Book Review : My grandmother sends her regards and apologies

“The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living”

Cover page of My Grandmother sends her regards and apologies

Save yourself a little time. Order the book today. Ask your friends for a copy , if they already have one. Enjoy the ride. You’ll love this one. I really do wish that all tales were like this one. The reviews would be one liners.

And bought it already? Good . Excellent.

My grandmother sends her regards and apologies , by Fredrik Backman , is a wonderful heart warming tale. This is the same bloke who gave us A man called ove. This story is about Elsa, an almost an eight year old girl, her Grandmother and the fantastic land of almost awake. The land of fantasy has it’s knights in golden armour, a Wurse ( a massive beast) , a warrior, two princes who feud over a princess. A princess, A sea angel. There is mom , dad, George. Throw in a few neighbours and you have a fairy tale in the making.

Granny is granny and the world struggles to cope up with her. Granny was, when she was young, a very successful surgeon. She’d travel across the globe and help those who needed help. When Granny retires, she has a brand new job. She keeps herself busy by being Elsa’s superhero. Granny is full of life, she’s animated and a force of joy. She has a problem with the world around her. Dogmatic rules bore her, political correctness offends her, The whole deal of pampering in the name of safety and pointless fears disinterest her. Granny would rather break into a zoo to watch the animals sleep, get arrested for that and walk out of jail, than sit at home and imagine what it’d be like to see animals sleep in the zoo. That’s granny.

Elsa loves her granny. The two make a wonderful team.

Elsa is not the usual average seven year, well almost an eight year old kid. She’s way too smart for her age. She enjoys reading proper literature a lot. To her, proper literature constitutes of Comics , Harry Potter and most books that we’d never bother associating to a formal education system. Elsa is perceived as a bit of an odd ball and she always manages to attract the ire of bullies from her school. Elsa can hold up against anyone in an argument. When Elsa and her Granny team up, the outcome is usually hilarious.

Granny introduces Elsa to the land of almost awake. The land consists of six kingdoms. Granny and Elsa also have a secret language that they use to carry on discrete conversations. Things are good and things look promising to Elsa. Her world is all set to change with her mother looking to deliver her baby brother. Elsa calls him Halfie. She’s not sure if he’d be a boy or a girl. Half and half and so she calls him halfie All is well till Elsa accidentally discovers that her Granny’s time in this world is coming to a close.

One fine morning , Granny passes away and she leaves Elsa behind on a treasure hunt, in a quest to save the magical kingdoms. The fate of the land of almost awake rests on Elsa. And so her adventure begins.

I fell in love with this tale. The fantasy is vivid and wonderfully imaginative. As we find ourselves exploring the magical kingdoms , we also discover how the kingdoms are connected to this world. The tales are both real and fictitious at the same time. That makes it the perfect kind of a tale.

We embark upon the adventure with Elsa on her quest to keep the lands protected and safe. Each clue that Elsa receives, is a letter from her grandmother which is addressed to different people. The theme usually is the same. Grandma sends her regards and her apologies.

What does grandma apologise for? Is everything just a mere delusion of a senile lady? Does Elsa manage to uncover the clues and save the kingdoms? Is there a dragon in this tale?

The book is quite the adventure.

The book plays to its strengths; its characters. This is a book about people. This is a book about how people refuse to live their lives. It reminds us that while the dead remain dead, the living also cease to live. It talks about how people quietly succumb to the crushing blows to their heart and how they never bounce back. It talks about why we need that courage to live.

The book also explores the choices that we make in life. It talks about the things that we ignore, when we are in pursuit of glory. It talks about the effect that pursuit has on the people around us. It reminds us that all of us will find a day when we are done searching for things and when we take a good look at the things we’ve ignored and left behind in that search. Are we left with regrets and guilt? Are we left with the satisfaction of the search? Do we end up losing more than what we had bargained for? The book, in it’s own subtle way, leaves us with those questions.

Grab yourself a copy today. Enjoy the ride. You will love Elsa and her granny.

Karthik

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Book review : The handmaid’s tale

For starters , I thought this was a fairly new book. Now I do realize that the tale was published in 1985. This adds more chills to the reading experience.

This is an uncomfortable book to read. It’s not the case of a boring plot, under developed characters and a story plagued by near dead pacing. On the contrary, it’s the realism to the book that makes the reading experience a little heavy on the mind. On that grounds, this book is a bit hard to digest. As I started, I thought this was written in this decade, which could explain the way the plot was pictured. The fact that this book now stands the test of time and the context , more real today than it was decades ago, is a testament to the gloomy world this book introduces us to.

