Book Review: Cry, Heart But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved (2001)

25329997Cry, Heart But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Even to the most-learned men and women, few things are as scary, swamping and tearing as death. Like an end, that ultimate exit, beyond which everything becomes void and nothing remains to return, it hovers over us like a spying cloud, always waiting for that one chance to seize our life and make it its own. How then, would one, explain its inevitability, its invincibility, its essentiality to children?

This gem of a book, majestically, rises to this task. Continue reading

Book Review: Ignorance by Milan Kundera (2000)

41gljwkfwil-_sy344_bo1204203200_Ignorance by Milan Kundera
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

“The more vast the amount of time we’ve left behind us, the more irresistible is the voice calling us to return to it.”

In this poignant recount of two people, forced to bid goodbye to their native country, in the diminished, yet flickering hope of finding a brighter tomorrow in an alien land, almost 20 years ago from the present, unravels a story replete with more questions than answers. Irena and Josef have found comfortable refuge in their respective abodes at Paris and Copenhagen and have led a fairly decent life, battling through tags of émigrés and periods of insuperable doubts. Irena has outlived her husband, Martin, reared her two daughters dutifully and seems comfortably living her life with her partner, Gustaf , many years her senior. Josef, after leading a few years of blissful matrimony with his Danish wife, had to surrender her to death which clutched the hands of a severe disease to bring down the curtains. Continue reading

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (2017)

9780393609097_p0_v5_s192x300Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here]

Of all the fiction in this world, I find the ones rooted in mythology the most enticing; not because there is an element of otherworldly magic in them but because somewhere deep down, a bewitching veil of truth hovers above them. The characters we read of, the prowess we fall to, the betrayals we appal at and the spells we dive in, have all a debatable root which almost like our very own samudra manthan of the Hindu mythology, can be twisted this way or that. As most myths are made lesser of primary evidence and more of a secondary interpretation, there is a hidden little room of sorts from where you can see as far as you can, like Heimdall in this book. He is a kind of parallel to Mahabharata’s Sanjaya. Continue reading

Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (2007)

51bdxkezzol-_sx325_bo1204203200_The Vegetarian by Han Kang
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits)]

Many of us, if stretch a little, can recall the question that appeared in our science textbooks in primary schools: choose the living and non-living thing from the following options. While we conveniently tagged all humans, animals and plants to the ‘living’ side, everything else chugged to the ‘non living’ side. But did the divide stand the test of time?

Han Kang pushes this very divide to scintillating heights, reducing the line into a mere fissure, facilitating travel from one living form to another. So, we meet a young Yeong-hye in South Korea, a compliant wife in a patriarchal society, suddenly renouncing meat at the behest of a curious dream. Continue reading

Book Review: Autumn by Ali Smith (2016)

28446947Autumn by Ali Smith
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

 

[Originally appeared here.] 

She has done it in the past; and she does it again here. Ali Smith’s fixation on, and a visible mastery of, story-telling across timeline, in no particular order, shines in this experimental, breezy novel as well.

Centred around the 30-something Elisabeth Demand and her centenarian friend, Daniel Gluck, Autumn is a long, vibrant, occasionally melancholic, sometimes acerbic but entirely warming season of their friendship. Elisabeth, with a ‘s’, is a history of art professor, whose interest was originally kindled in the subject she currently teaches, by the liberal hours she had spent with Daniel, her then-babysitter. As a genial neighbour to Elisabeth’s busy mother, he had agreed to be her caretaker, and in turn, had relished the artistic discourse with the little Ms. Demand. Fast forward a good twenty plus years and Daniel is now a patient in a day care, under the constant vigil of nurses and in wait of, perhaps, the same palliative cacophony of Elisabeth’s inquisitive murmur. Continue reading

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)

41jfvzl72yl-_sx336_bo1204203200_When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi                                                             My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits)]

It has been a few days since I turned the last page of this book. But the numbness reappears the instant I allow the pages to unfold in my memory. The silence which suddenly parts to let these memories seep in and cloud my vision, fills the air. Even as I grapple to make ‘sense’ of what it means to lose a dear, dear one, I, ironically, already know that very‘sense’ to be ephemeral. No part of my being accepts death; they all adjust the lens to view it as a part of life.

Paul was a neurosurgeon by profession, and passion, at Stanford University School of Medicine. Standing at the threshold of seeing his dream come true, one built on a decade and half of relentless academic pursuits and tireless hours at residency, he witnesses a cruel twist of destiny; he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, just months before his scheduled graduation. Continue reading

Book Review: Here by Wislawa Szymborska (2009)

7929177 Here by Wislawa Szymborska
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

“She wants me to live only for her and with her. Ideally in a dark, locked room, but my plans still feature today’s sun, clouds in progress, ongoing roads.”

With this singular clarity, Wislawa Szymborska views memory. By running a casual yet assertive hand, she makes the memory cursive; memory that is stitched into seamless minute knots connecting the present, illuminating the present.

Here is a solace, a silent hurrah. Written in small, fresh bud-like paragraphs, this collection of poems comes with the agenda of a butterfly – fragile at first sight, intriguing at second sight, rejuvenating at third sight and unforgettable after its flight.

Since her love for art found life and prosperity under difficult, turbulent times, her perspective emerged as a rough-cut diamond. Continue reading

Book Review: We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler (2014)

16176440We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

In everyone’s life, there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken against their will. 

Who do you remember the most? I asked myself. Those who make part of my primary circle of existence and have enriched my being with their presence? Or those who came and then departed for good, leaving an indelible mark on my life, as it looks today? Or those who, by all means that I could fathom, were supposed to be a part of my life but were disengaged from me with a menacing strike of destiny? I can’t say, honestly. Then I rearranged the words and popped the question to myself again. This time, the answer was clear.

The question: Who do I miss the most?  Continue reading

Book Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (2014)

book-signsprecedingendofworld-herrera-200Sign Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a little girl, I had many fears. Born from reasonable and not-so-reasonable wombs of circumstances, I consciously (and consistently) fought their penetrating presence by erecting walls of logic and fortitude. With passing years, I saw many of them surrendering and receding into thin smoke, leaving me a fertile air concomitant of a progressive upbringing.

But some fears continue to seethe within the subdued bark of emotions like its ashen cousin in an extinguished bonfire: time and again, an unexpected gush of reminiscent wind victimizes the tranquil symmetry and bares the fear to rise like a blinding demon of ineluctable anaesthetic might. Continue reading

Book Review: Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (2015)

41kf1cixtnl-_sx314_bo1204203200_Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

At my touch, the striking cover of this book leapt up and stood suspended at my eye-level. As if to escape this loggerhead-state, I bored through its skin amid a question – what does this image wish to convey? Unity? Mess? Greed? Asymmetry? Power? Victory? Abandonment? Confusion? Culture? Habit? All? None? Not quite able to coalesce all these floating words into a single bubble of appreciable mass, I threw aside my pondering gauntlet and opened the first page. I began reading, and read a little more; continued reading and didn’t pause till it was the last page. Once done, I closed the book with trembling hands and clutched it tight for what seemed like a long time. It had become a precious possession. Continue reading