Touching Earth by Rani Manicka opens with the beautiful vistas of Bali to feast on; its power and the magic that can beguile one. It is Nutan, one of the twins who is narrating the story, who herself is about to tell a story but she starts with her childhood: the typical fairy tale start of innocence when she lived with her twin, Zeenat and her mother, grandmother and father. But therein lay a dark secret that is cut wide open right at the beginning. And that sets the course for the lives of these Balinese twins.
Typical of Kazuo Ishiguro’s themes, When We Were Orphans, which is set mostly in the 1930s England while also hovering over to Shanghai, deals with the diminishing of one’s memories and the protagonist, Christopher Banks, makes a conscious attempt to try and recollect them and tell his story.
Through these recollections we see how he lived in Shanghai and how he had to come back home to England due to his parents going missing.
A fragile love flowered in the vast, desolate,empty Yorkshire moors between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The latter was adopted by Mr. Earnshaw, the master of the manor, Wuthering Heights but was hated and ill treated by his son, Hindley. His daughter, Catherine, on the other hand, soon became friends with him after her father’s death and because of Hindley’s tyrannical transformation thereafter. Heathcliff soon fell in love with her because of the care and affection she bestowed upon him that no one else in the family or neighbourhood ever did. However, Catherine’s reluctance to marry Heathcliff shattered him and turned him into a diabolical man set out to ruin everyone and everything. However, he remained steadfast in his love and even more so in his revenge.
This story told as a flashback by the housekeeper, Ellen Dean, to the Heights’ new tenant, Mr. Lockwood, is none other than ‘Wuthering Heights’ written by Emily Bronte which is a classic love story
that many, if not all, voracious readers will recognize. Bronte gives the reader a look into the twisted, cruel nature of love which for many readers will be a bitter pill to swallow. The novel does not exalt the emotion of love or the two lovers and does not portray love as a goody-goody thing that magically resolves everything. It provides grim picture of love and a plethora of disturbing characters who are warped in their narrow, small lives. The portrayal of the anti-hero Heathcliff is marvellous. There is also a lovely blend of the surroundings with the story. Its almost as if the nature of the novel’s setting-the moors-seeps into the storyline, making it as sad and desolate as itself.
Emily Bronte’s bold exploration of the dark side of love and the pressures of society on it is commendable. She does not idealize love but rather projects an almost real picture of the misfortunes of falling in love without heed to the norms of status and society. Therein perhaps lies the reason for the book’s popularity till today. Its depiction of the tragic love is surpassed by few authors.
‘Wuthering Heights’ is undoubtedly an unconventional love story with almost nothing positive about it except perhaps Bronte’s style of writing and Heathcliff’s undying love for Catherine.
The queen of crime strikes again with two easy to read detective novels-‘Elephants Can Remember‘ and ‘Lord Edgware Dies.’ Both are a thrill to read and have trademark Agatha Christie elements and both are Poirot novels. However, the former is rather predictable.Perhaps this comes from having read several Christie novels.
‘Elephants Can Remember‘ rakes up an old case of a double suicide of the Ravenscrofts. The police had declared that the husband and wife had perhaps entered a suicide pact and either could have killed the other and then oneself. However, the godmother to their daughter, Mrs. Oliver, an esteemed detective writer herself, is asked by Mrs. Burton Cox at a literary luncheon whether it was the mother or the father that had committed the crime. This query seems initially very trivial and unnecessary but gradually gets Mrs. Oliver’s grey cells rolling as well. She gets her friend Hercule Poirot to help and relies on all her acquaintances who might have known the Ravenscrofts to help her find out what really happened between the doomed couple. The novel looks into the past and relies on the memories of ‘elephants’ to solve this peculiar case. An interesting aspect of ‘Elephants Can Remember‘ is that Mrs. Oliver is a writer in general and a detective novelist at that. Also, the play on elephants is quite amusing.
‘Lord Edgware Dies‘ has all the essential things one needs for a mystery-money, love, marriage, the film community, the rich and famous and plenty of motives for murder. One day, Lord Edgware is found murdered and his wife and famous actress, Jane Wilkinson, is suspected because not only did she the night before claim that she would have no qualms about killing him but the butler of the Lord’s house recognized Jane entering the house. In fact, Jane announced herself and went into Edgware’s room that very night. The police are cocksure about the case being very straightforward. However, the one glitch is that Jane was present at a dinner party that very night. How could she be at two places? The plot begins to boil and thicken with two more murders and a chance remark comes to the rescue of Poirot’s flummoxed grey cells.
