresh in a foreign soil. Her marriage was never approved by her family and her obstinate dad forbids her from visiting her home country ever again. She never settled scores with her father before leaving the country and now that he is dead, it haunts her forever.

As the author, Monica Pradhan, adeptly juggles the intertwining lives of her fictional characters, she beautifully brings out the emotional struggle between mothers and daughters. Her writing style is so evocative that she makes you empathize with her characters. There is enough meat in this book that it may not be a bad idea after all to weave a Bollywood movie out of it. The traditional Indian recipes affixed to the end of each chapter adds an elegant touch to the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

What better way to end the review than posting my favorite recipe from the book?

Coconut Custard Cake (Bebinca)
Serves: 6 - 8

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup rice flour
10 egg yolks lightly beaten
3/4 cup melted ghee
3 tspn toasted almond slices
1/2 tspn salt
1/4 tspn ground cardamom
1/4 tspn ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F
2. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine coconut milk and brown sugar stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, cardamom & nutmeg.
4. Stir in coconut milk mixture to dry ingredients, then add egg yolks. Mix until smooth neither too dry nor too runny. Add a little water if too dry or a little flour if too thin.
5. Grease a deep 7 inch round aluminum pan with 2 tbsp ghee.
6. Pour 1 cup of batter into pre-greased pan. Set on middle rack of oven. Bake until top turns golden. Remove from oven. Pour 1 tbsp ghee over top layer. Using spatula, remove pancake and stack on plate.
7. Repeat step 6 until all batter is finished. stack all pancakes in a pan and bake 15 minutes.
8. Cool to room temperature. Turn pan upside down onto plate. Gently extract Bebinca so the shape stays intact.
9. Garnish with toasted almond slices. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 384
Edition: Hardcover

Hosseini enjoyed a phenomenal success with his debut novel 'A Kite Runner', an unforgettable story of two boys growing up in Kabul. It was published in 42 different languages and hovered on the NewYork Times Bestseller list for over 2 years. He derived the title for his latest novel from a 17th century poem "One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls." by Saib-e-Tabrizi in praise of Kabul. In 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', Hosseini depicts a searingly painful story of two Afghan women in a war torn Afghanistan. After languishing in the obscurity for many years, the hapless burqa-clad afghan women would find their voices in this deeply touching novel.
Part I - Mariam, referred by her mother as a 'harami' (bastard), is the illegitimate 15 year-old daughter of Jalil, a wealthy business man and cinema house owner in Herat. She grows up with her mother in a 'kolba', built by Jalil and his sons on the outskirts of the city. Jalil lives with his 3 wives and nine legitimate children and his family is a forbidden territory to Mariam and her mother. Mariam adores her father and his visit on every Thursday, but she fervently wishes to be a part of his family. One day she leaves the kolba to find Jalil, but she was sent back forcefully after spending a sleepless night outside his house. In a feeling of utter desolation, Mariam's mother hangs herself in a tree and Jalil is left with no choice but to take Mariam back home. She is soon married off to Rasheed, a shoe-maker in Kabul.
Part II - Laila, the young daughter of university-educated teacher, grows up in the same neighborhood of Kabul. She falls in love with Tariq, a one-legged boy, who is determined to marry her. However, the Afghan war throws her in the streets of Kabul, destitute and orphan. Due to a tumultuous change of events, she too gets married to Rasheed.

The desolate lives of Mariam and Laila in the hands of Rasheed and the unexpected twists and turns of fate brought into their world forms the rest of the story.

Afghanistan has had a troubled past and women never had the freedom they longed for. They always adhered to rules, never left home without a man, wore a burqa at all times, and never questioned authority. The oppressed lives of the afghan women during the Taliban regime has been portrayed in this book through the story of Mariam and Laila. These women succumbed to brutality day after day wishing it would end soon. Several chapters in this book are devoted to the monstrous cruelty these women were subjected to and I had to clench my fists, grit my teeth and choke back my tears to get through the pages. I practically devoured the book as soon as it arrived on my hands and the emotional journey I traversed was almost unbearable. Not too often does one come across a book as emotionally powerful as this one and it left me aching for more!

