Category Archives: ReadMoreWomen

Read 15 of 2021. City of Incident: A Novel in Twelve Parts by Annie Zaidi

City of Incident by Annie ZaidiTitle: City of Incident: A Novel in Twelve Parts
Author: Annie Zaidi
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9390652129
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Sometimes an author doesn’t have to say too much to make points felt, or to express emotions. I have always been taken in by the concept of vignettes in literature – of how some writers are capable of writing them to the point of distinction – each appearing as an entire universe in its own structure and some who somehow fail to achieve that and get caught in detail.

Annie Zaidi’s new offering “City of Incident: A Novel in Twelve Parts” is a great example of what to do when writing slice-of-life fiction. To be minimal – to only use words that matter and not more than what are needed – to the point of making the reader feel the claustrophobia, more so when a city such as Bombay is being described from various vantage points.

Zaidi captures people from various walks of life – people we see and sometimes fail to as we lead our lives. She speaks of conditions and circumstances quite nonchalantly – as though they don’t mean anything but don’t be fooled by the lightness – because there is so much to uncover at the end of it.

Situations are primary – highlighting them isn’t the motive of this book, I think. It is all about living and what it takes to live in a metropolis. Zaidi’s writing feels like I am in a bubble and there is no way out. From railway platforms to overcrowded trains, to homes that provide no respite, and traffic signals that make you see events you don’t want to. She documents all of it, being almost a chronicler of disappointed lives, mercurial beings, and tortured souls.

City of Incident feels like all those lives have merged together in one small book. Each life appears different and unique, only for Zaidi to make us by the end of it, feel like they all are universal – same and without distinction. City of Incident makes you stop in your tracks and observe people around you closely and with more introspection. I highly recommend this read.

Read 14 of 2022. Blue by Emmelie Prophète. Translated from the French by Tina Kover

Blue by Emmelie Prophète

Title: Blue
Author: Emmelie Prophète
Translated from the French by Tina Kover Publisher: Amazon Crossing
ISBN: 978-1542031295
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 126
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Blue isn’t an easy novel to read. It is short and requires work from the reader, in the sense to keep pace with what’s going on. Time is fluid and it travels without warning. There is a lot of back and forth – given it is a stream of consciousness novel, and that to me is one of its major selling points.

Blue is a lyrical memoir of Haiti. It is a story of the narrator and her life there before she moved. It is a story of her mother and two aunts and all of this is replayed as the narrator sits at an airport, waiting for a flight from Miami back to her native island.

Emmelie Prophète writes about Port-au-Prince through the daily lives of its inhabitants, the ones that aren’t visible sometimes – resisting and inviting voyeurism. We don’t get to see the city as much through its blueprint as much as we do through the narrator – in a minimal space of that of an airport. The comparisons are made – from where the narrator is to what has been left behind, and sometimes event similarities. That of women being subdued, of people making sense of their identities as they go along, and how Haitians are portrayed in North American media, and how it impacts them as people.

There is so much to unpack in this novel. From the outside world to the inside sanctum of thoughts and prayers, Prophète reveals the narrator’s emotions and thoughts in relation to incidents of the past and how it all ties up to the present.

Blue also conveys a sense of solitude – the airport, the island, the inner workings of the mind, the stream of consciousness, and more than anything – the distances between places gives the reader a strong feeling of isolation and contemplation.

The writing is fluid. The translation is reflective of it, on every page. Kover makes it a point to show most of the time and not tell through the translation. It makes you want more, and imagine the most. Sometimes it is tough to keep up with the plot – so much so that it seems like there is no linear plot and yet you know it is the story of a place, of home that is synonymous with the colour Blue, the one that is about forgotten memories, painful ones, that surface once in a while, as you wait to be transported.

Read 8 of 2022. Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Title: Brown Girls
Author: Daphne Palasi Andreades Publisher: Fourth Estate, HarperCollins UK
ISBN: 978-0008478056
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This book reminded me so much of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, of course, barring the fact that in Brown Girls we are exposed to a variety of voices – of all brown girls trying to navigate and find their way in the world. While Cisneros’s work was about the coming-of-age of one young girl, Brown Girls is the story of many. It also somewhere down the line becomes the story of the marginalised, the unseen, the unobserved, the ones who are struggling every single day to make their presence felt. 

Brown Girls is about young women of colour – across ethnicities, growing up in Queens, and it is their stories that are told from one chapter to the other.  This book also reads like a memoir sometimes – I am sure though some portions are reflective of the author’s life. 

