All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon Title: All That Is Solid Melts into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670922703
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Disasters. What do they take in their wake? When they happen, and when they are done ruining what they have to. What really goes away from people? Maybe from communities at large. Sometimes from villages, hamlets, small cities and countries. Every time I think about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a piece of me goes out to the silent sufferers. It is the single most tragic event of the nation, which has been forgotten so easily. I got started thinking about this, just as I finished, one of the most empathic books I have read this year – “All That Is Solid Melts into Air” by Darragh McKeon – about the Chernobyl Power Plant and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” takes into account lives of people – when the incident occurred in 1986. It stays true to the disaster, but does that with the human element involved, which is what I loved about the book. It was not just another “account” of the tragedy. I am glad that I read this book. I am also saddened by it, but then I know that this will only make me want to read more about the accident.

It is 1986. The world is going by just as it should. The Soviet Government controls every part of its citizens’ lives. Everything is monitored. Nothing or no one is left alone. In a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year old piano prodigy plays along silently, because he does not want to disturb the neighbours. His aunt on the other hand makes car parts on the outskirts of the city, and trying to hide her past at the same time. A surgeon buries himself in the hospital to run away from his failing marriage. And in a rural village in Ukraine, a teenager wakes up to see the sky, the shade of deepest crimson and blood dripping from his cattle’s ears. As all of this happens, ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unbelievable is taking place.

This in short is the plot of the book. These lives are about to change and they do not even know it. The title of the book comes from the Communist Manifesto and that should say it all, shouldn’t it? The way the book is written is simply stupendous. There is no way you will go away from the book without reflecting on what happened and what perhaps is still happening in the wake of the event. The book conveys the horrors without sugar-coating anything. McKeon’s writing is raw and bloody and there is no getting away from it.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” is a book which you should not miss out reading. There is human kindness in these pages. There is sadness. There are circumstances that one cannot do much about. There is hope as well. There is also the knowing that when tragedy will strike, the possibility of humans sticking together is very high, no matter what one might think.

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Karachi You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz

Karachi You're Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz Title: Karachi You’re Killing Me
Author: Saba Imtiaz
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004601
Genre: Literary Fiction, Satire, Humour
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There are very few satirical writers left in the world, I think. Or maybe I have not heard enough of them. So when I stumble on something interesting – satirical, with a good plot and hilarious at the same time, I know that I have struck gold. For a reader, nothing is more gratifying than reading something which fulfils and satisfies at the same time. “Karachi, You’re Killing Me” is one of those books. You immediately take a liking to it and that is that.

Saba Imtiaz’s first book, “Karachi You’re Killing Me” is a romp of a read and when I say romp – I mean it in the sense of it being fast-paced, funny, tongue-in-cheek and describing the extremes of Pakistan – from the elite to the not-so elite to the middle class that hangs in the balance.

Books about Pakistan always leave me wanting to know more about the country. It is almost like the need to know how the brother country has shaped and what lies ahead of them: Is it as different? Is it that similar? As I reader, I am left clamouring for more.

At the heart of the novel is, Ayesha Khan, a single, female reporter in Karachi, who despises the elite and has no choice but to cover them for her pieces as well. Her assignments range from covering a bomb site to interviewing her boss’s niece, who is a cup-cake designer. Besides this, she has her own problems to take care of.

Imtiaz, very cleverly brings to her readers: Karachi: In all its splendour and sometimes not so. She speaks of the underbelly of Karachi and what it takes sometimes to survive in a city like this. Ayesha is almost caught between two worlds and yet is sorted in her head. She is the kind of character that takes her chances and does it without thinking twice.

The writing also is like this – almost semi-autobiographical in nature. It is most certainly not apologetic and Imtiaz says what she has to without making any bones about it. Saba Imtiaz, according to me, is one of the most promising writers to have come out of Pakistan in recent times and I for one cannot wait to read her next book.

