Tag Archives: adolescence

387 Short Stories: Day 85: Story 85: The Jungle by Elizabeth Bowen

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen Title: The Jungle
Author: Elizabeth Bowen
Taken from: The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen is one of those writers who grow on you. It has been years since I have been reading her. She is almost a friend now. One of those best friends, I can safely say and no matter how dark her writing can get, I somehow find it comforting and seek refuge in it, all the time.

Today was one of those days and her book was right beside me. So I turned to a page and it happened to be “The Jungle”. This story is rather unique according to me. It speaks of adolescence – of friendship and at the same time, there is this understated tragedy at the heart of it. It is about teenage girls and the plot behind the school, they refer to as “the jungle”.

The story is striking and will appeal to people of all ages and perhaps also remind you of your teenage years. Bowen is not sugar coating anything. She talks about everything under the sun – relationships, sexuality and the conditions that surround them. A read not to be missed.

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Book Review: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House by Denton Welch

Apple and Drops of rain Title: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House
Author: Denton Welch
Publisher: Exact Change
ISBN:
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages:
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House” by Denton Welch is one of those books which you need to have time to reread the minute after you have finished reading it. It is one of those books that demands to be reread, I think. It rather compels you to reread it. Some books have that effect on people and those books are few and far in-between. This is one of them. I discovered this book through The Novel Cure Reading Challenge and I cannot thank Susan and Ella enough for including this in their book.

The book while about adolescence and growing-up is also sometimes a meditation on the world around us – on how we choose to see and behave in it and how it really is. To be very honest, it is but alone the descriptions that make this book what it is – a classic. Welch takes the ordinary and creates something extraordinary out of it. A simple scene becomes magical and the reader is in for a treat. There are very few writers who are able to manage that.

“In Youth is Pleasure” is definitely about coming of age, however it is also about life and all that it has to offer and doesn’t. Orville Pym is a character like none other than I have come across in fiction in recent times. It is a story of his one summer and how it changes him and the way he sees things and people. Pym is full of despair and yet there are moments that redeem him quite suddenly. As a reader, I did have a tough time sometimes reading this book, however it was only initially. Later, it was a breeze.

Most people have not heard of this gem of a book and that needs to change for sure. It is a book that needs to be cherished and savoured like fine wine. I will also go so far and say that it is a book which you will never forget after having read it.

Next Up on the Challenge: Cure for Adoption: Run by Ann Patchett

Book Review: Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore Title: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
Author: Lorrie Moore
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571268559
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 148
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

So I read The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, a cure for adolescence as per The Novel Cure. There was another book waiting for me to be devoured – for the same ailment and that was also recommended by them. It is, “Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” by Lorrie Moore. Let me tell you one thing here: If you think that Salinger had all answers to angst and adolescence, then you must read this small gem by Lorrie Moore, to really get into the skin of what it is to be young and the memory of it as it surfaces after a period of time.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital is a bittersweet tale about growing up. It is not written in the linear format and that is one of the things, which I loved about the book. It does not sentimentalize teenage or adulthood. Moore has this uncanny ability to show things for what they are. If the characters are hurt, then the reader must feel it. If they are happy, the readers must rejoice in their moments. I also firmly believe after reading this book, that every reader who wants to read a book on teenage must start with this one.

The book is about two friends – living in small-town America, in a place called Horsehearts – somewhere on the border between Canada and the US. The friends are Berie and Sil and the story is narrated by Berie. The story moves between Paris, where Berie is with her husband and going through a tough time in her relationship, to the time she was fifteen and life changed drastically for her and her best-friend Sil. The book shifts narratives and that is what keeps the reader going. The themes of adolescence and the angst with it are touched on brilliantly.

“Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” is sensitive and yet restrained. Moore does a fascinating job of describing the ordinary with details and grace that are nowhere close to being ordinary. Growing-up and in contrast adulthood are dealt with delicately, without overstepping on any one aspect. The characters shine through the entire book. There is not a single line or situation which should not have been a part of the book. Thank God, I got to know of this book through The Novel Cure and read it as a part of the challenge. A read for everyone who wants to read more about adolescence and be cured.

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Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780241950425
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I think some books just remain, no matter when you read them. It doesn’t matter. They are beyond time perhaps. For me, The Catcher in the Rye is one such book. I have heard a lot of people say a lot of things, about it, however to me it still remains special. Why, you ask? Maybe because I read it at sixteen. Maybe because I read it when I was away from my family – the plot had some perspective I think. I didn’t want to be Holden, but certainly thoughts drifted in the manner he thought. J.D. Salinger knew what he was doing I think while writing this novel. What he didn’t know was the reaction or strings of actions would be created by this book.

Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon and had The Catcher in the Rye in his hand. John Hinckley Jr. attempted an assassination on Ronald Reagan in 1981 and one of the books owned by him was the one written by Salinger. There are several movie and television references to the novel as well. What is it about this book that evokes such reactions? Why? To my sixteen-year old mind, unwell and in bed, it was just another novel lent to me by my uncle and I had to read it. I read it. I loved it and that was it.

The Catcher in the Rye is not just another novel then. It is the voice of several generations of teenagers in the sense of the world. It is the world of angst and no sense of direction. Or maybe it is the voice of intellectualizing everything or trivializing it all. Holden Caulfield is more than an icon. He is someone who is trying to make sense of his life and life around him. It might appear to be as simple as this, when it is not or may be it is. He encounters people – different people as he takes off from his fancy school Pencey Prep and takes on his journey in New York City. This is where it all begins or almost.

