Category Archives: Chatto and Windus

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain Title: The Gustav Sonata
Author: Rose Tremain
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1784740047
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I don’t know how to begin this review. I will try. I will try to express what I feel – because what I feel about this book cannot really be put in words. “The Gustav Sonata” is one of those books that you keep coming back to after you have finished reading it. Not entirely, but in bits and pieces – to comprehend not the story but just to know that life works mysteriously sometimes and you cannot do much about it but live it for what it is.

I picked up this book on a whim. It was just one of those days when I entered Wayword and Wise and knew that I had to pick this one up. It was there – begging for my attention. When a book does that, you know you will love it, no matter what.

The book is set in a small town in Switzerland. World War II has ended but the effects remain, though not as much in this town. Gustav Perle grows up in this town and is certain of only one thing: He loves his mother who on the other hand is cool and distant with her son, never loving him, never showing him how she feels. Gustav’s only friend is the music prodigy Anton whom he adores. Anton just takes Gustav for granted since kids and well into adulthood. The story starts when they are children in 1947 and ends in 2002 when they are sixty, covering a gamut of explorations, emotions and what it means to be human.

The book is not only about their friendship, or about Gustav’s dead father or just the past and how it impacts the present and the future, but also about coming to terms with life and living it in its full glory or not. It is about a country that chose to be neutral and the impact that had on its citizens.

“The Gustav Sonata” is a big book with a big heart. It is delicate, sensible and asks the bigger questions of loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak and self-mastery in a way that no other book I’ve read has. It struck a chord in me in so many places. There were times I could not stop highlighting in the book – all I can say is that you must not let this year go by without reading this book. It will for sure change you in more than one way.

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Book Review: Division Street by Helen Mort

Division Street by Helen Mort Title: Division Street
Author: Helen Mort
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701186845
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 80
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. No author can claim to just get up and be a poet one fine day. There are poets that have been going on and there are some who surface and leave a mark like no other. On the other hand, there are also some who you may have never heard of and they lure you in with their words and emotions and you have no choice left, but to stay. For me this year, Helen Mort has been a discovery and I will in all probability go back to what she writes or has written and savor every single word of her well-spun poems.

“Division Street” is her latest collection of poems which is centred on the clash between striking miners and police to the conflict in personal relationships. She writes after a street in Sheffield, bringing to fore the site of conflict and how humans behave and react in times such as these. “Division Street” is just reflective of human nature. The incident could have taken place anywhere in the world and the emotions surging through would still be the same. That is what the power of good writing is – its universal appeal.

I am not a poetry fan and yet I found myself rereading most of these poems. It was difficult initially to get into the read however as I started liking the poems, it was a cake walk of a task. Poetry needs structure, just as much as prose and sometimes even more so. Mort manages to beautifully bring out the delicate elements of the poems and infuse it with reality. I loved this collection and most certainly will get back to it sometime next year. A must read for people who love poetry with an edge of its own.

Book Review: Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle

Tudor_Family_Story Title: Tudor: The Family Story
Author: Leanda de Lisle
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701185886
Genre: Historical, British Royalty, Non-Fiction
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There is a lot of reading material out there on the Tudor dynasty. I think every year some or the other book gets published and perhaps rightly so – given the scope and grandeur of this family. No other history has captured my interest the way the Tudor regime has and that is why I keep going back to it, time and again.

Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle however was a different read for me. Leanda de Lisle talks of things not mentioned that often. She takes on characters that were a part of history and forgotten – a man who fell in the Queen’s bed and what happened to Henry VII. The book takes into parts that are normally not spoken of. After all, every family has its own secrets and Leanda just talks of those and the past in this book.

The writing is fact driven and yet reads like a fictional account, which works splendidly for the reader. The book opens before the War of the Roses and ends with the death of the Tudor dynasty (Elizabeth I to James I). The book can get confusing at most times, however it is up to the reader to watch out for the family trees and charts and keep track of events and people.

I am a keen follower of the Tudor dynasty. I love reading everything about that time and era. This book is heavily researched and yet so readable. It succeeds in portraying kings and queens as people and also making the reader see the lives they had. “Tudor: The Family History” is one non-fiction read which perhaps I could reread later. Though the book is a big read, it is extremely satisfying and interesting. A book not to be missed for hard-core lovers of history.

Book Review: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy: Edited by Katherine Bucknell

The Animals - Edited by Katherine Bucknell Title: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy
Edited by: Katherine Bucknell
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701186784
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 528
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This has to be one of the best non-fiction books I have read this year. Or rather one of the best books of letters which I have read in a very long time. “The Animals” – Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and his long-standing lover Don Bachardy is a treat for anyone who loves being in love and reading about unconventional (so to say) love.

Christopher Isherwood was an acclaimed writer when he met Don Bachardy on a Santa Monica beach in 1952 and their love affair – or rather romance – or just love lasted until Chris’s death in 1986.

The book is about letters – they wrote to each other and the names they gave each other. Chris was Dobbins – the work horse while Don was Kitty – the young cat. The letters in themselves are sometimes calm and sometimes tumultuous and full of despair, jealousy and anger. It is the usual letters that lovers write and also somewhere down the line; they are unusual, given the nature of their relationship and the but obvious age-gap.

The letters make you ponder about the times they lived in, how they loved and how they did not fear to live as a couple – given the social thinking in the 50s. They wavered and fought like any other couple. They had their differences and yet somehow in the letters, you see the great love between them. Something that we all want to achieve. It did take me some time to get through the letters, however the experience has been extremely rewarding. The idea of getting to know Isherwood more and his relationships was intriguing for me and I am only glad that I read this book.

I will recommend it only to people who are interested in a book of this nature. Of a different love in a different time and age.

Book Review: New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

New Selected Stories by Alice Munro Title: New Selected Stories
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701179885
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If there is one short-story writer I would like to meet and know more about, it would be Alice Munro. Her skill and magnificence of the craft have always left me speechless. She writes without caring, without knowing and without expecting or so it seems every time I read her collection of stories. There is something about them which maybe cannot be defined. It can only be felt by the reader. It will be felt by you if you pick up and read any of her short stories. She is that wonderful and adept at what she does. I am only humbled every time I read her works.

“New Selected Stories” is a collection of stories from five books spanning from 1998-2009, almost a decade, depicting the key aspects of her writing. Why is she so good you ask? Or for that matter, why do I revere her the way I do? That is because she knows how to notice human beings. She sees them in their weakness and strengths and puts it down in the form of a simple story sometimes, with only too complex characters and how their lives are led, day by day and as the years pass on.

The stories never lose momentum. She always knows what to say and when to say it. For instance, “Chance” is all about fate and what role it plays in a person’s life, when she meets a stranger on a train. On the other hand, “The Bear Came over the Mountain” is about a woman and her husband dealing with her Alzheimer’s. “The Love of a Good Woman” is all about what it means to love and more so what it means to lose.

I do not know why but every time I read a short story by Alice Munro, I am forced to introspect and think of events in my life. If a writer manages to do that, then maybe there is something about her. Her stories are just like life – bittersweet and often unexpected. You cannot put down her collection and do anything else. The only problem sometimes is the length of the stories, but I guess that is okay, because once you get engrossed in any of them, you do not want it to end. And honestly I do not know of how many authors I can say that? I can say that about Alice Munro for sure. All my money on her writing skills. She is beyond super. These fifteen stories will dazzle you every time you read them. You will reread for sure.

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