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Patience by John Coates

Patience by John Coates Title: Patience
Author: John Coates
Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1903155899
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Another book on adultery. This time yet again from, “The Novel Cure” Reading Project. This time a book which probably very few people would have heard of, called, “Patience” by John Coates. I could not wait to get my hands on it and when I did, I waited. I tend to do that sometimes. I wait. Till I am ready for the book. Or rather the book is ready for me. “Patience” was ready for me this month and I jumped right into it.

“Patience” is about Patience – she is the protagonist, who is Catholic, and is way too familiar with the concept of Sin. She is not happy in her marriage. Edward is not the kind of husband she wants to be with. He is being unfaithful to her (We come to know of this at the beginning of the book, when her brother Lionel tells her so). He is fond of her and his family of three daughters, but would rather have a son. Until Patience decides that she has had enough. She begins to live her life on her own terms and things get pretty interesting from thereon.

The book is brilliantly written, with characters behaving the way probably you and I would in situations they are in. Patience, initially comes across as timid and naïve but according to me, as the novel progresses her true nature and the strength of character is apparent, which left me hooting for me, long after the book finished. John’s sensibilities and character portrayal is way ahead of its time. Patience is set in a time when women cannot think of living the way Patience did and to me that is commendable.

I also sometimes wondered what it would be like for a man to write a book from a woman’s perspective. Maybe it is not that difficult at all. Patience is proof of that. A book which makes you think, smile and cheer all the way. Please do not miss it.

This one was to cure Adultery from The Novel Cure Reading Challenge.

Next Up: The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt

All The Rage by A.L. Kennedy

All the Rage by A.L. Kennedy Title: All the Rage
Author: A.L. Kennedy
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224098434
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I have just started reading A.L. Kennedy’s books and I can say with guarantee that I will not stop at two. The first one I read was, “The Blue Book” which left me speechless and breathless. The second one which I have just finished reading is, “All the Rage” – a collection of short stories by her and this one according to me was better than the novel for sure. More so, because I have this soft corner for short stories.

The stories are burning with passion – and yet so subtle that the words will break your heart. There is sex, there is this all-consuming rage and then there are moments of peace and wonder. A.L. Kennedy manages to fit in everything – and the collection sure has a great punch to it as well.

The title story is about a marriage falling apart at a railway station – waiting for the train to arrive. My favourite was the story about a woman who has seemed to have lost it all and walks through the aisle of a sex emporium with an electric penis in her hand. A middle-aged woman goes into town with her older lover, who will pay her debt and then move in with her. It is beautiful. I mean the power of words which Kennedy uses here is something else. You only have to read it to believe what a writer can be capable of.

A.L. Kennedy’s stories make you sit up and perhaps make you also want to be in those situations. That is the way she writes – expecting or rather demanding the full attention of the reader – another level of involvement altogether and nothing less than that.

There are times of comedy. There are times of tragedy. It is almost the author’s style of writing is dichotomist and she takes great pride in that as well. The stories are about brief, damaged loves. In every story of the twelve that she has written – that is the underline theme. “All the Rage” is a collection that will make you look at love a little differently and maybe it will be worth it.

The World of Oliver Jeffers

How to Catch A Star

I just discovered the world of Oliver Jeffers and I can tell you with assurance that this is a world you would not want to get out of, once you get in that is. I have read eight books in the past two days – I agree that they are picture books, but they are books nonetheless and they have this immense power to transport you to another world or perhaps more than world – with their simple storytelling and illustrations.

Oliver Jeffers’ books have this touch of fantasy and reality attached to them. It is almost like he makes you see what he wants to, without letting go of the innocence element. And according to me, perhaps adults have a lot more to learn from his books – about the nature of being a child again than children themselves do.

The book I started with was, “How to Catch a Star” – an endearing tale of a boy who wants his own star by his side and guess what! He actually manages to get one. How does he do that? Well, you have to find that out for yourself. I could not stop smiling at the end of this book. This is what Jeffers’ books do to you – they make you smile and that is enough, sometimes more than enough.