They may not be her best work but are a breezy read nonetheless. All Agatha Christie, Poirot and detective novel fans will love them. And if any reader is smart enough, she/he can easily predict the killer in both the books. The suspense is much muted and even though the reader will most probably not be hanging at the edge of their seat, ‘Elephants Can Remember‘ and ‘Lord Edgware Dies‘ are bound to be good reading companions to while away the time or when one has absolutely nothing to do!
Love is complex, we all know but definitely not as complex as D.H. Lawrence makes it to be in his gigantic novel, ‘Women In love.’ Not only is it massive, but Lawrence just makes every idea extremely complex which makes it quite difficult to read the novel. Infact when it came out in the 1920s’ people then also said that they found the book too difficult to read. And it definitely is even till now because I forced myself to finish the book as I hate leaving books unfinished no matter how bad they are.
Ok, first, lets clear one misconception that one gets because of the title: ‘Women In Love’ is not a book about lesbian love! It does have references to homosexuality but it is definitely not the main focus!
Now that that’s cleared up, let us go to the plot. ‘Women In Love‘ begins with two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen who discuss about marriage. The former is a teacher while the latter is an artist. They live in Midlands in England and on one occasion, the sisters meet two men, Gerald Crich- an industrialist who owns coal mines- and Rupert Birkin who is a school inspector. There is also Hermione Granger um sorry I mean Hermione Roddice who was a love interest of Rupert. These five become sort of friends who practically do nothing except discuss difficult, intellectual things that helps them in no way to make a head or tail out of the issue they are discussing. These discussons seem to be the only thing they do beside attending parties and all that!!! They are profound at times, not the parties I mean, but the discussions, but get really boring because the plot doesn’t move forward quick enough. Ursula falls in love with Rupert while Gudrun falls in love with Gerald but the quartet is too thick headed to admit they are in love and go about having rambling, pointless discussions before even admitting it!!! I dont even know how Ursula and Birkin end up getting married but they do(Somehow!). Meanwhile Gudrun and Gerald are vacationing in the Alps. I think it is over there that Gudrun strikes a friendship with Loerke, a fellow artist from Dresden.
Loerke is my favorite character in the novel. He is quirky and so witty. Well, he is quirky in a good way! All the other characters are also quirky but in a stupendously intellectual,boring, complex,roundabout manner! Loerke is direct and straightforward and has no pretensions!
Well, now we are digressing! Well I am not giving away the end of the book because it is would be truly a spoiler to tell you all what happened to the quartet’s love story. Go read the end for yourselves!
‘Women In Love‘ was not an enjoyable book and I labored really hard to complete it. D.H Lawrence threw several complex notions and ideas about so many things with Rupert being his mouthpiece. His writing is very Victorian despite it being written in 1920s. But that is the best part of the book-his writing. The descriptive style makes so many things in the book come alive such as the quartet’s intimacy, their perplexity over life and love, their constant discussions,the industrial cum countryside setting, the parties and the best part-Gudrun’s friendship with Loerke.
‘Women In Love‘ does question a lot of things mainly at least the notions of love with a woman and a man. Then the process of industrialization seen through the eyes of Gerald. There is almost a Futurist fascination with machines and Gerald in general comes across as a misanthrope. Changes in the aaspects of British countryside brought about by industrialization are also pointed out through Gudrun and Ursula’s conversations and will be more pronounced if one reads, ‘Rainbow’ before reading this novel as the former is a prequel to the latter. Women’s empowerment is also sketched out but still the two women protagonists are more or less dependent on the men but they still are quite bold, strong characters.
I would not recommend ‘Women In Love’ namely because it is tedious, slow in pace and tooooo much strain on the brain!!!! Although any voracious reader is free to take it up!
Written in 1949, Orwell’s last book, ‘1984‘ is a well known classic, featuring prominently in most, usually all 100-books-to read-lists. The novel is unquestionably Orwell’s masterpiece. A definite must read because of the brilliant ideas presented in the novel along with the lucid narrative and uncomplicated writing and plot.
