This book reads like a banquet prepared by a skilled chef that makes you groan in wondering satisfaction and ecstasy at every bite. As packed with psy...moreThis book reads like a banquet prepared by a skilled chef that makes you groan in wondering satisfaction and ecstasy at every bite. As packed with psychological epiphany as Jeffrey Eugenides's "The Virgin Suicides" is with physical details, it's a book made for gorging, expanding your mind and lifting your heart as you rush through the pages. Written in letters like "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" this book nevertheless has some of the most gut-kicking dialogs I've ever read. My only complaint is the ending, which is too anticlimactic for me. I wanted the book to go on and on, and at least be assured that the characters, while not living happily ever after, still have friends, and are actively questioning and changing their life, regardless of the many failures that come their way.(less)
I so identify with Oscar's geekitude, loneliness and cluelessness of the workings of the world. The back story is gripping and leads up to a powerful...moreI so identify with Oscar's geekitude, loneliness and cluelessness of the workings of the world. The back story is gripping and leads up to a powerful climax. The scattering of whole sentences in spanish is rather annoying, but the story moves along pretty well without my having to understand them anyway. And the Ringer in me rejoices in every reference to Tolkien's work. (less)
It rather annoyed me that adulthood and fatherhood hadn't changed one iota of Adrian's naivete and idealism. Otherwise, it's a fun romp, as usual. I'm...moreIt rather annoyed me that adulthood and fatherhood hadn't changed one iota of Adrian's naivete and idealism. Otherwise, it's a fun romp, as usual. I'm especially taken by William Mole and Archie Tait. (less)
Carla Hood had already sublet the rooms in Soho house to a transvestite, a psychic, a rent-boy, and a retired boxer. In addition, she harbored a wante...moreCarla Hood had already sublet the rooms in Soho house to a transvestite, a psychic, a rent-boy, and a retired boxer. In addition, she harbored a wanted woman in her attic. And to this already crowded house came Mark Upshaw, a graduate of Queen's College who's down on his luck. While Carla, in her struggle to make ends meet in the most outrageous and scheming ways, came upon an audacious plan that involves pawning Mark's matching set of leather suitcases, Mark, ever dreaming of returning to the glitzy community that had disowned him, became increasingly involved and perplexed with Carla and her motley crew of tenants, even braving the risk of getting arrested for her, completely compromising his already tarnished reputation. Romance ensues, yada yada yada.
The novel had a bumpy beginning, I didn't start to enjoy the story and find it gripping until three chapters in. The unexceptional, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary kind of romance is at odds with the otherwise edgy, breezy narratives. The characters are a little two dimensional. But I love the details of the setting, Clara's desperate resourcefulness, and the ending, while happy all around, is not too Cinderella. All in all, worth the three stars.(less)
Ram Mohammad Thomas won a billion rupees in a show not unlike Who Wants to be a Millionaire. But the game show producer suspected him of foul play, re...moreRam Mohammad Thomas won a billion rupees in a show not unlike Who Wants to be a Millionaire. But the game show producer suspected him of foul play, reasoning that there's no way a mere waiter with no schooling could answer all thirteen questions, even the trickiest ones, such as what the highest military honor in India is and in which Shakespeare play the character Costard makes his appearance.
