Year: 2018

Well-worn

Watercolor in Oxford Sketchbook
Inspiration from book cover of
‘Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress’

Woman at Point Zero – Nawal El Saadwi

The cover is theirs and the flowers are mine… It is human nature to find beauty and relief where none seem to exist.

This book has more heft of sorrow than its size might indicate… Weighing like a ton of bricks in your hands or lap. As one labours through the true story of Firdaus, a young woman in a Cairo prison, on death row, the circumstances of her life keep pointing to the hopelessness of being a girl… The possibility of exploitation abound and they are taken advantage of by everyone who comes in contact with her.

Her academic potential is disregarded, her needs and pleasures are never taken into consideration… Even when she becomes financially independent and sought after by powerful people, she is but one step away from brutalisation.

The title might have ‘Point Zero’ in it but one is close to boiling point while reading it… It is infuriating and exasperating… This story is not localised to Arab Nations… This could be in any country where women are exploited for being just that… Women.

One comes away with the feeling that Firdaus is a true heroine, regardless of her circumstances. She is braver than most warriors one reads about and worthy of deep respect.

Nawal El Saadawi is courageous and brilliant. She has spoken fearlessly and tirelessly about the flaws in Arab society. Her books are taught in universities and are translated into more than forty languages.

The relevance of her books cannot be denied, nor their importance in today’s day.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

The cover broadcasts its beauty

But,

The book doesn’t yell… It whispers soft stories… Some soothing… Some sordid… Some hopeful some hopeless… All intertwined like the aerial roots of a massive family tree.

We begin to empathise with the characters. Willing a better life for them, less hardship, more money, some comfort and a big dose of peace. As lifetimes begin and end within the covers of this book one feels age creeping up on oneself too. As young protagonists become old, one cannot help but feel the inexorable hold of time on all life.

The book starts in a small village, Yeongdo, in Korea and ends up in Japan, where many Koreans try to make their home, against all odds. The desire to be accepted and the reality of non-acceptance are two sides of the same coin there.

A book can be a repository for historical events and thereby dispense some key information on that region’s past. Pachinko clearly succeeds in that front, without making the lesson boring.

The story of three generations created by Lee has some outstanding characters, I felt my heart going out to Sunja the mighty tree who does a selfless job of providing for her family. Her sister-in-law, Kyunghee, too is a beautifully crafted character.

‘Pachinko’, was not a word I knew anything about till this book came my way… Learning more about it also paved the way for many other figures of speech that form the under belly of a nation that one knows about only superficially…
This book is definitely worth a read…Don’t wait for the weather to change and quilt to come out, to curl in bed with this one! 😁

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

A well-thumbed book curls at the edges… This book has been my constant companion till I turned the last page, hence the attempt to control its errant cover. 😊

This amazing book is based on the real life story of olympian Louis Zamperini, his childhood (a part that I enjoyed immensely), his personality (he would’ve made my hair turn gray way before its time, if I were his mother!), his career with the Army Air Force (very interesting), his plane crash into the Pacific Ocean with his crew and surviving the ordeal during World War II (simply awe-inspiring and quite unbelievable).

Through all these chapters of his life, that have been immaculately researched by Laura Hillenbrand, it was his imprisonment in Japan as a POW that really shook me to the core. It placed me in the middle of the war and made me imagine things that I have only seen in some historical movies made on the Second World War.

The face of hate in the time of war has been unveiled with alacrity and chilling realism. It’s aftermath on human lives and the struggle to move on seems like a distant and unreachable reality for thousands of war survivors.

However, Zamperini does move on, against all odds… And as a reader, one cheers him on, much as the packed stadiums did when he broke all records in his favourite race, the one miler.

There are many things that stand out in this book. One is the uniqueness of a personality such as Zamperini and his brother, Pete. The other is the incredible details of reconstruction of events as they happened…. Piece together like a million – piece jigsaw puzzle by the author. They will leave you breathless.

No matter what one does or doesn’t take away from a book like this, one thing is certain, one will develop a new respect for the ordinary beauty of everyday life, lived in peace… 🌺

I turned to the internet to learn more about Louis Zamperini and was flooded with interesting information.

I missed the movie, but am glad his story has been captured to great acclaim.

There are some lives that the world needs to know about… His is one of them, as are those of his fellow survivors.

Isadora – Amelia Gray

This book is unreadable.

From the first page on, when details of the tragic accident are revealed, they cling to the psyche like treacle poured on hair.

Every page turned, is done with a weight of sorrow…every sentence read, is done with darkness in the heart.

I had overestimated my appetite for getting through any novel. But the sorrow of a suffering family after the loss of two infants in a car accident, paled every other endeavour and achievement of Isadora into insignificance.

I struggled through the first fifty pages after that I glanced through the rest of the book and every time a reference was made to the children, my heart sank to new lows.

I left the book in a hotel room, and never looked back… This is a first for me… As it sat, unmarked on the reading table, I felt a sense of relief flood over me.

I went to the net to get more information on Isadora Duncan, her beautiful dance, her humongous contribution to creativity and the slow unhinging of her life, right till the time of her accidental and untimely passing away.

Here was a deeply troubled life, that tragedy bore into like termite, making her almost implode…. I couldn’t deal with it…

If You Leave Me – Crystal Hana Kim

Take all the colors of the flowers on the cover and weave them together into a brilliant tapestry of words… Drape it on yourself and let it insulate you from the inside and outside world…till the chill wears off…

As one goes deeper into the story of this novel set in war torn Korea, we come face to face with an unforgettable character in the form of Haemi Lee. One falls in love with her indomitable spirit and is left heart broken at the choices life forces her to make.

The depth of youthful love and the gaping hole it leaves, has been explored with immense skill by Ms. Kim. The intricacies of maintaining relationships and the toll they eventually take has to be read to be believed.

This book does not read like a debut novel. It is tight, emotional and unforgiving in its hold over you. It is not a suspense thriller but it is a page turner, nevertheless. It is immensely engrossing as a riveting family drama.

I loved the cover of the book. It is stunning.

The unfinished, deckle-edged pages give the book a raw yet elegant appeal. The font is well-chosen and is easy on the eyes. There is enough space all around the text to not crowd the page.

The 414 pages don’t seem enough to hold a story this large… If a sequel came out, I would be the first to buy!

After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell

What is melancholy

If not the sound

Of a heart breaking

In despair

And loneliness?

This slow-paced book takes its own time building the lump in your throat. If you really let it, it can get under your skin and send a chill of an unknown emotion coursing through …

Something you never ever want to feel in your life.

What I felt upon reading “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is similar to what this book evokes….

You feel yourself hanging at the edge of the precipice…. You stabilise your foothold, but you also know that all it will take is a small gust of wind… To topple you over….

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