Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Wounds must not be pitted against each other since it is not their severity but the victim’s reception of them that defines their impact on the body (and soul). So, I must not put together displacement and immigration next to each other for I haven’t experienced either (or so I think). But there is a little elephant in the room of ‘displacement’ that makes its abode more gruesome than ‘immigration’– that it is, without exception, enforced.

The young Saeed and Nadia hail from an unnamed country where the former is a praying liberal and the latter, an atheistic rebel. Their paths, however, meet and after all the dust of doubts and apprehension settle down, they find love. But guns find their town too, and soon, go berserk. Saeed’s and Nadia’s love story might have suffocated and withered under raining bullets and choking curfews and turned into an ordinary one had there not been the ‘door’. A door to exit. Exit West. Continue reading

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Book Review: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (2014)

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Was it necessary to read ‘An Unnecessary Woman’? About a woman in the twilight of her life, a product of rusted times? A woman from a foreign land, and of foreign blood? A woman who offered pursed whimpers amid teeth that reeked soupy yellow? One with a musty room and a flickering temper? A borderline linguist who made peace with the unspoken word? She was nothing more than a drifting sprinkle of dust in this swirling world of men and ambition.

May be, it wasn’t. It wasn’t necessary at all to read An Unnecessary Woman. But I read it. And I read her. And read her more. Every page. Every day. Continue reading

Book Review: Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

 

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

There is something about every life: ripe with memories, rife with punctures, crowded yet distinct, deceptively omniscient but a puzzle to its only custodian. Zadie Smith’s narrator in ‘Swing Time’ attempts to hold this fleeting, substantial thing in her hand and poke it for its secrets over a good 35-40 years.

This is a story primarily about a brown girl in London, whose life arcs diverse places, people and emotions, keeping, somehow, another brown girl, Tracey, at its epicentre. Narrated in first person, she opens her rendezvous with Tracey at the tender age of seven, when all that mattered to the duo was dance, at which, Tracey was much better. Continue reading

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

61ug-qlo6nl-_sy346_The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/reviews/review-the-underground-railroad/articleshow/56417934.cms?]

Shaping a work around the theme of slavery and its many tentacles is a bit like shaping a lump of rigid clay into something cohesive and stable. On one hand, excessive pressure on misery squashes the vein of the narrative and on another, a voice too rebellious, hollows out the inherent pain of its victims. Drawing that line which does justice to this divide is certainly not an easy task and that is precisely where Whitehead shines.

‘The Underground Railroad’ is an allegorical tale, spoken through the life and times of Cora. Her grandmother, Ajarry, from Western Africa, was a worker on the sprawling Randall plantation in Georgia, where, eventually, she passed on the tarnished legacy to her daughter, Mabel and granddaughter, Cora. Slave owners measure their success in the amount of tyranny they exert and Randall was not the one to walk against the league. However, 16-years old Cora was made of sterner stuff than most around her and harboured a burning desire, every instant, to break free. 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: A Heart So White by Javier Marías (1992)

heart-so-whiteA Heart So White by Javier Marías
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

What do I wish to hear? About the present? The past, may be? Or a little tune on the waiting future? Do I wish to eavesdrop on my best friend to find out what she thinks of me when I am not around? Am I tempted to open a letter addressed to my partner with no overt allusion to my name or salutation on the envelope? Am I inclined to return to an unknown place just so I can hear a random conversation complete in my mind? Do I wish to pause a few seconds longer at the traffic so I can hear the banter in the adjacent car? Am I willing to take that pain? Am I willing to take that time? Am I willing to listen?

Javier Marías’ tale is the silence that bids its time between two words, it is the unscrupulous clock that ticks for one and cheats another, it is the nebulous doubt that lies suspended between the free and the bound. Continue reading

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“He was full of resolution but he had little hope.”

And often, like a seductive oasis, this little hope beguiles the heart to endure battles of gargantuan magnitude, letting seep every second the realization of the effort turning as much futile as it may be fruitful.

Fisherman Santiago lives in a barren land, bearing just a few hope saplings, which he patiently waits to bear fruit. He is frugal and easily happy, but his simpleton living has not tamed his aspirations, lofty by his standards. He wants to catch a BIG fish, something so commanding and magnificent that it can seal his tenacity and authority, among his community, his friends and above all, his doubting self. 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: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

51p2bjgqy-il-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was sitting on the lower berth; ambivalent yet observant. The view from my window seat was appealing. On the parallel track, a train had just pulled on. The neighboring compartment was a dynamic collage of people, suitcases, trolleys, food and jubilant chatter. There were two stocky boys, fighting for the window seat. And there was a mamma who would rather put her baby to sleep. The grouchy father stooped onto his newspaper and the two girls in the adjacent berth were…….BLUR. The train gave a swift jerk, collapsing the collage into a blur. It was gone in seconds. I was still waiting for my train to start. After getting a clear signal, another train leveled up to my side. Intrigued, I looked across the window again. Continue reading