This is a simple tale of a dystopian , not so far away, future. The world has survived a few jolts. Societies have transformed and the new norm is an accepted way of life. It is a world where women , usually, don’t have a name. There are Aunts, Marthas, Wives, Handmaids and econowives. The plot doesn’t really spend a lot of time classifying the strata of men. There wasn’t much need anyways. And then there were also men.

On the onset of near annihilation, the society tries to reconstruct itself from the ashes. The fallout from the radiation, the chemicals and the toxic world itself, renders most men sterile. The society emulates a dictatorship of sorts. Senior government officials are ENTITLED to handmaids. I think you can guess where the tale is heading and what is the role of such handmaids in their dystopian society.

So the primary role of a handmaid is to facilitate progeny. In fact , the entire society is built around repopulation. Women who can’t are shipped off to the colonies. The ones who can, are Handmaids are deployed across families. Their sole purpose is to birth the next generation. The successful handmaids eventually retire when their clocks run their due course. The unsuccessful ones are shipped off to the colony. In a nutshell, the role of a woman in the society is valued through the filter of procreation.

Aunts are a sect of women who train , groom and condition the handmaids. Marthas are housekeepers and carry out their role in running the chores around the household. Econowives are the wives allotted to men who have insignificant roles in the machinery of the society. The society is policed through the army. Angels to be precise. These are the foot soldiers. Then there are eyes, who spy on the society and report on the miscreants who don’t comply to the religious cause of the society. There you go. That’s their world.

Feeling disgusted at it so far? Good. So was I. you don’t have to be a feminist to feel offended by the course that this society took. The fact that this society accepts this ridiculousness as a norm is disgusting. The fact that this society was let to be, is offensive. The fact that this society is a reality, now that’s a gentle revelation of sorts.

The reminder of the tale hinges around the fate of the titular Handmaid. What happens to her? Does she ever deliver a child into that world of hers? Does she eventually retire or does she get shipped to the colony? The book keeps you guessing and curious. It’s a page turner alright.

There are bucket loads of themes in this book. Ever noticed that in this write up, I had not bothered with names? The first theme is that of an Identity. A name is more than just a name. It is an identity. It is an announcement of self, it protects and preserves the self. What if you re robbed of a name. what if your name didn’t even matter?

This book is also an alarming reminder that you don’t have to be political, but politics will govern, impact and affect your life. Deny it with all your might, but it’s not going to go away. This book talks about the nature of politics.

Back to why 1985 was such a shocker. Patriot Act. The whole Demonetisation in India, The big politics of sentiments and fear. Fear leads to suspension of constitution and the very rights that protect the citizens of a nation. I’m not political. I’m an observer. I’ve observed ample instances of how sentiments affect the policies and how policies affect life. It’s almost a near inevitability. One fine day, there will be a disaster, people will be frightened and defenceless. The law of the land will do it’s best to protect us. The caring hand could easily turn our to be a talon gripping it’s prey. This book , very comfortably, predicted the way we would behave in the future. The whole big bang around WW2 , it’s not that hard to realize that history is meant to repeat itself and we as a species do tend to forget the lessons of the past.

Religion plays a central role in this book. A society that follows any religion and religious practices blindly, without understanding the whys of the things it does, will eventually follow things as a rote. It would police itself in that fashion. It will grow intolerant towards those who choose to not follow. This society is not very different. There are those who follow it with all their heart and disciplined conviction. A closer look at their motives does reveal self preservation and other conflicting interests.

This book is a wonderful example of a loveless, emotionless state of existence. Life as a protocol to be carried, compliance to comply to, life defined around purpose. While it does feel like the right thing to aspire to be, it also exposes the limitations of such fulfilling existence.

This book is a mirror to self, it is a mirror to the society.

I enjoyed reading it. If serious stuff holds your attention, go for it. It is after all a story of a handmaid. Her life’s story is worth the read.

Karthik

Book review : The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

Cover Page of the 100 year old man

The hundred year old man who climbed of the window and disappeared, Jonas Jonasson.

Where oh where do I begin. A hundred year old man, Spanish civil war, America’s Atomic bomb, Stalin singing a song, Mao Tse-Tung’s communist ambitions, Kim Il Jong’s legacy in the making, A few presidents, a hot dog seller, an Elephant, a cop on a mission , an Einstein, a prosecutor who wished he had not been born. That’s one convoluted sentence that has way too many characters who converge and fuel madness to this fantastic tale of a warm , hilarious adventure.

Lets take a moment to let all of that sink in.

Phew.. Feeling better? okie dokie. Let us begin.

