Category Archives: Hogarth

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Anatomy of a Miracle Title: Anatomy of a Miracle
Author: Jonathan Miles
Publisher: Hogarth
ISBN: 9780553447583
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

You cannot place this book anywhere. Not in any genre, neither in any style of writing. I have read books similar to this book but nothing has come close. “Anatomy of a Miracle” as the title suggests is just that – a dissection of a miracle. The why, the what, the how, the questioning of faith and where does it stand in this world of science and technology. But above all, it is about what it means to be human, when all is lost and what you choose to believe in, no matter what.

Cameron Harris has been living life in a wheelchair, after being rendered paraplegic four years ago. He has literally nothing to look forward to. He lives with his sister Tanya, in a battered Biloxi, where most houses were destroyed in the wake of Katrina. And then suddenly, one fine day Cameron rises up without any explanation from his wheelchair and the world changes inside of and around him.

This is the barebones plot of “Anatomy of a Miracle”. Of course there is a lot more to it but for that you would have to read the book. Miles’ writing is first-grade. The book is written in the form of journalistic pieces and encompass all of Cameron’s family and friends – also the characters that are affected by his story.

“Anatomy of a Miracle” at the same time is not a fast read. It has a lot of details and you have to pay attention to almost each of them. The emotional connect and vulnerability of the book is spot-on and you can relate with questions of faith, kindness, doubt and what does it take after all to believe or walk away from it all. The details are in the characters, as they slowly unveil one layer after another. A firecracker of a read for sure!

 

 

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A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place For Us Title: A Place For Us
Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth
ISBN: 978-1524763558
Genre: Literary Fiction, Family Life
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So, here it is. I read this book almost in one sitting. That’s right! There was something about it that compelled me to and it isn’t that I didn’t savour the book because I read it in one sitting. It is the kind of book that moved fast and yet made you think so much about what was going on.

“A Place For Us” is about a family trying to make sense of what is and is not in a different land. It is an Indian-Muslim family who has come to America and have made it home. Rafiq and Layla are parents of Hadia, Huda and Amar. The story opens with Hadia’s wedding, where Amar appears after many years of being estranged with his father. What happened and what will happen next makes the story what it is.

This is of course just the plot very loosely put as I do not want to give away anything, but “A Place for Us” is so much more than family drama or a family saga, so to speak. Mirza going back and forth into the novel (the timelines might get confusing, so pay attention when you are reading), speaks of identity, immigrants, nationality, what it means to be a Muslim woman in a first-world country, and a husband, father and son. At times I felt the story wasn’t going anywhere but when it did, it knocked my socks off!

The sections that describe the siblings’ relationships were my favourite. I could relate to them the most. Hadia’s love and resentment toward Amar (for being the coddled child by their mother), Huda’s indifference toward family dynamics and yet somewhere the need to be accepted by Hadia and Amar and Amar’s sense of loss (terrifying by the way).

“A Place for Us” is a book that is so all encompassing that you might even feel that more was needed when you reach the end . It took eight years for Fatima Farheen Mirza to write this book and you can understand why only when you read it. The landscape of emotions and the way the characters shift territory when it comes to matters of the heart is beautifully told through moving prose. Mirza in a very subtle manner gets into the skin of her characters, exposing their wounds, scars, warts and all. No one is perfect and no one is expected to be. I was in parts greatly bothered by Rafiq, but that also somehow found its way to redemption in the last one-third part of the book.

“A Place for Us” rightly so is a debut you should not miss out on. It will be difficult to get into it initially but I recommend you persist, because it will be worth it. A debut that doesn’t read like a debut at all. A book that is more than what meets the eye. Do read it, whenever you can.

 

 

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

The Pisces by Melissa Broder Title: The Pisces
Author: Melissa Broder
Publisher: Hogarth
ISBN: 978-1524761554
Genre: Literary Fiction, Humour
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Give me some time while I figure what genre “The Pisces” falls under. Give me some time while I get back to breathing normally as “The Pisces” has knocked my breath out of me and I don’t know how to breathe anymore. Give me some time to recover and be up and about (I don’t know how much time it will take) as right now I am under the spell of a book known as “The Pisces” (if you haven’t seen me mention it twice already and I haven’t even begun the review) by Melissa Broder – a book that is already one of my favourite reads of 2018.

Like I said, it isn’t easy to categorize or fit “The Pisces” into a genre and perhaps it is better this way. At the same time, it is unlike any other book I have read. It has love, surrealism, loss and to top it all, a merman. Yes, you got that right. A merman in love with a regular washed-up woman who has almost given up on the idea of love and lust. But like any good book, there is more to what meets the eye and for that you only have to read the book.

Lucy is despondent after her break-up to the point of self-destruction. She leaves Phoenix to go to L.A. to dog-sit for her half-sister Annika for the summer. And in-between group therapy sessions, she meets Theo, a merman, one balmy evening and this is where it all begins.

It is kinda strange to get into the book from the time Lucy meets Theo. We are conditioned a certain way to look beyond the ordinary. We just do not and perhaps never will. Having said that, Lucy is strangely drawn to Theo, again and again till she cannot resist any longer. They converse, they make love, they have hungry sex and of course at the heart of it all, there is the ever-eternal quest for love.

