Love Story

‘Love Story’ by Eric Segal is a famous romance bestseller. Its an unusual love story with bouts of unusual romance coupled with a touch of sadness. It is a short book, almost a novella and can be read in no time.

Taken from hachette.com.au

Oliver Barrett IV is a descendant of a rich, old family and he is a Harvard student who wants to pursue a career in law. Oliver falls in love with an ordinary(read no heritage and poor) girl studying in Radcliffe, Jeniffer Cavilleri. They plan to eventually get married which causes Oliver’s father to disinherit him. After marriage, its difficult to earn money but they pull through. However, a tragedy cuts this pretty love story short.

The good thing about ‘Love Story’ is that Eric Segal does not make the two protagonists fall in love in a cliched manner-like love at first sight or the guy doing the most chivalrous things or making disgusting promises to woo the girl. Its a quick romance with a few swear words thrown in(Its amazing how profanity can be romantic in ‘Love Story’). I have never seen a romantic novel where swear words and insulting each other contributes to building up the love between a girl and a guy!

Its written from a male perspective which I think is rare as most love stories have a woman’s point of view or have a woman as the narrator.

The book’s length is an advantage and a disadvantage simultaneously. On one hand ‘Love Story’ makes for a short read. But it is this short length that doubles up as a disadvantage too because it does not allow depth in the story and in the characters. It almost becomes a breezy, unmoving read because there is not much descriptions about either Oliver’s or Jeniffer’s feelings or their relationship.

Too much use of American slang also creates a casual effect, not a deep one . It feels like it is not a profound love story but rather just an ordinary one. The short length and slang usage contribute in diluting the sadness at the end of the novel.

The last word-‘Love Story’ is no doubt a good romantic read but it is definitely not the best. Its only a one time read!

Pardesi: Unaccustomed Earth

For me, Indian fiction is irresistible and Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing draws me within her fictional worlds. I had read Namesake which was an excellent book with a rare story of Indian immigrants in America. Unaccustomed Earth is pretty much written on the same lines with the only exception that it is not a novel but a collection of short stories. Its worth spending your time and money over and its a really wonderful read.

Taken from amazon.com

The book is divided into 2 parts with Part One having 5 short stories about Indian immigrants of different ages, genders,  and spanning across generations. The stories are set all over the U.S. While Part Two is a short immigrant love story of Hema and Kaushik.

In Part One, the first story Unaccustomed Earth is about a husband and his daughter coping with the wife/mother’s death and how her death allows him to travel while the daughter worries about taking care of her father.

In the second story, Hell-Heaven, a married woman falls in love with a younger man who does not reciprocate this love and instead marries an American.

A Choice Of  Accommodation, the third story narrates the loss of love between a married Indian-American couple and how they regain that love. The fourth one, Only Goodness is a story of a sister trying to protect her brother from alcoholism yet shunning him at the same time because of his addiction. It gives a unique look at a brother-sister relationship.

The last story, Nobody’s Business  is a singular story of an Indian woman living as a roommate  with Americans and who is in love with an Egyptian.

Part Two has three chapters which tell a love story that develops between Hema and Kaushik over the years, yet one that ends in tragedy.

The first thing that hits the reader in the face is that these stories do not have a rosy picture. There is a fragmented despair and utter sadness, even isolation and depression that pervades each story. They do not have a single aspect of the American Dream. There is conflict in each story, a loss of identity, a strong sense of disillusionment or even anger. Unaccustomed Earth provides harsh glimpses into the immigrants’ world which is unexpected as the majority of readers would expect a happy, better life in America than in India. Materially, the families are well off in each story but never emotionally or spiritually.

Although Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories, the characters really come alive in each of them. Jhumpa Lahiri’s fine writing brings out nuances, peculiar qualities, different characteristics that makes the reader easily form a clear picture of the characters in their mind (just like in Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry). Her writing is undoubtedly superb and elegant. It effortlessly captures the essence of Indian immigrant life in America (just like it did in the Namesake) It is a definite must read for all lovers of Indian fiction writing and for all those who love literature.

One warning for all who want to pick up the book to read: Unaccustomed Earth requires a great deal of concentration and it is not our typical kind of ‘happy’ book, so for those who are looking for a happy, rosy read, please don’t bother to read this collection of short stories.

For others who would love to venture beyond the usual and read something thought provoking, might find this book just right!

Happy Reading!


This post is part of the Pardesi series that highlights immigrant experiences.

You can contribute as well! Click here for more information.

P.S. I Love You

P.S. I Love You‘ by Cecilia Ahern is an international romance bestseller. It makes for an enjoyable read.

