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Book Review

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

It’s not every day you get to read about a hundred year old protagonist. And when you do, authors like Jonas Jonasson do us the favor of making sure we have a good time.

I wouldn’t say the book was un-put-down-able. And the awesomeness of the book lies in that very fact. You don’t want the pages turned rapidly because what happens when it gets over? Of course it happens with a lot of books out there. So what way is this any different you ask? Well, that’s a tough question to answer without spoilers but I’ll try my best not to reveal anything. You have got to take your time with this one. Here is what I did. I’d read one paragraph, close the book, think about the way Jonasson has written it, laugh and read it out to my roomie and we both sit there laughing about it. Not one paragraph or two, it took 2 weeks for me to be done with the book, so you do the math.

Anything can happen in Allan Karlsson’s life and Allan Karlsson is such a positive person that he could almost put up with anything (you’ll get the “almost” part when you do the honours) or anyone or anyplace. Which in turn means he could almost survive anything or anyone or any place (Well, as long as there is vodka. Vodka – mind you. Not green banana liquor). Any-frikkin-thing. So be armed to meet a lot of people and things and places in that book people.

Oh and did I mention? This book has actually brought out my love for the comedy genre which I was terrified of by the way (Because what if I don’t get the pun?? No that would be horrible. I’ll just stick to thrillers and horrors.). You keep guffawing and people, it might not annoy you as you are the one Jonasson made sure had a good time. But there are people around you who might be annoyed by that constant “he he” or “ha ha”. But that’s okay. Let the whole world go to hell! I’m reading something really really funny-precisely what Allan would say (or so I guess)!

I almost forgot. It’s a translation! Say what now?

#bookreview

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Book Review : The Vegetarian – a novel by Han Kang


You know, you read certain books and they just ruthlessly keep you captive? Well, this is one of those books. Not to mention the cover. The silhouette of the woman looking upwards (as though yearning to be absorbed by nature itself) and the shadows of the little vines around her (as if willing her to become one of them) remains etched in your very eye balls for a long time.

There are three parts to it and I’d like to express my take on it like wise.

Part 1: The Vegetarian.

This is the part about which the whole plot revolves or more precisely put, the part the author takes us back and forth with respect to, all through the novel.

The beginnings of suffering explained so well that you go in to a chaotic state of mind yourself. Kang makes sure you don’t immediately empathise with the protagonist. Because just like her husband, you don’t understand why and what exactly it is that’s happening to her. (After thought: But that doesn’t stop you from judging him for the jerk he is.)
Part 2: Mongolian Mark.

This part of the novel revolves around how we humans wouldn’t ever understand how human minds work.

Where do we draw inspiration from?

What can trigger imagination?

What leads to what?

No one knows because it’s different for every person and that’s the beauty of it.

Also, how feelings could go astray and out of your control and topple the lives of both  you and everyone associated with you in a nano second like a house of cards, is beautifully explained and you inevitably go in to an over drive of pain.

Part 3: Flaming Trees.

And then comes the part where someone tries to make everything fall in to place knowing full well that everything could never be the same again. She didn’t, however, let that get in the way of trying. In-hye, Yoeng-hye’s elder sister.

Endurance. This part is all about that one word.

“Never underestimate the power of a common man.” – is a famous dialogue from a famous Indian movie. Common man. What exactly does it mean?

Because no two people are the same.

Because not everything can be common about any two people.

Because every person has his/her own battles to be fought.

Because you don’t know how life is treating others.

Because only you know what you are going through.
The author shows the reader how much of your adult life (or in Yoeng-hye’s case, adult existence) is affected by your childhood experiences.

Note to Indians: Studies suggest that we Indians are a bunch of people who are freakishly concerned about our physical health. Meanwhile we sit still, so still, as though carved out of stone if and/or when our mental health goes down the gutters. 

The translation : I did not, for a minute cringe at the translation like I usually would. Call me naive, but I wouldn’t have known it was a translation I was reading if I hadn’t gone through some of the amazing reviews out there.
Once you’ve read this book, for a while you won’t be able to take another. (Trust me, I’ve been there. As a matter of fact, still there.) It just stays with you. You go in to waking dreams and you can’t stop rambling about it to anyone who’d give you a minute of their concentration.

#bookreview

Yajnaseni : Draupadi’s POV of The Mahabharata

Bedtime stories – that’s how the obsession with the great epic started for me. Thanks to my Grandmother. It actually has a steady grip on me. I started my mythology spree with the very recent Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik. And then it just kept continuing. As I read Jaya, when in the end Yudhishtira doesn’t even turn once to look his people as he ascended the mountain to reach swarga, I sat there with the book in my hand wondering what on earth did he do that for? From there my quiver of questions wanted to be shot (all at once at that). Questions like The kings had a lot of wives. Why was it that only Draupadi was chosen to be wedded by all? kept me from peace and dear old sleep. Then there came Ajaya I and II by Anand Neelakantan. That was like a boon to my mind. That for me was “perspective”. I mean the story was the same but it justified the actions Kauravas (without the story being changed. I’m not saying there was no tweaking. But it was just tweaking and not twisting). I mean, come on I have always been told how only the Pandavas were righteous and I (being the rebel that I am) have always questioned that. And now, Yejnaseni. I am done 3/4s of the book and I have a lot of questions.