My Rating: 5/5

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lisa See @ the Bee Book Club Event

Lisa See, the author of NewYork Times Bestseller 'The SnowFlower and the Secret Fan' appeared last night for the Bee Book Club at the Tsakapoulos Library Galleria in downtown Sacramento, for her latest novel 'Peony in Love'. Set in 17th century China, the book is a coming-of-age story of Peony, a young 16-year-old who become obsessed with the opera 'The Peony Pavilion'. Talking about her latest book, See mentioned "It's based on a true story about three young women who were married to the same man. They were part of a category known as 'Lovesick Maidens,' women who would catch a case of lovesickness, waste away and die. Their poetry and stories would be published after their deaths. It's another piece of cultural history that was lost".

She shared with the audience some interesting facts about the History of China, opera 'Peony Pavilion' and Chinese afterlife. Here are some:

1. Foot-Binding, an ancient custom in China began in the 10th century, during the late Tang dynasty and lasted over a 1000 years, is a tradition of binding a young girl’s feet by bending the toes inward and breaking the arch of the foot, so that the women’s feet would fit the ideal “golden lotus”. Young girls endure the agonising experience of having their feet broken and squished, over a period of 2 years, so that its no more than the size of a thumb. Why would they do it? Well, for several reasons.

If her foot was not bound, she was more like a man and would bring shame to the family. Also, with a bound foot, she could walk more beautifully, resembling flowers in the wind, showing more diginity. Foot Binding was often a prerequisite for marriage. “A daughter carried the reputations of her family and her husbands family on her bound feet” was a common belief and a man from a reputed family will not marry a woman with a larger feet.

2. Chinese celebrate the dead often and believed in several kinds of ghosts, of which 'Hungry Ghost' is noteworthy of mention. 'Hungry Ghosts' can never become ancestors and are often unmarried girls. They can walk only in straight lines, are scared of ferns and loathe mirrors. As the name suggests, they are always hungry and wandering souls, but on the 14th day of the seventh full moon, a feast was offered for the hungry ghosts. It was believed that they come out and stuff their faces with food and go back to the underworld, destined to roam in agony until the next Feast. Another kind, the 'Barber Ghost' which has a special fondness for men, often shave the heads of sleeping men leaving an indelible mark forever.

3. 'Ghost Weddings' was another ancient tradition observed in some parts of china, where families seek 'ghost bride' as an afterlife spouse for their dead sons. In parts of Shanxi province, farmers match suitable skeletons and organise engagements, weddings, gifts, dowries and celebration dinners for the families.

About Lisa See: Born in Paris, she grew up in Los Angeles, spending much of her time in China Town. She has over 400 relatives in LA China town alone. She grew up listening to her grandmother's stories about China and its culture. Her first book, On Gold Mountain was a family memoir of the journey of her great-grandfather, Fong See, who became the 100-year-old godfather of Los Angeles’s Chinatown and the patriarch of a sprawling family. As far as her writing goes, she gets very obsessed with her characters and she is never done with them even after the completion of the book.

Next Book: 'Shanghai Girls' (tentatively named), follows the lives of two sisters growing up in 1937 Shanghai who travel to United States after arranged marriage, and settle down in China Town called the 'China City'.

Last but not the least, the Bee Book Club also hosted a raffle prize game and guess who the winner is ;)

Here's my bounty:

Quite an eventful day, overall! And, how incredibly lucky I am to win the raffle :) What next? Well, Read 'Peony in Love'.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Girls

Title: The Girls
Author: Lori Lansens
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 464
Edition: Hardcover

"I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially." With such an evocative beginning, the novel sweeps you into the extraordinary world of Ruby and Rose Darlens, the oldest living craniopagus twins in the world. Ruby and Rose are twenty-nine-years old, joined at the head by a spot the size of a bread plate. Rose says "I have carried my sister like an infant, since I was a baby myself. Ruby's tiny thighs astride my hip, my arm supporting her posterior, her arm forever around my neck". Rose and Ruby share a common blood supply, over a hundred veins and a skull bone making them inseparable after birth. Abandoned by their teenage mother soon after birth, the twins (simply called 'The Girls') are raised lovingly by Aunt Lovey and her husband Uncle Stash in a small town Leaford. Though physically restrained, the Girls have distinct personalities and pursue different interests. Rose is bookish and an ardent baseball fan. Ruby, the pretty one, has a passion for Indian artifacts. Rose and Ruby have never seen each other, except in a mirror, yet their lives are intertwined beyond imagination. Rose observes that life is not fair especially for a girl who is joined at the head. Yet one would marvel at what she has to say about it. "There is some alienation, of course, in being so different, but it’s also been fascinating, and a unique opportunity, I think, to have observed our generation without fully participating in it". As you read through the autobiography of the girls encompassing the major events that shaped their lives, you begin to love and appreciate the emotional bond and dependency between the twins. Ruby quotes "Before she closed her eyes tonight, Rose said she regretted that she has not done something heroic in her life. Well, it’s not like she can suddenly climb a tree and save a cat, or go to medical school and begin some important cancer research. But Rose has been my sister. I think that’s heroic". The author brings in so much life to the characters in her book that one begins to wonder if this truly is a work of fiction. Ruby says "I can't imagine how even the most brilliant author could describe to a stranger what it's like to take your life's journey with your sister attached to your head." But, I think Lansens has done that exceptionally well.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, June 8, 2007

