Saturday, May 31, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Title: Uncle Tom's Cabin
Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe
ISBN: 1840224029
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics/1995
Pages: 415

I had first read this book some twenty five years back. After reading Roots, I needed to re-read this. Both are on slave trade and there ends the similarity. Roots was written and published in 1976 tracing out the African roots of Alex Haley. Stowe's book was written in 1850 when slave trade was very much there and it was an instant success.

This spoke out for the slaves and Stowe was denounced by those who perpetuated it. This book is a breakthrough and supposedly helped abolishing the practice. President Lincoln half-joking said that Stowe is "the little lady" who started the great civil war.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is about slaves and also reflects about how christianity advocated slavery, or maybe I should say that it was interpreted that way by those who wished for the trade to continue. What I felt was religion was one way of subdueing them. Why was it said that it is their lot to suffer. Why? How can any religion preach that one is born to rule and others to serve and be oppressed just because they speak different language, have a different skin colour and are said to be primitive. Who decides that? One and only answer is GREED.

Uncle Tom, a gentle soul stands for his principles and ultimately dies for those. This book speaks of the atrocities along with some masters who deeply care for their slaves. It has some happy endings although none must have existed at that time. Still it makes us think. Maybe that was the reason it sold million of copies in a year's time. It struck a chord and might have helped hastening abolition of the abhored practice.

What we really need to advocate is humanity. Not any religion. Nothing is above humanity. Equality is what matters. Nothing else does. One person can make a difference. Stowe showed that. Being a woman in those times did not deter her from speaking her mind. And where there is still differences with respect of races, caste, colour, creed, gender, religion, continents, countries etc etc there is a need to read this book. By each and every human being.
Preachy or not, it is timeless.

Also reviewed by

CB James
Finding Dulcinea

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Roots by Alex Haley

Title: Roots
Author: Alex Haley
ISBN: 9780099362814
Publisher: Vintage Boooks/1977
Pages: 688

Sometimes it is not easy to talk about a book which leaves one thinking. It is a fat book which I had put off reading for so very long. Not because of the sheer size. Maybe because of the issue taken in there. Slave trade. Certain things make us go into denial. Somehow I think I put it off reading because I truly did not want to read the horrors of it.

Alex Haley has traced his roots by writing this book. It is fictionalized work of what he says his roots are. Starting from Gambia. His African origins from his maternal sides. This has been recorded only by speaking from the one generation to the other. Kunta Kinte, a descended of a warrier family in Gambia is captured as a slave when he is seventeen years of age. He is made to work in the plantation fields and tries to run away four times. Last time he attempts it, his right foot is cut off. He is bought by a master who is supposed to be a good one. There he marries Bell, the cook and has a daughter Kizzy, who is sold away because she had helped someone to escape by forging a travelling pass. Kizzy is sexually assaulted by her new master and has a son, Chicken George, who in turn marries Mathilda and has eigth children, six sons and 2 daughters.

From there we see a large family who want to be together always. A bond develops with the fellow slaves and they are more like families. We see Kunta being a Muslim, marries a Christian and thereafter, all follow the Christian faith. Kunta keeps his legacy intact by telling it to his daughter Kizzy, who in turn tells it to George and from George it passes on to his children. Of all the six sons of George, the author belongs to the family of Tom, the talented blacksmith. They are finally set free by decree of law in 1865.

Slave trade flourished for hundreds of years. Blacks were maimed and/or killed if they tried to escape. And also sold at the whim of the master, even if they had served for all their life times. Small children were not spared and separated from their families. In the background we see various movements too, being coming into effect to free the slaves. The whites resent that and protest about it.

This book has been into lot of controversies. It has been said to be plagiarised or worse said to be totally false about the claims of Haley's roots. However, even it is fiction, it is worth reading. It does not take away the fact that almost all of America practised slave trade. Every human being worth his salt ought to read this book. If only to feel ashamed that one human being is enslaved by another just because he has a different skin colour, follows a different God, and supposedly primitive. What I would like to know that if I follow a different faith, that makes me heathen? Who decides that?

