Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Dream Book Shelf

Most of us have a dream home - I have a dream book shelf. The shelf would be of rich solid dark wood,which would cover one side of the wall of the study room. There would be enough room for each book and each section to standout and to breathe. Needless to say, apart from the books and probably a chair or two to sit in and read, the room wouldn't have anything else. Something like this:

Obviously, the books will be categorized and organized into the following:

Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind
Nora Roberts: All of hers

Thrillers-Nail Biting:
Sidney Sheldon: Tell Me your Dreams, If Tomorrow Comes, The Stars Shine Down
Michael Crichton: The Lost World
Stieg Larsson: Millenium Series
Arthur Hailey: Detective, Runway zero-eight

Thrillers - Languine and Intelligent:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes 
Edgar Allan Poe: Any of his
Agatha Christie: Hercule poirot series
Oscar Wilde: THe Picture of Dorian Gray

Fantasy Fiction:
Tolkien: LOTR Series
R.R.Martin: Game of Throne Series
J.K.Rowling: Harry Potter Series

Mythology/Historical Fiction:
Chitra Bannerjee Devakaruni: A Palace of Illusions
Amish Tripathi: Shiva Trilogy
Devdutt Patnaik: Sita
Christian Jacq: The TutanKhamun Affair
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace

Beauty of written word:
Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas

Love for details:
Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin and Alias Grace
Arthur Hailey: Hotel, Airport,  MoneyChangers, Wheels
Robin Cook: Any of his, especially Brain

Re-living childhood:
Enid Blyton: Famous Five Series
Enid Blyton: The Six Cousins

Shed a Tear or Two:
Daphne De Maurier: Rebecca and The Hungry Hill
Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance
Khaled Hosseini: The Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed

Witty reads:
John Irving: The World According to Garp
Ken Kesey: One flew over the cuckoo's nest
Nora Roberts: Any of hers would do.
Santosh Desai: Mother Pious Lady
Steve Toltz: Fraction of the Whole
Bill Watterson: Calvin & Hobbes

I have read all of the above books more than once, and still can't get enough of them. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

I haven't written a book review in a year, and ever since I read this book, I knew I wanted to re-start writing with this.
I wrote multiple versions of the review, and deleting all of them, since
  • Hosseini is my favorite author.
  • No words can do justice to his writing.

Here is my attempt to at least chronicle the experience of reading one of his works.
And the Mountains Echoed
First Published in: 2013
The third book by Khaled Hosseini is set in Afganistan, and revolves around the story of a brother-sister duo, which later branches out to introduce multiple characters of the plot.

Simple-Wordy, Serious

Fiction, Drama


No Profanity at all.

Favorite Quote:
Kabul is a thousand tragedies per square mile.

The book starts with a father telling their children a fairy tale. While one would expect a "and they lived happily ever after' at the end of it, being Hosseini's work, this tale moved me to tears, and set the mood for the rest of the book..

The essential core of the story is the relationship between Abdullah and Pari, where the latter is sold off to a rich and childless couple Mr.Wahdati and Nila, through the siblings’ uncle, Nabi. The parting of the siblings, while not described in detail, is explained by their step-mother, Parwana, in just a few words:
“It had to be her. I am sorry, Abdullah. She had to be the one.” The finger cut, to save the hand.
Worse yet is how the story pans out. While Abdullah, the doting brother, does not have it in his capacity to forget her, Pari, quickly moves on owing to her age and a new exciting life. For her, Abdullah is a dim memory, which would strike her again in full force in her old age.

Hosseini takes periodic diversions to include the fringe characters (which don't seem like fringe once you are done with the chapter, at least until one starts reading the next one). Thus, we get to know about their mother Parwana, and her insecurities with her sister Masooma; the insecurity with started during birth:
(Masooma) was merrily passed around, from cousin to aunt to uncle. Bounced on this lap, balanced on that knee. Many hands tickled her soft belly. Many noses rubbed against hers. They rocked with laughter when she playfully grabbed Mullah Shekib’s beard. They marveled at her easy, sociable demeanor. They lifted her up and admired the pink flush of her cheeks, her sapphire blue eyes, the graceful curve of her brow, harbingers of the startling beauty that would mark her in a few years’ time. As Masooma performed, Parwana watched quietly as though slightly bewildered, the one member of an otherwise adoring audience who didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Every now and then, her mother looked down at her, and reached to squeeze her tiny foot softly, almost apologetically.

The insecurity, in time, had ghastly consequences – the events penned down in such a way that you end up feeling sorry for both of them, and their loss of innocence.