The hundred year.. is a story of Allan Karlsson. On his hundredth birthday, he decides to climb out of this room in an old age care home. That sets of a wonderful adventure that consumes you with every page that’s turned. Allan is a very ordinary bloke who has had an extraordinary life. There are absolutely two things that Allan does exceptionally well. One, he always manages to have an open mind. Two, he’s good at blowing things up.

An open mind and an uncanny ability to blow things up, these are the two things that fill Allan’s life with a million memories. As the tale continues in the present, we are introduced to roads that he had travelled in the past.

So Allan sneaks out of the old age home, he manages to steal a suitcase that is loaded with money. A mafia-ique gang is after him. A gang that goes by the name ‘ Never Again’. Allan’s escape from the house is now also a escape from the gang. The police get involved. Initially they are called in to find Allan and as the events unfold, the police now suspect Allan of murder. A 100 year old man on a killing spree!

Allan’s life is an adventure. Straight through the Spanish revolution, to America’s hunger for creating the A-Bomb, to Stalin’s desire to make a nuke for the motherland, North Korea’s war for identity, Allan finds himself participating in all these milestones that have shaped up the world. The history is something that will leave you in a sense of awe. The circumstances would leave you laughing.

Besides the adventure, this is a beautiful tale of friendship. Allan bumps into Julius, a bloke with a reputation for being a petty thief. The two become friends and they bump into Benny. Benny’s a hotdog vendor who has almost been a lot of things. The trio meet Gunnila. Gunnila’s the lady of the tale. Gunnila loves sonya. Sonya is her pet elephant.

The bonds of friendship are forged through honesty. As the tale ascends into mad hilarity, you’d grow warm reading the way their friendship evolves. The tale is also a tale of a cat and mouse chase. The inspector, Mr Aronsson , is absolutely relentless in his quest to find Allan.

The book is a light hearted read but it does nurture deeper themes within it. Each of the character , that you’d come to enjoy in time, is plagued by loneliness and solitude. The characters grab the opportunity to connect and take that leap of faith in forming ties with each other. I’d like to see them as a reflection of ourselves. We , most of us, are alienated with the world. We exist in a crowd. While a lot of us have shown that courage to take that leap of faith and invite people into our lives, there are a lot of us who are fenced up. We wait.

The book’s central theme is that of blind optimism. Allan doesn’t really worry a lot about the past or the future. He keeps an open mind and goes with the flow. Life hands him lemons, bananas, vodka, sausages and a lot many other things. He makes a good use of them and powers on. Allan is neither too ambitious nor does express a defeatist view of life. He is one of the grandest examples of living in the present. In a weird sense, he represents a zen-like peace. He remains unperturbed by most things.

The book does take a dig at two of the most influential factors that have shaped up our world. Religion and Politics. Allan doesn’t care for either. He’s not judgemental about them. His point of view offers a neutral stance on how silly that both religion and politics can be.

The book is a happily ever after waiting to happen. It’s a casual, funny breezy read. The plot might seem a bit outlandish at times, but that’s precisely the point. Strap your seatbelts, hang on tight and enjoy the fun ride that is The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

Next stop : The Handmaid’s tale.

Karthik

Book review : a man called ove

“Maybe to her destiny was “something”; that was none of his business. But to him, destiny was “someone.”

Coverpage of A man caled Ove

A man called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

I picked this book because a friend recommended it. To be perfectly honest, it was a spur of the moment decision to quench my curiosity about the book. I dived into its pages without a shimmer of expectation. When I was done with the book, something within me had snapped, there was something that I could spot as odd in the way I lived. With eyes wet with tears, my heart warm with satisfied overwhelmed emotions, it was time to move on to a different book. I did my best to savour the memories of the book and it was precisely because of that pleasure, I delayed writing about it. Words once read, words once written would probably move on to become words once cherished.

Back to the tale, Ove. Ove is an old geezer whom you’d probably dislike. He is a stickler for rules. He incessantly keeps reminding the world around that they don’t follow the dogma that rules are. He’s not much for small talk. It’s hard to enjoy a pleasant conversation with him. Ove is perceived as old, grumpy and chip of the block from a generation that’s been comfortably forgotten. That’s Ove. He’s unapologetic about what you’d think about him. He doesn’t really care. It probably wouldn’t be Ove if he did!

That’s Ove. That would probably be your first reaction to Ove.

The book is a tale of the life of the man who goes by the name Ove. As we get a glimpse of his present, we are also introduced to his past. The story of what he is now feels almost incomplete without seeing the story of what he was before. As we catch up on his past, we also find ourselves getting very eager about his present and the course of his future.

