Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

daytripper-by-fabio-moon-and-gabriel-ba Title: Daytripper
Author: Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Vertigo
ISBN: 978-1401229696
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are graphic novels that are those which you read and forget after a couple of months, till you go back to them. Then there are those which you read and you don’t need going back to them – because they never left you. “Daytripper” by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá is one such graphic novel. I could go on, and praise it eloquent but that’s not the point of this review (well it is to some extent). The point is that very few novels or graphic novels change you or move you and this is one of them.

“Daytripper” is one of those graphic novels that could have gotten preachy but did not. It could have also gotten sentimental and quite overwhelming but it does not. It is tender and brutal at the same time – and doesn’t lose the overall plot. Maybe because it hits home so bad and so hard that you also want to just take off – for a month or two and ask yourself this one basic, simple and haunting question: How do you plan to spend the rest of your days?

This question is the essence of this book – well at least, according to me. The book tells the story of Brás de Oliva Domingos and does so in a fractured, disjointed fashion. Time bends, narratives are scattered, nothing is what it seems and we meet Brás at various major events of his life – we meet him first when he is thirty-two and going to see his father, a famous novelist receive a lifetime achievement award. We then meet him when he is twenty-one and seeking the world. We encounter him when he is eleven and then at forty something and then at seventy six – you get the drift I suppose. I must also add here that the protagonist is an obituary writer. The obits, his life, and different times that the reader is exposed to or given a peek into are brilliantly conjured and written.

What is this book about you might ask? It is a book of missed opportunities, of second chances, of life taking its own course and you having no control over it – that’s what it is about. The Brazilian twins have done a fantastic job of storytelling and pushing the story forward, and connecting all pieces, which is imperative in a graphic novel of such magnitude. I love this book beyond love I think. It encompasses every emotion – love, friendship, envy, gratitude, heartbreak, loss and above all to look inside you and actually figure out what is it all about after all.

“Daytripper” is one of those graphic novels that make you sit back and question all of it – at least in my case and that is what a good book should do. I would strongly urge everyone to go out there, pick up this brilliant graphic novel, read it, be immersed, be overwhelmed and feel the irresistible need to go and discuss it with anyone else who has read it.

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Faster, Smarter, Higher: Managing your Career by Utkarsh Rai

faster-smarter-higher-by-utkarsh-rai Title: Faster, Smarter, Higher: Managing your Career
Author: Utkarsh Rai
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
ISBN: 978-8129137500
Genre: Business
Pages: 199
Source: Publisher

Faster Smarter Higher: Managing your Career by Utkarsh Rai is the kind of book that of course you can race through but the idea is that you don’t. It is a book about managing your career after all and might I add that it isn’t one bit preachy. Thank God for that!
I am not the sort who reads business books or books such as these. However, this one caught my fancy and I am glad that I read it.

The book explores career and its paths not just by the virtue of hard work but more. What’s that more you ask? Is it something I possess? Is it something that is there in me? Oh yeah, sure it is, but it is all about finding that sweet spot to hone those skills – most importantly – managing key relationships at work, which is what this book is about.

“Faster Smarter Higher” is a go-to guide to what to actually do at work when it comes to interpersonal skills and how those skills will propel you forward on the ladder of success. At the same time, it is very lucid and structured. The book doesn’t confuse you and lets you think for yourself. What’s great is that there also insights from 51 business leaders on the same topic/s.

Utkarsh’s writing is easy and not complex. More than that it isn’t repetitive which it could have been given the topic. I liked the book overall. It was insightful in most places and did not seem rushed at all. A quick read but the one that you will keep thinking of a lot, because well, it has to do with your career after all.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain Title: The Gustav Sonata
Author: Rose Tremain
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1784740047
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I don’t know how to begin this review. I will try. I will try to express what I feel – because what I feel about this book cannot really be put in words. “The Gustav Sonata” is one of those books that you keep coming back to after you have finished reading it. Not entirely, but in bits and pieces – to comprehend not the story but just to know that life works mysteriously sometimes and you cannot do much about it but live it for what it is.

