Daily Archives: March 18, 2012

Book Review: The To-Let House by Daisy Hasan

Title: The To-Let House
Author: Daisy Hasan
Publisher: Tara Books
ISBN: 978-81-906756-5-9
Genre: :Literary Fiction
Pages: 227
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When you talk about a region that no one speaks about, there is enough excitement held within the pages of the book, to sustain the readers’ interest. That is what happens when you read, “The To-Let House” by Daisy Hasan. Written without any sugar-coating, this book comes from a place that is surreal and at the same time haunting.

The To-Let House is a story of four individuals and their lives. It may seem a mundane, run-of-the-mill plot, however it is not. The story is set in the city of Shillong, in the North-East, an almost forgotten territory for most writers. I have yet to come across more books set in this area and sadly there aren’t many there.

Back to the book, The To-Let House is not an easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. The story kept racing between the past and the present and took some time for me to get hold of it, however once I did, it was a read like no other. One cannot imagine that this is the author’s first book. The book is about childhood memories and how much do we hold close and how much do we let go of. As the children enter adolescence, their friendships and lives are taken to different levels – their reactions, their opinions and also the territory’s violent background, which shapes them as people.

The writing is visibly dark and dense and yet hopeful. It leaves you with a sense of connection with the characters – Di, Clemmie, Kulay and Addy. Their worlds, their stories and their lives are at the core of the book – what they think and how they make sense of where they live and that’s when you realize that it is not the house at the core, but people. The book will lead you in and charm you and make you forget the world as quickly as you can. Read and enjoy it. It is one of the books that will get you thinking and not stop.

Buy it from here: https://www.tarabooks.com/books/?product_search=the+to-let+house

Book Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norrmal? by Jeanette Winterson

Title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0-224-09345-3
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction
Pages: 230
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We think we know life and what it has in store for us. We like to predict. We feel safe in its outcome. We pattern it for ourselves and intend to stick to the pattern. And then there are some for who life doesn’t quite work out that way and they then chronicle stories we read and want more. Jeanette Winterson is one such writer, who I admire a lot and she has grown to be my favourite writer ever since I can remember. I vividly recall the first time I read, “Written on the Body” and re-read it several times, because I wanted to feel alive and it helped me feel that way. It is one of those books I will never ever forget. It had an impact and continues to.

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” was a question posed by Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive mother, when at sixteen Jeanette decided to leave home and study, and more so to be with her girlfriend, that her adoptive mother disapproved of. The title of her autobiography is the same.

I started reading this book two days ago and I have been taken on a rollercoaster ride with it. From Jeanette’s adoptive process to the conditions in which she was brought up – yearning for love, deprived of books (and reading them on the sly), left outside on the porch for doing or saying something inappropriate and not been given a chance to live to the freedom she snatched with both hands on leaving home, this book makes you wonder. A lot actually. About what home means and the sense of longing that prevails throughout life if you haven’t felt at home. The book towards the last few chapters also talks about Jeanette’s search of her real parents and the emotional ride through it all.

The fact that Mrs. Winterson (the foster mother), a woman of alarming eccentricity and neglectful cruelty believes that Jeanette was a child to whose crib Mrs. Winterson was led by the Devil and not God is enough to give the reader an inkling of the author’s growing years. Mrs. Winterson dreamed of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming, which Jeanette used as material for her first book, “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” beautifully. And then there were small joys – of the beach holiday she took with her parents, the kindness of the local librarian and of her English teacher Mrs. Ratlow, who took her in when she was left out, make you think about life and its adversities and the power of words that can make everything alright.

I could connect to this book on so many levels – from the time Ms. Winterson talks about books to love (about wanting to be love and not knowing how to love) to the confusion in her head to the clarity, I was enthralled by this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I will definitely go back to it again. Sink in its words. That’s the only way to love a book. Read it again. Read it the first time.

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Book Review: The Birthplace by Henry James

Title: The Birthplace
Author: Henry James
Publisher: Hesperus Press
ISBN: 978-1-84391-207-1
Genre: Classics, Literary Fiction
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

If there is one novelist whose entire body of work I am eager to read, it would but definitely have to be Henry James. Henry James as a writer is something else and I feel his works are either loved or hated. You cannot be in-between when it comes to Mr. James’ writing. Either you like it or you do not.

Henry James wrote of an era and time when manners were the key to discriminating in societies and classes. He wrote making fun of the culture and as one would say, provided the much needed, “black comedy”. His writing was unlike any of his contemporaries and maybe that’s why it turned out to be this different and sometimes difficult to read. Not everyone can get used to his style – the sometimes so called big choice of words and then others simply told with the much needed twist can be quite a challenging task for a reader.

In the two short stories in this book, “The Birthplace”, one can clearly see James’ style shining through. The title story is of a family moving in to the birthplace of their nation’s literary hero to become live-in guardians of a house, which reveals itself to be sinister in more than one way, thus diminishing their view and opinion of everything around them.

The story had the sinister feel to it for sure and more than that it had reactions from every character in the story that added to its presence. The second story, “The Private Life”, one of James’ lesser known works centers around the importance of an author in the literary grand scheme of things keeping in mind literary criticism and arts in general.

I think the second story must have been very close to Henry James’ heart given the context and the way it is written. Also it is my favourite now after, “The Spoils of Poynton”, which I think is his best work (but that’s just my opinion). Read Henry James if you haven’t read him before. He has a way with words like no other and an author you will not regret reading.


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