Lost and Found

The second one which I lapped right after this was, “Lost and Found” – a story of an unlikely friendship between a boy and a penguin. This is about how friendships are forged in the most unlikely places and how sometimes you just have to do what you have to, to make them work. Another picture book (well with text as well) to warm the soul.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

“The Incredible Book Eating Boy” is for all readers and the non-readers as well. It is delightful. It is adorable and it is about books and a boy who eats them and what eventually happens to him. This for the most obvious reasons has to be my favourite of all the eight books.

The Heart and the Bottl The fourth and the fifth then were, “The Heart and the Bottle” and “This Moose Belongs to Me” – both uncannily about letting go and finding love in places, one did not expect to. These books mind you are for kids and that is just fantastic about them – they teach without being preachy and at the same time, your child and you (hopefully) will appreciate the illustrations and stories that Oliver has to tell.

This Moose Belong to Me

The sixth book which I read was, “Stuck” – a story about a boy and his kite which is stuck in the tree and what he does to get it back. It is hilarious, fantastical and almost a laugh-out loud book. Oliver Jeffers has this quality to him – his books can make a dull day all bright and happy and that should be reason enough to read them.

Stuck

The seventh book which was a treat was, “The Way Back Home” – self-reflective of the title, a friendship on the moon between a boy and an alien and the need to go back home for both of them and how they manage that. The universal theme of home made me yearn for my own. It was simply beautiful.

The Way Back Home

Last but not the least (he has for sure written more and I cannot wait to get my hands on all of them) was “Up and Down” – the continuation of the story of the boy and the penguin in “Lost and Found” another adorable story, well told.

Up and Down

Oliver Jeffers’ books can be read anytime – over and over again. I most certainly will. Like I said, it just warms the soul. The illustrations are just perfect and so are the stories – meant for all. It just makes you see the child within you which is so needed in times such as these.

And what I found is even better: A trailer for the movie Lost and Found. Can’t wait to watch the movie now.

Books Source: Publisher

387 Short Stories : Day 123 to Day 128

Quick update of the stories.

Here you go:

Day 123: 11th of April 2014: All the Lights by Clemens Meyer
Day 124: 12th of April 2014: The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo
Day 125: 13th of April 2014: Ships High in Transit by Binyavanga Wainaina
Day 126: 14th of April 2014: High Lonesome by Barry Hannah
Day 127: 15th of April 2014: Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz
Day 128: 16th of April 2014: The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov

Here’s to short stories. Forever.

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 9781408857144
Genre: Young Adult, Teen Romance
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

At one point, I thought that John Green could not write what he did when he wrote, “The Fault in Our Stars” or at least when I read it, I felt that way. Till I picked up, “Paper Towns” (which was published way before TFIOS) and gave it a read.

“Paper Towns” is a unique book. It is different (I hate using that word, but hey, it just somehow fits). It is special. It is about life and somehow Green manages to infuse humour in all his books (which to me is the best part of it all – saying the toughest life situations, with a pinch of salt and sugar). “Paper Towns” is bittersweet. It is everything perhaps you do not want to happen to you and yet you want it all. It has that effect on you.

Margo Roth Spiegelman is what every girl in school wants to be and every boy wants to be with. Quentin Jacobsen is her next-door neighbour who is in love with her, since he can tell. They are both at school together and Margo is known for her wild ways – to run from home and come back later, to do things that no one would expect her to do and somehow with her all is forgiven. And one night she plans one of her adventures and invites Quentin to be a part of it – it is revenge and they play it well. The next day Margo disappears and the entire school, her family and Q are left wondering, as to what happened.

She in turn has left clues for Q – so she could be found or maybe not, and this is where the story actually begins. This is the plot of “Paper Towns” in short. The writing is just what John Green is used to doing – breaking your heart and making you smile at the same time. There are levels and trails that are magnificently brought out in the writing, which perhaps makes it more than just a teenage romance. For everyone out there, who has read The Fault in Our Stars, you must read Paper Towns. You will love it more. Just like me.

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