Category Archives: Viking

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?

Amour: How The French Talk About Love by Stefania Rousselle

Amour - How the French Talk About Love by Stefania Rousselle Title: Amour: How the French Talk About Love
Author: Stefania Rousselle
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0241406137
Genre: Photo Essays, Photojournalism
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

How does one find love? How does one sustain that love? How does it feel to listen to sad love songs and pine and long for someone, day after day? I was eighteen once. I loved once with a mad passion. I still do. Though I am scared and afraid of getting hurt, love doesn’t know that though. It washes over me like a tide, and that’s the end of it all. Even before it has begun.

We love like moth to a flame; till the time we crash and burn. We love and we don’t even know how or when or why. We love because sometimes that’s the only thing to do. Love someone with all our might and strength. Love is what makes the world go around, isn’t it? Love is also not many a splendored thing, because it has the capacity to break you, and yet again it repairs you without you knowing.

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Stefania Rousselle had almost stopped believing in love. She is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, covering the bleakest of assignments – from terrorist attacks to the rise of the right. This led her to travelling around France asking strangers the one good old question that we all try to answer: What is love?

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The result of those interactions is “Amour – How the French Talk about Love”, a book of photographs, memories, and a book that tries hard to make sense of love and what goes and comes with it. Amour is a book about regular people – bakers, painters, plumbers, irrespective of professions, speaking of love and what it did to them or continues to do to them. It is a book about lost opportunities, to lovers that were better left alone, to marriages that crumble and yet you stay, and also about love and its mysteries that just cannot be solved.

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Whether it is about a gay couple who have just started life, or someone who misses his wife so badly that he just cannot fathom living again, to someone who hadn’t kissed till he was twenty-five, to a lady who escaped an abusive relationship and is still waiting on love, all these stories are hopeful, broken, and yet all we all need is love to soldier on. To make us believe in the idea of forever.

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Amour as a book made me think about my loves and my relationships. Relationships with my parents, my lovers, friends, and the ones that didn’t culminate to anything. Love is like that; it just has to be given its space for anything to happen. I am not like that though. I learn every day.

Amour: How the French Talk About Love shows you how love is so universal that it also hurts that way when you read about other people’s experiences. You cry a little. You smile. You cheer. You also want to reach out to them and let them know it will be okay, and love will find a way to them, one way or another.

Starting this month, I have decided to include a playlist at the end of each review – songs I listened to while reading the book.

Here’s the playlist for Amour:

  • Shayad from the movie Love Aaj Kal 2
  • Love of My Life by Queen
  • Aaye Kuch Abr by Atif Aslam (Coke Studio)
  • Aapki Ankhon Main Kuch from the movie Ghar
  • Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
  • This Year’s Love by David Gray
  • Last Party by MIKA
  • Ae Ajnabi from Dil Se
  • Crying by k.d. lang and Roy Orbison
  • Your Whatever
  • Pyar Hua Chupke Se by 1942: A Love Story
  • Kithe Nain by Aabha Hanjura
  • Maahi Ve from the movie Highway
  • Chaand Chahiye by Ankur Tewari
  • Walkin’ After Midnight
  • Friday I’m in Love
  • Be My Baby
  • We all Sleep Alone by Cher
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston
  • Raabta from Agent Vinod
  • Secrets by Collabro
  • 101010 by Sleeping at Last
  • Don’t Give Up On Us by Sarah McLachlan
  • Mujhse Pehli Si Mohabbat by Noor Jehan
  • Musafir from Jagga Jasoos
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
  • Ek Chaand (from LOEV)

RBC Taylor Prize 2019 Longlist

The RBC Taylor Prize is a Canadian Literary Award, presented by the Charles Taylor Foundation to the Best Canadian work of literary non-fiction. The prize was inaugurated in 2000, and was presented biennially till 2004, after which it became an annual award. 

RBC Taylor Prize 2019 Jurors Camilla Gibb, Roy MacGregor and Beverley McLachlin shared the longlist for the eighteenth awarding of Canada’s most prestigious non-fiction prize.

The jury reviewed over 100 books to reach this longlist and state that “It was no small task whittling down to this longlist of ten, and we anticipate many hours of re-reading and debate before we produce our short list, and, ultimately, the winner. We found the books breath-taking in their range of topics, and happily found so many of them serve as a useful barometer for current issues, from reconciliation to political trust. There is remarkable achievement here and we hope readers will celebrate that with us. “

The longlist books for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize are:

RBCTP 2019 longlist IMG_1496cropped 4000

1.   Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir, by Mark Critch, published by Viking/Penguin Canada

2.   Just Let Me Look at You: On Fatherhood, by Bill Gaston, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Canada

3.   Jan in 35 Pieces: A Memoir in Music, by Ian Hampton, published by Porcupine’s Quill

4.   Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Roads, by Kate Harris, published by Knopf Canada.

5.   All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Elizabeth Hay, published by McClelland & Stewart

6.   Trust: Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country, by David Johnston, published by Signal/M&S **

7.   Seeking the Fabled City: The Canadian Jewish Experience, by Allan Levine, published by McClelland and Stewart

8.   Power, Prime Ministers and the Press: The Battle for Truth on Parliament Hill, by Robert Lewis, published by Dundurn Press.