What I have always been exposed to until I read Ajaya was how good the Pandavas were. To put it right, what I have always been exposed to until I read Ajaya was how only the Pandavas were good. I mean come on, you know how there is always two sides to a coin, the Pandavas would have had their set of shortcomings. Speaking of which, the Kauravas would have had their baggage of righteousness. Correct me if I am wrong there. I am so attached to all of these characters.. Especially, Karna. And all those characters who were affected by hierarchy.

Prathibha Ray justifies Guru Drona’s demand of Eklavya as so: for the fear of the Kauravas being exterminated by Eklavya, his thumb became gurudhakshina. Now, that isn’t fair is it? Guru Drona had given his word to Arjuna about making him the world’s most accomplished archer. That was the real reason for his demand.

I know it is an age old story and we have no way of finding something called “fact”. I am so attached to all of these characters and all I am doing is stand up for people like Karna and Eklavya and the many others who had suffered in the stampede of hierarchy.

This book tells me that the Pandavas did not gauge a person by the scale of caste which is why Draupadi serves the Kiratas (Eklavya’s caste) food cooked in the akshayapatra and that the Pandavas and the Kiratas had food together and that Arjun would remove the all the used plantain leaves.  I’d like answers for two questions in this scenario,

  1. Then why was caste always in Karna’s way? If you don’t stop injustice, it just means you support injustice. Why didn’t the Pandavas stand up for Karna like Suyodhana did during the display of prowess of Guru Drona’s disciples?
  2. Do you really think the priests like Dhaumya (who was always with them) would have been in a 100kms radius of the Pandavas if they didn’t mind of caste?

Another scenario in this book that grossed me out is this:

Obeying Kunti, (and at Yudhishtira’s insistence of securing unity amongst the brothers) Panchali had to marry the pancha Pandavas. I’d made peace with her fate and kept reading until, each and every husband of her’s except Arjuna tells her that even when she was only Arjuna’s betrothed they had all secretly desired her. How can one secretly desire one’s own brother’s betrothed and under pretences of obedience accomplish said marriage (in this case, marriages?)

This rendition makes my heart heavy because I feel the author hasn’t been fair with her characters. Tweaking happens in all renditions and it is done for the story’s sake. But here, it has been tampered with for a reason and it is, in my opinion only to justify the Pandavas’ actions.

This book was said to be Draupadi’s point of view of the Mahabharata. But this book is a justification for all the Pandavas’ actions.

Not just the writer (not sure about the original author but the writers of the renditions) but most of us are partial. The Kauravas were worthy warriors. The Pandavas broke most of the rules of war. Karna’s death. Dear old pitamaha Bhishma’s death. Guru Drona’s death. Everything they achieved was by foul-play. Where was all their valour? Where was their greatness? Where was their prowess in war-craft? 

And when once in a while someone raises a question, “In order to restore dharma, sometimes, adharma is the only way.” is the answer readily thrown at said someone! The question “So what is the difference between you and the person you are trying to stop following adharma?” remains because it is just too inconvenient.

Why?

 

#bookreview

Behind Closed Doors

image

“Red. Millie’s room was red.”

The horror I felt when I read about the red room of torture. It was 9:30 PM in the night yesterday and I was, as usual, reading.  At 10:00 PM I switch the lights off and then read on getting in to bed. At 10:30 PM I switch the lights back on, and sit on my bed imagining the horrors to be unleashed on Millie in her red bedroom. Millie hated George Clooney. But George Clooney was Jack. But that was a secret between Millie and her sister! Not to be told to anyone! She’d promised if nothing.

For the first 50% of the book, I was like, “What the hell is so big a deal about this book that the review said the book everyone in the blogosphere is raving about?
But then there came the next 50% of the book which made my heart was pound the shit out of me. The places a book can take you to. It’s just amazing isn’t it?

I was there. Yes I was. In the red room with Grace and Jack.
And oh, the irony of his death. You can’t help but feel – Ha! Serves the bastard right!

#BehindClosedDoors #Thriller

Career Of Evil – Review.

Robert Galbraith’s un-put-down-able #3 Cormoran Strike thriller, Career Of Evil.

Spoiler alert. I am freely shamelessly giving out the plot because I’m super pissed.

So, the detective goes on a wild goose chase along with Robin, his partner/secretary following his hunch. He comes down to three people who might actually hold a grudge against him, so great as to send his partner/secretary, a dead woman’s right leg. Not to mention, the exact leg Cormoran’d lost as an army personnel. So that’s about 50% of the book.
The person who the protagonist is desperate to hunt down, is not totally hidden as in the case of The Cuckoo’s Calling or The Silkworm. The author gives us a taste of the culprit’s thoughts and activities. Which leads to the best part which creates this unadulterated pent up pressure of when Robin is going to be kidnapped or killed. As in, literally every second. I find the pressure going up every time she takes leave of Cormoran, be it to board the train home after work or vice versa or when she goes on to investigate or tail another live case in the plot, alone.
The way it’s written, of course, I don’t have so much as a letter to criticize JKR. She was and remains to the day, the best story teller I have known.

But I must say I’m disappointed with the plot. I was expecting something like Robin being taken hostage and Cormoran with his deduction and all that rescuing her and taking her safely to the church in Masham on her wedding to her waiting groom. I would have liked that better. The story was entirely being built up on that sort of an ending and causes pure irritation when it isn’t that.

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