Brown Girls is a novel that speaks of the loneliness of young girls, the losses that they do not speak of, the secrets they don’t confide in anyone but each other, and the ones that are hidden even from themselves. It is a book of how brown girls are alienated and how they are almost given a handbook to be followed by their family and the outside world as well.

Andreades touches on female friendships that are cohesive, argumentative, disruptive, and extremely volatile. It is written in the style of a chorus of immigrant voices – of daughters living on the margins of the American dream. The expectations of parents, their own desires and hopes, and the world that doesn’t allow them those benefits is the crux of the book. It is also mainly about survival.

The writing is strong, unifying, sometimes speaking of identity as a whole, and sometimes right down to individuals. The complex nuances of race and identity surface with every chapter in a different way and compels readers to see what Andreades wants them to.

Read 236 of 2021. Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories by Lily King

Five Tuesdyas in Winter - Stories by Lily King

Title: Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories
Author: Lily King
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1529086485
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 240
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I love short stories and this collection was no exception. I had read Writers & Lovers sometime last year and remember enjoying it a lot. Lily King’s writing is so precise and sharp, that every page shines with clarity of thought and emotion. Even so some stories are weaker than the others, but you tend to ignore them as a reader because the overall collection works for you.

The writing is tender and beautiful. She writes about big themes and spaces – complicated relationships between parents and children, former colleagues, a coming out story, marriages that do not work, and to most specifically focus on feelings in almost every story makes you marvel at the skill of also not meandering and not being too melodramatic, where it could have gone that way.

There are stories that are also dark, but they are made up for stories that offer moments of sweetness and generosity of emotions. The title story is about a jilted spouse left with an only child. A bookseller whose wife left him years ago and now he doesn’t know what to do with all his emotions and his preteen daughter trying to fill the void in his life.

Lily King’s stories are all about human feeling – they cover the entire range of emotions and do not make you choose any as a reader. For me, each was told with a different tone – though the underlined broad strokes were the same – of hope, failure, success, and a chance at mending the broken.

Read 229 of 2021. To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

9781529077506

Title: To Paradise
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1529077476
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 720
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

To Paradise isn’t A Little Life. It will not break your heart. It will not make you cry. It will not torment you days after you finish it. It will not haunt you or your memories. It is not that kind of a book. But what it is – for its writing, multiple plots, characters that are engaging and well-fleshed out, it is about family and relationships and how we are forever stuck or not with them, it is about inheritance, and passion, love and lack of it, and more so about Hawai’i.

It is not The People in the Trees, yet there is enough science for people who loved that one. It isn’t what you think it is – even though the blurb is given, and you think you know what this book is about, but you do not. To Paradise is nothing like I have read this year, and this is what I expect of Yanagihara.

To Paradise is divided into three parts and each part feels like a different novel. I failed to see the larger connect and that to me is alright, because I will reread it and see where I missed out. The first story is set in an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is a part of the Free States where anyone can do what they please, love and marry whoever they want – it all seems very idyllic. The nubile and young scion of a very distinguished family David is smitten by a music teacher Edward, who has nothing to show for, when he is almost betrothed to a wealthy suitor Charles, way older than him and perhaps incapable of understanding him. Yanagihara’s characters take time to grow and for readers to even get to know them. It is almost a slow-burn of a novel in that sense.

The second part of the novel plays out in 1993 Manhattan with the AIDS epidemic taking more lives by the minute. This part of the novel looks at the relationship of a son and father, both Davids this time. The son, David is living with his older and richer lover Charles and the father is combating a serious illness, contemplating on life – past and present through a series of monologues. This by far was my favourite section of the novel. Yanagihara writes prose like no other. Even though like I said this book isn’t traumatic, it has its moments of melancholy, grief, and loss.

The last part of the novel is set in a not-so-distant future where pandemics are a common thing and charts the relationship between a grandfather, Charles and his granddaughter Charlie. This is the part where science (as it played out beautifully in The People in the Trees) comes to fore along with questions of identity, climate change, and uncertainty.

The themes of the book are so large and interconnected that it makes you want to keep turning the pages. Love, loss, loneliness, the need for someone, shame, death and fear keep getting played out in several ways. The writing is taut and perfect. Not a beat is missed, and nothing is out of place. The book may seem chunky, but it is needed. Yanagihara works on details – this is the only way to get to know her characters and understand the world she creates.

To Paradise left me stumped as well in a lot of places – there are a lot of questions unanswered, too many loose ends that weren’t tied, too much left for assumption, but it is alright. I think some books are meant to be that way. I will most certainly reread it when it is officially out in January.