2007 Orange Prize Winner & Book Meme Pg161

2007 Orange Prize for Fiction Winner: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
2007 Orange Award for New Writers Winner: The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly.

Book Meme Pg161
Lovely Lotus tagged me for a Book Meme. Thanks Lotus! Here are the rules: Grab the book that is nearest to you (no cheating), turn to page 161, post the text of the fifth full sentence on the page, post the rules and tag three people.
I just finished reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini and that's what I grabbed for this Meme.
"She couldn't get around the unfathomable reality that Giti wasn't alive anymore".
Khaled has written a profoundly moving story and I loved reading this book. Review coming up soon!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies-and How You Can, Too

Title: The Milk Memos
Author: Cate Colburn-Smith, Andrea Serrette
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 384
Edition: Paperback

Motherhood is a demanding, completely exhausting yet the most rewarding experience on the face of earth. There's a plethora of books about motherhood and child-care offering tons of parental wisdom to new parents. "Milk Memos" is one-of-a-kind book I recommend to any nursing mom. Though it primarily focuses on breastfeeding and how to balance motherhood and career, it offers insightful advice on subjects that matters to working moms such as finding the right day-care for your baby, getting a decent night's sleep and how to negotiate with your employer for part-time, flextime work. The story of how this book came into existence is quite interesting. "It all began when IBM manager Cate Colburn-Smith sat down in the company’s employee lactation room, shed a few silent tears, and wrote this on a paper towel: I’m a new mom and today is my first day back at work. Is anyone else using this room?" Fellow nursing moms at IBM responded and hence began to communicate with each other through notebooks offering support and sharing advice while pumping away in the former janitor's closet (turned into a lactation room). Being a nursing mom, I could relate to most of the stories and they often made me cry one minute and laugh hysterically the next. At times, it makes you feel empathetic. A sample journal entry: "You're not going to believe what happened to me this morning! I was in a team meeting because I'm the official note-taker. The meeting went on and on, and I kept hoping for a break, knowing I needed to pump. My boss whispered to me, "I think you're leaking." I was mortified. There were nine people in the room, and there were two wet circles on my shirt. One woman handed me some tissues. At first I thought that she wanted me to dab my shirt - as if that would help. Then she motioned to me that I should stuff them into my bra. Like I'm going to reach inside my shirt right there at the conference table! But I couldn't just get up and leave (God forbid - not with my boss)...All I wanted to do was pump, which totally made the leaking worse! By the time the meeting ended the small circles were big bull's eyes! Hope your day is going better than mine!". I am skeptical if any book on breastfeeding could be as entertaining and delightful as this one. Juggling between work and newborn is often challenging but can be done. And "Milk Memos" shows you how. A Wonderful book!
My Rating: 4.8/5

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Title: The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 401
Edition: Hardcover

1964. Lexington, KY. Pregnant Norah Asher goes into labor during the middle of a raging snowstorm. The relentless weather forces Norah and her husband Dr. David Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, to stop by his clinic for the delivery. Aided by nurse Caroline Gill, David delivers his son Paul, a healthy baby. But, David was totally unprepared for what was about to come next. A baby girl, Phoebe born with Down Syndrome -- "unmistakable features, the eyes turned up as if with laughter, the epicanthal fold across their lids, the flattened nose, the gap between her big toes and the others, Brushfield spots, as tiny and distinct as flecks of snow in the irises". David wants to spare Norah a lifetime of grief and hence makes an impulsive decision. He instructs Caroline to take Phoebe to an institution and tells Norah that Phoebe died at birth - an action he would repent forever. Caroline was too kind-hearted to leave Phoebe at the institution and she decides to raise Phoebe as her own. Caroline loves Phoebe ferociously and endures hardship to give her the education she deserves. While Phoebe grows up feeling happy and secured, Paul ends up being neglected and unloved. Norah longs to mourn for her lost child, but David refuses to acknowledge it. Their lives continue to drift apart. Grappled with grief, Norah turns her attention to a demanding career and meaningless affairs. And David is so guilt-ridden he distances himself from his own family. He seeks solace in photography. Even though his behavior is despicable, the author makes you empathize with him all along. I kept wondering if he would ever divulge the secret to Norah and the fact that he never did was unfathomable to me. Melancholy seeps through every page of this book. The characters are real, interesting and well developed. I was impressed with the way this novel explored the fragility of marriage and how love, pain and grief could shatter the basic intimacy between even the strongest bonds of relationsips. A Fascinating Read!
My Rating: 4.7/5

