What is it about me and classics? When the entire world is raving about classics, I only end up getting disappointed. After having many bad experience...moreWhat is it about me and classics? When the entire world is raving about classics, I only end up getting disappointed. After having many bad experiences with classics before, I vowed never to read one again, but I did it anyway hoping atleast this time, I will be proved wrong. I wasn’t.
Wuthering Heights is the name of the house where most of the book is set in. This is where Heathcliff is brought in as an adopted orphan and takes a more important place in the household and thus invokes wrath from the natural heirs of the property – Hareton and Catherine, which eventually turns into a blooming romance between Heathcliff and Catherine. Though the couple is very much in love, Catherine ends up marrying another guy and Heathcliff takes that as a personal insult to him and vows to take revenge. The story continues to the next generation where Catherine’s daughter ends up getting married to Heathcliff’s son and what happens later on.
Wikipedia says wuthering means turbulent weather in Yorkshire and this best describes the happenings at this bizarre house. Heathcliff, whose love for Catherine takes the centre stage in the initial part of the book and his hatred and revenge forms the later part, is one strange character. He starts off as being innocent and guileless, who then turns into a headstrong teenager who thinks the entire world is against him, who then turns into an out and out monster. Without marking this review as spoiler, I can’t reveal his heinous crimes, but it’s suffice to say I was revolted and disturbed by certain parts of the story. I had to pause and ask myself if this character is for real – I mean, this person is too evil even for a fictitious character. Most of the characters in the prologue are like this – evil, sharp tongued, foul mouthed – I thought the name ‘Mad House’ was a better name for the novel.
I fail to see why this novel has this amount of attention and praise. It is a decent novel, no doubt, but what is so great about it that it has to be listed as one of the must reads. I have a similar opinion about Jane Eyre and most of the other classics, so I guess it’s just me. Go ahead and enjoy reading this classic while I figure what gene is responsible for appreciating classics and how do I go about procuring it.(less)
I was always curious about Milan Kundera since I heard about him on all book forums I visit. To add to the curiosity factor, the big, bold book title...moreI was always curious about Milan Kundera since I heard about him on all book forums I visit. To add to the curiosity factor, the big, bold book title words on plain white book cover (I couldn’t find an image of that book cover) always attracted me. All Kundera books have the same book cover design and there were so many titles to choose from and I wasn’t sure what would be a good one to start with. After reading the synopsis and discussing with some readers on the forums, I decided to pick up The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
The title was intriguing and I couldn’t wait to start my Kundera book. Expectations from the book were high, after hearing strong recommendations and praises for this book. Some readers called this book as philosophical, so I was all the more interested. The book is philosophical, no doubt, but puts across the author’s opinions through a story. This book is fictional but the philosophical passages that intersperse the book are the author’s inner voice conveying his thoughts to the readers and these passages are the best part of the book.
Kundera presents his thoughts on human nature and their quirks through his characters. After narrating a story, Kundera goes on to postmortem some important incidents and puts across his reasons for the behavior of his characters. While Kundera brings into life a few characters with their quirks, I prefer Maugham’s way of describing characters. When you read Maugham, you feel as if you met a new person and are familiarizing with that person.
Did I like this book? I am not so sure. I won’t be running to the library to pick up another Kundera book, but I won’t shun it either if I am given a chance. This book is somewhere on the border – liked some parts of it. The philosophical passages are interesting to read.
Will I recommend this book? With some reservation, yes. If you haven’t tried Kundera before, then you should definitely read this book. For all you know, you might love it, like so many people out there.(less)
Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War is exactly that – a book about love and war. I had never heard of either the book or the author before I saw the BBC...moreBirdsong: A Novel of Love and War is exactly that – a book about love and war. I had never heard of either the book or the author before I saw the BBC’s Top 100 list. I would never read this book if not for this book being chosen as the Book of the Month for March by the Ladies’ Literary League on Goodreads. I love these reading groups, lists and challenges – isn’t these how we discover new authors and books? Even though the title had war in it, (I don’t like war books, you see), I still started this book with a broad mind and a genuine wish to like this book. But I failed. This book was a disappointment for me.
Birdsong is about Stephen, a hard-working, young boy who visits France to learn the trade of mills. He stays with the owner of the mill where he meets Isabelle, wife of the owner, and falls helplessly in love with her. Isabelle finds herself responding to Stephen’s feelings and they end up having an affair right under the husband’s nose. As it always happens, the husband comes to know of the affair and Isabelle draws enough courage to abandon her husband and her step-children to elope with Stephen. They settle down in a small place and start their life. I can’t reveal more without spoiling it for the readers, so go and read the book to know what happens next.
