Category Archives: Random House UK

Hostage by Guy Delisle

Title: Hostage
Author: Guy Delisle
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-1911214441
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 432
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Guy Delisle’s graphic novels deal with humanity on a grand scale. When I say humanity I mean the issues we deal with not only on a day to day basis, but also the ones that sometimes go unnoticed – the events that go unspoken of, the people who get caught in unsuspecting circumstances and whose stories aren’t told as much. Delisle’s graphic novels till now (at least the ones I’ve read) have dealt with his life as the spouse of a Médecins Sans Frontières (literal translation: Medicine without Frontiers) physician in different cities. “Hostage” is different from these.

“Hostage” tells the story of Christophe André and his kidnapping in early July 1997 from his Doctors without Borders office in Nazran, a small town in the former Soviet Republic of Ingushetia. His kidnappers took him to Chechnya, where they tried to get a ransom of a million dollars. The story is of his captivity and how he managed to survive in the face of a hopeless situation – when he was moved from one place to another, when he didn’t know if he would live to see the next day or for that matter a random act of kindness from a captivator meant so much.

Delisle recounts André’s harrowing experience in hostage and not once the reader (of course me in question in this case) gets bored. Delisle conveys the psychological effects of solitary confinement through some brilliant use of colours, paneling and muted colour washes. Hostage had me hooting for Christophe and all I wanted was for him to go scot free without any injury. Your heart goes out to him as he is cuffed to a radiator, doesn’t know why he is here, doesn’t know whether his organization would pay for him and whether or not he will be able to attend his sister’s wedding or ever see her (heartbreaking in my opinion). I for one had goosebumps while reading this because I started wondering how I would behave in captivity. Would I be able to have any hope? Would I give up too soon?

The topic is grim and something that perhaps most people may not digest well. It being in a graphic form, in fact sometimes makes it only too real. Having said that, the book is compelling. Christophe managed to keep his sanity (you have to read to find out how he managed that) in an environment that was not conducive at all and yet is alive and managed to tell his tale to Delisle, which now is in the form of a brilliant graphic biography (I might even call it a memoir because all experiences are of Christophe after all and were narrated to the author). “Hostage” is a book that filled me with a lot of hope, troubled me at times and also made me see how easy it is sometimes for common folk to get into situations beyond their control. I also for one wouldn’t be surprised if someone decided to make a movie out of it.

You can buy the book here: http://amzn.to/2sZXYpo

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Patience by Daniel Clowes

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Title: Patience
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1910702451
Genre: Graphic Novels, Sci-Fi
Pages: 180
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

The deal with graphic novels written by Clowes is that there is not one single moment of rest. You cannot keep it aside and mull over what you’ve read till it is over and done with. “Patience” is one such of his graphic novels. It is sci-fi, love, twisted and redemptive in so many ways, that you cannot help but love the writing and the illustrations.

What is it about though?

Before I tell you what this book is about, let me also tell you that this book is highly trippy – the graphics are 80s and fucking (pardon my French) fantastic. I mean, this one for sure has surpassed his earlier works in terms of the visuals. Having said that, Clowes’ books do tend to drift away from the regular – be it the story or the characters’ nature. Patience is definitely no different and on the money every single time.

Clowes explores the themes of loneliness and alienation as he has in most of his other books. What makes Patience so different then? It is also psychedelic and it is a sci-fi love story – which is destructive and tender. Jack’s pregnant wife Patience is killed and this leads to his downfall. He lives in misery for decades till he discovers a way to travel back in time and stop the murder from happening. Once he does travel in the past, he learns a lot about his wife which he wasn’t aware about. How will the book end? What will be the outcome of this story? There is really only one way to find out. Read this book. It is one of those rare gems.

Wilson by Daniel Clowes

wilson-by-daniel-clowes Title: Wilson
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-0224090612
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic Strip
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Wilson is a strange character. I have never encountered someone like Wilson in graphic novels. He is not a happy person and he doesn’t like people. He is a sociopath. He is a loser. He is also not a romantic. He loves his dog. He doesn’t care about his ex-wife (or maybe he does) or for his daughter (maybe he does). All said and done, Wilson isn’t the sort of man you’d hang out with.

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“Wilson” by Daniel Clowes is told in the form of cartoon strips. It is spread over 80 pages in this format and is a delight to read, with every turn of the page. He is an introvert and also an extrovert – basically confused which most of us really are, so it is okay. Daniel Clowes focuses on the ups and downs of one person’s life and surprisingly, there are portions you can very well relate to. My grumpiness for example – I could totally understand when Wilson was not being so nice (which is almost all the time in the book) and that kinda overwhelmed me.

Wilson might also be about the mundane and about loneliness and how each of us deals with it. The pages compliment Wilson’s mood – the colours, sometimes the fonts and the attitude as well. Wilson is a bastard and you can see that – but he has more shades to him than just black and white and that is what makes this graphic novel super interesting. His interactions with others are most unique and funny.

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I would highly recommend everyone to read “Wilson” only because it is so bizarre and so satisfying at the same time. It might also make you contemplate a lot about your life, so be cautious about that. Make it a holiday read. You will not be disappointed for sure.

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.

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming Title: The Trouble with Women
Author: Jacky Fleming
Publisher: Square Peg, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-1910931097
Genre: Graphic novel, Commentary
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There are funny graphic novels that try too hard to be funny and then there are those that evoke a laugh or a guffaw from you at every turn of the page. “The Trouble with Women” by Jacky Fleming belongs to the second category of funny graphic novels. “The Trouble with Women” is a tongue-in-cheek graphic novel and you guessed it right, it is all about what is wrong with women – or so how the men see women – right from the good old times to the modern age – it is just the patriarchal system that calls the shots. The book is about how women throughout history have been confined only to the life of domesticity and nothing else – well at least most women.

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Jacky looks at it in a humorous way but of course – the issues are seething and real and are brought to fore nonetheless. From people like Freud to Darwin who thought women were not of much use, Fleming gives you several pointers to think about and actually what it boils down to sadly is that things haven’t changed all that much from those times. Women still have to struggle just as much and things need to change and it can only be brought about when people begin to come together and have a conversation.

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I have never understood arm-chair activism. It may seem like it is a start but honestly to me it doesn’t go anywhere at all. At the same time, this book “The Trouble with Women” will draw out exactly what women have been struggling against (albeit in a funny way) and give everyone, both women and men, the much needed perspective and for people to stay on track when it comes to issues.

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Jacky Fleming’s book is funny and introspective. It is also cheeky, bold and every mother, sister, friend, daughter and woman out there should read it. While they are at it, the men also must read it. Change their perspective, perhaps.