Category Archives: Knopf

March 2020 Wrap-Up

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.51.05 AMMarch has been a fantastic month. For me, personally. I have struggled with anxiety and calmed it. I have switched off from the news, and trying very hard to keep away from it on social media as well. I’m just made this way. On the reading front, I read 23 very different books and I am on top of the world. I feel ecstatic. Here’s hoping we all get out of this sane. Much love.
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Here are the titles with the ratings:
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1. Death in her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (4)
2. Fabulous by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (4)
3. And I do not forgive you: stories and other revenges by Amber Sparks (4)
4. Faces on the tip of my tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano. Translated from the French by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis (5)
5. The Seep by Chana Porter (5)
6. Fern Road by Angshu Dasgupta (3)
7. Apartment by Teddy Wayne (4)
8. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar. Translated from the Persian (5)
9. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (4)
10. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (4)
11. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (4)
12. Girl by Edna O’Brien (4)
13. A Burning by Megha Majumdar (4)
14. Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (3)
15. Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann. Translated from the German by Ross Benjamin (2)
16. Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin. Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (4)
17. Red Dog by Willem Anker. Translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (2)
18. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld. Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchinson (4)
19. The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse. Translated from the French by Damion Searls (5)
20. The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa. Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (5)
21. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor. Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (4)
22. The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara. Translated from the Spanish by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre (5)
23. Mac’s Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes (4).
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That’s it, folks! What was your reading month of March like? Any favourites?.
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Here’s to April 2020. Can’t wait.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

A Burning by Megha Majumdar Title: A Burning
Author: Megha Majumdar
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0525658696
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

So, I started this book with great excitement. After all, it is on all lists, and one of the major releases of 2020. It started off slow. I wasn’t invested in the characters or the plot. This is just me being honest about what I felt while reading it. Till, I reached about 100 pages and that’s when the book started working for me. That is exactly when I think I became invested and hurt and felt joy with the characters. The book speaks to me as an Indian, of what is going on in the country. It speaks to me of the injustice. It speaks to me about how the government is by intent isolating a community and targeting it, and encouraging people to kill and instigate riots. The riots that took place in Delhi in February 2020 and some part of early March is testimony to that. A Burning speaks about all of that (hidden albeit) and more.

A Burning is not just the story of three people and the people connected to them. It is the story of all of us – of humanity in that sense and the decisions we make basis greed, selfishness, aspirations, and dreams. At the heart of the story is a train that is burned, and its aftermath. Jivan, a Muslim girl from the slums determined to move up in life, is accused of executing the attack on the train because of a comment on Facebook against the government (this is so true given the times we live in and the BJP IT Cell of the country). There is PT Sir – a teacher of physical training in an all-girls school, an opportunistic individual who somehow gets a way in the right-wing party and has aspirations of his own. The third is Lovely, an outcast – a person who lives on the margins of society and dreams of becoming an actress. The book is about their lives intersecting, and ultimately revealing each motivation, each aspiration, and each form of personal escape.

A Burning hit hard. It of course made me see what is happening (which I already knew) and also how most of the time we are so apathetic to it, as long as our bubble of privilege, influence, and dreams does not burst. Majumdar’s writing is simple, detailed, and makes you think – think of how we ignore, turning a blind-eye, and most of all the act of submission – even in the times of barbaric acts being committed in the name of religion.

Megha Majumdar builds beautifully on each character – their lives, their tragedies, the day to day living, and the complexity of emotions. At one point, the PT Sir does have a change of heart (momentarily) and then doesn’t. There is always this push and pull between what one does for greater good and what one does for self.

A Burning is a book of human beings who are lost, are a bundle of contradictions, and a book of our times. It shows us the mirror in more than one way. The setting though is in West of Bengal, it could be any Indian city, town, or village. The emotion is universal – of hate, forgiveness, love, redemption, and sometimes a very slight sliver of hope.

A letter to Gabo on his birthday.

