Daily Archives: April 14, 2012

Book Review: Cloudland by Joseph Olshan

Title: Cloudland
Author: Joseph Olshan
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-1-250-00017-0
Genre: Crime
Pages: 294
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Give me a good crime novel any day! The thing about crime novels is that one does not have to think too hard. Yes, the reader is involved all the time trying to solve the crime, but that is where the thinking ends. To a large extent that’s what crime readers want – the idea that they are involved and also that it does not compel them to think so much.

“Cloudland” by Joseph Olshan is one such book. It is but obviously a crime novel and a great one at that. Once having been a major reporter for a national newspaper, Catherine Winslow has retreated to the Upper Valley of Vermont to write a house-hold hints column. Her life is smooth sailing till one fine day; she discovers the dead body of a woman thawing in the snow, leaning against an apple tree, dressed in a pink parka. Catherine recognizes the woman as a victim of a serial-killing spree who was reportedly missing since a couple of weeks in a blizzard.

She further gets embroiled in the case, when she discovers her neighbour – a forensic psychiatrist is working on it. The mystery gets further intense when she realizes that the serial killer is taking his/her tips of a rare and unfinished Wilkie Collins novel, which is missing from her personal library. To add to this drama, Catherine’s ex-younger lover surfaces, wanting to win her affections and has a mean glint about him.

This is the basic premise of the story. There are more layers to it, which I cannot reveal as it would then kill the fun of reading this book. The book is also complicated but in a nice way (yes that is possible). What I liked about the book is that the book is not just about mystery – it is also about fascinating characters and some side-stories. The plot gradually builds up and I can safely say it is one of the edge-of-the-seat thrillers. The writing is crisp and once in a while it is great to sit with a tub of popcorn and enjoy a thriller.

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Book Review: Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin

Title: Please Look after Mother
Author: Kyung-Sook Shin
Publisher: Orion Books, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 978-0-7538-2907-3
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 261
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Have you ever wondered what would it be like if your mother disappeared one fine day? What would you go through if you were unable to locate her? What would you go through knowing that your mother has disappeared for good?
“Please Look after Mother” by Kyung-Sook Shin is about a mother’s disappearance and written with great empathy and emotion. The mother has disappeared in a crowded Seoul subway station, where she and her husband of 50 years are about to board a train to get to their oldest son’s house. Her disappearance devastates the people left behind.

The story is told from different points of view: her oldest daughter Chi-hon, a writer, her oldest son, Hyung-chol, who disappointed her and feels guilty about it throughout, her husband who is an adulterer, her second son, and last of all her, Mom. Slowly and steadily as the reader makes way through the book, facets of Mom emerge, none of which were known earlier by her family.

For instance, when the daughter’s point of view is being narrated and she finds her mother thinking about her brother, it hits her that even her mother is a sister and daughter to someone before being her mother.

The story will strike a chord in you somewhere. It made me feel the kind of attention may be sometimes I need to give my mother. Kyung-Sook Shin writes with clarity, which is only heart-felt. The relationships are complex (and sometimes you wonder whether is it the same in your family?) and the interaction between family members is restrained (which is the point of the story).

The Korean culture shines throughout the book – the way they live, the traditions and rituals, which to a large extent make the book what it is. The book is a universal story of love and loss, guilt and redemption and the things we do and sometimes we don’t for love. I like how each character in the book was fragile in his or her way and what “family” and “mother” meant to each of them.

Please Look after Mother is a distinct voice in literature and deserves to be read. Kyung-Sook Shin who has been recognized much later (MAN Asian Literary Prize for 2011) only deserves all the accolades for this book and her writing, which makes the reader, feel vulnerable and bare. The book is universal and that is what works best to its advantage. Anyone and everyone can relate to this one. A must read.

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