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

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Title: Restless
Author: William Boyd
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 324
Edition: Hardcover

William Boyd's Restless, a 2006 Costa Novel Award Winner, is a compelling thriller story about a Russian born woman who worked for British Secret Service during the times of WWII. The story sways back and forth between Eva's career as a spy in 1930s Paris and Ruth's life as a single mom in 1970s England. Sally Gilmartin, a 66 year old Russian emigré leads a reclusive life in a cottage house in Middle Ashton, England tending to her garden and enjoying weekend trips from her daughter Ruth and grandson Jochen. Restless and ever watchful of her neighborhood, Sally feels paranoid that someone is trying to kill her. One day she makes a shocking revelation to Ruth saying her real name was Eva Delectorskaya and she seeks Ruth's help in finding Lucas, her former boss. When Sally hands out a manuscript titled "The Story of Eva Delectorskaya", Ruth finds her mother's secret past to be quite astonishing and initially deludes herself by thinking that her mother was probably going senile. But, as the story unfolds it turns out that Lucas Romer, a handsome Englishman persuades Eva (alias Sally) to join British Secret Service (BSS) after her brother Kolia was murdered during one of the undercover operations. Eva soon learns the tricks of the trade and adeptly carries out several clandestine intelligence operations in Belgium, Holland and US. The BSS team operates stealthily in Europe and US with the sole intent of posing German as a serious threat and heighten America's fears and allure them into the World War. When Eva comes perilously close to getting herself killed during one of the operations, she flees back to England with a gnawing fear that someone has betrayed her. Back in England, she adopts a new identity to conceal her past. The story gains momentum as Ruth joins Sally in her final mission to find Lucas Romer. The author has crafted the story with a great imagination and flair and wraps it all up with an unusual twist at the end.
A real page-turner!

My Rating: 4.7/5

Thursday, February 8, 2007

2006 Costa Book of the Year Award

Stef Penney's "The Tenderness of Wolves" wins the 2006 Costa Book of the Year Award formerly known as the Whitbread award.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Things They Carried

Title: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O' Brien
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 273
Edition: Paperback

The Things They Carried, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is a marvelous collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam war. War stories are particularly disturbing, especially if it deals with the emotional turmoil rather than the gory details of blood and murder. In this exceptional blend of fiction and truth, Tim evocatively captures the horrors, nightmares, fear and anguish the soldiers endured in the war field, which makes it an utterly compelling read.
The things they carried not only included the rifles, ammunition, grenades, radios and machine guns but also the emotional burden of grief, terror, anguish, love, photographs, memories and reputations. In the war field, they carried out all orders without a question. They plodded their way through toe poppers, booby-traps and mine fields, searched dark ghostly tunnels, dug foxholes to hide at nights, fought bugs and killed enemies yet the war just choked them with fear and boredom that sometimes they wished they could just shoot off their toes, or kill themselves just so they could be carried away from the war. "By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost."
When Tim received a draft to fight the war he hated, he felt that the war in Vietnam was wrong and unethical. He quotes "Knowledge,of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can't fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can't make them undead". Even though his conscience wanted him to run off to Canada, he eventually went to war, because he was too ashamed not to fight. Having survived the war, in this book, he writes about various interesting but disturbing stories about his friends in the platoon.
Some passages from the book I liked in particular:
"When I'm out there at night, I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark--I'm on fire almost--I'm burning away to nothing--but it doesn't matter because I know exactly where I am."
"If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie."

"I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story."
Whether the war was fought for ethical reasons or not, it evokes unfathomable horrors in the minds of survivors leaving behind a scar in their memories forever!! A deeply engrossing book I would gladly recommend to anyone!!
My Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Harry Potter Book 7

I almost squealed in delight when I heard that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", the final HP book will be published on July 21, 2007. Looks like Bloomsbury would publish a children's hardback edition, an adult hardback, a special gift edition and an audio book on the same day. I wonder what the children's edition is all about!