Other Notable Works By the Author: 'The Secrets of a Fire King' - Shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Climbing the Mango Trees

Title: Climbing the Mango Trees
Author: Madhur Jaffrey
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 296
Edition: Hardcover

Madhur Jaffrey, a renowned cookbook author and an award-winning actress recaptures her childhood in India in this purely delightful memoir 'Climbing the Mango Trees'. After reading a wonderful review of this book by Lovely Lotus, I couldn't resist nabbing a copy of it from the local library. As Madhur (meaning "sweet as honey") walks down the memory lane recounting her early childhood days in Delhi at her grandparent's house, growing up with her siblings and cousins, convent education, weekend picnics, tiffin-box lunches, scrumptious dinners enjoyed with her family, parties and marriages and all, it brought back endless reminiscences of my childhood too. My brother and I grew up in a joint family system with about half-dozen cousins at my grandparent's place during our early childhood. While the elders in the house snored away after a delicious four or five-course meal, We would sneak into the backyard and climb the guava tree with a tiny sack of spicy mixture (salt, chilli powder and cumin) tied under the waist. Each cousin would cling onto a branch and the delicious guavas would be handed down one by one and we would make an instant guava chaat sitting on the branch. With our eyes gleaming with mischief and pleasure and our feet dangling precariously in the air, we would start devouring them with its juices running down our hands. To our dismay, the guava tree was cut down later and replaced with a water well to meet the ever growing demands of water supply. But that didn't stop us from having fun either. We used to run around the water well chasing madly with slopping buckets of water and we would shriek with laughter as we splash each other the icy-cold water. The Tricycle Rickshaw rides we used to take to school was something I looked fwd to every single day. But, my brother was deprived of this sheer fun until he was old enough to go to school. As I settled myself among hordes of other children in the Rickshaw, my brother merely 2 years old would stomp down the alley with a tiny slate tucked under his arm, wailing his heart out to join the ride. Dodging the potholes in the muddy ground, the Rickshaw wallah would pedal his way out and enchant us with songs from old movies and our tiffin-boxes clinking on one another would merrily chime in. When the lunch bell rings, we would jauntily walk past the classrooms to seek haven under the shelters of the Neem trees and sink our teeth into some of the delectable Potato Curries, Rotis and Parathas. Oh, What about those midday ice cream treats? The ice cream man would walk past our compound and would keep blaring the little green horn affixed to his bicycle until we start flying down the alley, with the heart pounding in our chests, a few coins cupped in our little hands and surround him like a swarm of bees. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was those occasional moonlit dinners. On Full moon days, my grandmother and mom would prepare mouth-watering dishes and everyone in the family would clamber up the steps of the terrace and we would all sit in a huddle. As my grandma carefully placed a dollop of food on each of our palm, she would regale us with stories of her childhood. Basking in the glow of full moon, we would sit there staring at her as if in trance, while anxiously waiting for the food to be dropped in our palm. With a smile lingering on my lips, I found myself going back to those wonderful days, as I turned every page of this book. Not only does Madhur share her good ol' days, she also gives away some of her wonderful family recipes. The beautiful black-and-white pictures from her family album interspersed throughout adds an elegant touch to the book. An absolutely enthralling read!
My Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Winner

'The Book of Chameleons' by Angolan author José Eduardo Agualusa has won the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Originally published in Portuguese, the novel was translated by Daniel Hahn.
According to The Independent, "The novel mixes comedy, tragedy and touches of fantasy as it explores the recent history of the former Portuguese colony, whose independence in 1975 was followed by more than 20 years of bloody civil war." To read more, go here.
José Eduardo Agualusa's 1997 novel Creole won Portugal's Grand Prize for Literature.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

So Many Ways To Begin

Title: So Many Ways to Begin
Author: Jon McGregor
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 343
Edition: Hardcover

