Daily Archives: December 18, 2013

387 Short Stories: Day 9: Story 9: The Hand by Patricia Highsmith

The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith

Title: The Hand
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Taken from: The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith

This has to be a story told with great passion and an element of Gothic horror, which comes across quite rarely to an author. Patricia Highsmith – the Queen of Noir mostly, managed it quite well with, “The Hand”. I would have to loved to say more about the story, but all I can say is that it is about a man’s descent into madness and sometimes, also gave me the feeling of him and others being under a totalitarian regime.

The story is not as simple as it seems. It is about a marriage and a lot more than just that. There are elements of misogyny, of parental hate, and also of love, a weird kind of love. Throughout her career, Patricia Highsmith wrote about love, murder, betrayal and more so also of fear and angst. I would put my money on any of her works, any given day.

Book Review: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride Title: The Good Lord Bird
Author: James McBride
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1594486340
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historic Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always been wary of award-winning books. Something about them, that makes me most skeptical to pick them up and start reading. May be that is why, I get all wired when I start reading an award-winning title. It has happened in the past and I thought it would happen again; however this year’s NBA winner, “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride took me by surprise. I actually enjoyed reading this, though in parts it did get tedious, but overall, it was an irresistible experience. I would keep the book in-between and immediately get back to it. I had to soak in everything it had to offer.

“The Good Lord Bird” is about a boy – Henry Shackleford (an African-American slave), who is abducted by John Brown (a white abolitionist), following a brawl. We all have heard of John Brown – the zealot, who wanted to abolish slavery in America and succeeded to a large extent. The novel is about Henry also known as Henrietta (as he is mistaken to be a girl by John Brown and his men), and the incidents that occur, as seen through his eyes. He is known as “Onion” by John Brown and that is another name that sticks.

Henry observes people around him as the group is on the move to free slaves, wage wars against people who are Pro-Slaves and think of ways and means to win the battle against slavery. What I found most interesting in the book were the parts of Henry being a girl, and interacting with other white men and people of his own colour. Why is he a girl? Because John Brown mistakes him to be one, given his skin colour and hair texture and that sticks. In order to save his life and be free (which is of a conflicting nature in his head sometimes), Henry pretends to be a girl.

McBride captures an age gone by beautifully through use of language, idiosyncrasies, and description of the landscape. The story moves from Kansas to Missouri and Virginia with great ease and aplomb and so do the characters, as seen by Henry. The writing almost feels real, though you know that most of it is made up or rather all of it is, and yet you cannot help yourself but think of the conversations and incidents to have occurred.

There is a plethora of characters that Henry meets along the way, and they all have a role to play, which McBride executes with great ease and charm. The book is funny in most places and yet there is the tragic aura to it, given the concept of slavery and other issues mentioned. There is a lot of depth of emotion to the book, lend by various characters – from one of the whores in a brothel to John Brown’s sons, to even a couple of Pro-Slavers.

James McBride takes a major chunk of history and makes it his own, which is something very few authors can manage to achieve. Why is the title what it is? For that, you would have to read the book to find out. I can only say one thing, that perhaps this book has to a large extent changed my opinion of award-winning books. It is definitely going to be read again in 2014.

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Book Review: The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop Title: The Isobel Journal
Author: Isobel Harrop
Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 978-1471402272
Genre: Graphic Novel, Teens
Pages: 208
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 5/5

“The Isobel Journal” by Isobel Harrop is the real journal of a real girl. She is eighteen and on the brink of life and everything else in between. The journal is disjointed, in parts and pieces and speaks of everything she goes through – well some of it for sure. It is an illustrated scrap book so to say. It is a slice of her life and all that she wants to be and do and who she really is.

It is almost a love letter to other teen girls about life, loving, living, animals, parents and everything else in between, which makes this book even more unique and different. The book is full of illustrations and might I add, life. She does not get preachy, nor is she annoying. She is just how most eighteen year olds are and yet has a personality of her own. There was no writing to begin with as such, and yet the illustrations spoke volumes.

Isobel Harrop sketches and talks of her life, the way it evolves – in fragments and in coherent pictures. The Isobel Journal is both – heart-warming and sad. It is wistful and thought provoking about a teenager’s life who will not be a teenager soon enough. It is honest and right there, waiting to be devoured by readers, even though it is mostly full of illustrations and yet resonates and reminds you of when you were eighteen and full of life, or perhaps not.