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Dearest Gabo,

It’s your birth anniversary and I’m grateful that you were born. I’m overjoyed that you lived, experienced what you experienced, loved the way you loved, made your mistakes, and took them all and wrote your books. Your books people say are rooted in magic. I think they are rooted in harsh reality, which you sugar-coated for us. So, thank you for that as well. There won’t be more books from you. I’m aware. It’s been a while now. But I am happy that I get to reread all that you wrote. No one else could write like you Gabo. No one else can. They try. But you are you, and you know that. One hundred years of solitude made me dream in technicolor, Márquezda and you should know that. Of love and other demons brought me closer to my ex-boyfriend and he left me when your autobiography was released. It’s been a long time since then. I remember not liking love in the time of cholera. Sorry for that. I still don’t. But I read it. Your stories have a life of their own, and you know that. I write to you because I love you. I write to you to let you know that you made a fifteen year-old boy dream when he was lost and confused. You made me see my Macondo. You made me live my reality and taught me how to face it. I remember reading Leaf Storm at 15 and being fascinated by it. I wanted to write you a letter. I always did. Never thought it would be when you were in a Macondo of your own. I hope the siestas are long. I hope you are still writing. I hope you are dreaming for all of us. I hope you’re happy. I also want to gift you something if it means something. I will read a book of yours every month. Reread most of them. Till I’m done. And perhaps start all over again. Gabo, you made a generation hopeful of love. You made them see magic. You made them escape. You made them live. Thank you. A thousand times.

Love,
A reader.

 

February 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

February 2020 Wrap-Up

 

Wanted to read more than I read in January 2020. Ended up reading one book less. So, February ended with 12 books read. 10 seen here as two are lent to other people.
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Here’s hoping March 2020 will be kinder and more will be read, thanks to the International Booker 2020 shadow panel and the Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2020. February was great with a book about love, of Delhi and its poems, of Allende and the Spanish Civil War, of a graphic novel about the Khmer Rouge, of Offill’s take on climate change with a story seeped in domesticity of life, of love and loss in Dear Edward and more. .
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Here is the list read with my ratings:

1. Amour by Stefania Rousselle (5)
2. A long petal of the sea by Isabel Allende. Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson (5)
3. Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna. Translated from the French by Helge Dascher (5)
4. Like Blood on the Bitten Tongue by Akhil Katyal. Illustrations by Vishwajyoti Ghosh.
5. Chhotu by Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi. (3)
6. The book of Indian kings (4)
7. Weather by Jenny Offill (5)
8. How we fight for our lives by Saeed Jones (5)
9. Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini. Translated from the Italian by J. Ockenden (4)
10. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (5)
11. Letters of Note: Love. Compiled by Shaun Usher (4)
12. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (5) .
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So, this is my list of February 2020 reads. What about yours?

Weather by Jenny Offill

Weather by Jenny Offill Title: Weather
Author: Jenny Offill
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0385351102
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Weather by Jenny Offill is a demanding book. It holds you right from page one and doesn’t let go (at least it did that to me). It can also go the other way and make the reader wonder what they are reading and perhaps make them stop reading as well. Weather isn’t an easy read. If you are reading Offill for the first time, I suggest you start with Dept. of Speculation and then move on to Weather, as it will give you an idea of perhaps what to expect.

Weather is a novel that is everything and more – it literally as the title suggests, speak of the weather – the situation of climate change that we are in which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is about a marriage that seems to be in control and yet felt to me that it was tearing at the seams.

It is also about the protagonist, Lizzie Benson’s sort of stream-of-consciousness that comes from her brother’s mental and physical health, her mentor’s closing off to the world, and to what extent she will go to test her endurance when it comes to empathy and the state of the world.

This is not a book that can be read in one go. You have to savor it and give it some time. It is fragmented and will take some time to get into. Maybe nothing extraordinary ever happens in the book as well (quite subjective). It reminds us of times – of impending doom that hangs over all of us – and yet more often than not we choose to ignore it. It is bleak and has moments of joy. The writing as I have mentioned isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t deter you from reading Offill. She is simply the best.