I picked up this book on a whim. It was just one of those days when I entered Wayword and Wise and knew that I had to pick this one up. It was there – begging for my attention. When a book does that, you know you will love it, no matter what.

The book is set in a small town in Switzerland. World War II has ended but the effects remain, though not as much in this town. Gustav Perle grows up in this town and is certain of only one thing: He loves his mother who on the other hand is cool and distant with her son, never loving him, never showing him how she feels. Gustav’s only friend is the music prodigy Anton whom he adores. Anton just takes Gustav for granted since kids and well into adulthood. The story starts when they are children in 1947 and ends in 2002 when they are sixty, covering a gamut of explorations, emotions and what it means to be human.

The book is not only about their friendship, or about Gustav’s dead father or just the past and how it impacts the present and the future, but also about coming to terms with life and living it in its full glory or not. It is about a country that chose to be neutral and the impact that had on its citizens.

“The Gustav Sonata” is a big book with a big heart. It is delicate, sensible and asks the bigger questions of loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak and self-mastery in a way that no other book I’ve read has. It struck a chord in me in so many places. There were times I could not stop highlighting in the book – all I can say is that you must not let this year go by without reading this book. It will for sure change you in more than one way.

Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People: Edited by Tarnya Cooper

Imagined Lives - Portraits of Unknown People - Edited by Tarnya Cooper Title: Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People
Edited by Tarnya Cooper
Publisher: National Portrait Gallery Publications
ISBN: 978-1855144552
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 96
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

A picture tells a thousand words they say. We have all learnt it as we were growing up. Yet how many of us can actually make pictures talk? Do we even care about what they have to say? The National Portrait Gallery in London receives portraits on a daily basis. Sometimes there are portraits that cannot be identified and belong to a century and time long gone.

attributed to Cornelius De Neve, oil on canvas, 1627

attributed to Cornelius De Neve, oil on canvas, 1627

So this is what the gallery did. They commissioned eight contemporary authors of Britain and Ireland to weave stories around fourteen unidentified portraits. Who are these men and women? What were their life stories? What were their thoughts? The book is about the lives of these unknown sitters from a time gone by.

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, transferred to canvas, circa 1570

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, transferred to canvas, circa 1570

The stories are deliciously written. Tracy Chevalier brings to life a painting and terms it “Rosy” about a man and his affair with another man. “I am Mary Douglas” by Minette Walters is a reflection of a time to connect emotionally with. You just want more of these stories recorded in the form of short memoirs, character sketches, diary entries and just a brief page or two about the subjects. There is also a brilliant story by Terry Pratchett on one of the portraits’ subjects meeting Queen Elizabeth. To me, that was the best piece in terms of humour.

Imagined Lives - Portraits of Unknown People - Edited by Tarnya Cooper - Image 3

Each portrait is written about and analyzed in detail – not a single element is missed out on. Alexander McCall Smith for instance does a wonderful job in “False Mary” where there is a sit in for Mary Queen of Scots herself. It is delicious and so absolutely believable that you want more from where that one came. Toward the end of the book is a brilliant explanation of how these portraits came to be by the chief curator of NPG and editor of the book Tarnya Cooper, titled “Did my hero look like that?”

“Imagined Lives” is a book about lost souls. It is about life and art merged and seen individually. I just chanced on this book and took to it. The stories and the portraits are something. Definitely something worth reading and owning.

The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Girl who Chose - A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: The Girl who chose: A new way of narrating the Ramayana
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin Books, Puffin
ISBN: 9780143334637
Genre: Mythology, Children’s Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So I was a fan of Devdutt Pattanaik’s books when I first read “The Pregnant King”. It was in 2007 or 2008 I think. I remember calling him and chatting with him for hours about it. Maybe that is also one of the reasons why we turned out to be good friends. But that has got nothing to do with the review of his latest book “The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana”. I was waiting for this book since forever. Why? Because I think if you are going to tell a mythological tale for children in a different manner, then I sure would like to know about it.