9.   Heart Berries: A Memoir, by Terese Marie Mailhot, published by Doubleday Canada

10. Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, by Darrel McLeod, published by Douglas & MacIntyre.

Noreen Taylor, chair of the Charles Taylor Foundation and founder of the Prize, commented: “What an amazing breadth of offerings this year. I can hardly wait to dive into the books I haven’t already read! Looking at this list it’s definitely going to be a busy holiday. What is so interesting is that this list reflects what Canadians are experiencing, worrying about and/or enjoying currently, and reminds Canadian readers how fortunate we are to have amongst us so many gifted and unique storytellers. Here’s to our publishers and their many distinct imprints for releasing a panorama of fascinating titles, and bravo to our jurors who performed the Herculean task of selecting this remarkable long list from amongst over 100 titles.”

Vijay Parmar, president of RBC PH&N Investment Counsel, added: “Once again, we have a longlist that showcases our national collective voice and the power that storytelling has to change our understanding and challenge our perspectives. Congratulations to the 2019 long-listed authors and thanks to our esteemed jurors for their time, dedication and reflection.”Key Dates: The RBC Taylor Prize Shortlist will be announced at a news conference on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, and the winner revealed at a gala luncheon on Monday March 4, 2019.

 

 

Last Stories by William Trevor

Last Stories Title: Last Stories
Author: William Trevor
Publisher: Viking, Penguin UK
ISBN: 978-0241337769
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Of all that I have read of William Trevor’s work, one thing is certain: There is a sense of magic to his prose. His sentences take you by the hand, lead you on (you give in quite readily as well) and for sure you will never be disappointed. As a reader, you will be at a loss, because you loved every story and that hasn’t happened in a while with a short-story collection. You then realize that you after all read Trevor and make a promise to reread the collection and you do. Nothing sweeter than to honour this kind of a promise.

I am obviously referring to Trevor’s last collection of stories, posthumously published and aptly titled “Last Stories” (though I think to some extent that was very lazy). “Last Stories” is a collection of stories that is mysterious, enigmatic, sparse and yet spot on – the pace of the prose is languid and easy and somehow has the potential to draw you right into it.

Now to the stories. Trevor wrote of common men and women – those who are lost and are struggling to come to terms with life. I think after Alice Munro, Trevor is hands down my second favourite short-story writer. Every story that I have read by him has left a mark on my mind, heart and life.

All through the book what tugged at my heart is loneliness and longing that is consistent in almost every story. “Mrs Crasthorpe” is about a middle-aged widow who is only seeking companionship, only to be rebuffed later on in the story by a widower. It definitely broke my heart and that too with luscious prose at its center. And then there is “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” which is perhaps the most cheerful story of the collection. Miss Nightingale is the protagonist of this story who has known a bit about disappointment in her life, who in her fifties is almost reminiscing about her sixteen-year-old affair with a married man. Like I said, loneliness and longing are at the heart of every story in this collection and Trevor doesn’t let you forget that.

In “At the Caffe Daria” a wife whose husband left her for her best friend, renews her relationship with friend, after the husband’s death. And then there is “The Unknown Girl” featuring Emily, a housecleaner who commits suicide after speaking of love to the son of the house. William Trevor knows the harshness of the real world and yet somehow his characters never let go of some hope, in whatever way and manner, even in death so to say.

His stories spell disaster, confusion and loss of innocence (if there was any) for his characters. They grow-up but perhaps a little later. Or they also grow-up a little sooner than expected. Life is unfair and unkind to them and yet they are survivors all along. “Last Stories” will remind you of his genius and make you wonder why he had to leave us so soon. A beauty of a book.

 

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

Whistle in the Dark Title: Whistle in the Dark
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0241327623
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I read “Elizabeth Is Missing” some time ago and loved it. Having read that, I had very high expectations from “Whistle in the Dark” and thankfully it did not disappoint at all.

Jen and Hugh are a fairly ordinary couple – middle aged, middle class and not with too many aspirations, or so it seems. Their eldest daughter, Meg has left home. The younger one, Lana lives with them and is a recluse, like most teenagers, are meant to be. At the heart of it though, Lana is a troubled young girl, who is undergoing therapy and has tried to harm herself. Jen wants the closeness back with her daughter, so she takes her for a painting holiday to Peak District. Lana disappears for four whole days and is discovered, well and bruised and shaken, but alive.

Lana will not speak with her parents about it, no matter what. She says she doesn’t recall anything but Jen refuses to believe that. She is devastated by the loss of her daughter and relieved when they find her, but she can’t place her head around Lana’s inability to tell them what happened. Jen starts recreating in her head what could have happened, getting paranoid like any mother would, speaking to Lana’s friends, checking her social media accounts for traces and trying to scrutinize her memories of the trip. All of this is happening and Meg is being ignored, feeling left out.

“Whistle in the Dark” is about parents and children and the complex relationship they share. It is about loss, grieving and wondering what will happen when children will leave the nest and fly in the open sky. I loved the writing. It is frighteningly real, sharp, life-like and almost presents both sides of the story. Even though I am not a parent, somehow I could relate to Jen more than Lana. It was almost as if her pain and determination to protect her children, became immensely real.

“Whistle in the Dark” is a book that makes you think of the social dynamics of our times and what perhaps love is all about, parental love more than anything else. A read that is relevant, empathetic, and profound.