'So Many Ways to Begin', the second novel by Jon McGregor, beautifully captures the emotional upheaval of a man who struggles to comprehend the mystery behind his birth. Set in post WWII times in Coventry, England, the novel opens with Mary Friel, a young Irish girl, who leaves her hometown Donegal and travels to England to work as a housemaid. Even though Mary intends to go about her business unnoticed, she couldn't but help attract her employer and ends up getting pregnant. She delivers a baby in a local hospital in London and disappears mysteriously. This prologue sets a compelling stage for the story that's about to unravel. The story leans heavily on David Carter, the chief protagonist of the novel. Driven by a passion for collecting historical artifacts, David Carter couldn't be any happier when he lands up a job as a curator in a local history museum in London. David leads a joyous life with his loving wife Eleanor and daughter until one day his Auntie Julia, a friend of his mother Dorothy Carter, reveals a family secret. Auntie Julia, suffering from a mental illness, blurts out that David was adopted as a child and his biological mother left behind no trace of identity. Shocked by Julia's revelations, David begins to trace his biological mother. Haunted by the past, David jeopardizes his curator job that he so passionately dreamed about. On his voyage to self-discovery, David also has to deal with Eleanor's bouts of depression and a disappointing affair he ends up with. I felt the story dragged a wee bit towards the end as the reunion of David with his bio-mother doesn't happen until the last few chapters. The family reunion didn't bring me on the verge of tears, as I expected it would, but David's troubled past is upsetting enough and makes the story compelling. A simple storyline with an intricate style of writing!!
My Rating: 4/5

Other Notable Works By the Author: 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' - Nominated for the Booker Prize, shortlisted for the 2003 Times Young Writer Award, and won the Betty Trask Award and the Somerset Maugham Award.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist

The 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction shortlist has been announced. Here's the list:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
The Observations by Jane Harris
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The winner will be announced on June 06, 2007. To read more, click here.

I highly recommend 'The Observations' by Jane Harris. A hard book to put down. 'The Inheritance of Loss' and 'Digging to America' didn't hold my interest all the way through. I don't think I can put off reading 'Half of a Yellow Sun' anymore.. I gotta read it now!!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Khaled Hosseini's new book - A Thousand Splendid Suns

Did you know?
Khaled Hosseini's new book 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is scheduled for release on May 22, 2007. Hosseini's much acclaimed novel 'A Kite Runner' was one of my all time favorite reads and I am all excited about his new book.
To Read more about this book, click here

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Measuring Time

Title: Measuring Time
Author: Helon Habila
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 383
Edition: Paperback

Helon Habila's Measuring Time is a gripping tale of twin brothers Mamo and LaMamo who grow up in a small Nigerian village "Keti". Having lost their mother during childbirth, the twin brothers are raised by their uncle and aunt. Mamo, the elder one, is a sick child suffering from sickle-cell anemia whereas LaMamo grows up to be a strong man. Though the twins are so divergent in their characters, they are unified in their hatred towards their father Lemang. Lemang, a philanderer and a local politician could care no less for his sons. The twins decide to join army in order to achieve fame and freedom and flee from home. Mamo had to head back home after suffering from an anemic attack on the way and LaMamo goes on to join a rebel army and becomes a soldier. LaMamo fights in Liberia and Guinea and through his letters to Mamo, he describes the gory details of the war. In the mean time, Mamo becomes a school teacher and a historian. After publishing an article about the history of Keti, Mamo gets the attention of the local ruler "Mai" and is offered an opportunity to chronicle Mai's history to celebrate his regime. Mamo uncovers many disturbing truths about Mai during his work as a biographer and when the local villagers agitate against Mai's corruption, LaMamo comes back home and leads the fight only to suffer a fatal death. With an elegant style and prose, Habila has rendered a heart-wrenching story that will stay with you for a long time. Give this book a try!
My Rating: 4/5

Friday, March 16, 2007

Miles Franklin Literary Award 2007 - Longlist announced

The 2007 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist has been announced and out of 55 books submitted, the following eight made the cut.
  • Beyond the Break by Sandra Hall
  • Careless by Deborah Robertson
  • Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
  • Dreams of Speaking by Gail Johnes
  • Silent Parts by John Charalambous
  • Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey
  • The Unexpected Elements of Love by Kate Legge
  • The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

The only one I am familiar with is Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story. Should probably read it now, I guess. Check out the list of past winners here. Read more about the Award here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Lost City Radio