The book was banned in most schools in the US of A. It is because of its vulgar language, which honestly I did not have a problem with then or now. To me the writing is just surreal, even after rereading it after fourteen years. It just manages to evoke the same sentiments in me and that is why I call it timeless. It talks about adolescence and its struggle like no other book. The Catcher in the Rye in that sense of the word is truly a classic and will be for years to come. I am glad I reread it. Thanks to my The Novel Cure Reading Challenge. It is guaranteed to cure angst of adolescence.

Next Up in the Challenge: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

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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: Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Title: Pigeon English
Author: Stephen Kelman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-1-4088-1063-7
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 288 pages
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Pigeon English is narrated by Harrison Opoku, an eleven-year-old who has recently moved from Ghana to a high rise flat in inner city London. When a boy is stabbed near his home Harri teams up with CSI fan and friend Dean to try and solve the murder. He’s also busy trying to fit in and learn the street smarts necessary to survive while showing a more innocent side, caring for a pigeon that appears on his family’s balcony.

Harri is fond of showing that he’s learning the rules, creating lists to demonstrate he knows what’s what, and desperately wants to be part of the in-crowd, turning his cheap trainers into Adidas lookalikes with a marker pen and talking the talk. The vocab he uses is spot on, reading the book was like listening to my teen step-daughter. However while he is fully aware of the gang activity going on around him and the dangers it presents he is still quite naive and too willing to believe everything he is told.

This really is a book of contrasts. While he has is being pulled into a very grown-up world he is still a child. A couple of phrases that appear repeatedly are that something was the funniest thing he ever saw, or that he’d bet a million pounds on x or y. It comes across as typical, childish exaggeration. While he is doing tasks to be accepted into the Dell Farm Crew, the local gang, he is also concerned for the pigeon he adopts and joins in superstitions like avoiding the cracks on the pavement to make sure something good happens.

Harri’s family has been split, with his mother bringing him and his older sister Lydia to the UK, while his father and grandmother remain in Ghana with his baby sister. Harri dotes on his baby sister and is looking forward to them all being reunited. While his mother apparently brought her family over on a legitimate visa Auntie Sonia has less regard for the legalities required. Her boyfriend is a thug, but while Harri seems aware of what use he puts his baseball bat to it doesn’t look to bother him. Unfortunately while Harri has plenty of hope he doesn’t have enough fear and his forays into the bad wide world are threatening the safe home his mother has tried to establish for the family. Hearing some stories about life back in Ghana serves to further highlight the differences in the places and the communities.

I found Harri a very sweet character, a good kid who has been dropped into a threatening environment but still trying (mostly) to do the right thing. I was rooting for him and Lydia, who has found herself a poor example of a best friend, to get a happy ending. The parts narrated by the pigeon made for an interesting diversion, and its pieces were both funny, sweet and thoughtful, although in some places I did have to work to see how it fitted into the plot. It makes for a good picture of how life might be for a recent immigrant in a big and, initially, completely alien city.

Book Review: Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown

Title: Glasshopper
Author: Isabel Ashdown
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9780954930974
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 344 Pages
Price: £7.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This story of family life is told in two threads – both told in the first person. The threads alternate between Jake (the middle son) and Mary, Jake’s mother. Mary’s thread allows us a brief look into her childhood/teens which helps in understanding her descent into alcoholism. We also get to read her perception alongside the similar timeline as Jake’s. This might sound confusing and you may have read other stories that are written this way and not enjoyed them. Don’t let that put you off though as the two running side by side are crafted so skilfully that it makes perfect sense and adds to the magic.

At first I was a bit bewildered by the prologue and had it in the back of mind as the story unfolded. I have to say, the way it is a part of the story is also very skilfully done. It clicked for me straight away and because I couldn’t quite believe it, didn’t want it to be there – I read that part of the story again. A bit like Jake wondering if he had been dreaming! I was hoping for something different of course. The characters became `real’ for me – I only wanted the best for them all.

Jake, especially, is a wonderful character: with his love of Greek mythology; his work at the corner shop and relationship with its owner; how he tries to fill the parental role in the family when his father moves out; and, perhaps most importantly, how he tries to rationalise events in his family’s life. I felt it was good that his story is counter-balanced by letting the reader also hear Mary and her version of events. Otherwise, it could have been all too easy to demonise her. However, as her background and story is revealed, it becomes clearer why she has turned into the woman she has and, while she becomes not necessarily a character we can sympathise with, at least one that we can understand.

The characters were well-defined and this includes those on the periphery. Mr Horrocks who owns the local shop is exactly as you would imagine him to be as are all the other people who make up this brilliant story.

Glasshopper is the kind of novel that stays with you, or rather the characters and their little quirks do. Adolescent Jake is very vivid and seeing the story unfold through his eyes parallel to his mum Mary’s story works very well. The pain of growing up is captured beautifully in both cases.

What I really like is that Isabel Ashdown has managed to keep a lot of family secrets buried under the surface, and yet those secrets are what drives me as a reader forward. Nothing is ever spelt out; events are implied and it’s satisfying to work things out for yourself. The end is totally unexpected and lifts the story.

You can purchase the book here on Flipkart

You can also read more about the book here Myriad Editions