Hidden away in the tale is one of the most romantic relationship that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Far away from clichés of roses are red, violets are blue, I got a letters of love and you need a stick of glue, there is a beautiful story of romance that blossoms and grows warmer and warmer till it occupies every inch of your heart and soaks you with its warmth. Ove and his wife Sonja. Theirs is a very romantic relationship which is very far away from dramatic and cinematic romance. Theirs is a world of sweet nothings, a wonderful intersection of two people’s very distinct life that come together and form a pleasant harmony. We , as readers, witness a cute love that they both share. Theirs is a kind of love that span through health and sickness. It spans across life and death. It’s a kind of a love that refuses to die away despite death at it’s doors.

Ove does have a secret. He knows how to solve all his woes and wants to put an end to his misery. Only, it’s not his time yet. It’s just about the right time for Ove to be thrust into a world of people around him. His world is all set to explode. Cue in the people around Ove.

The secondary characters are phenomenal. They are vivid and colourful and blend blissfully into the life of Ove. Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian lady , her daughters, the Lanky one, Ove and Rune’s big conflicts, you’d fall in love with everyone in Ove’s world.

There are wonderful themes that are explored in the book. It offers us a glance into questions like, What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean when people say that lives are meant to be colourful?

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had”

Ove’s story is a gentle reminder that sometimes our lives are meaningless without our special people in it. It calls out the similarities between existing for existence sake and living void of colors and emotions. It is through Ove, we get to assess our own hues about life. Ove’s story is also a wonderful example of going with the flow and letting life take it’s own course.

We are a product of what we choose to be and the people we let into our lives.

Would I recommend his book? ABSOLUTELY. Go ahead and grab yourself a copy today. You wont regret it.

Next stop :The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Karthik

Book review : memoirs of an imaginary friend

My name is Budo.

I have been alive for five years.

Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.

Max gave me my name.

Max is the only human person who can see me.

Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.

I love Max’s teacher, Mrs Gosk.

I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs Patterson.

I am not imaginary.

Coverpage of Memoirs of an imaginary friend

That’s what the preview of the book in Amazon read. On an impulse, I hit the click to buy button. The book came and along with it came a wonderful journey of words. Memoirs of an imaginary friend is a cute teddy bear with a bright pink heart that you hug tight to feel warm and fuzzy. It is a kind of a book that leaves you feeling warm, nice and happy. It’s a Disney movie that you watch by reading a book. I think this is by far the most ADORABLE thing that I’ve ever read.

Memoirs of an imaginary friend , Matthew Dicks is a fantastic fantasy-adventure of Budo. Budo is an imaginary person. He is very much real as he is not. Max, an autistic child , imagines Budo and Budo has now been around for five years. Given the world of imaginary friends, five years is almost a near impossible lifetime for an imagination to stay alive.

Budo understands the world that Max tends to skip at times. Budo never sleeps and has a curiosity of a child. At five, Budo is torn between the world of adults and children. He’s too mature to be a child and a product of a child’s imagination to be an adult. Budo’s view of the world is often perceived as an outlook of a child.

The story picks speed as we soon realize that Max is a special child with special needs. Max and Budo’s conversations are a bliss to read. There is innocence sprayed all over the book in vulgarly copious amounts. Nuances and mannerisms of an autistic child are beautifully portrayed in the book. We , as readers, soon associate ourselves to Max’s strengths and limitations. We cheer him for the things he does. We feel bad for the things he does differently. Max’s challenges become our challenges.

While innocence does remain cemented throughout the journey of this tale, it’s Budo’s curiosity, his self awareness of being an imaginary being , and his questions on life and death; the difference between existence and fading away into oblivion that offsets the childlike tone of the book. Thankfully , Budo does not go Gung-Ho and spew philosophy. He has simple needs, simple wants and it’s that pursuit of needs and wants that drives the themes of existence and purpose of life in this book.

Budo would ‘Die’ if Max stopped believing in him. As boys grow older , they do grow out of the ‘having an imaginary friend’ phase. Max’s direction towards a better , fuller, normal life also means Budo ceases to exist. It’s this conflict that is so wonderfully nurtured through the book.

One fine day, Max goes missing from school and it’s up to Budo to embark upon a fantastic adventure in finding Max and saving the day. A challenge which would have been easier had Budo been a real bloke! The rest of the book is all about this excellent , heart warming adventure. The pace is perfect, it gives us beautiful moments to pause and absorb the adventure. The story doesn’t feel rushed.

