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!