Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman (2013)

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My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

Ah! What have I read here? A delightful take on life? A sensitive take on grief? A wise take on relationships? Perhaps all of it. And more.

At the centre of this book, is an almost-eight-years old, Elsa. When her best (and quirky) friend, her grandmother, leaves her a series of letters upon her death to be delivered to their intended receivers, she sets onto a thrilling journey of discoveries. What was the primary purpose of the letters you ask? You guessed it. To say sorry.

Among Elsa’s neighbours are eccentric chatterboxes and drunken workaholics, weird hounds and mysterious lurkers. Her mother is her punch-bag over teen issues (if Elsa can be called a teen that is) and her Dad is her word collector who can stand everything except a grammatically incorrect sentence. Well, mostly. Continue reading

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Book Review – Ties by Domenico Starnone (2014)

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Ties by Domenico Starnone
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Validation is a monster we carry within us – we seek it in abundance for the tiniest of things to the biggest of matters; and in the sordid event of its unavailability in external sources, we turn inwards and grab it nonetheless. We validate ourselves; we justify ourselves. Human mind has long been at the end of its wits, attempting to sieve the validation in a pragmatic funnel against a narcissistic one. But the success has been fleeting and regularly, illusional.

And within these enchanting webs of illusions, Domenico Starnone weaves a riveting story of love, infidelity, greed and futility.

In case it’s slipped your mind, Dear Sir, let me remind you: I am your wife.

Continue reading

Book Review: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (2018)

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Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

 

When the weapon inflicting a wound is done with its work, it hops onto to its next victim with a repugnant nonchalance. It doesn’t look back, it has barely any emotion. But it does not do the disappearing act before leaving behind the story of the ‘scar’ – the scar hidden inside the wound. And the thing about scars is that they are permanent, or nearly so.

Nathaniel was unfortunate to receive one such scar early on in his life, in 1945, when he was 14-years old to be precise. Continue reading

Book Review: The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018)

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The Only Story by Julian Barnes
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”

This sentence, which introduced this most recent book of Julian Barnes to his potential readers, was pretty much my Achilles heel from Page 1. I don’t quite understand how you can adjust the levels of love, like making marks on a burette and letting the content drip as per your desire of colour and consistency of the final emotion. Quantifying love is beyond my comprehension.

And yet, there is a certain granular tenderness in this story of a young man and his (almost) thirty years senior lover that prevents this love story from turning into a chore. Continue reading

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007)

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Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

I finished reading the book late last night. As Elio bid a final goodbye to Oliver, I stood by him. The mist in his eyes and heart was in mine too. And I hovered my glance on his name and let the pool in my eyes fill a little more. And then, in a pained resignation, I closed my eyes.

It has been almost a day since I read the last word of this book. And yet, the moment I picked it up to review its contents a few minutes ago, my eyes began to cloud again. Because everything read and felt and wept for, yesterday, came gushing back and I once again massaged my aching vein to quieten and take this only to be a story. But is it? Continue reading

Book Review: The Fox Was Ever The Hunter by Herta Müller (1992)

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The Fox Was Ever The Hunter by Herta Müller
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Imagine your heart is a sheet of paper and Müller’s words, the needle – and then, let the typewriter go berserk. Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang. The words hit you, one after another, and her ink doesn’t run dry. The angst, the rage, the lament, the despair takes on unstoppable force and goes pinging on your heart like a tireless hammer – only it is a needle and the prick seeps into your blood like it has found a home.  Continue reading

Book Review: Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016)

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

 

Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions.

This wonderfully sapient insight springs somewhere in the middle of this book and almost gives away the rationale behind McEwan’s choice of protagonist – a fetus.

Yes, this 200-odd pages of scheming a murder is seen through the eyes of a fetus from the womb of his mother, a party to the hatching game. The other party is her lover, who is also incidentally her husband’s brother. They huddle together in the former’s house, conspiring to kill the husband. Sounds familiar? Continue reading

Book Review: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)

236219Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

You landed in my world on a calm, dewy evening
And struck was I with a song I was about to sing;
A song that lay hidden in the silhouettes of each letter
That protruded from the cover, all poised to embitter.

But waited I, patiently, under the light of the mundane day;
You see, Mr. Calvino, I had a knack of seeing your way.
Fusing the curious with the depth, and peppering them with some humor too;
All too often, you had served, a world that was both fictional and true.

So, on a fine evening, when all your cities rose, at once, to a noisy chatter,
I exited my world and entered yours, as it was now, an urgent matter. 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 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