Those who advocated it and those who still can't think beyond their skin colours need to to explain a lot.

Booking Through reading, fundamentally

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

One very complex question. What I personally feel is reading, might not be true for the next person. All printed matter is not reading. I would say books that give me pleasure, stimulated my grey shells are what is reading all about. It can be in any form, be it novels, short stories, poetry, comics or graphic novels. I do draw the line at e-books and audiobooks. I do not thing that listening is reading. Nor do I find pleasure in e-books. I need to hold a book, clutch it, inhale it and savour it, if I so desire. So format does matter, as for as I am concerned.

Comics still give me a lot of pleasure. Especially Asterix and Tintin. I am yet to read graphic novels, though. I like to read poetry. All kinds of poetry, classics as well as modern. Both in academic point of view as well as for pure pleasure and sheer beauty of words. For me a book has to have a beginning, middle and an ending for it to be considered as reading.

To read something for knowledge is not really reading. It falls under the category of studying. If I read something in the field of medicines or technical knowhow, I consider it as enhancing my knowledge in that area. Reading? No way!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Sounds of Poetry by Robert Pinsky

Title: The Sounds of Poetry
Author: Robert Pinsky
ISBN-13: 9780374526176
Publisher: Farrar, Straux and Giroux/1998
Pages: 117

Robert Pinsky is a poet of US, who teaches graduate writing programme at Boston University. Here in this book, he takes up poetry in the vocal form. He wants that we shoud how to read out poetry loud, where should we pause and where to stop. He gives stress on diction, syntax, accent, verse poetry, metric poetry, free verse and blank verse.

He takes up numerous examples of poems by great poets, breaking the lines for us, teaching us the right intonations for each word, line and whole poem. He believes that poetry has to be vocal and should be peformed in order to comprehend it fully.

I am not saying that I understood it all at one go. This book is to be read very slowly, savoured in the way and should be followed the way he wants us to. He expects us to read aloud all kinds of poetry to understand those better. He says,"Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art." This book can be read by those who are seriously into poetry and also those who are amateurs. To say,

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Title: The Name of the Rose
Author: Umberto Eco
ISBN: 0749397055
Publisher: Vintage/1998
Pages: 502

The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Umberto Eco. I have had it with me for a while now. But got around reading it only now. It is a fairly engrossing book after some pages. It is narrated in first person by a character named Adso of Melk, who has been taken from history. But this is a work of fiction which makes use of historical facts to a large extent.

It is based in an abbey run by Benedictines consisting of gardeners, cellarists, herbalists and young novices. A learned Franciscan, Brother William along with his disciple, Adso of Melk, is sent to investigate a unnatural death in the Abbey. While he is there trying to solve the mystery, we see more murders being commited and William is wholly embroiled in it all. He has great acumen and solves the mystery of the deaths. He has to decipher meanings from words, symbols, ideas, codes, signs etc.

This novel is based in and around a library which is more of labyrinth than anything else. It contains rare books and is jealously guarded by the librarian and the Abbot. Certain rooms are closed to the monks too. One can't enter those parts. Permission is not forthcoming either. It is not given to brother William who has come to imvestigate the murder. However, that does not stop him and Adso to find ways and means to enter it. Most intersting was how they finally find the ways to do it.

Now the question why are all those murders being committed? Which book/s is/are being so jealously guarded and by whom? Why is it so important to keep it away from prying eyes? What is the Abbot scared of? How does one define sin? Why shouldn't the secret vices of the monks be revealed? What is definition of lust? And many more question...

Solving the mystery is only part of it. Learning about history, philosophy and sciences along with arts of those times is but a bonus. It is also a political statement of those times. Very intriguing and filled with wisdom. A great book for all those who do serious reading.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Booking through Movies

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

How can one even think of comparing books and movies? Both are entirely different mediums. I am not much of a movie person. I seldom even watch a movie. I prefer reading anyday. When a book is made into movie, no doubt it gets better publicity, lot more people watch it then reading the book. However, I find most of the movies that have been adapted from a book, leave me wanting more. In a book, everything is happening inside your mind. You form certain opinions about certain characters. I would rather escape the world reading a book than watching a movie. Most of the times, I get distracted from a movie but not while reading a book.