Its a sweet and cute book which has a touch of hilarity, grief, fun as well as goodness. Holly Kennedy lost her childhood sweetheart and husband, Gerry due to brain tumor. Holly misses him like hell and feels her emotions overwhelming and confusing. She does not know how to live without Gerry. However, she learns to do that through her own understanding, her family and her best friends and a list that Gerry had prepared for Holly.

Its a breezy read, very easygoing(except dome parts where Holly is thoughtful about herself, her life and Gerry) with a light writing style. ‘P.S. I Love You‘ is not very descriptive but it is mostly active and happening with many events occurring in the book. The story is well laid out. It is a tad bit cliched but fortunately it is not about a guy and a girl stereotypically falling in love. Its an emotional story of a widow coping with an immense loss. Despite such a serious issue, the book is  surprisingly not very deep, in fact it is light and relaxing. It ends on a positive note which is heartening.

All chick lit fans will love ‘P.S. I Love You‘, they will be delighted in reading the book.

Shantaram

Reading 933 pages of the ‘Shantaram‘ novel can be tedious especially when you do not have the time and are only reading 2 or 3 chapters per day. Nevertheless, ‘Shantaram‘ is an interesting novel. A novel that takes the reader through Mumbai’s ugliest places and the grim and the dust of the city to the paradise of Goa to the cold, brutal Afghan mountains.

Shantaram‘ I think is a partly true story of the author, Gregory David Roberts who escaped from an Australian prison. The novel speaks of his entry into the then Bombay and his journey through the city. The protagonist mingles with people in Leopold, is forced to stay in a slum, starts a clinic there and even comes to enjoy his life in the slum. He joins the mafia to earn cash, gets involved in gang war and the war in Afghanistan. He comes to love India and learns valuable lessons of life as well. The book ends on a hopeful message giving a grand message simultaneously.

Its a one of a kind novel where India in general and Mumbai in particular can be seen from a different perspective of a foreigner. India or Mumbai are neither degraded nor are they glorified unnecessarily but are portrayed objectively with plus and minus points. For once, it is good to see an author describing Mumbai’s slums, Arthur Road Jail etc. and not romantically babbling about only Marine Drive, Gateway or Taj. (I mean Mumbai is much more than those things).

On the other hand, the novel was a tad too long. Gregory Roberts could have easily shortened the story. There are a few loose ends like whether the author goes back to Australia or stays back in Mumbai and if he does, what does he do–be with the mafia or start something else. (Hopefully he will write a sequel soon with lesser pages though).

So I say that ‘Shantaram‘ is a good book but read it when you have all the time in the world. Reading the book slowly drags the story and takes the pace out of it.

Twilight!

‘Twilight’ by Stephanie Meyer is a huge bestseller all over the world with scores of die-hard fans. I got bitten by this vampire saga when one of my friends told me about the story. I got interested, bought the book and devoured it immediately. ”Twilight’ is the first in the series of four books written by Meyer. It is an extraordinarily different love story with a unique characterization of vampires.

The story is about Isabella Swan, a human, who moves to a town called Forks to live with her dad, Charlie. At Forks High School, she meets Edward Cullen, a vampire, whom she falls,’ unconditionally and irrevocably in love with.’ It then goes on to describe their love story-how they meet, get to know each other and fall deeply in love. However, it is not easy to be in love with a vampire-there are conditions and dangers Bella has to face each time she is with Edward. It is a revelatory book that explores Edward’s world through Bella’s eyes and at each step of the novel there is something new the reader gets to know about Edward and his family.

Its pros are the vivid and detailed descriptions by Meyer which make the story come alive. Secondly, Meyer has not portrayed vampires in a stereotypical way. Instead she has used her imagination to the fullest and given these vampires different traits. It is refreshing to see something that is not heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. Thirdly the language is appealing, simple, comprehensible and hugely descriptive. It is a  complete book and very well written.

The cons of ‘Twilight’ are the lack of importance to Isabella’s character and her constant gushing over Edward. The book can get a tad bit too mushy and overly romantic at times.

MY VERDICT- a thoroughly good read, a complete paisa vasool, the sort of book you simply read for pleasure, for fun and don’t have to break your head over. With 434 pages, ‘Twilight’ is an engaging book and a light read.

P.S. For those who don’t like romantic novels or who prefer vampires to be evil creatures that roam in the dark, ‘Twilight’ may not be the book for you!