To a lawyer who came to his rescue, Ram explained why he knew all the answers to the questions in the quiz. His colorful life and encounters with many characters had indeed been an education in itself. In fast-paced, no nonsense narratives that paint in details the grandeur and squalor of India, from Mumbai--the capitol of India's movie industry--to Agra and its magnificent Taj Mahal, Ram's adventures taught him many lessons on loss, love, deceit, kindness, injustice and guilt. The stories behind each answer reads like something O. Henry or de Maupassant might write, the twists taking you by surprise. I love how Ram remains steadfastly decent and conscientious, and yet practical, throughout the story, from its harrowing beginning to the satisfying conclusion.(less)
I admit it's the mention of Pulitzer that drew me in first. But then I started reading, and I was hooked, by Maggie at first, and then by the story it...moreI admit it's the mention of Pulitzer that drew me in first. But then I started reading, and I was hooked, by Maggie at first, and then by the story itself, the way it unfolds in Maggie's vivid storytelling, the sensual details and the deceptively light, easy bantering between the characters. There is something compulsively well-rounded about Anne Tyler's characters, from Maggie herself, to Ira Moran, Serena, Fiona, and Jesse. Even characters with only brief appearances, like Durwood, and Mr Otis--the old black man Maggie and Ira met on their way to see Fiona--and Mr Gabriel--Maggie's one time crush--came to life in the most satisfying way. And I like the ending. There is something sad, and yet brave and hardy in the way Maggie and Ira ended that convoluted, mentally-exhausting day. (less)
I have heard a lot of this book, and seen it practically everywhere, from upscale bookstores to book hawkers who spread their wares on the sidewalk or...moreI have heard a lot of this book, and seen it practically everywhere, from upscale bookstores to book hawkers who spread their wares on the sidewalk or on bridges leading to the Transjakarta bus stops. From the first time I heard about this book, on the Kick Andy showon MetroTV, I had been pretty intrigued by the background story: that of ten students in the sadly familiar rundown backwater school, and their dedidated, memorable teacher, Ms. Muslimah. The book has certainly created quite a powerful ripple in the Indonesian literature, as the closely-spaced re-printings testify, and Andrea Hirata, the author has certainly risen to the status of a more sophisticated sort of celebrity. Recently there are even talks of adapting the story into a film.
But I've only read the book last Saturday. Started it around 1 PM, finished it around 9 PM on the same day. But don't let the time I spent on it mislead you; the book is anything but lightweight. Refreshingly enough, despite some narrative constructs that are recognizably derived from English, and even whole sentences in English, plus a sprinkling of Latin names for plants and animals alongside their local names, the book is otherwise written in rich and lucid Bahasa Indonesia with a strong Malay note in the dialogs, as well as place and object names. It gives a delightful reminder of the Malay influence in the early phases of Indonesian literature. The poetic place and object names, especially, can be downright mesmeric, just like the mentions of wild plant species in Richard Adams 'Watership Down'.
But beyond the language itself, I think it's Andrea's own brand of vivid, lucid, and concise storytelling that gives this book it's powerful charm. He describes scenes, people, places, from the smelly, chaotic market to the exquisite hand of a mysterious beauty with an eye for dramatic details and evocative language. In his words, Belitung the small island grows into a place of almost magical nature, peopled with the likes of Tuk Bayan Tula, the legendary shaman, and beasts like gargantuan crocodiles and snakes. Moreover, he has a way of tugging the readers' heartstrings with the sincerity of his anger, his sadness, his excitement, and wonder. A definitely Indonesian-flavored cross between Gerald Durrell's quirky characters and vivid settings in 'My Family and Other Animals' and the pathosand hilarity of Frank McCourt's 'Angela's Ashes', I highly recommend this book. (less)
This book was recommended to me by a friend after I sent her a couple of recipes touted as the surest way to win any guy's heart. And indeed the book...moreThis book was recommended to me by a friend after I sent her a couple of recipes touted as the surest way to win any guy's heart. And indeed the book is full of references to Mexican cooking; every chapter is preceded by a recipe.
I think my most memorable impression of this book is the way it sticks to hard realism one moment and strays into the realm of fantasy the next. It left me lurching trying to adjust my perception, until I finally gave up attempting to fit it into either realism or fantasy and simply enjoyed the story as it rolls with joyful abandon through a wedding banquet tainted with a maiden's tears that make every guest cry for each and every heartbreak; a chicken dish that makes a girl so hot she runs outside to have a shower, creating such a powerful rose-scented steam that compels a passing guerilla to snatch her away naked...
While this book is not exactly my cup of tea, I still think it's a delightful, flavorsome introduction not only to magical realism, but also to the more exotic kinds of Mexican cuisine. (less)