‘1984‘ is set in well the year 1984 in London where the state brutally controls everything-from your relationships,language, thoughts and memories-literally everything! This bleak aspect is immediately impressed upon the reader when the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith is introduced. The government is the ubiquitous Party along with the founder, Big Brother, whose omnipresence is one of the tools with the Party to control the people through fear. Winston is a sort of a quiet rebel against the Party. He knows that the Party is controlling them and falsifying history yet he doesn’t know how to rise up against this subtle oppression and constant surveillance. His first step in a small rebellion is writing a diary, his second step is falling in love with a Party member, Julia-something which isn’t allowed. His last step of rebellion is meeting up with another Party member, O’Brien, who Winston thinks about rebelling too. What perhaps the readers think might actually become a one man showdown with the Party doesn’t come to pass as the Party with all its might suppresses Smith into complete submission and acceptance of its ideology.
A prominent dystopian novel, ‘1984‘ will shock us even today because those ideas of control and tweaking public opinion are relevant today too and are quite applicable in all forms of government till today. The ideas are unnerving and one shifts uneasily in one’s seat while reading the novel, but this does not take away from the fact that the ideology Orwell puts forward is bloody brilliant! Orwell was perhaps inspired by the totalitarian regimes of the 1940s’, the Stalin regime later on and even the British Labour Party’s policies during WWII. However, reading this novel as only an allegory of the Stalinist brutality or an anti-communist tirade or future-predicting sci-fi novel is a grave mistake. The reader must acknowledge that the ideas manifested are quite universal and relevant and that Orwell did not intend to solely malign Communism or predict the future but to provide its readers a sort of a warning about the direction the world societies were heading towards and therefore why it what important to not let such blatant control of humanity ever take place.Its so easy to say that ok, ‘Animal Farm’ was an allegory for the Russian Revolution, so ‘1984‘ is for Stalin but that is hardly the main purpose of the novel.
This marvellous novel of ideas is not a conventional one with a traditional plot, climax and perfect ending in place. It is a speculative novel wherein Orwell envisages the world of 1984 rather pessimistically, using his imagination to invent new technologies and languages. The whole novel more or less focuses on presenting an ideology and thus many dialogues are simply a way to exchange ideas of some ideology. This makes for a fascinating read and one just cannot resist when it comes to comparing Orwell’s fictional future with the real world as so many ideas are very much applicable even today.
No wonder this book figures in those silly 100-books-to-read lists!
The book ‘ The Historian‘ was hailed as a thriller, a splendid debut by Elizabeth Kostova. Every time I read a review of this book, I felt I would adore this book which was steeped in history with apparently a daughter in search for her roots. The summary appealed to me but unfortunately, the book did not live upto my expectations.
The story begins with the daughter proclaiming about the legacy her father left her behind. Then the 1st chapter goes on to how she stumbled upon this legacy. The story then continues with the father, Paul, narrating stories from his past that are connected to his horrific legacy. Paul had happened to come into possession during his university days, a book with only a single woodcut of a dragon. His curiosity led him to his academic adviser, Barthlomew Rossi, who infact had the same book! Rossi’s curiosity and his own book had led him deeper into a mystery of vampires, of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s novel, ‘Dracula.’ Rossi’s disappearance, soon after this meeting plunges Paul into a wild goose chase across most of Europe where he is being watched and followed by either vampires or communist party members. The story keeps shifting from past to present as and when Paul narrates. In the present, Paul’s daughter, after Paul is finished narrating his story, sets out to find more of this intriguing brutal, medieval legacy.
Firstly, the book’s exploration into history is brilliant. It is obviously well researched. Of course, not all of it is true. But simply the fact that Elizabeth Kostova has put history in the forefront of a way to delve into past mysteries makes the subject, often hailed as redundant, quite relevant. This historical aspect that suffuses the book is superb. One of the few good points of this novel.
The negative points however are a long list. Firstly, the story is rather slow paced. For a thriller, such a pace can do nothing but disappoint the reader. The pace picks up only after 200 pages or so and then slows down again.
Secondly, the book seems more like a tourist magazine in the initial pages. Kostova spends many pages describing each place that Paul goes to in great, rich detail. While there is nothing immediately wrong with this, it however does hamper the story’s pace.