I couldn’t help but draw some connections out of the plot. I imagined Max as the transient point in time. Max was a summation of the past, the present and the future. I imagined Budo to be the self. Budo’s status quo changes with how Max grows in time. Aren’t we like that. The best days of our lives, always tend to be in the past. We coast through the present, we exist. The unknowns of the future probes fear into our hearts and we do tend to worry about our existence.

“It’s very strange to be an imaginary friend. You can’t be suffocated and you can’t get sick and you can’t fall and break your head and you can’t catch pneumonia. The only thing that can kill you is a person not believing in you.” Budo

I refused to let myself wander away in thoughts. I enjoyed the story narrated. Far away from the land of murders, crimes, deaths, contemplations about life, this felt like a breath of rejuvenating fresh air to read.

Make time for Budo. Give his story a shot. You wont regret it.

Next stop, A man called Ove.

Karthik

Book review : His bloody project

Cover page of His bloody project

His bloody project , G M B.

I picked this book because , 1. The cover page looked awesome. 2. It was heavily discounted. 3. I wasn’t thinking much when I picked the book.

In a short span a few months, I had comfortably moved away from comforts of reading murders and the satisfaction of accompanying a sharp mind in deciphering the twisted mind of a heinous bloke. While this was the genre that got me into reading, I had found myself moving towards other philosophies of life. I had this book for nearly six months before I eventually got to it.

I was impressed with the book. Yup, it makes for a well constructed , gripping narrative.

This is a story of a boy , Roderick Macrae. His not so simple life leads to a not so simple situation. Roddy is charged with manslaughter of not one but three people. The story is not a cat and a mouse chase of who-dun-it. With the dirty deed done cheap, the story kicks off with Roddy’s confession of the murders. Soaked in mind, Roddy goes on to getting himself imprisoned.

Now that was a twist in the tale that got me intrigued about the book. While in prison, Roddy is encouraged to write a memoir of the things that eventually transpired in the act of cold blooded murders.

The book is split into three sections. Roddy’s memoir of things that led to the murder. Roddy’s present in the prison. The retelling of the trail that decided upon his fate. I found the trial to be extremely engaging. Cheap thrills. The court room drama was both efficient and thrilling. I particularly enjoyed the sequence that the book follows. The memoir and Roddy’s time in the present are beautifully unravelled. With each page turned, one finds oneself closer to the nature of Roddy’s life.

There are brilliant questions that the book leaves us, the audience, with.

‘If an insane bloke proclaims to be insane, is the bloke really insane?’.

‘What justifies a murder?’ .

The book also explores the environment that nurtures a mind which readies itself to carry out the crime.

Are we born a murderer or do we grow into that role?

I did enjoy reaching my own conclusions about Roddy. I am intrigued by my not so ‘black and white’ outlook towards moralities of life. I’ll let you experience the narrative and form your own opinion about the curious case of Mr Roddy.

The horror that humans are capable of chilled me to the bone. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t take a lot for something within us to snap and embrace the animal in us. The book explores the simple clarity of a damaged mind’s conclusion that eventually does lead to a murder. Murders rather.

Maybe this book is not for everyone, then again, the whole act of murder is contained within a chapter. I guess in that sense, this can be picked without too much fuss.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the thoughts it left me with. The greatness of a book is not measured by the words used to describe it, its measured by the amount of thoughts it leaves , once that story is read. In that respect, this book manages to achieve just that.

Karthik

Book Review : Atonement

Coverpage of the Book : Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan

There is something so familiar in this book that struck a chord. It’s a tale of an affair with words, the world of imagination , the choices made and consequences eventually atoned for.

This is a story of Ms Briony Tallis. She’s a bored little teenager who dreams big of being a writer one day. A summer that changes her life and the lives of people around her. The story is set amidst the boredom of this girl, her way of coping up with the boredom by imagining a world of drama and thematic challenges. With her brother Leon returning back home from university, it presents her with a wonderful opportunity of hosting a play to entertain the guests.

Briony’s world is her home, her sister Cecillia , Robbie; who is the son of the housekeeper who helps around the Tallis household, Lola and the twins who are her aunt’s kids and are guests in the house. Briony engages Lola and the twins to take part in her play. Briony has a change of heart and decides to call off the play.

She also happens to witness the raw and crude strained love that Cecillia and Robbie share. Her age of ignorance and naïve innocence, her lack of understanding of young blossoming love, her pampered outlook towards life, all of this results in her bearing witness to Robbie assaulting Lola. Briony’s testament , her dedicated unwavering conviction to her testimony seals Robbie’s fate.

