Blurb on the back: In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift - an absolute sense ofBlurb on the back: In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift - an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume" - the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
My Thoughts: First of all I love the way the book is written but I guess that speaks more about the prowess of the translator than that of the author because I was amazed how contemporary the book read while being true to its 18th century roots. But the author deserves a big round of applause for his descriptive skills because at certain points in the book I could practically smell what Grenouille was smelling. And I don't really have a keen sense of smell. Such details, such descriptions, such use of words!!! This is the only book in which I have underlined sentences just for the beauty of the arrangements of words in them. I love the sinister workings Grenouille's mind but then I have never met an anti-hero that I didn't like. The book can get a bit grotesque in some parts especially the initial chapters but I like dark, creepy writing so I won't complain. The book also taught me a lot about the art of perfume-making and has compelled me to add "create my own scent" to my bucket list.
What I didn't like the book was the ending. I think it would have been better if the novel would have ended when Grenouille walks out of his beheading procession leaving the crowd behind in a manic orgy. That kind of open-ended departure would have actually worked better. I must admit that I have seen the movie before reading the book but while the movie is good on its own it never overpowers the book. The strength of the book lies in hypnotic decsriptions and delightful details and should be read as an "Ode to Perfume" rather than "The Story of a Murderer".
"Immersed as he was in the dusky melancholy that had begun descending over the city, he still felt happy. A long procession of images paraded before h"Immersed as he was in the dusky melancholy that had begun descending over the city, he still felt happy. A long procession of images paraded before his eyes as he awaited his next poem - a waking dream of ugly unadorned concrete buildings, parking lots buried in snow, teahouses and barbershops and grocery stores all hidden behind their icy windows, courtyards in which dogs had been barking in unison since the days of the Russians, stores selling spare parts for tractors alongside horse-drawn carriage supplies and cheese. He was seized by the certainty that everything he saw - the banners for the Motherland Party, the little window hidden behind those tightly drawn curtains, the slip of paper someone had taped to the icy window of the Knowledge Pharmacy months earlier to announce that the shot for Japanese influenza had finally arrived, the yellow anti-suicide poster - every last one of these details would stay with him for the rest of his life. There arose from these minor things a vision of extraordinary power: so certain was he that everything on earth is interconnected and I too am inextricably linked to this deep and beautiful world, he could only conclude another poem was on its way, and so he stepped inside one of the teahouses on Ataturk Avenue. But the poem never came."
This is a book about wanderers, about loss and about conflict, within oneself and with the world. Ka is an exiled poet; Orhan Bey is a incisive writer. Both come to the pitiful town of Kars in search of things which escape and fascinate them. Things they have lost and yet they yearn for. Ka comes to Kars to write an article about an epidemic of suicides among young Turkish women. His other, more important motive is to find Ipek, his unforgettable long lost love who is recently divorced. Orhan Bey arrives in the dead of winter to piece together the last days that his “friend”, Ka, spent in his hometown. And in this conflicting and dreadful world, snow is the universal metaphor for all things hidden and sorrowful.
I love this book for the honest moments it creates in spite of the little worlds falling apart in every chapter. The language is made beautiful by the innate poetry of Pamuk’s words which reek of purity and anguish. Some of the things worth pondering over like the power of women in an Islamic society and the everyday struggles of the immigrant class stay with you long after the novel is finished. But the novel never gets dull with polity or religious commentary. The fascination always remains with the three key themes: memories, unrequited love and snow. Pamuk seems to have bitten off more than he can chew when he tries to bridge the differences between East and West. But the mirror he holds up to the modern Turkish society isn’t shattered and one ends up thinking of the two worlds as mere reflections of each other rather than the opposites.
The one thing I feel really frustrated at is that Ka wrote 19 poems during his time in Kars and the reader doesn’t get to read any of them.
"In a smoky corner of my mind I was reminded of a truth drawn from bitter experience: Immersing oneself in the problems of a book is a good way to keep from thinking of love."
It took me a little less than 2 days to finish this book. At first I couldn't quite figure out what the book was about. It starts with 67-year-old TroIt took me a little less than 2 days to finish this book. At first I couldn't quite figure out what the book was about. It starts with 67-year-old Trond going about his daily life in a remote cabin in the woods and reminiscing about the summer when he was 15 years old and went "out stealing horses" with his best friend. Another novel about a troubled old man's reflections of a cruel world??? Do I need another endlessly bleak narrative and adolescent brooding even when it reeks of Thoreau? But then the power of the melancholic Nordic landscape seeps in with every turning page. At one point I stopped caring about what was happening in the protagonist's life and found myself lost in the beauty of the words describing the frozen north. At its heart the book is about a teenage boy's relationship with his father. But its also a coming of age tale, of a family destroyed by the worst of tragedies, of lives in Norway during WWII but above all it a tale of friendship surviving all odds.
Or at least that is what I know about the book.
"People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook. No-one can touch you unless you yourself want them to. You only have to be polite and smile and keep paranoid thoughts at bay, because they will talk about you no matter how much you squirm, it is inevitable, and you would do the same thing yourself." ...more
I never read Roth before although I have had a copy of "The Human Stain" for ages now. That book came highly recommended from all quarters but the firI never read Roth before although I have had a copy of "The Human Stain" for ages now. That book came highly recommended from all quarters but the first few pages very too dry for my taste and I couldn’t commit myself to that book because it seemed to require a high level of patience with unwieldy dialogues.
Compared to that, "The Ghost Writer" is short and crisp, reads more like three short novellas and can be read within a day.
