Category Archives: Hachette UK

Seven Kinds of People you Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell

Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell

Title: Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops
Author: Shaun Bythell 
Publisher: Profile Books, Hachette UK 
ISBN: 9781788166584
Genre: Books about Books and Reading, Nonfiction 
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 3/5 

I love books about books, reading, bookshops, and libraries. Bythell’s earlier two books have been delightful – anecdotes, stories, and his encounters with different kinds of people in his bookstore, called The Diary of a Bookseller, and the Confessions of a Bookseller. Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops is an extension of that. From the bearded pensioner to the whistler, to the one that will never buy, Bythell covers them all.

He speaks of various quirks – of how people sometimes leave their children in the bookshop and perhaps just saunter away, returning only after an hour or two. Or how people who are experts at some topic and will bore you endless, and also the ones who just want to get their book published and the poor bookseller has to listen to all of them. Of also the erotica browsers, the ones who think their old books are collectors’ editions, the farters, and everyday shoppers.

The book makes fun of people and that’s alright. I quite liked that in most parts. For me, the only problem was that it got over too fast. I wanted it to give me more, explore more characters and prototypes, discuss or speak about books in general, and a whole lot of charm as was in the earlier two books.

Read the book for its writing. It is eccentric, sharp-witted, and spot on about what it has to say. It will make you smile or even laugh in some places. Read it if you like books about books and bookshops and reading like me.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Title: Jack
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Publisher: Virago Press, Hachette UK
ISBN: 978-0349011806
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Jack to me was as beautiful in its writing as Gilead by the same writer. The interior monologues though they went on and on, worked for me. They got me off-track sometimes, but I was back in the book for most part. But perhaps the idea of the book was also to make you feel and think so much as you read along, which it managed to accomplish quite successfully with this reader. Also, might I add that you can read Jack as a stand-alone novel, though it is from the world of Gilead. It would be great if you would also read Gilead, Home, and Lila before embarking this one.

Jack is a book of romance. It is a book about God, faith, religion, and what we hold close. (well in more than one way). It is a book about John Ames Boughton, the prodigal son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, and his romance with Delia Miles, an African American high school teacher, who is also a preacher’s daughter. The book is set right after WWII, thereby making it all the more paradoxical of American way of life then and now – of these star-crossed lovers navigate their way at home and in the world.

Robinson’s writing is quiet. It is gentle, and also ferocious when needed. It is about people who don’t fit and how the world they inhabit is not of equals and doesn’t believe in equality. A world that will not let them forget who they are. Jack is about so much more – faith in each other right at the center of the novel, and about how even though cut from the same cloth, people still want to segregate.

Jack is a book that wants to show you how love overcomes it all and tries so hard to do that. I was convinced and loved that aspect of it. At the end of the day though, it isn’t that easy. Robinson’s usual gifts are present throughout – the pacing of dialogue, the story taking its time to get into gear, and how bit by bit all of it is revealed. Read them all. Read all the four books.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Publisher: Dialogue Books, Hachette UK ISBN: 9780349701462
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2/5

I really wanted to like The Vanishing Half, and I also did to some extent, but some parts of it were just too boring and the plot did nothing to build on the characters of the twins, who leave the town they are born and raised in one fine day.

The Vanishing Half is the story of very light-skinned identical twins Stella and Desiree, who grew up in the tiny Louisiana town of Mallard, that is inhabited only by light-skinned people. The story reminded of “Passing” and I was quite intrigued to therefore read the book. The story of these twins and their lives in and out of Mallard did nothing to arouse my interest nor did it whet my appetite after the first three chapters.

The writing is good, in fact great in some places. The bone I had to pick was with the plot and like I said the characterization of the protagonists. It does not take into account the important topics that is somewhere also at the core of the book – that of sexism, colorism, domestic abuse, and being a trans person. I could not see anything moving in that direction. It then becomes the usual – about family, sisterhood, and their children and that’s that. The Vanishing Half got me all excited but left me feeling all wasted at the end of it.

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

Title: Homeland Elegies
Author: Ayad Akhtar
Publisher: Tinder Press, Hachette UK
ISBN: 978-1472276889
Genre: Literary Fiction, Autofiction
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Homeland Elegies as a book cannot be bracketed into any genre. It is all of it and more. It is a novel, it is a memoir, autofiction, autobiography, metafiction, non-fiction, and maybe even more. Whatever it is, it is a brilliant book of so many ideas, thoughts, emotions, and how a country once great and known for inclusion has cracked, slipped, and torn at its seams.

The book is about immigrants, their children, and the idea of America. Akhtar’s parents moved to America from Pakistan in 1968. His father took to America like a fish to water. His mother did not. She forever mourned the loss of home. His father, a surgeon loves America for what it is, and believes things will get better (post 9/11 and more). The book is about Akhtar’s life – a kid from Wisconsin, a writer struggling in New York, rubbing shoulders with the greats and yet not fitting in. The book is about so many nameless immigrants, and also the ones that Akhtar interacts with, who are scared about their children’s future in the land of great and plenty.

It is a story of a father and his son and how they both view home differently. Homeland Elegies speaks of so much, there is so much contained in one book – immigration, identity, home, politics, the arts, and decline of hope, though trying very hard to make sense of what goes on with optimism.

Akhtar’s writing is candid, vibrant, introspective, and a brilliantly sketched portrait of a family in a fractured land. I loved the fact that as a reader you don’t realize what’s fiction or fact in this book and honestly, after the first ten pages or so I stopped thinking about that. All I cared about is where the story was taking me, and it took me to all the right places about an unhinged country and its people.

 

 

The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

The Times I Knew I Was Gay Title: The Times I Knew I Was Gay
Author: Eleanor Crewes
Publisher: Virago Books, Hachette UK
ISBN: 9780349013213
Genre: Graphic Memoir, LGBT Literature
Pages: 308
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I wish this book was out when I was coming out to my family and friends. I wish this book was out also when I was coming out to my colleagues at my first workplace, and then constantly as I moved jobs. Sometimes I think that for me, my life is a constant coming out process. Coming out so many times that I have probably lost count. Till I wrote a book about it and that was that. But that’s a different story.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a graphic memoir by Eleanor Crewes and how she came out to her friends, her brother, and finally to herself about being gay. This book hits you hard in the sense that if you’re on the spectrum, you can so understand how difficult it is to know and yet deny who you are. To know it deep down and keep putting that thought at the back of your head, or at best living two lives – one straight, and the other when you are all alone, when you finally acknowledge being gay out loud, to yourself.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay also makes you see how liberating coming out of the closet can be, and at the same time it also very subtly hints at how it is no one else’s business but yours if you’d like to come out or not. I will never understand why people speculate about someone’s orientation/identity. It will always baffle me why do some people want other people to come out the closet. What’s in it for them? How does it impact their lives?

This graphic memoir on so many levels felt so personal. It made me see my confusion when I came out at 18. It made me see how I was in denial for the longest time, and how I wanted to be someone else, and fit in, even if it meant being straight. The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a warm, personal, charming, and honest account of awkwardness, self-denial, fear of not belonging, and what it takes to come to your own being.