The story then branches out to its next two acts. Set in the backdrop of Dunkirk, Robbie is now a man, a solider who has one and only reason that drives him to survive the war and return home to his one true love Cecillia. Robbie , of course, is innocent of the crime that he was charged with, finds it hard to forgive Briony but also wants Cec to unite with her family and sister again. The incident had fractured the family and the lives of its people. Forgiveness becomes a commodity that is not easily exchanged.

Act three revolves around Briony’s penance. In time, she realizes the magnitude of her childish act. Now fully aware of the consequences of her actions, the striking difference between words of fiction and words that are stated in the real world, Briony is plagued with the knowledge that her thirst for fiction and drama in life had resulted in fractured lives. Briony decides to face the consequences of bearing the truth.

Atonement is a book that bored me to hell. The pace was slower than a dead horse trying to drag itself from point a to b. While the premise was promising, the execution lacked drama and was far away from it’s potential. Briony’s atonement was barely a crescendo. It fizzed away and drowned in distracted narration , much like a sound of triangle getting lost in a blaring orchestra. By the time one reaches the end, we don’t feel Briony’s burden, we don’t share her guilt, we remain unaffected by the choices of the characters.

I’m glad that this was the last of the 5 that I picked up. Another day, another book read, another lessons learnt and a few ones skipped. I wish I felt inspired to explore the themes that the book covered. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with it to bother that effort.

If you have the time to kill, if someone gifted you this book and you feel compelled to not cheat, not sneak up the plot in Wiki, then have fun reading the book.

Karthik

Book review : Norwegian Wood

Cover Page of Norwegian Wood, Murakami

Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami.

It is an infinitely difficult tale for me to review. It’s not because the tale is beyond a justifiable review, it’s solely because I am blinded by the emotions that I’d bring to the table when I talk about this book. I shall do my best to alienate myself from the book while I attempt to review this Masterpiece.

Norwegian wood, a song by The Beatles, also happens to be the song that the leading lady of the tale likes. Naoko. Toru Watanabe is the narrator and this story revolves around his life, how it intersects with Naoko , Reiko and Midori. The book is a testament to the predictability of how unpredictable our reasoning becomes when we face challenges that test our emotional stability. In short, Love, is the most predictable means to call out how we become unpredictable because of it.

N.W is a simple tale of love. Toru, his best friend Kizuki and K’s girlfriend Naoko are a trio. The story takes place when Toru is aged 17. Kizuki kills himself which leaves a void in Naoko and Toru’s lives. It’s a void that is beyond repair. It leaves a gaping hole in their lives. Toru and Naoko move to Tokyo, each pursuing their education. Toru and Naoko seem to find solace between themselves and Naoko , one fine day, exiles herself from Toru’s life. Toru feels the icy talons of isolation once again.

He later comes to know that Naoko , who is suffering from depression, has checked herself into an institution. Naoko reaches out to him through letters. Toru makes it a point to visit her and that’s when they meet Reiko. Reiko is Naoko’s roomie and she’s also a victim of a breakdown. There is a new trio that is formed.

While all of this happens, Toru meets Midori and finds her to be full of life, a quality that he misses both in his life and that in Naoko. She represents everything that Toru misses. Toru is in love with Naoko. Naoko is imprisoned by her depression. She’s a broken version of what she can be. She’s unable to reciprocate that love. Her solitude leaves Toru in a state of solitude. Midori start to fall for Toru and he feels the conflict.

So far the plot of the book does point towards the simple fact that love can get as complicated as one wants it to be. It’s not the mere words of love that this book represents. It is a hurricane of emotions that each of the character expresses. The volatile nature of emotions, the impact of such emotions on our lives, the way our lives affect the lives of folks around us, and this book absolutely , precisely rams the hammer down the perfect nail.

As the protagonist suffers the misery of helplessness of his love, we feel his pain. We feel the pain and misery that keeps Naoko trapped. Her inability to jolt herself off her depression, the toll and strain that has on the love, the residual sadness and guilt of Kizuki’s death, a world of walls keep the lovers apart. Toru’s love for Naoko keeps him disconnected from Midori. Midori’s solitude finds comforts in Toru.

It’s not hard to imagine the way love flourishes through pain and sadness. Each character is trapped , waiting and longing for that special attention. Each character denies that special attention to someone that desperately seeks from them. We are left with human nature in its rawest unblemished form.

What happens to the love? Whose love finally endures the test of time? Whose battle with depression, loneliness finally sees the light of dawn? The story goes on to conclude in the most fashionable way that readers of Murakami are now used to.

I loved this book. This book struck a chord and I couldn’t keep myself away from living the characters in my head. The book expresses a lot of themes.