Kostova tries hard to use shock tactics to enchant the reader. They do work initially but later on she reiterates the same tactics- like ending the chapter with an appearance of a man who looks gaunt, scary with fangs or having Dracula’s or the dragon’s image at the end of the chapter. These do elicit shock in the beginning but they soon become monotonous and the shock wears off. The reader can even easily predict when she will use those same tactics.
Another disappointment was the discrepancy in the simultaneous narration of the father and daughter’s story. Kostova tends to run away with the former’s story as if she has forgotten about the latter completely. She also seems to have a penchant for libraries and librarians because there are descriptions of several of them and form a major part of the story but somehow it seems a bit inappropriate. The book should have been called ‘The Librarian’ instead of ‘The Historian.’
To conclude, ‘The Historian‘ is not a completely pathetic or ridiculous book. It is worth reading once. It has a unique scholarly touch to it, a great historical novel but in terms of literature or writing skills, ‘The Historian‘ could be a great disappointment. It is also not exactly a thriller, does not pump the reader with jabs of excitement. It is a rather careful narration of a different perspective on one of the most cruelest rulers of the middle ages and his alluring legends that draws writers to pen down stories about him!
Agatha Christie is no doubt the queen of mystery! Even though there is a recent flood of detective novels in the world over from diverse backgrounds, she manages to be the most popular detective story writer along with Arthur Conan Doyle. And she is my favourite too.Till recently I had not read a single Agatha Christie book in a long time. I saw one of my classmates having one big fat Agatha Christie book with her and I borrowed it from her. It was titled ‘Miss Marple Omnibus-Volume 2.’ This omnibus has 4 novels featuring Miss Marple, Christie’s much loved, old, shrewd detective dame! These 4 novels are-1) A Caribbean Mystery 2) They Do It With Mirrors 3) The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side’ 4) A Pocket Full of Rye.
- All the four novels are really good and till the end they keep you guessing as to who the culprit is. The reader perhaps seldom finds out the real culprit as Christie always manages in most of her novels to direct the reader’s suspicion to characters who are not the culprits at all!
‘The Caribbean Mystery‘ as the title suggests is set in the Caribbean with Miss Marple enjoying a vacation in an opulent hotel. Now this doesn’t sound dramatic though, does it? But well, Miss Marple has the uncanny ability to get tangled in crimes that happen in the oddest of places! The murder of Major Palgrave, who was also staying in the hotel, and the disappearance of a photograph of a murderer about which Major Palgrave was telling a story to Miss Marple, sets a chain of events rolling! That story is connected to Major’s murder and other ensuing sinister murders! The story has a chilling end and I am sure if the reader is smart and keeps an eye out for things, they can guess who the murderer actually is. If you can’t, then you will certainly smack yourself in the end of the story for not solving such a simple mystery!
The second novel, ‘They Do it With Mirrors’ is equally riveting. This one is very predictable if you use your brains. Miss Marple stays as a guest in a friend’s house, Carrie Louise’s house to be precise after the latter’s sister insists that there is something sinister brooding in the house. And I suppose, the sister’s intuitions are right because Miss Marple feels the same too and eventually a murder does take place in the most queer fashion when a hot, violent argument between Carrie Louise’s husband, Lewis and a deranged patient of his! It seems that the police would handle it but fame precedes Miss Marple and her help is sought out. It is predictable but still reading how Miss Marple arrives at the solution is marvellous.
The 3rd novel,’The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side‘ is a brilliant detective novel. The revelation of the murderer and how Miss Marple gets to it will leave the reader shell shocked. Miss Marple’s friend, Dolly Bantry, has sold her house to a famous actress, Marina Gregg. She holds a party in that house to commemorate her stay in it and an inexplicable murder takes place. The solution is far from simple and Miss Marple stretches all her talent to the limit to find out the murderer. This novel is by far the best among all four in terms of its shock value
The last novel, ‘A Pocket Full Of Rye’ is another excellent novel. Rex Fortescue dies of poisoning. And so does his wife. Some rye in the former’s pocket and some other eccentric and strange incidents that happened in the house, allow Miss Marple to connect the crime to a famous rhyme. It is uncannily similar to it and Miss Marple gets down to helping the police in search of the cold blooded killer. The end is surprising as usual. This is because, Christie constantly tries to put suspicion on other members when in fact the culprit is someone else altogether!
This omnibus is wonderful! An engaging book. A must read for all fans of Agatha Christie.