This novel introduces us to a young Nathan Zuckerman at the start of his career. He has published a few short stories and has been profiled by a magazine and this little taste of fame prompts him to pursue the next great Jewish American story. In his pursuit he goes off to meet his literary hero E. I. Lonoff, a middle-aged reclusive writer whose mantra to great writing happens to be "turn sentences around". There he meets Miss Amy Bellette who works as Lonoff's unofficial assistant and has a secret history of her own (or so it seems). Zuckerman ends up staying the night at his place and discovers a few of his mentor's secrets which could threaten Lonoff's marriage.
I love the straight forward language and the characterisation. All characters are imbued with flaws which define their whole identities. The book is full of surprises but not overbearingly so. There is a subtle tension, especially in the last novella which keeps the pace interesting. The conversations between Lonoff and Zuckerman are intriguing and wise. The only part of the book that didn’t work for me was the ending, a little too melodramatic and predictable. If Roth had handled the last few pages with a little more aesthetic and mellowed it down a bit, the book would have definitely achieved 4.5/5 stars.
If I didn’t respect books so much I'd have ripped this one up into pieces and felt quite happy about it. I don’t even know where to begin describing mIf I didn’t respect books so much I'd have ripped this one up into pieces and felt quite happy about it. I don’t even know where to begin describing my dislike for this book. Some words that come to mind are stupid, irritating, unconvincing, fake naivety, offensive, shallow and just plain bad. Skip this one, read Anne Frank instead. ...more
I feel I am very fortunate to own a very old hard bound copy of this beautiful book, gifted to me by one of my colleagues. The first time I heard abouI feel I am very fortunate to own a very old hard bound copy of this beautiful book, gifted to me by one of my colleagues. The first time I heard about it was on Qi and Stephen Fry was wearing a red camellia on his lapel and his guests were supposed to guess which book he represented. After reading the book I came to realise the significance of red and white camellias. The setting is mid-19th century Paris, very glamorous and extravagant, where parties and conversations are very rich and morality very libertine.
The book starts with the death of a very well known courtesan and is narrated to the author by Armand Duval who is on his death-bed. Marguerite Gautier is a lady of the night famous for her beauty and desired by many a rich men. But she falls for the young Armand Duval who although not penniless cannot afford her the luxuries that she has been accustomed to all her life. Still they both are in love and they try to make a life together, adjusting and compromising and are very happy the few months that they are together. But their relationship never receives sanction from Duvall senior or the society in general and then comes the big sacrifice of love etc.
The book reminded me so much of the movie Moulin Rouge and I guess quite a few other movies and books are based on this theme too. This premise may seem clichéd and done to death now but I guess The Lady of the Camellias was one of the first to tackle it. A beautiful novel of tragic romance and sacrifice, I wish it was as well regarded as other great literary love stories. ...more
This is one of the wittiest, most hilarious books I have read in quite a while. I was quite uncertain about picking up this book because the only humoThis is one of the wittiest, most hilarious books I have read in quite a while. I was quite uncertain about picking up this book because the only humour or sarcasm that I really enjoy is written by Oscar Wilde. Previous experiences have taught me not to expect much LOL-inducing wittiness from other authors because they generally pale in comparison. But with The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, even before the book, the introduction caught me, hook, line and sinker.
"One or two friends to whom I showed these papers in MS having observed that they were not half bad, and some of my relations having promised to buy the book if it ever came out, I feel I have no right to longer delay its issue. But for this, as one may say, public demand, I perhaps should not have ventured to offer these mere 'idle thoughts' of mine as mental food for the English-speaking peoples of the earth. What readers ask nowadays in a book is that it should improve, instruct and elevate. This book wouldn't elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recommend it for any useful purposes whatever. All I can suggest is that when you get tired of reading 'the best hundred books', you may take this up for half an hour. It will be a change."
It’s not every day that one comes across satire of such quality or honesty. The essays cover a wide range of topics; from pets to babies to blues and clothing. I deliberately restricted myself to reading just an essay a day and most of the time I couldn't read this book in public because every other sentence is ridiculously funny and I’d break into peals of laughter at regular intervals drawing weird looks from the strangers around me. I thoroughly enjoyed these idle thoughts and Jerome K. Jerome just became one of my favourite authors of all time. It’s amazing how most of his insights and observations are relevant even after more than a century of the first publication of the book. I guess great humour is classic.
I am not a big fan of Ian McEwan. I was just impressed with a few pages of "The Cement Garden", especially the infamous lines "Girls can wear jeans anI am not a big fan of Ian McEwan. I was just impressed with a few pages of "The Cement Garden", especially the infamous lines "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy; for girls it's like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading." But the book didn't leave much of an impression on me and I had to read "Black Dogs" to keep my faith in his writing going. This book leaves me neither here nor there. I love the crisp writing and the fact that it is a very quick read (took me a little over 1.5 hours) despite trying to be a serious/mature book. But its too flimsy to be Booker Prize material. I guess its the shortest Booker winner ever, not that a book's merit lies in its size.
Anyways, the story revolves around two friends, Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday who meet again at a common lover's funeral who has died under miserable circumstances. Presently both are entagled in professional issues which take up the bulk of the writing. Clive can't seem to get enough inspiration to finish the Millennium Symphony he has been commissioned for. Vernon, as the editor of "The Judge" is engaged in an ethical debate about whether or not to publish incriminating pictures of a powerful politician he personally loathes. Reminiscing about the past together, they remember their own lives with Molly Lane and that leads then to make a pact.
My biggest problem with the book is the light-handed treatment of strong subjects like active euthanasia, duties as a citizen and freedom of press. Sometimes its just downright funny how shallow the arguments are. I know the book isnt primarily about any of these topics but maybe a little bit of soul searching would have added a lot of credibility. The characters seem forced and too self-righteous. The ending is too bizarre and unrealistic. Now to balance the equation for McEwan I need to read something by him which is absolutely genius.