The book grabs your attention from the very first page. Even though there is a lot of action in the rest of the book, I lost my interest as the story progressed. I found the war scenes especially boring. Didn’t I say I dislike fiction books on wars? Even the story that proceeds seemed implausible to me. The characters lacked depth. The romance of Stephen and Isabelle failed to draw any reaction from me. Isabelle’s action needed justification. Stephen’s reaction to Isabelle’s actions should have been stronger. And the characters that are introduced later on (can’t name them here) also were poorly developed and could have used some layers. The book should have been about just war or love – the mix of both somehow didn’t work for me. Or the author didn’t do it well. I liked Atonement, where Ian McIwan has the same ingredients – love and war and he has done a wonderful job of supporting the main love story in the backdrop of war.
In the end, there is nothing I took back home from this book. No memorable characters, no quote-worthy lines, no ‘wow’ moment – nothing at all. I am not saying that people will not like this book. I am sure many readers will like this and praise this book. All I am saying is I didn’t like this book.(less)
The first ever McEwan book I read was On Chesil Beach. It was a short and sweet read which left me wanting to read more from this author. The obvious...moreThe first ever McEwan book I read was On Chesil Beach. It was a short and sweet read which left me wanting to read more from this author. The obvious choices were Amsterdam and Atonement. While Amsterdam met my expectations and proved me right on reading another McEwan book, Atonement exceeded my expectations. This was expected to happen because Amsterdam won the 1998 Man Booker Prize whereas Atonement only got a nomination in 2001. I have a history of not liking Booker Prize winners, so I wasn’t surprised when I liked the latter better.
Atonement is about a woman who has committed an unforgivable crime in her childhood. The book is the journey of how lives were affected because of her mistake and what she does to achieve atonement. The book is set in England and uses the world war 2 as a backdrop in a certain part of the book. The young girl, Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old girl dreams of becoming a writer. She enjoys the process of writing – creating an entire different world and the characters in it, changing them and making them act and talk according to her will. She loves melodrama and she is always trying to impress her parents and siblings by writing stories and plays for them.
Briony accidentally witnesses an incident between her elder sister, Cecilia and their charlady’s son, Robbie. What was an innocent incident turns into a vulgar, adult act in the eyes of a 13-year-old. Briony is still to understand adults and their motives, she is thrilled to have witnessed something she should not have. She gives the entire scene her own meaning which is far from the truth. Two more incidents that follow (which she again witnesses) take on a different meaning because she has already decided on Robbie’s intentions about her sister. This innocent, melodramatic interpretation makes her commit a crime which affect many lives, especially that of Emily and Robbie. The rest of the book is about how Emily and Robbie get on with their lives and how Briony realizes her mistake and makes amends.
McEwan has strong characters in his books. He gives each of his character a unique voice and this is very evident in Atonement. Briony is a teenager during the initial part of the book. The voice of the book takes on a childish tone whenever Briony is in the scene. The part where Briony is furious at Lola and slashes the weeds and another one where she stands on the bridge and decides not to move from there until ‘big’ happens in her life – all of these are so typical of a teenager. This part made me realize how similar I was to Briony as a teenager. The voice for her character changes gradually as she grows up. I wonder how writers can achieve this. The book dips in between when Robbie goes to war front. This part was slow and boring. McEwan could have done without this. The period where Robbie is in jail and he exchanges letters with Cecilia is sweet and heart-melting.(less)
The English Patient is set in Italy against the backdrop of the second world war. The book begins with the plane crash of an English man (nicknamed as...moreThe English Patient is set in Italy against the backdrop of the second world war. The book begins with the plane crash of an English man (nicknamed as ‘The English Patient’) who gets badly burnt in the crash. He is taken care of by a nurse, Hana. They live in an abandoned church turned into a hospital during the war. When all the other nurses and patients move out, Hana and her patient decide to stay back. The patient stays because he cannot be moved and Hana stays because she is in love with him. The book proceeds and we see the entry of two more characters, Caravaggio and Kip.
This book is about these four characters, affected by the war in their own way. It is about their love, their loss, their eccentricities and their lives.
The first thing that gets you is the writing. Ondaatje’s writing is like poetry – it is like free flow of a river. His choice of words, his description – it is a pleasure to read this book. No words can describe his skills, so let me just quote a few lines from his book.
She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awakening from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.
The second best thing about the book is definitely the characterization. Ondaatje skillfully shows the oft quoted rule in writing, ‘Show; Don’t tell‘. He creates his characters and lets them reveal themselves through their actions. An incident in the villa, a character’s habit, an eccentricity, a thought, an opinion – these build characters like no character description can. Each character is so beautifully etched – they will remain with the reader long after reading the book.
I didn’t find anything extraordinary in the story. It’s a typical love story – a story of survival and loss and post-war effects. I really didn’t pay much attention to the story when I was gorging on Ondaatje’s words.
This is not one your run-of-the-mill books. Some may even find it heavy and slow. When you start reading this book, if you find yourself looking forward to the story and happenings, you should probably stop reading. Just enjoy the journey, relish Ondaatje’s exquisite writing and the book will be a treat.
