Category Archives: Penguin Viking

Days without End by Sebastian Barry

Title: Days without End
Author: Sebastian Barry
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780525427360
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 260
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

The more I think about “Days without End” by Sebastian Barry, the more I feel that I just must go back and reread it. This book is poetic to the point of it being heartbreaking and yet you can look at it objectively but not for long – because you will be swept away in this epic tale of the Wild West (and mind you, I don’t like these Wild West tales at all) that has such beauty about it even in the dark times that surround it – given the war with the Indians in the 1850s, soon followed by the Civil War.

Sebastian Barry’s characters are as human as they can get and there is no good or bad to it. You cannot pick sides and that’s the nature of war and love. Barry’s writing doesn’t come with layers of prose. He makes you see life, and not tell you anything. The show vs. tell craft is superlatively used in all his books (this being the 3rd that I read by him and can’t wait to gobble the rest). At the same time, there is this sense of stillness to his books – like a river flowing in the background whose gurgle you get used to till it is flooded – his writing is pretty much like that.

Thomas McNulty is seventeen years old and has fled famine in Ireland to come to the United States of America. He meets another orphan on the road, John Cole and they initially dress as women for 50 cents a dance to keep themselves from starvation. They head to the West, fighting the Indian wars, come back to civilian life, back in uniform for the Civil War. What will surprise you is how they build a family (I will not give away that part of the story) so for that you have to read the book.

This is the kind of book that makes you believe that love transcends all barriers – gender mostly and is pure. It doesn’t need validation and never has. It is not even a gay love story. It is just about love and that is enough. The sentences are mostly short but shine so much so that you would have to keep the book down and ruminate on each scenario and word that Sebastian Barry throws at you. His prose is short and subtle – painting the landscape with language as he goes along. The characters – even the minor ones like the Sergeant and the Major are well-etched. Some you love and some you hate.

“Days without End” is the kind of book that you will reread. You will do that because of the story, the setting and the emotions it will evoke inside of you. Might I also add that it isn’t for everyone – the writing has to grow on you but once it does, it is very difficult to let go of. A read not to be missed if you love the quiet life with some turmoil thrown in.

365 Stories: Day 6: The Black Dog by Ruskin Bond

death-under-the-deodars

Ruskin Bond’s stories warm and fuzzy. They are the kind of stories that are meant to snuggle you in bed and put you to sleep – once again dreaming of them. He is a master of his craft and every time I think I need to go back to the familiar, I can depend on his stories.

“The Black Dog” was a story I read yesterday as part of my 365 stories of 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is about Bond and his experience with a black dog as he travels one night to attend a party in the 70s in Mussoorie where he resides. The story is scenic (as it should be) and you will not get bored even once. It is short and to the point and will leave you wanting more. The story is from the collection “Death under the Deodars”. I still have to read the others and will soon get to them.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard Title: The Deep End of the Ocean
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670865796
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 434
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I have always been a fan of the books Oprah has recommended on her book club. It all began in 2001 I think and since then I have read some of the old ones recommended by her and some of the old ones. So I have decided to read all the books chosen by her – one after the other. What better place to start than the very beginning, isn’t it?

The beginning came in the form of a dark, depressing and quite a hopeful book called, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When you read it, you cannot believe it is her debut. It is a story of a mother and her child and about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Beth Cappadora is at her school reunion, all ready to check-in to her room, only to turn around and realize that her 3-year old son is missing. Everything changes in a split second. Her relationship with her husband, her children, her relatives, all of it – it just goes to smoke as she perpetually is in a grieving mode.

I could not turn the pages enough of this one. It had me stuck from the word go. I would also suggest that you do not watch the movie of the same book as it just does not do justice to the book. While reading the book though, I felt myself grieving with Beth – almost scared to turn the page, to want good things to happen to her and her family. Mitchard’s writing is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching that if you are a parent you wouldn’t want to even imagine what would happen if this were to happen to you.

“The Deep end of the Ocean” does not disappoint one single bit. This was another book for which I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have read it sooner. However, better late than never I guess.

Love among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond

Love among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond Title: Love among the Bookshelves
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin Books, Viking
ISBN: 9780670087341
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 200
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

I was eagerly waiting to read this book. And to some extent this book disappointed me. I thought there would be more about books and reading and the experiences of Mr. Bond with his books, but it somehow was not that.

“Love among the Bookshelves” is a well-thought of book and it does talk about Mr. Bond’s adventures in reading, but somehow for me, it fell short in most places. I love books about books and reading. This one just did not do it for me.

The book started off well with Ruskin’s experiences when it came to reading and how it all began, but from there on it was a downhill reading experience for me. Maybe it was the excerpts of every of his favourite writer, or maybe it was the fact that not enough time was spent on reading experiences, per se, but the book did not click with me.

On the other hand, Bond’s style of writing is still the same – simple and sweet and direct to a very large extent, which is what even made me turn the pages. I did not give up. Ruskin Bond’s writing can never make you leave the book mid-way, but like I said, this time, one of his books did not do it for me. I did enjoy the part when he was in London and the books he discovered there.

The recommended reading list at the end of the book is alright. It has some good books in it. All said and done, I would recommend, “Love among the Bookshelves” to ardent Bond fans who must read every book of his.

All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon Title: All That Is Solid Melts into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670922703
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Disasters. What do they take in their wake? When they happen, and when they are done ruining what they have to. What really goes away from people? Maybe from communities at large. Sometimes from villages, hamlets, small cities and countries. Every time I think about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a piece of me goes out to the silent sufferers. It is the single most tragic event of the nation, which has been forgotten so easily. I got started thinking about this, just as I finished, one of the most empathic books I have read this year – “All That Is Solid Melts into Air” by Darragh McKeon – about the Chernobyl Power Plant and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” takes into account lives of people – when the incident occurred in 1986. It stays true to the disaster, but does that with the human element involved, which is what I loved about the book. It was not just another “account” of the tragedy. I am glad that I read this book. I am also saddened by it, but then I know that this will only make me want to read more about the accident.

It is 1986. The world is going by just as it should. The Soviet Government controls every part of its citizens’ lives. Everything is monitored. Nothing or no one is left alone. In a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year old piano prodigy plays along silently, because he does not want to disturb the neighbours. His aunt on the other hand makes car parts on the outskirts of the city, and trying to hide her past at the same time. A surgeon buries himself in the hospital to run away from his failing marriage. And in a rural village in Ukraine, a teenager wakes up to see the sky, the shade of deepest crimson and blood dripping from his cattle’s ears. As all of this happens, ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unbelievable is taking place.

This in short is the plot of the book. These lives are about to change and they do not even know it. The title of the book comes from the Communist Manifesto and that should say it all, shouldn’t it? The way the book is written is simply stupendous. There is no way you will go away from the book without reflecting on what happened and what perhaps is still happening in the wake of the event. The book conveys the horrors without sugar-coating anything. McKeon’s writing is raw and bloody and there is no getting away from it.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” is a book which you should not miss out reading. There is human kindness in these pages. There is sadness. There are circumstances that one cannot do much about. There is hope as well. There is also the knowing that when tragedy will strike, the possibility of humans sticking together is very high, no matter what one might think.

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