We find it hard to accept but the under appreciated truth to many of us is the fact that we put our happiness in someone else’s hands. The tale is a testament to that fact. There is the side of love that the book ventures into. Love, while is empowering, it also has the capacity to render us helpless. There is frustrated helplessness plastered across the walls of this tale. Then comes the big elephant in the room, Depression. What I loved the most about the book is that it portrayed a picture of Love in the time of a depression. I guess it’s hard in real life as it’s conveyed in the book.

The book also explores the fact that people are drawn to certain people. Toru is broken inside, he finds himself gravitating towards Naoko, Midori and Reiko, and all of them are broken too. Like attracts like, I’d presume. There is a certain nativity in such pain. We draw and reach out to similar folks.

This book is most definitely not about giving up on life. The broken lives of Toru and Naoko represent the baggage of the past. Midori represents the present. Reiko represents the way future unfolds. It’s a convoluted thought that connects the characters to the linearity of time. But that’s how I see it. Toru and Naoko are anchored to the past and hence neither is able to move on. Midori on the other hand, represents life. She’s the one character that makes choices in the right time. It’s just a matter of time for her to realize if her choices were right or wrong. Reiko represents the future. She is both an outcome of the past, and also changes with changes to the choices that are made in the present.

For what it’s worth, somewhere , some time in the future, I’ll read this again. I love this book!

Karthik

Book Review : One hundred years of solitude

A hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a stifling tale of the Buendia family. It picks off with Jose Arcadio Buendia and a lot of kids named Jose Arcadio and Aureliano later, the book speaks about the very meaning of solitude that does transcend generations in the Buendia family. There is no short and easy way to capture the tale. It is a progressive journey that makes us ponder all the way at every stage and every generation that gets added to the family tree.

The characters are obviously the strength of the book. Jose Arcadio Buendia, his wife Ursula , their kids Aureliano Buendia and Jose Arcadio Buendia and daughters Amaranta and Rebeca are wonderfully pictured across the many pages of the book. The madness kicks off with the third generation. As the family tree expands, one can't resist but observe the way the solitude of their lives concentrate to grow into the very core of what that represents the family.

The book is a masterpiece. The varying degrees of solitude that is captured , painted, lived and experienced by the characters is a true enough reflection of the loneliness that plagues our own lives. In that sense, this book blurs the boundaries between real and fiction. Loneliness is , as experienced through both life and the confines of the book, not a single event that occurs at a random single point in time. It is a circle of sorts. Lives that have loneliness at their epicentre, have the capacity to travel the world, meet a million people, share a million laughs and yet embrace the cold arms of being lonely. The book does not shy away from introducing us to this aspect of loneliness. It's not the number of people that we are surrounded by, it's just how many do we let into our mind that calls out the solitude.

Coming to the plot, it's convoluted. J.A.B is in a pursuit of lot of things. Science, truth, alchemy, business acumen, gypsies and the many wonderful mysteries and secrets that they have in their hearts. The purist pursuit pushes him to the brink of alienation. Ursala, his wife, most definitely the strongest woman in this saga of men and women, works towards keeping the family together. She's a miracle worker and through the century of her existence, you'd fall in love with her tryst and will sympathise with her life.

Aureliano , who grows up into Colonel Aureliano; a man of legend, a man who led the civil war (oh yeah, a civil war breaks out between liberals and conservatives) a bloke with a loooooooooooooooooot of kids, a man consumed by ideologies and a man who hits upon a crystal realization that helps him view the war. The way Aureliano matures, grows drunk with power, very much outlines the life of those among us who crave that power for the reasons that helps us sleep at night. Aureliano does not beat around the bush and hide behind the veils of denial. This is a man who knows the price that he pays for the choices he's made.

The plot dwells across a few touch points. The life of J.A.B, the rise and fall of the colonel, the tribunals of Jose Arcadio, the mystery that Amaranta is. The rivalry between the sisters, Amaranta and Rebeca. Throw in kids, their kids, their kids and we have a tale that constantly keeps converging. That segways us to the themes explored in the book.

The entire tale is set in the town of Mocondo. All characters manage to find their way back home. Of course, they do leave their homes , the course of life kicks in, they all revert to Mocondo for varying reasons. That convergence of life itself is a theme that is expressed in the book. No matter how far we are from our roots, we still gravitate towards it in some capacity.

Then comes the ghosts. Yes there are ghosts in the tale. Ghosts , to me, represent the past. They are a bridge to a point in time in the past. These ghosts do not haunt everybody. They are selective. Which is a reflection of how our choices in life are anchored and defined by our past. The longer we indulge in the past, the longer we stay haunted by it, the longer we struggle to come to terms with it, the longer we find ourselves struggle to reconcile with the present.