A case in point is, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan or any other one, for that matter. I do not know what the director was thinking when he made the movie. The books are much better to read. In the movies, the scenes have been reduced due to time constraints, mainly. Frankly, I preferred the books. Then, I had loved reading The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum than watching the movie.

However, If I have not read a book and watched the movie, I might have liked it. I am not sayin movies are a bad thing. A few times, the movies might have been better. But give me a book any day. Leave the movies for the masses, who do not read. If the movie follows the book as closely as possible, I might go for it. It seldom does.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Tittle: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
ISBN: 1860498809
Publisher: Virago Press/2001
Pages: 637

After reading The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood, I decided to read all her books. I mooched it from bookmooch long time ago. I started the book in January but somehow or the other, I could not finish it sooner. The beginning is very slow and tends to ge boring too. I have had moments of giving it up altogether. I am glad I did not. Yesterday, I started from page 81 and after reaching halfway through, I just couldn't leave it. I am damn glad I persisted.

The Blind Assassin is a story about two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, the lives they shared and about their relationship, bonding and secrets. It is a novel within a novel within a novel. It has many layers. It goes from present to past to future. Initially it gets a bit confusing as I can't keep track. Then each and every detail gets at me. What starts as a story about Laura, who had committed suicide at the age of 25 years some 50 years ago, ends with her sister Iris' story being told. Why is Iris recollecting all this. That too, after 50+ years?

Because she cannot leave it unsaid for her grand-daughter Sabrina, who needs to be told about her legacy. The grand daughter who knows nothing about her. And who truly deserves to be told the truth.

The memories of Iris go hand in hand with writing or reading of the novel, The Blind Assassin for which Laura Chase is acclaimed later, much after her suicide. This is about a woman and her two unknown lovers. By letting her novel published, Iris has kept Laura's memories alive.. It ruins her(Iris') husband, Richard's political aspiration. And drives him to death. Does he deserve it?

Despite Iris's stocism, we see her shimmering anger. Her precise revenge. She is calculated too in what she is doing. When she is telling her story, we get to hear her inner voice too and her introspection. Or her reasonings. Her explanations about why must a certain event happened in the past. Itis like getting inside her mind.

It also has a love story, two girls loving the same man but differently. How differently? Iris might have been the older sister, Laura has always been mature one who understood things much beyond her age. Laura can't lie, she can't hide, she is very honest in her likes or dislikes. She completely abhors Richard. She can see through him. Unlike Iris, who only realises after it is too late. After she has lost everything, her sister, her daughter. However, she sees to it that Laura should live on forever. She owes it to Laura. All the three stories converge in the end effortlessly.

This book also touches child abuse. Implies that Laura might have been abused by more than one person while still a child. First by her tutor, next by..well..I can't say it without spoiling it for you.

Like in The Handmaid's Tale, here too, the heroine/s is/are shown to be helpless, almost powerless which they overcome. I think they should have done that much before. I truly loved the sisters.

Atwood's prose is superb. The use of various colours is brilliant. which denote various moods. To understand what and who is the blind assassin, one must read this book. I know it is a fat book and has a slow start but well worth the effort. Atwood never disappoints.

Also reviewed by:

Kim L

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Title: My Name is Red
Author: Orhan Pamuk
ISBN: 0375706852
Publisher: Vintage International/2001
Pages: 413

I had started this book in January. For some reason, it stayed at page 43 for a few months. I again picked it up in April. I only read upto page 59. However, finally I decided to finish it this week. Today I did. You can say that I plodded through the book. It could only hold my interest after I had read it half way through.

This book has many layers to it. A murder mystery, a love story and also speaks out about Islamic society. One can feel the tensions throughout for the rise and fall of various empires which is told by the way of miniature art. At some point in the book, we do not care who the murder is but get involved in the treachery of politics, the love affair and want to know more about the Islamic society. Being an Indian, and knowing a bit about Islam did help me.

