Category Archives: 2000 Books

2000 Books You Must Read: 5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro There are some books that get hidden. That are clouded and perhaps you do not hear many people speak of them. The Remains of the Day is one book that does not get spoken about as much as its movie counterpart. It is Ishiguro’s third published work and it is a delicately told tale from the point of view of Stevens – the English butler, told in his diary, as he works for Lord Darlington and his relationship with the housekeeper, Miss Kenton.

The book goes back and forth – past and present to give the reader the complete view. A lot of social conventions, graces, manners, are spoken of and also the hypocrisy surrounding all of them. The writing is simply beautiful and very elegant, despite bringing to fore the ugliness sometimes.

The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite books and I strongly recommend it.

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2000 Books You Must Read: 4. By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

Very few people know of Elizabeth Smart. I am sure a minimal population of readers have read By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept. Why is this a book you must read? Simply because it talks of unrequited love like no other. The story is of Smart’s love affair with the then famous poet George Barker. The writing is not linear. There are snatches of memory, of anguish, of envy (George was a married man), of how love is in its various forms. That worked for me more than anything else.

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is an ode to all lovers. It speaks to any one who has loved with great passion and madness and then lost it all. The anguish is just heartbreaking. The simple instance of wanting to look at a lover’s face rings true for almost everyone. Such instances and more make the book what it is.

I leave you with some quotes from the book to make up your mind about it:

“I have learned to smoke because I need something to hold onto.”

“I feel helpless, hopeless, too low to call out, too weak to think. Impotent tears dribble down.”

“Perhaps I am his hope. But then she is his present. And if she is his present, I am not his present. Therefore, I am not, and I wonder why no-one has noticed I am dead and taken the trouble to bury me. For I am utterly collapsed. I lounge with glazed eyes, or weep tears of sheer weakness.”

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2000 Books You Must Read: 3. Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Everyone is mostly aware of his brother Gerald Durrell but for me Lawrence Durrell is way better than his brother when it comes to the skill of writing. His books touch the soul like no other, they literally wrench it with their descriptions of love and loss. Justine is the first in what is called The Alexandria Quartet. I do not know how to describe this book and I have read it almost seventeen times now, and every time I read it, it takes my breath away. The book is about four people (actually five, including the narrator) and their lives in war-time.

Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Justine is about emotions – raw and in your face, the ones that threaten to tear your life apart and yet you are attracted only to them. Self-destruction in poetry is what Justine is about. The sentences sing – it is that fabulous a book. The descriptions want you to get on to a flight to Alexandria and experience the chaos for yourself. Time is of great essence in these books. It plays the central role – defining characters and their perspectives. There is no way to define Justine and what it does to me. It touches me on so many levels and you will only know of it once you read it.

Here is something for you from the book:

“A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants.”

“We are all hunting for rational reasons for believing in the absurd.”

“Who invented the human heart, I wonder? Tell me, and then show me the place where he was hanged.”

“The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.”

“It is hard to fight with one’s heart’s desires; whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of the soul.”

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2000 Books You Must Read: 2. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

This is almost a rare gem. Why do I say that? Because I really believe that when it comes to language and writing style, very few books can surpass this one. “The Man Who Loved Children” by Christina Stead is one of those books which will haunt you long after you have finished reading it.

The book is about a large family – almost close to nine people (including the parents) and the parents living their lives through their children. Sam and Henny Pollit hate each other as a couple, and have too many children and too less money to take care of them. While Sam lives vicariously through his children and gets them to feed his ego, Henny watches silently, knowing that the end will be disastrous.

That in short is the plot of the book. What makes it so unique that I recommend it? The plot and the story and the characters crawl through the readers’ skin. It is darkness personified. You cannot help but think of it and at some point, it drove me crazy trying to figure the behaviour and actions of some characters. The degradation of a family is so stark and obvious that your heart goes out to them and yet you cannot do anything at all. It is a brilliant portrayal of a family that has lost its bearings and does not know what to do. The book may not be meant for all but do read it if a dark family story interests you.

Here are some quotes from it:

“Life is nothing but rags and tags and filthy rags at that. Why was I ever born?”

“ men call it the tyranny of tears, it is an iron tyranny- no man could be so cruel, so devishlish,as a woman with her weakness, recrimination, convenient ailments, nerves and tears. We men are all weak as water before the primitive devices of Eve. I was patient at first, many years. ‘ ”

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2000 Books You Must Read: 1. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The idea just happened to me. Out of nowhere. List making is something I love. It is something I cannot live without and no better list/s to make than that of books. Books you have loved and cherished over the years. Books that take you to a different land and transport you to places that you begin to call your own. Characters who make you laugh, cry and live a lot more than you would have thought of. Life in almost 2000 books and more.

So here is my first recommendation, which I think you will love. I hope you do. Every day, I will try introducing you to new writers and books I have loved over the years. Happy Reading!

The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje
Bloomsbury India
ISBN: 978-0747572596
Pages: 336
Genre: Literary Fiction, Love, War, WWII
Rating: 10/10

The English Patient - 1

The English Patient - 2

The English Patient - 3

I have three copies of this book. In almost all possible covers. There are more I am sure, which I might own at some time. There is something about “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje that makes me want to talk about it and tell the whole world to read it. It is that good. Let me rephrase that. It is that brilliant. I cry every time I read it. Not because it is tragic (well that too) but the way it tells you about love and life. It almost will make you believe in love, all over again. Very few books are able to do that and this to me is on the top of the list. (This list is not by grade or rank though. It is very random).

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje is about three fractured souls, lost in a villa towards the last days of WWII and how they find themselves through an unknown mysterious patient, who is assumed to be English. Hana, a grieving Canadian nurse with a past of her own, the one which is closely linked to Caravaggio, the thief. There is also a Sikh sapper, Kip, who becomes a pillar for Hana and midst all this is the life of the patient, which he once shared with the love of his life.

Everything is fluid in this book. It is almost dream-like and guilt and anger that seethe beneath the story of love and war. Ondaatje uncovers every single emotion and dissects it like an expert – he makes it possible for the reader to feel. It is almost as if he is a writer, with the soul of a poet. The sentences are magnificent. The words are like none other – something you cannot let go of. The book will demand that you reread it and perhaps you will. This is my fourth time by the way.

Here are some wonderful quotes from it:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead.”

“A postcard. Neat handwriting fills the rectangle.

Half my days I cannot bear to touch you.

The rest of my time I feel like it doesn’t matter if I will ever see you again. It isn’t the morality, it’s how much you can bear.

No date. No name attached.”

“I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant who reminisces or remembers a meeting when the other has passed by innocently…but all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.”

“From this point on, she whispered, we will either find or lose our souls.”

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