Daily Archives: July 9, 2012

Book Review: Penguin Island by Anatole France

Title: Penguin Island
Author: Anatole France
Publisher: Enlighten Publishing
ISBN: 978-8192378206
Genre: Fiction, Satire
Pages: 234
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Penguin Island by Anatole France is a strange book so to say or that’s what I thought when I first started reading it. It is probably nothing like I have ever read before and maybe that is why I did not have a reference point to compare it with, which in a way was the best way to read this book.

So let me straight get to the plot: A monk discovers a previously unknown island. He is half-deaf and half-blind because of age. He cannot see the people clearly (or so he assumes them to be people). He wants to create a world out of this island and ends up performing a mass baptism, only to realize later that the baptism has been carried out on Penguins.

What begins is the creation of Penguin Island. They start living as humans. They develop laws, communities, dress, and ways to cohabit and procreate. They create their saints and their demons. It is almost like The History of Penguins being written by accident. The book for sure is funny, but at the root of it, it is sarcastic, satirical and mocks the times we live in. What happens at the end is quite unusual and will literally leave the reader surprised. That is the crux of the book, which I found most appealing.

The book moves through just about everything on Penguin Island – vices, scams, false accusations, politics, the usual goings-on of the so-called society. Anatole writes with a rhythm that does not leave any societal construct unmasked.
The satire bites where it is supposed to. The writing is blunt and not sugar-coated.

I only wish I knew a little more about world politics, more so Europe as this book indirectly addresses those issues. It is surprising how a book written in almost 1900’s can still be so relevant today. May be the world hasn’t moved on as fast as we have thought it to be.

I liked the writing. I liked the book. I wish that there was more meat at times, connecting the world of Penguins to the incidents that have taken place in ours, just for the overall perspective. Barring that I enjoyed reading this one. It made me think and at the same time it made me laugh out loud in most places. A great read that I will recommend but only if your sensibilities are driven in that direction.

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Book Review: Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India by Laura Pedersen

Title: Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India
Author: Laura Pedersen
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
ISBN: 978-1555916183
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
Pages: 224
Source: Book Pleasures
Rating: 4/5

I am an Indian. Born and raised in this diverse country, whose norms and ways of thinking might seem strange to an outsider or to someone who wants to know this country better. I guess that tends to happen a lot with writers who want to write about the country – about the so-called enigmatic land of varied cultures and traditions. The experience that start offs as being strange slowly becomes routine and a part of them, hence making the writing easy to believe. There is a context to why I said this.

I have just finished reading, “Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India” by Laura Pedersen. Therefore, the thoughts that were mentioned earlier. Laura Pedersen has written an account of India, through her travels in the most hilarious manner. She has infused seriousness along the way and humour definitely adds to the atmosphere/settings as described. Laura’s travels are jotted in the most candid form – from the popular stereotypes (the well-known digestive system problems that Indian food can cause) to the clichés that are soon breaking.

The book takes readers through almost all of India – covering ground from Delhi to Kolkata to Mumbai to Varanasi as well. The topics touched on are contemplative. Laura speaks of the caste system to the driving styles and the roads in question. All of this is always done with a touch of humour.

My first impression on receiving the book was, how would a person who is not from the country write about it? However, that was nothing but the initial apprehension. Laura thought of undertaking a journey through India by watching a TV Show Bewitched, with its Dr. Bombay character that propelled her to see the differences between American Indians and Indians from India. This piqued her curiosity about the lay of the land and hence the journey began with its ups and downs.

Laura compares India of the past and India as is now with a keen insight into consumerism and the way it is affecting the entire nation. I found this part in the book to be most apt and one that I could relate to easily. The way she describes the country is but obviously unbiased and objective. There are views that a reader may or may not agree with, however that should not hamper the reading experience.

I am from India and there were parts in the book that I wasn’t aware of about my own country. So for me, “Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws” was not only an entertaining read, but also an informative one.

You can buy the book from HomeShop18 here