There is clash between cultures. Between spirituality and materialism. Between getting fame at whatever cost and bowing to art. Between God's will and man's doing. How does one define sin? Can one justify it? Does it merge somewhere? Is there really a fine line? These are few of the questions one asks while reading. A few get answered, a few don't. That does not take away anything from the book. We can see the eternal conflict between the old and new, and tradition and change i.e., that of East and West. Then there are those artists who only depend on copying, others who want to take in the western influence to show other perceptions.

This book has been narrated in many voices, mostly human. However, a few include a horse, a dog, a tree and a coin. Also we see voice of death. One tends to get different perception in this way of speaking. The novel begins with the voice of a dead person, the recently killed Elegant Effendi. His murderer is a recurring character, telling his story both anonymously and also as a character not identified by the others as being the killer, until the end.

The setting of the book is the late 16th century, in Istanbul. Elegant Effendi and his murderer are both artists: miniaturists and illustrators. Other important characters are Enishte Effendi, a master artist, his nephew, called Black, who too is a miniaturist, and his daughter Shekure. Black had fallen in love with Shekure, but it was not possible for them to marry. Black left Istanbul and returned after twelve years. Meanwhile, Shekure got married three years after he left, and has two sons. However her husband disappeared years ago and is presumed to be dead. Now her husband's brother Hasan, wants to marry her as does Black.

Pamuk's descriptions and evocations are like the miniatures he describes. Very detailed, very pictursque and paying attention to finer nuances which can be used to for different effects, at different times. It is a fascinating read, no doubt. However, it is very slow in the beginning. One has to literally plod through it to get to the end. That is worthwhile. I must mention it again, that this is not an effortless read. I am in no hurry read other books by him!

If you have read and reviewed the above book, type your name, and please copy/paste your post link in the URL field. I will then link it in the body of this article. With the link exchange, we will be both be benefiting. That way I and other interested readers can visit you too! Thanks!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Weekly Geeks : Social issues

Weekly Geeks #4: Social Issues---Child Abuse

This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to be books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

There are so many issues close to my heart. However, I feel very strongly about child abuse. I work for such children too, girls. But boys too are equally vulnerable. One book that comes immediately to mind is , The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. This deals with sexual abuse of Hassan, son of Amir's father's servant. Amir carries this guilt forever that he watched it happening and couldn't do anything.

Another book touching this, is The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. In this novel within a novel, it is slowly revealed that Laura Chase was molested by her tutor as a child.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison deals with child sex (incest). Pecola is a black girl who is raped by her father, and whose child from the rape dies in infancy.

In Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult, Nina Frost is a DA who tries to prosecute child abusers. When her five-year-old son is sexually abused, the world around her crashes down.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, needs no introduction. Here a black is accused of raping a white girl.

There are many other books dealing with this issue. A few of those I can recall now are:

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memory of my Melancholic Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Autobiographical)

I have not read all of those. But I will.

Booking through Manual labour redux

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals?
How-to books?
Self-help guides?
Anything at all?

Anything I get, I do read the accompanying manuals. Very thoroughly. That really makes me understand the workings of it better. I even look at the circuits too. (*I have to as I do not have a husband to help me through!)

I love reading certain How to books too. Like craftbooks, sewing, embroidery, carpentry work, cook books etc etc. It does not mean I do any or all of the things. I do like to paint and paint mixing manuals are a big help. I even like beauty tip books. Only to go through!
Travel guides, I have to read!

Self-help guides
, no! Somehow those put me off. Although I did read one a while back. The second Journey by Joan Anderson. Thats becos the publisher sent it to me for review purposes.

For anything at all, I can read even shampoo labels. I always make it point to read about medicines. I have to know what chemicals I am ingesting. Even if I do not understand a word.

I do go through mathematics project books. As a math teacher, I have to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tintin and the Lake of Sharks

This is not writen by Hergé. This is based on a animated film on Tintin which was later made into a comic book. This starts with a pearl being stolen from a museum and is replaced by a forged one. Meanwhile Tintin, Captain Haddock, The detectives, Thomson and Thompson go to an estate in Syvadia where Cuthbert is Calculas is doing some research work of duplication various objects.