Title: Lost City Radio
Author: Daniel Alarcón
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 257
Edition: Hardcover

Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón is a wonderfully evocative tale set in an unnamed Latin American Country during post-civil war era. Almost a decade had passed since the government crushed the local insurgents 'Illegimate Legion' (IL), but members of IL were still hunted down, tortured or killed. Villages and towns' names were replaced by numbers and citizens were made informants. People who lost their loved ones during the war turned to the popular radio show "Lost City Radio" hosted by Norma to trace their loved ones. Norma, the protagonist of the novel, mesmerized everyone with her honey-sweetened voice and her callers believed that she had magical powers to bring back their loved ones.
"How many refugees had come to the city? How many of them had lost touch with their families? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? ...Hers was the most trusted and well-loved voice in the country, a phenomenon she herself couldn't explain. Every Sunday night, for an hour, since the last year of the war, Norma took calls from people who imagined she had special powers, that she was mantic and all-seeing, able to pluck the lost, estranged, and missing from the moldering city. Strangers addressed her by her first name and pleaded to be heard. My brother, they'd say, left the village years ago to look for work in the city. His name is... He lives in a district called...He wrote us letters and then the war began. ... the callers revisited village life and all that had been left behind, inviting their lost people to remember with them: Are you there, brother? And Norma listened, and then repeated the names in her mellifluous voice, and the board would light up with calls, lonely red lights, people longing to be found..." Norma struggles with her past as her husband Rey, an ethnobotanist disappeared after the war and been missing ever since. When Rey disappeared into the jungle near a village 1797 at the end of the war, she felt totally devastated. Norma hoped in vain that she might find some clues about her missing husband as her show occasionally brought grand reunions. Norma's life takes an interesting turn when a 11-year-old boy Victor appears at the doorsteps of her studio, clutching a piece of parchment in his hands with names of several missing people from his village 1797. What she finds most disturbing is the fact that Victor was from the village 1797 where Rey was last seen and his list had one of the "other" names of Rey. Norma knew very little of Rey's double life when they lived together and as she puts together the missing pieces of the puzzle, she discovers some shocking truth about Rey and how her life is intertwined with Victor in its own odd ways. Not very often you come across a story as elegant and impressive as Lost City Radio and this book was a delightful read. Don't miss it!
My Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Happy World Book Day!

Tomorrow March 01, 2007 is the 10th World Book Day in UK and Ireland. Snuggle up with a good book and enjoy!!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

In the Country of Men

Title: In the Country of Men
Author: Hisham Matar
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 246
Edition: Hardcover

Hisham Matar's debut novel, "In the Country of Men", a 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist, is a deeply poignant story of a 9-year-old boy Suleiman who lived during the Qaddafi's tyrannical rule of Libya in the 1970s. Narrated through the eyes of a young naive boy, Matar has beautifully captured a family's ordeal during the Great September Revolution led by Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya. Suleiman spends his early childhood in Tripoli swimming, plucking mulberry fruits from his neighbor's garden and playing with his friends in the streets. Suleiman's father, a successful businessman, travels abroad on business trips quite often. His mother, an alcoholic, torments him with her stories of troubled past whenever his father is away. Her strange attitude and ramblings of her past often leaves Suleiman quite perplexed and he fervently hopes that he could save her somehow from her illness. One day when his father was supposedly away on his business trip, Suleiman, to his utter bewilderment, finds him disguised in a pair of dark sun glasses hurriedly crossing the market square to enter a building with green shutters and a red towel hung out front. Soon after, Suleiman begins to witness the disturbing events that haunts him forever. His best friend Kareem's father Rashid gets abducted by a group of Revolutionary committee men only to be seen later on the public television suffering a tortured death in the hands of ruthless abductors. Suleiman's father absconds and his mother desperately attempts to save him from the Revolutionary men by secretly burning all the books in the house and hanging a huge portrait of Qaddafi in the living room. A stranger now sits outside in a parked car watching his house all day. As Suleiman struggles to comprehend the mysterious events, his father returns home all beat up and nothing more than a mass of bloody pulp. It was deeply disturbing as you try to fathom the atrocities this child was exposed to at such a vulnerable age. My knowledge of Libyan politics was on a minuscule level, before I picked up this book. But, this story has changed my perception of Libya forever. Matar has written an exceptional tale that deals with love, betrayal and friendship during the troubled times of a country. An enthralling read!!
My Rating: 4.7/5