We are mystified over Mr.Wahdati's marriage with Nila (Pari's adoptive parents), until we understand the meaning of Nila’s mysterious statement: "It was always you Nabi".

We find out about Mr.Wahdati's neighbours Idris and TImur and their visit to Afganistan where they meet Roshi, a victim of a bad accident. While we believe one to be worse over the other for his show of exhibitionism, we are made to realise that it is this poorly judged character that actually ends up doing a good deed. The concerned one, who starts making excuses for his lack of inaction justifies it such: 
Roshi has become something abstract to him, like a character in a play. Their connection has frayed. The unexpected intimacy he had stumbled upon in that hospital, so urgent and acute, has eroded into something dull. The experience has lost its power. He recognizes the fierce determination that had seized him for what it really was, an illusion, a mirage. He had fallen under the influence of something like a drug. The distance between him and the girl feels vast now. It feels infinite, insurmountable, and his promise to her misguided, a reckless mistake, a terrible misreading of the measures of his own powers and will and character. Something best forgotten. He isn’t capable of it. It is that simple. 

Not to be left behind, we are given a glimpse of life in the siblings' village, through the eyes of the Adel, son of a wealthy landlord who attains the lands through unethical means, and how Adel ends up adjusting to the truth.
The part of him that over time would gradually, almost imperceptibly, accept this new identity that at present prickled like a wet wool sweater. Adel saw that, in the end, he would probably accept things as his mother had. Adel had been angry with her at first; he was more forgiving now. Perhaps she had accepted out of fear of her husband. Or as a bargain for the life of luxury she led. Mostly, Adel suspected, she had accepted for the same reason he would: because she had to. What choice was there?

Hosseini has used different forms of narratives in this book. There is first and third person narrative, letter-writing and interviews to bring the pieces of the puzzle together. The novel is completely different from his previous two due to the broader focus. While The Kite Runner was essentially about children and The Thousand Splendid Suns, about Women in Afganistan, And The Mountains Echoed lacks a central character theme. It could have been set up in any country in any part of the world. There are stories of every character, which, though tied together by some common threads, could make for an independent reading as well.

None of this dilutes the fact that it is impossible to read the book without getting emotional, at one story or another. And that like his previous books, you can never get your mind off it, even months after reading it.

It would be a cardinal sin for anyone to not read it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 15 Book-ish Moments

The simplest of  books can pack a very impactful moment or two. While the book as a whole may have been forgotten (or moth eaten), a single line, para or scene remains etched in our memories forever. 

My personal top 15 such scenes include:
1. Gone with the wind: 
Scarlett O'Hara tearing the curtain to make her dress.
In the very first scene, Scarlett sitting with the twins in the sunlight.

2. Rebecca:
Maxim patting his wife's head absent-mindedly (like one would pat a puppy).

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns: 
The ceasarean birth of the protaganist's son without an Anaesthetic

4. Kite Runner:
The protaganist finally finding the boy in ghonngroo n dancing.

5. And The Mountains echoed: 
The separation of the brother and the sister.
The final scene - Alzheimer's is my worst fear, second only to paralysis.

6. The Lord Of The Rings: 
Legolas seeing the Balrog for the first time ("Ui! Ui! A Balrog!").
The Ent's song.

7. Game of Thrones:
Jaime's multiple utterances of "Things I do for love", each having a different context and meaning.
The death of Tywin Lannister.
Cersei's walk of shame, and the final scene between Petyr, Sansa and Lysa in Ice & Fire

8. Tell me your dreams:
The realisation by the investigators that that all the three are actually... the same. 

9. The Satanic verses:
Eating the fish - bones and all.
The "Taka Tun Taka Tun" Song by Gabriel as he falls.

10.A Fine Balance:
The worm in the stomach, it's extradition and the final weight gain. (For a long time, I believed I had the same issue)

11. The Picture of Dorian Grey:
The disposal of the body so that no trace of it remained - I thought it was a creative leap by the author, until "Breaking Bad" happened.

12. Twilight:
The first time Bella saw Edward - Nowhere close to my love story, but in a parallel world, I can imagine being that smitten by Ashwin since he is like the epitome of my dream man.

13. One hundred years of solitude:
The trail of blood - Such a fantastical (and creepy) notion.

14. The Six Cousins:
Rodderick's shoe cleaning obsession - I have a similar obsession, so can imagine why Roddy enjoyed it so much!

15. The world according to Garp:
The car accident - I just couldn't get over it, close second to the Thousand Splendid Suns scene which gave me a lot of sleepless nights.

Are there any that stand out in your memory?