Unknowingly, they end up discovering a large criminal gang in a base on the bottom of the lake ruled by Tintin's old enemy, Rastapopoulos, who goes under the name of King Shark. Tintin befriends two local children who are held captive in the submerged base and escape in an underwater tank. Rastapopoulos tries to steal that duplicating machine to use in an art forgery racket. He tries to drown Tintin along with the children, but Tintin escapes with the help of Captain Haddock. Rastapopoulos is finally apprehended by Tintin and Haddock.

This is not a patch on the original ones. For one thind, the drwaings are not as sharp. The story kind of disappoints. However, we meet all the interesting characters created by Herge. Including Bianca Castiofore.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Geeks: Childhood memories

Being a part of the geeks feels good. Although I did a wrap post last week, I forgot to post the link for
Dewey to update it. Not that it matters. The theme of the weekly Geeks #3 is to write about our fond memories of childhood books. Why we liked any particular book? We can list our favourite childhood books or we can review any of those. Cool!

I started to read novels, yes those children's novel, when I was 6-7 years old. My dad got me a Noddy book and I was hooked to Enid Blyton for a long time. I do not even remember looking at any picture books. I have read many children's magazines though. My dad had subscribes a few for us. Having older brothers too helped as I used to pick their books and read. I loved listening to the Panchatantra tales (pertaining to Hindu Mythology) from my dad before I got around reading those.

I loved Enid Mary Blyton (August 11, 1897November 28, 1968) books. I think I have devoured all her books. Initially I started with Noddy series, slowly graduating to the Wishing chair ones. Starting from Secret Seven (15 Novels), The Five Find-Outers and their dog (15 Novels) were great series along with the Famous Five (21 Novels). St. Clare's (6 novels) and Mallory Towers (6 books) are about boarding schools and reading those I longed to be in one. There are many other books which stand alone, not being part of any series. I think, I read all. And I have many of these books in my collection even now. My nieces have read through the various series and now I am trying to make my nephew go through the books. Enid Blyton books are still very popular in India although a few of her books have been called racist. However, reading those I have not felt that way. In the present times, we try to be politically correct. And that makes certain books improper.

Apart from these, I loved Nancy Drew series along with Hardy Boys. I got most of the original versions, too in my collection. However, I do plan to donate the whole lot, to a library soon. I also have a good many numbers of Archie Comics. Here, I would rather not mention Asterix and Tintin series. Those are mostly for Young Adults(YA).

Even now I read through my nephew's Highlights. I love the creative page in this very educative Children's Magazine!!

This post has made me long to re-read all my Enid Blyton books. I might just do so!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself by Joan Anderson

Title: The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself
Author: Joan Anderson
ISBN: 9781401303396
Publisher: Hyperlion/April 29, 2008
Pages: 224/Hardcover

I then sat down with a book, I had started earlier. I had received this for review purposes. The Second Journey is written by Joan Anderson and is about unexpected changes, which somehow come out of nowhere. That stops us on suddenly from whatever path out lives has been taking at that moment. and we are left to take stock of it before it is too late. It is about choosing. Whether to stay in the same rot or move to another direction. Most of us dislike change and do nothing. In a way that is detrimental for our life. We need to try to rearrange our life so that it is more fulfilling.


"Book Description

Nearly a decade after the debut of her bestselling, life-changing classic A Year by the Sea, Joan Anderson is busy. When she's not on the road helping groups of women search for their true selves, she's working on her latest book. And when she's "not working," she's taking care of her husband, her grown children, her grandchildren, and her ninety-one-year-old mother. Joan is stretched so thin from being all things to all people that she doesn't even realize how out of control her life has become. Ironically, she finds she needs to listen to her own advice more than anyone else does. It takes a serious intervention--from her best friends, her doctor, and her husband--before she finally wakes up.

