Month: October 2018

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! 😁

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