A Thousand Splendid Suns-Hauntingly Beautiful

It is difficult to describe in words what I exactly felt and thought about ‘A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS‘ by Khaled Hosseini because it was so unique and personal. I will still attempt to write a review on the book. Hopefully it will be useful.

It is one of those rare gem of a book that elicits a thousand emotions-from deep despair to breathtaking bliss to anguish and anger to innocent happiness. This book is simply-and there is no other word for it-REAL.It is not based on a true story but the incidents could and have happened to millions of people in Afghanistan. I really loved this book simply because it is deeply moving and touching and in a sense it is not just a book but a reality-a harsh one- that Afghans faced and continue to face after the Russian invasion in 1979.

The story is about two girls-Mariam and Laila and how their lives intertwined as a result of circumstances. Mariam is a bastard. Her father, Jalil Khan, is a rich businessman in Herat(Mariam’s birthplace) who got his housekeeper(Mariam’s mom, Nana) pregnant. Mariam is conveniently married off in Kabul to a tyrant, Rasheed, at a tender age of fifteen. Laila, by a brutal turn of circumstances, ends up in Rasheed’s house. Initially hostility reigns between Mariam and Laila but gradually, they become close and a marvelous friendship amidst utter breakdown and destruction develops. The end of the story is hopeful, a poignant display of love and survival.

One of the misunderstandings about the books is that it is entirely set during the Taliban’s rule. However, in fact, only a part of the book is set during that time period. The story spans from 1960s’ to the early 200s’. The story, thus provides a brief history lesson of Afghanistan.

For me, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ was absolutely flawless. The narrative was beautiful. It essentially deals with the brutality that women face in Afghanistan due to harsh patriarchy. These themes can be relevant among indian readers as even in India, women are still suppressed and denied freedom(although perhaps not at such an extreme level as in Afghanistan).

For many people, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ was depressing because of the sad events. It was painful, yes, and it did leave me shocked at some passages but I did not find it depressing. To only read happy books with cliched and predictable endings is stupid for me because then you are not being aware of the problems around the world. I agree that is is highly emotional, very sad but then it is reality. Countless women have faced and still face such horrors and discrimination in their lives. I was crying throughout the book and I do not think there is anyone who wouldn’t be moved by this singular story.

It is definitely a must read and if you can’t even read it, just think about those for whom it was not just a book they could ignore but life that they faced every single day.

Great Gatsby

Great Gatsby‘ by Scott Fitzgerald was not a book I would usually pick to read(although my Junior College teacher did recommend this book). And so I read this book as part of my English Literature class.

What did I think of this book?

Frankly, this book is brilliant and proffers a valuable insight into the America of 1920s’. However, in order to actually understand the myriad symbolism, the nuances and the general feel and brilliance of the book, one probably has to read the book more than once(unless one is an amazing reader who can pick up symbolism on the first read itself). A background knowledge of the author and his circumstances as well as his feelings when writing the book will go a long way in helping the reader understand the general purpose of ‘Great Gatsby‘.

That said, I’ll proceed to the story. As the title suggests its about a man named Jay Gatsby who belongs to the the increasing number of nouveau riche people springing up in the US in the 1920s’, who throws a gazillion grand, elaborate parties in his equally splendid mansion. The narrator is Gatsby’s neighbour Nick Carraway. The story represents the utter degradation of American society and its people by weaving its way through Nick’s perceptions and the love between the enigmatic Gatsby and Nick’s cousin Daisy. Subtly Fitzgerald has conveyed why Gatsby is great and has thus, by doing this, justified the title of the novel.

Great Gatsby‘ is replete with symbols such as the ‘green light’ and the ‘valley of ashes.’ It can be seen as a love story or as a comment on the hollowness of the American dream or as a symbolic novel. I see it as a mix of all three. I will refrain from reviewing Fitzgerald’s writing style and the characters. The former because I do not think I am qualified and knowledgeable to do that and the latter because I can write pages and pages of character analysis after having studied the novel so thoroughly. And so many pages on just that one topic can be downright boring!

To conclude I would definitely put ‘Great Gatsby‘ on my ‘must-read’ list because of the story, its representation of the Jazz Age from a completely different angle, an angle where the 1920s’ is not all glamorous but in fact quite superficial and status centered; its writing and its unique symbolism. However the book requires mental effort  as understanding its purpose can be difficult(I too understood the book wholly only after our English Literature madam explained it brilliantly). So for those  reading for pleasure and time pass, this is not the book for you because without understanding the actual purpose, the story will appear merely ordinary(which it is not).However for the classic literature fans and those with an intellectual bend, ‘Great Gatsby‘ is really great!