The Second Journey chronicles Joan's quest to restore her own equilibrium and find herself again. Suffused with her characteristic humor and warmth, this is a book for any woman who wants to know how to awaken her own independent spirit and set herself on a new path. Joan shares her musings on love, marriage, growing older, family, aging parents, and spirituality as she casts a watchful eye on her own life and helps readers find peace and inspiration within their own lives. She offers reassurance that the best is yet to come, and empowers other women to come of age in the middle of life.

The call to a second journey usually commences when unexpected change is thrust upon you, causing a crisis of feelings so great that you are stopped in your tracks. Personal events such as a betrayal, a diagnosis of serious illness, the death of a loved one, loss of self-esteem, a fall from power are only a few of the catalysts. A woman caught thusly has no choice but to pause, isolate, even relocate until she can reevaluate the direction in which she should head. Should she stay the course or choose another path? The goal is to come of age in the middle of life rather than live out our days lacking purpose and energy. It's all about rearranging our lives in our own image. "


In a way, I am at that crossroad of my life. I have had to change my place of living. And I am kind of thinking of changing my very secure job. I can stay in the same rot and do nothing or move on to new pastures. I have started to think, do I want the same thing in another 10 years? And what do I really want?

This book has made me think. There has not been any drastic changes in mylife unless I wish for it. Am I prepared? That is the big question which needs to be answered. My life has no parallel with Joan's. However, we all have certain questions and certain values. Do we really value ourselves? Or do we live in the images of others?

I liked the verses and quotations at the beginning of each chapter. A few are by well-known poets and others I had not heard of. This book has inspired me to set a goal for myself and follow it through. I have to direct my thoughts and energy towards achieving that. I usually keep away from self-help books. This time I am glad I did not. With personal stories, Joan has made this a very interesting read.

The Black Island: The Adventures of Tintin by Herge

Today I got around reading The Black Island: The Adventures of Tintin written by Herge. I think I finished the whole series in my high school days and now I have forgotten the stories. It was a pleasure to go through one of my collections. I just picked this out randomly.

The Black Island is the seventh book in the series and the only one to be published in three major editions, in 1937, 1943 and 1966. With additions and deletions. Mine is a Magnet published, 1984 reprint of the 1966 edition which was translated into English and was published by Methuen.

Tintin is walking with Snowy in the countryside when he sees a sees a small plane make an emergency landing in a field. When he offers help to the pilot, he is shot at and lands up in a hospital. When the detectives tell him about a similar plane crash in Sussex, he gets away from the hospital to go there and is arrested in the train for robbery and mugging by Thomson and Thompson. He escapes from there and after much chasing finally follows the trail of counterfeit money to Scotland. Tintin is much intrigued about The Black Island after he hears from the natives that a monster lives on the island and those who travel there, never come back. But Tintin has to go there. He meets the good old villianish Dr. Müller and his cronie, Ivan. Also meets the deadly Gorilla, Ranko.

As usual after much fight, Tintin overcomes the enemies and all is well again. Ranko is sent to a zoo.

Snowy is shown to be a glutton here who is after bones, then he drinks Loch Lomond whisky! All the while being very loyal to Tintin and saves his life from the fire when the doctor's house is gutted.

It might not be the best but sure is one of the funniest Tintin adventures. I loved re-reading it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Notebook
Author: Nicholas Sparks
ISBN: 0446605239
Publisher: Warner Vision Books/1997
Pages: 213

The Notebook was a gift from one of friends. I have read it before this. I re-read it again as I have not been able to concentrate on reading any other book although I have started quite a few.

This is not a book one can read and forget. The story has stayed with me. Still I wanted to re-read it. One reason might be, I am getting forgetful and scared that I might altogether lose my mind to nothing. One very frightening thought. I was standing in front of my bookshelf and simply reached for this,subconsciously.

The Notebook starts with Noah reflectiong on his life. At eighty years of age, he has a lot to think over. As he himself says, his life is not easy to explain, although he is an ordinary man with common enough life, who has loved with his heart and soul. And at the age of eighty, he waits for a miracle to happen.