“The Girl who chose” is about Sita and her five choices and how they impact Ramayana and everyone else in the story. This isn’t Devdutt’s spin or take. It is just an interpretation given what happens in Ramayana. It is about sometimes things being planned out even before you can think about them or about the choices actually that you make and its consequences.

This book is about Sita for sure, but it is also about the other central and not-so-central characters of the Ramayana. The illustrations by the author himself make the book something else. Devdutt’s illustrations are simple. They are easy to comprehend and perhaps one doesn’t even need text while deciphering them. The illustrations speak a language of their own.

I also would like to add here that there is no feminist angle in this book, so don’t be fooled by the title. It is a given that like any other human being, Sita had the power to choose and she made the choices that she did. For a children’s book it perhaps may not come across so clearly, but the understated meaning can be inferred. The tale of the Ramayana always depends on Sita – on what she does, because it is ultimately she who leads the story. No one else has that kind of power in this Indian epic.

Devdutt Pattanaik does it again – simply and with a lot of brevity. He takes on portions of the Ramayana and serves it to you in bite-sized nuggets. The footnotes with additional information only enhance the reading experience. This is a great start for children to know and understand Indian mythology. I think it is the perfect book to gift a child to expand his or her horizons about Ramayana which has been passed down from generation to generation.

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Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina Bronsky

Baba Dunja's Last Love by Alina Bronsky Title: Baba Dunja’s Last Love
Author: Alina Bronsky
Translator: Tim Mohr
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN:978-1609453336
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

In my experience, most of the time, shorter books make for some great reading experiences. What sometimes big books fail to communicate, a short book does magnificently. “Baba Dunja’s Last Love” by Alina Bronsky does just that as a gem of a small book. It just makes you sit back and take count of life in some of the most adverse situations and makes you see how far you have come and how it is all going to be okay (or at least you can hope that it will all turn out okay).

So now more about the book. Baba Dunja’s Last Love is a book that is hopeful and yet stems from despair. It is the kind of book that makes you question mankind and its treacherous ways and also redeems the very same race of man. The story is set in Baba Dunja’s home town – which a stone throw away from Chernobyl. The very same Chernobyl that was the core of the nuclear accident of 1986. Baba Dunja has nothing to go back home to but she wants to and she does.

She lives in her house and returns to her village life. She is in touch with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who live in Germany. Marja lives in the house next to her and life has an unexpected twist for her as well. Then there is Petrov who is terminally ill and spends his time reading poems. There are other twisted characters in the village and somehow all seems to be going well, till a stranger and his daughter arrives and Baba Dunja’s life is never the same.

This is just the threadbare plot that I have mentioned. There is obviously a lot going on in the book with its dark humour and wit – which you will eventually come to know if you read the book. The writing is never boring or out of place. It is not a big book either – so you can really sit back and finish it in one sitting, even though the topic might seem grim. Bronsky has this charm to her writing – mixing harsh realities with a constant dream that makes you want to hoot for the characters and hope all turns out well for them.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard Title: The Deep End of the Ocean
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670865796
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 434
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I have always been a fan of the books Oprah has recommended on her book club. It all began in 2001 I think and since then I have read some of the old ones recommended by her and some of the old ones. So I have decided to read all the books chosen by her – one after the other. What better place to start than the very beginning, isn’t it?

The beginning came in the form of a dark, depressing and quite a hopeful book called, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When you read it, you cannot believe it is her debut. It is a story of a mother and her child and about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Beth Cappadora is at her school reunion, all ready to check-in to her room, only to turn around and realize that her 3-year old son is missing. Everything changes in a split second. Her relationship with her husband, her children, her relatives, all of it – it just goes to smoke as she perpetually is in a grieving mode.

I could not turn the pages enough of this one. It had me stuck from the word go. I would also suggest that you do not watch the movie of the same book as it just does not do justice to the book. While reading the book though, I felt myself grieving with Beth – almost scared to turn the page, to want good things to happen to her and her family. Mitchard’s writing is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching that if you are a parent you wouldn’t want to even imagine what would happen if this were to happen to you.

“The Deep end of the Ocean” does not disappoint one single bit. This was another book for which I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have read it sooner. However, better late than never I guess.