This book may not feature in my favorites list, but Michael Ondaatje certainly figures in my favorite writers list – right on top.(less)
I like Maugham for his elegant writing style and his understanding of human nature. I believe he is one of those people who can judge someone in the f...moreI like Maugham for his elegant writing style and his understanding of human nature. I believe he is one of those people who can judge someone in the first glance and they are almost always right. When I came across the book ‘The Razor’s Edge’ and realized it had a spiritual element in it, I was curious to know what Maugham’s take on spirituality was.
The book is biographical, all the characters actually existed, with a few names changed. Maugham is the narrator and appears as a character in the book. He follows the life of Larry Darrell, who due to an unfortunate incident in the wartime, turns spiritual. He starts asking questions about the purpose of life and its creation and so on. The author meets this man on and off over the span of several years and the reader gets to know the happenings in Larry’s life as well as the author’s.
Larry grows disinterested towards the earthly life and its belongings. He decides not to settle down, but to wander around and look for answers for his questions. He visits different countries and meets various people and gains knowledge, as he puts it. We see a gradual change in Larry as the story progresses. By the end of the book, Larry is a man who has found answers, to the best of his satisfaction and a man who knows what he wants in life.
We see characters like Elliot Templeton and Isabel who are starkly in contrast with Larry. The former has made society his main aim of life and the latter, money. In certain incidents, the co-existence of these characters along with Larry, highlight Larry’s thoughts and opinions which would not have been possible if the two characters were not present.
It is hard to believe that the book is biographical when one looks at Gray’s character. Too good to be true. One wonders if the author invented this character! Sophie’s character is certainly believable, but Larry’s behaviour towards her is not. This was the only thing that didn’t fit in with Larry’s image in my mind.
The reason I picked up this book was to know Maugham’s thoughts on spirituality. Keeping this element aside, the book is certainly enjoyable as any other fiction novel. Maugham’s writing is as enjoyable as ever and the ending is just right. The concluding paragraph says it all. If your reason for reading this book is the same as mine, then the conversation on spirituality appears only much later in the book. Part Six, to be precise and it covers a few tens of pages. And this particular chapter begins like this:
I feel it right to warn the reader that he can very well skip this chapter without losing the thread of such story as I have to tell, since for the most part it is nothing more than the account of a conversation that I had with Larry. I should add, however, that except for this conversation I should perhaps not have thought it worth while to write this book.
Only Maugham can write such beautiful words. He informs the reader that he can skip this chapter but also makes a point that if the reader does skip it, then there is not much point in reading the book.
I found reading the book worth while. For me, the essence of the book lies in those few pages mentioned earlier, which I would certainly go back to it if I feel like it and I am sure I will.(less)
After being impressed by my first Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, I picked up The Blind Assassin with a lot of expectations. If I have to sum up my...moreAfter being impressed by my first Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, I picked up The Blind Assassin with a lot of expectations. If I have to sum up my opinion about this book in one word, it would be ‘indifference’.
The Blind Assassin is about two sisters, Iris and Laura. The book moves back and forth in time – Iris is narrating her present life as an old, depressed woman who is separated from her granddaughter and she often visits her past where she tells us about her with her parents and her sister. Within this main story, there is another story going on, which is a book written by Laura and within this book is another story written by the protagonist of Laura’s book. Confusing? It was, for me. With three different threads going on, it was very confusing to me and difficult to keep track of what I was reading.
I can’t tell you anything more about the story unless I flag it as a spoiler. The narrator, Iris, seemed so hollow to me. I felt a strong urge to give her a nice shake to bring her out of her reverie and scream in her ears ‘Show some emotion’. Laura, on the other hand, is interesting. As a child, especially, where she takes things literally that one can’t jest with her and say ‘Go jump in a well’. The way she takes things which we term as completely normal and the way she questions (“Does God lie?”) makes her character very interesting. The other characters just exist to fill in the blanks in the sister’s lives. Oh, one character which caught my attention is Reenie, Iris’s caretaker – she was the most interesting in the book.
When it is Atwood, I don’t really need to say anything about her writing. Beautiful words, thought provoking analogies, lovely flow.
I was sand, I was snow — written on, rewritten, smoothed over.
Mother might be resting, or doing good deeds elsewhere, but Reenie was always there. She’d scoop us up and sit us on the white enamel kitchen table, alongside the pie dough she was rolling out or the chicken she was cutting up or the fish she was gutting, and give us a lump of brown sugar to get us to close our mouths. Tell me where it hurts, she’d say. Stop howling. Just calm down and show me where. But some people can’t tell where it hurts. They can’t calm down. They can’t ever stop howling.
A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.
Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the blind shadow cast by its absence.
You can read more quotes from this book on goodreads
The book was enjoyable as long as I read it, but it has nothing memorable in it. I loved the language as long as it lasted. It’s not a book that I would ask someone not to read, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it either. I am indifferent towards this book, so it’s left to you.