Noah Calhoun(31) never could forget Allie whom he had met more than a decade earlier. Now at 29, Allie is engaged to be married. However, she too cannot get Noah out of her mind and comes to visit North Carolina, maybe searching for him. When they meet again, it is as if they had never been apart. They rediscover the love they had shared with each other as teenagers. They reach out for each other's soul and try to build a life with each other.

After forty plus years of enduring love, tragedy strikes in the form of Allie slowly losing her memory. In the beginning, it is by flashes. In her lucid moments, she pens notes for Noah, so that he can read those when she has finally lost it all. When she is diagonised with Alzheimer's, Noah is heart broken but does not give up hope. For him, she is still the Allie, he has always loved. When she finally loses it all to the degenerative disease, he is devastated but he moves to a home along with her. He gets a stroke and she has no memory about him. She even shouts at him when he visits her.

The Notebook is beautiful in the sense that Noah is prepared to fight against all odds, he has immense faith in his all enduring love for her. He keeps reading letters from her to him and his to her. And also reads out poetry to her. He is told by the doctors and nurses that she is not going to get any better. He does not believe that. On their forty-ninth wedding anniversary, he gets an unexpected gift. Did love triumph over tragedy? Love has the power to create miracles..the kind of love he had for her. And she had for him. We must not forget that Allie too loved him with all her being before she had Alzheimer's.

Re-reading it has made me understand that memory loss , however small, is a terrible thing. We just need to have patience with those near us, who have lapses of memory. My mom is getting forgetful, and so am I. I am not speculating Alzheimer's for either of us. Nonetheless, I am trying to understand it.


This has been wonderfully reviewed by Sage.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Booking through grammar books

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

I have three dictionaries..tomes...Oxford, Chambers and Collins. The Chambers belongs to my brother and is a very old edition. Oxford and Collins are fairly recently editions. Apart from those I do have a few assorted pocket dictionaries. I do use dictionaries pretty often and encourage my nieces and nephews to use those too. I do have an original edition of Roget's Thesaurus, a prized possession. I own an old copy of Wren and Martin grammar book. Alongwith that I have one more recent grammar book, which I bought for my nephew and he is yet to take it! I have not needed to check up my grammar for a long time. However, I teach my nephew to do so. I have two poetry writing books. One is written by Mary Oliver-A Poetry Handbook and is a much coveted one. Other I had bought when I started writing poetry and after consulting it for a few days, never opened it again.

I love my dictionaries. I can go through those for hours on end. Same with my much loved copy of Thesaurus. Those open a new world of words. However much one thinks one knows, one ends up feeling humbled by those tomes. I wish I knew each and every word in my dictionaries and thesaurus.

However, with the online thing, most of us have lost the art of checking those very important books. We want instant gratification. Even with words, grammar, punctuations, and writing tools!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Did I expect Angels? by Kathryn Maughan

Title: Did I Expect Angels?

Author: Kathryn Maughan
ISBN: 9780595402595
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc/2007
Pages: 168

I won this book from Trish in a book draw. I had liked her review and wished to read this and voila! I won it!

It is a story about Jennifer Huffaker and Henry, an elderly immigrant with a funny of speaking....two people with diverse lives. Each story is told in alternate chapters, drawing parallels about their lives.

Jennifer has lost her husband in an accident 18 months back. She has a four years old daughter. She still has not come into terms with her loss. Coping up in a daily basis is a chore for her. Finally one day, a day after second christmas without her husband, she makes mind to end it all. Thats when Henry decides to tell her his story. He has gone through much and lost a lot and still has hope and lives for his children.

Jennifer listens to him half-heartedly in the beginning. She is lost in own thoughts while he is telling her his story of love and loss. Afterwords, she can see the similarity and basic truth that we are all same despite undergoing different experiences. Grief is normal. However, one has to let it go for the living who love us and depend on us. Henry too comes in terms with his own loss by telling his story. He again sees the purpose of being alive and helps Jennifer come into terms with her own loss. Thats what he tries to tell Jennifer. To recognise her angel and live for that.

