Monthly Archives: May 2014

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut Title: Arctic Summer
Author: Damon Galgut
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9789382277255
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There is this charm to old-world stories and to people who lived then. `This is even more true when it comes to writers and what they write and sometimes what they do not or what they were supposed to, but did not. E.M. Forster is one such writer. He wrote what he did and at the same time, he could only talk about his orientation in hushed tones, in the form of Maurice. He wanted to write his last novel – called Arctic Summer, but could not.

Damon Galgut takes a slice of life (and a very important slice) of Forster’s life – the creation of A Passage to India and builds his tale around it. Of course, most of it is rooted in fact, but it is Galgut’s voice that is unique and fresh when narrating this tale, most unusual and of how inspiration or muses can make or break you.

E.M. Forster became friends with Syed Ross Masood, on one of his trips. Masood was in England to study law from India and returned to India in 1912. Forster followed him to India and what followed then was this love that he had for Masood – this overpowering, passionate and mad love, which he could do nothing about. Morgan (as he was fondly known) then went back to India in 1924 and the twelve year gap is the time when A Passage to India was thought and written.

Galgut’s voice is strong and taut. The homosexuality love and aspect of it is not in hush tones and at the same time it does not jump at you from the pages. Galgut has evoked the life of E.M. Forster with brilliance and knack. The writing is subtle, emotional (well not too much) and also overwhelming to a large extent. “Arctic Summer” is one of those unconventional books that deserve a reread as well and my bet is when the monsoons come along.

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The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan Title: The Americans
Author: Chitra Viraraghavan
Publisher: 4th Estate
ISBN: 9789351362593
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A lot has been written on the migrant experience. It has been written from various points of view. Sometimes, it is a man’s voice and sometimes it is a woman’s voice, journey and careening their way through an unknown land. I have also managed to read quite a few books on the topic. So when I picked up, “The Americans” by Chitra Viraraghavan, I was apprehensive. However, one hundred pages into the book and I could not stop reading it.

“The Americans” is about different people and how their stories merge together, at a point in the United States of America. This is what I loved about the book – the entire concept of six degrees of separation and how it was rolled in beautifully in the narrative.

There is an old man trying to find his way in a new land, on a vacation albeit. There is Tara, a single woman who visits America to look after her niece, as her sister is struggling with other issues. There are eight other stories that merge with these two and to me that was the highlight of the book. I am also somehow fond of books with short chapters and this one was written in that manner, which made me cry: Hurrah!

Viraraghavan has an acute sense of surrounding and nature to her writing. The book is set in 2005 and one can see that she knows America inside-out as she of course studied there and that has definitely helped in the research of the book.

The writing is lucid and heart-warming in most places. For me, what worked the most were the journal entries (or so they seemed) of books read by a teenager and her view of the American life. “The Americans” is a thought-provoking book on what it means to cross borders – physically and emotionally and sometimes what it takes to perhaps not cross them.

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The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit Title: The Wives of Los Alamos
Author: TaraShea Nesbit
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408845998
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I was way too kicked to read this book. May be this is what happens to me all the time. I get kicked about a book and then somehow it does not live up the way I thought it would, to my expectations. “The Wives of Los Alamos” though surprised me after the first hundred pages or so. I think sometimes, the beauty of reading a book is perhaps not to give up on it. There is this voice that keeps telling you to go with the book and you do, and sometimes you end up thanking that voice.

As the title suggests, this book has got to do with Los Alamos, the military town that laid the ground for the invention of the atomic bomb by the United States of America. The wives of the scientists and physicists also arrive with their husbands to the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico. They start lives afresh, not knowing what is in store, with WWII looming large. They wonder, they speculate, and they cannot figure anything. Their children are brought up just like that – randomly almost, their households just take care of themselves and nothing seems right, as they are away from home.

“The Wives of Los Alamos” starts off slow and ends up picking up pace, right at the end of the book. I somehow got bored mid-way but it was the last part that really got me hooked to the book. Nesbit’s writing is of collective people – the nouns are collective, the wives are together – thinking, feeling and experiencing the same events and agonies and joys.

The husbands, the director and the General are also very strong characters in the book. The Manhattan Project as it was then called is explained quite succinctly in the book. From Oppenheimer the director to the views of the wives and the household help, Nesbit covers every tract of information beautifully. I would most certainly recommend this book to you, if you like history and the events it unfolds.

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387 Short Stories : Day 143 to Day 153

11 Stories read in 11 Days. This challenge is kind of proving to be difficult by the day given the number of authors and stories, which I have to source.

Nonetheless, here is the list:

Day 143: 1st of May 2014: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
Day 144: 2nd of May 2014: Pigs is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler
Day 145: 3rd of May 2014: The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton
Day 146: 4th of May 2014: Someday This Will Be Funny by Lynne Tillman
Day 147: 5th of May 2014: Airships by Barry Hannah
Day 148: 6th of May 2014: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Day 149: 7th of May 2014: Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Day 150: 8th of May 2014: Like You’d Understand Anyway by Jim Shepard
Day 151: 9th of May 2014: Jesus’s Son by Denis Johnson
Day 152: 10th of May 2014: AM/PM by Amelia Grey
Day 153: 11th of May 2014: Like a Winding Sheet by Ann Petry

Love among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond

Love among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond Title: Love among the Bookshelves
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin Books, Viking
ISBN: 9780670087341
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 200
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

I was eagerly waiting to read this book. And to some extent this book disappointed me. I thought there would be more about books and reading and the experiences of Mr. Bond with his books, but it somehow was not that.

“Love among the Bookshelves” is a well-thought of book and it does talk about Mr. Bond’s adventures in reading, but somehow for me, it fell short in most places. I love books about books and reading. This one just did not do it for me.

The book started off well with Ruskin’s experiences when it came to reading and how it all began, but from there on it was a downhill reading experience for me. Maybe it was the excerpts of every of his favourite writer, or maybe it was the fact that not enough time was spent on reading experiences, per se, but the book did not click with me.

On the other hand, Bond’s style of writing is still the same – simple and sweet and direct to a very large extent, which is what even made me turn the pages. I did not give up. Ruskin Bond’s writing can never make you leave the book mid-way, but like I said, this time, one of his books did not do it for me. I did enjoy the part when he was in London and the books he discovered there.

The recommended reading list at the end of the book is alright. It has some good books in it. All said and done, I would recommend, “Love among the Bookshelves” to ardent Bond fans who must read every book of his.