Monthly Archives: June 2022

Read 76 of 2022. The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

Title: The Cherry Robbers
Author: Sarai Walker
Publisher: Harper
ISBN: 978-0358251873
Genre: Literary Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Reading “The Cherry Robbers” reminded me of Allende’s writing, of a lot of Alvarez thrown in for good measure, and some Cisneros as well, and in all of this I was most happy to read Sarai Walker’s voice about a family and its generational trauma, taking on topics such as marriage, women’s health, depression, and solitude.

The Cherry Robbers is about Sylvia Wren, a world-renowned extremely private painter living in New Mexico, away from the public gaze. Her solitary life comes to standstill when she receives a letter from a journalist, who plans to write an exposé about Sylvia’s life: that she is Iris Chapel, the sole heiress of the Chapel Firearms fortune, who disappeared around sixty years ago.

Thus, begins a journey with the Chapel family for the reader – of knowing what happened to Sylvia’s five sisters, of how her mother was hidden away, and what prompted Sylvia to abandon her life as Iris.

For the sisters, marriage equals death – that’s the curse really, and to me it was fantastic to see how Walker takes agency and feminism and places it in 50s Connecticut, when none existed, and creates for us a feminist, Gothic tale of sisterhood and male power, and what it means to be free for a woman.

The writing is taut and, in some places, perhaps slips also but it is nonetheless magnificent. There is a high degree of suspense and thrill, the pace doesn’t slow down, and more than anything manages to explore female desire – each woman with a distinct personality, with a mind of her own, leading complex and most tumultuous lives.

The Cherry Robbers is about women constantly on the run – from their families, from the society at large, and sometimes even from themselves. It is a book that tells you of a time gone by and how rather unfortunately some of the beliefs of that time are present even now. It is a book about privilege and class, and boundaries, and restraint and yet celebrates freedom on so many levels. A wonderful read, in my opinion.

Read 75 of 2022. The Island by Adrian McKinty

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Title: The Island
Author: Adrian McKinty
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0316531283
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It had been a while since I read a good thriller, and I am so glad I decided to read this one. Also, do not go on a vacation to an island. After reading this book, I sure wont. The Island is well about an island called Dutch Island that is menacing. The people there have their own rules, it is surrounded by shark-infested waters, it is a dry place, and of course a family is at major risk, due to a certain chain of events.

Tom Baxter and his new wife Heather and his children Olivia and Owen thought this would be a regular vacation. Heather wanted to bond with the children and well, the others just wanted to see Australia, till they veer off the beaten track and enter the Island, where they have to be on their feet, if they want to live.

The Island brings to fore so many characters and situations, just like a good pot-boiler should. The twists in the tale are plenty, and not for once does the book bore or disappoint you. The writing is obviously fast paced as McKinty keeps us guessing what will happen next. You cannot put this down once started and I absolutely enjoyed this one.

Read 74 of 2022. Trust by Hernan Diaz

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Title: Trust
Author: Hernan Diaz
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1529074505
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that manage to take your breath away – while reading them and also when you are done with them. Trust is one of them. It consumes you; it draws you in from the very first page, and you as a reader go along where it takes you, no questions asked. Diaz in a way asks you to “trust” the plot, the structure, the story within stories premise and you do (though you are not supposed to, as it becomes clear as you go along).

Trust is a series of novels within a novel – there are four of them to be precise. It starts with “Bonds” written by Harold Vanner, a 1937 bestseller about the rise of a Wall Street Tycoon named Benjamin Rask and his wife Helen – living life to the fullest in the Roaring ‘20s till the crash of 1929 changes their lives.

This moves us on to the other three sections of the book – each a novel within this novel, upending the truth, giving us parallel truths, lies, which ultimately unravels most shockingly at the end of it all.

Diaz’s writing is experimental, playful, post-modernistic with a historical twist in every chapter – merging the style of Edith Wharton with his own unique style of giving the reader an illusion and staying with it till the very end. At the same time, as a reader, I just loved how Diaz becomes the writer who has written the books within this novel. With every chapter you go deeper – unearthing and getting lost deeper in the maze that Diaz most succinctly has created.

Trust by Hernan Diaz is a rollercoaster of a ride, a mad trip, a tale of wealth, love, madness, passion and about how we view the world and how in turn are viewed by the world at large. This book will definitely be in my top reads of 2022. Please read it.

Read 73 of 2022. Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets. Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets

Title: Lucky Breaks
Author: Yevgenia Belorusets
Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky
Publisher: New Directions
ISBN: 978-0811229845
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 112
Source: TheBoxWalla
Rating: 4/5

Just finished reading this sometimes fantastic, and sometimes not so collection of short stories and vignettes by Ukrainian photographer, journalist, and writer. Each story in this book is centred on a woman (most of the time) in Kyiv or elsewhere in Ukraine. These stories aren’t about Putin, or his invasion. These stories are about everyday living and all about anonymous people – from a refugee to a florist to card players to readers of horoscopes, a world unto itself.

Belorusets’ writing is sometimes playful, mostly tragic, and all about surviving with some humour along the way. There are also twenty-three photographs in this collection, each telling its own story, and forming their own unique visual narrative. The translation by Eugene Ostashevsky is on-spot and extremely lucid. I was just a little miffed to not see the translator’s name on the cover. Also, as a side-note, read it online or hear it. The print is way too fine and you might end up straining your eyes like I did.

Lucky Breaks is a surreal collection of stories from a region that has come to fore, sadly for all the wrong reasons. But do read this book to know more about Ukraine, its people, and how they live and feel.

Read 72 of 2022. The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

Title: The Final Solution
Author: Michael Chabon
Publisher: Harper Perennial
ISBN: 978-0060777104
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: 131
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Chabon’s writing takes time to grow on you. I have understood this after reading several of his books. Whether it is The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or The Wonder Boys, or even a short book like this one. The Final Solution, though short is full of sentences that are magnificent, take time to unravel, written in the true-blue Chabonesque style, often one inside the other, like a puzzle waiting to be solved.

The Final Solution is about Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery in the year 1943, at the height of WWII. He is 89 years old and his faculties are all there. A murder and the disappearance of an African Grey parrot is what Holmes has to solve.

I absolutely enjoyed this short book. It was well-paced, sketches out Holmes in the most unique manner at an age – where you see him falter, and those flaws are apparent, but you find yourself cheering for him, nonetheless.

Michael Chabon blends too many things but somehow, they work – whether it is the war, or a child refugee, or the depiction of migrants in the UK, and the subdued racism that is faced by them. The Final Solution is a book that has you on the edge with Holmes, without mentioning the great detective. It is a book about childhood lost, life on the edge of the past and the future, and what it means to not know where you belong.