The interwoven relationship between Jennifer with her mother, sister, mother-in-law, father-in-law and daughter makes the story move forward in a lucid manner. What made most impact is the fact that at the brink of letting go, human connection plays a major role. It is what helps us to heal, to rethink and come in terms with our lives. For a first time author, this is a good offering.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Yellowknife by Steve Zipp

Title: Yellowknife
Author: Steve Zipp
ISBN: 9780973632118
Publisher: Res Telluris, Canada/2007
Pages: 286

I had requested this book from Steve Zipp for The Canadian Book Challenge, way back in Nov 2007. He had posted it to me in November itself. However, I received it in April 2008. It took six months to reach me. I had assumed that it had been lost in the mail. I read it while travelling to work and back. It took me two days to finish it.

I do not know anything about Canada, let alone Yellowknife. This book educated me in many fronts. It is one of those books, which is not easy to review. Although I finished it somedays back, I have been putting off reviewing it. It is kind of very difficult to summarise the novel. Almost fruitless.

It is set in 1998, in Yellowknife, which is home for assorted people like bureaucrats and businessmen. Many arrive here for the lure of opportunities. This takes us into a world filled with humour, imagination, hope, love, lost love and much much more. It touches certain myths taking us through a tunnel of humanity. Both mysterious and mystical, we get to read about people who bond despite being strangers. There are no dark characters here, or purely good. The grey shades only endear them to us as we somehow identify with them. The scientific references...biology mixed with physics, chemistry and mathematics instantly gelled with me. Detailed prose too worked well for me.

Zipp has used motifs, metaphors which make this an excellent read. Although I had to go and back and forth while reading this, I couldn't leave it in the midst as I do with a few novels. I had to finish it till the end. I got glimpses about a world I know nothing about. Very insightful. Some might not like the book as it is not an easy read. However, it is well worth the effort. I would say, go for it!

Also check the review of this book by:





Friday, May 2, 2008

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN: 1400076943
Publisher: Anchor Books/2003
Pages: 307
Rating: 5/5

When I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was kind of hooked to her words. I decided then and there, I will read all her books. Purple Hibiscus is just as engrossing. It speaks out to us at many levels. It is based in Nigeria in 1990s, in the midst of political unrest.

Kambili is a fifteen-year old girl, living with her parents and a seventeen-year old brother, Jaja. Her father is a well known figure who is a politically active and is a very generous person for his community. However, he is very oppressive and fanatically religious for his own family. At any kind of lapse, he punishes them severely, almost damaging them in the process. His love for his children and wife comes much below duty and love for God. He even abandons his own father who follows the old faith.

His sister Ifeoma, an university professer, takes in the children when there is a military coup in Nigeria. There they find a life which they had not envisaged at their home. Despite not having the best of financial resources, their cousins are always laughing and generally happy. Kambili and Jaja had not known of such free display of happiness or laughter. Slowly the children emerge out of their shells. Initially wary, both set of cousins slowly reach out for each other.

Kambili goes through the painful process of becoming an adult from a child. However, at what cost? What appealed to me the most, was the closeness between Kambili, Jaja and their mother, who suffers silently.

The title is so apt. Purple Hibiscus here are genetically made up. They show as a glimpse of how we can control our own lives if we so desire. How somewhat different attitude can change our lives. The parallels of a country and a family turmoil has been well brought out. Adichie's prose is superb. It holds us to the end. The conflict between old Gods and new ones is not so much as we make it out to be. If only we understood that.

Read also:

Dewey's review

Ramya's review

Alisia's review

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Booking through Mayday

Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

Unlikely situation for me. I always keep a book in my bag. Even when grocery shopping. Wherever I go, a book goes with me. However, in those rare moments when I really do not have a book on me, I resort to writing poetry. I always carry a journal in case my muse strikes. I even jot down fleeting thoughts so that I can write about those later. Not having a book to read might be painful but not when one writes poetry the way I do! (You can check my other blog for my poetry). Also I can always sit and watch peo0ple. Best of all, I like having inner conversations with myself.