Broder’s characters could be anybody. Literally anybody. The voices, the speech, the expressions and the emotions are so real that you cannot help but relate to all of them. What got me going from the first page was humour. As a policy perhaps, I do not read funny books and this one though doesn’t belong there, it made me laugh out really loud and without any inhibition. Through Lucy, Broder infuses so much wit, candour and sarcasm in the book that it is more than just rib-tickling. It is outrageous to the point of being excellent! I also found myself thanking whoever it is that this wasn’t written by a man, or else it would have been terrible, in my opinion.

“The Pisces” will for sure have you thinking more about unusual alliances and how most of the time as we make our way through life, we forget to embrace it for what it really is. There is a lot of life in this book – it has a lot of moments of the “reality wind” knocking you down but it also has moments when it picks you right up and gives you a semblance of hope.

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson Title: The Gap of Time
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hogarth Shakespeare
ISBN: 978-0804141352
Genre: Literary Fiction, Adaptation,
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There are books or plays that you cannot imagine being retold and when they are, you cannot imagine anyone else retelling them but the author who gave it a new voice. I strongly go by this and more so after I finished reading “The Gap of Time” by Jeanette Winterson, a retelling of “The Winter’s Tale” by the Bard – the first in the project commissioned by Hogarth books under a new imprint “Hogarth Shakespeare” where all of Shakespeare’s plays will be retold by various authors.

“The Winter’s Tale” is one of Shakespeare’s last plays – exploring the theme of forgiveness more than jealousy over time. The plot is similar to “Othello”, but the story and the way it moves is very different and so is the conclusion. There is redemption. You actually need not read “The Winter’s Tale” to read “The Gap of Time” but do have some plot summary in your head before you embark on Winterson’s adaptation.

King Leontes of Sicily believes his wife Hermione is having an affair with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia and that the child she is carrying is his. So he orders Polixenes to be murdered, the bastard girl child to be exposed to die and Hermione to be sent to prison, where it is believed that she also dies. The bastard girl child survives. Shakespeare has a change of heart so to say and must wait till the child Perdita – the lost one appears in Act II and everything then falls into place, including the broad themes of forgiveness, time and everything that is lost must be found.

Jeanette Winterson takes this plot and makes it her own. The setting is contemporary. The jealousies are the same. Polixenes is Xeno – a bisexual man who is in love with his best friend Leo and his wife MiMi. Leo suspects MiMi of having an affair with Xeno. Perdita is born. Leo orders his gardener to take her to Xeno. Things don’t go as planned. Perdita is adopted by a grieving man Shep and his son Clo. The plot unravels on Shep’s seventieth birthday and nothing is the same ever for the characters caught in the trap of time. They have to live and see what happens next and a lot does, which I will not give away in this review.

Winterson does a fantastic job of bringing “The Winter’s Tale” alive in 2008 – when the financial crisis was hitting the world and bringing it down. The theme of redemption is so strong running throughout that Winterson is the only one I know of who can breeze through it, without it becoming boring or monotonous at any point. There were lines I could not stop underlining or marking. The writing as usual leaves you speechless. It actually also surpasses time itself – just as her earlier works, where time is fluid, flexible and bends at will. “The Gap of Time” is such a worthy successor to “The Winter’s Tale”. You simply have to read it.

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Book Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Title: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Author: Anthony Marra
Publisher: Hogarth, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1781090053
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are debut novelists and then may be after reading him I can safely say that there is Anthony Marra. This is after reading his book, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” and the fact that I could not stop sighing and being spectacularly amazed by most of his writing as the pages were turned. The writing does not seem as though it belongs to a debut writer or maybe I am just underestimating debut writers, but this one is sure to look out for. For one, no one or maybe very few people would have heard of the Chechen wars before reading this book. It was certainly an eye-opener for me and I can only thank Anthony enough for introducing me to this side of the world as well.

“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is not going to be an easy read. It is not even a happy read as far as I am concerned. It has its moments of happiness and then it gets quite dreary. What does one expect of a novel told in the time of war and unrest? Well, for most things, one expects humanity and Marra delivers like a charm with reference to that expectation, thereby not only fulfilling but also surpassing it.

The book passes through or rather is told through a decade – from 1996 to 2004 and speaks of lives that were embroiled during the Chechen War, with the Russian History but of course making an appearance time and again in the book. The history of Chechnya is long and often confusing. Anthony Marra on the other hand, does not give us complete details of the land. Instead he chooses to talk about ordinary lives and the impact of ethnic strife on them and how their lives change beyond recognition. This worked with me as a reader on most levels. I guess all readers want to know more of the humane side of the story than anything else and Marra most certainly delivers on that one.

In this hard-hitting novel, Anthony takes us back and forth in the lives of the major characters, surrounded by the secondary characters that are equally integral to the plot and structure. There is Akhmed, an incompetent doctor with a big heart and an invalid wife, Sonja, a surgeon who labours each and every day at a bombed hospital and living with her own demons, and Havaa an eight-year old girl who has lost her family and is now about to start a new life. Centered around these are the other characters that make up the entire concept of Six Degrees of Separation that runs strongly throughout the book.

The cycle of life is seen through the book – birth, changes, adaptation, movement, growth and sometimes death is what holds the book strong. Marra’s writing is surreal and often had me wonder: Where did the stories come from? What is the deal with the plot? The title in itself is intriguing and as you move through the novel, you understand its importance. The novel is intense and deep and yet the moments of compassion are plenty that take you by surprise. After all, sometimes all one needs is compassion to get one through in times of uncertainty and a war-torn land and a heart that needs much more. The emotional highs are plenty and that is precisely why I was urging everyone to read this book. It may be dark and depressing in places, but for me, it filled my heart with joy in most places. A must read.

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