Solitude, a word that is featured in the tile, plays a major role in the book. The book is a testament to the misery that is life. It is there because we let it be. All the characters experience that alienated loneliness. Some, because of their choices. Some , because of the way how fate intervenes. The way the characters deal with their solitude is a fantastic portrayal of how we cope up with the coldness of our lives. Drowned in work, lost in passion, we exhibit the same symptoms that the characters do.

I enjoyed the book. I loved peeking into the lives across generations of the family. I smiled at the simple fact that most of the characters were trapped in time, caged in habit and resistance was futile. It did make me wonder. I couldn't tell where the fictitious nature of the tale blurred and where the mirror to the society started.

Give it a read. 🙂

Karthik

Book Review : Never let me go , Kazuo Ishiguro

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Two down, three more to go. On a whim, I picked five books from the list of 100 books to read before you die. I started that journey with , The book Thief, Book review : The book thief, this is the second one that I’ve survived.

 

Right off the bat, Never let me go , personally, was not a easy book to read. I struggled with it. It is a slow paced narrative that captures the lives of three friends, Ruth, Tommy and the narrator, Kathy. Endure it, the book rewards you with more questions that challenge the status quo of life itself. I’m glad that I endured the first slog. The questions that you’d be left with in the end, necessarily are the questions that you’d be asking yourself. You could be asking yourself. I have a few doing numbers in my head now.

 

The story starts off at Hailsham which is a boarding school. I reckon the narrator and her friends were right about 10 when the their tale starts. I could be wrong, but their ages would be in the ballpark of early teens. Their school is a special school indeed. There is a very limited connect with the outside world. The school has it’s own eco-system. It runs it’s own economy in the form of sales and exchanges. Typical kids, typical teachers whom the kids refer to as Guardians. A lot gets told and a lot gets told as the story goes on. The book, is the recount of the narrator when she’s in her thirties. The narration effortlessly switches between the two point of views of Kathy. The things she now knows at 30, and the things she’d eventually end up figuring out in due course of time.

 

I’d probably refrain from giving out the plot. Life happens and friends fight and split. They get back together and do things change? Does love really blossom, is there true love in the world? All these questions would go answered by the book. These are the bits that wouldn’t really matter when you reach the end. There are far important questions that beg to be answered. I can only hope that we , the readers, manage to find the answers to all those questions.

 

I can’t help but wonder about life right now. Given the context of life, If I could meet God, if I wanted her help, would I brave asking her? Would I have the strength to listen to the one true north of the truth? Would I have the courage to sit through that conversation? What if God were to tell me that I always had it in me to solve all my problems, face all my challenges ? What if god were to tell that she wasn’t interested in my petty life and that I was an insignificant speck to her? Could I handle the truth?

 

This book follows a path of destiny. The characters are ,in course of time and probably deep down were, always aware of their destiny. Why do we have a destiny? Why do we not challenge it? Why do we not fight for it or fight against it? Why do we succumb and surrender to it instead of trying and failing at a shot of changing the very course of it? Why indeed. Why do we eventually give up? Is it because we grow tired and weak and numb from the things we endure? Is it because resistance is futile? Is it because we feel compelled to oblige to the grand scheme of things?

 

Would it be any different if we had that sight of that destiny? Is that sight of the future the root cause of all our failures in the name of compliance? I don’t know. I feel angered by the very thought that I am a puppet and I’m suspended by strings.

 

There are themes to the book which I both enjoy and mull thinking about. The nature of creator, that is god, if we are in her image, do we not deserve the liberties and luxuries that god enjoys? There is discrimination and we all suffer it and tolerate it. While reading the book thief, all I could see was life. The juxtaposition is ironic. While all I got to read here was about the lives of the friends, all I could see was death. Both books bank on the inevitable nature of death. Both books outline the life that is lived while we wait for the death’s eventful embrace.

 

I loved the way their friendship was explained in the book. They start as thick as thieves, they drift apart, they converge and life’s final full stop. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the people I’ve left behind. Wistfully, I indulged a few thoughts about the times that were. Ironically, the book reflects life. With bills to pay, life to lead, we do overcome such challenges with people and we are often left with no time to dwell in the past.

This review barely scratches the surface of what the book has to offer. In light of spoilers, I am forced to leave you with generic questions that would haunt your mind post the read.

For what it’s worth, I feel happy that the book delivered on it’s promise. It did leave me questioning humanity and humaneness , just as the book said I would. It’s been a hard read.  I don’t know if I’d really recommend this for public consumption. Read it at your own discretion. The list of 100 before you die, this book does deserve it’s place there.

 

Karthik