Tag Archives: booker long list

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Water CureTitle: The Water Cure
Author: Sophie Mackintosh
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0241334744
Genre: Women, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

I finished reading The Water Cure at neck-break speed. There was no other way to read this book. Yes, it started off a little slow. Yes, it took its time to grow on me but when it did, there was no turning back. There is a lot happening in the book – it is dystopian, it is feministic (well, you will struggle to see it but its there) and in most parts, it is also very fantastical. It may seem that there is no story really but there is, and the writing is on point – every word and every sentence where it should be.

At various points in the book, you might even think that the book is loosely based on King Lear and maybe it is, but it is so much more than that because the King soon disappears in the book. House on the island, alone by the sea. Three girls, Grace, Lia, and Sky live with their parents’ Mother and King (see the use of a patriarchy term right here – while the parents have no names, the father is always known as King).

Their worldly knowledge comes only from what the King dishes them. They have no contact with the outside world. They are in a world of their own. Till of course, like I said, King disappears, Mother takes over and their world crumbles as other men wash up on their beach, lay claim to their land and everything changes for them – in an instant.

Mackintosh’s writing isn’t easy but it is extremely engaging. There are times when you feel the book isn’t even dystopian as it claims to be, but there are only parts that are far and few in-between. The plot is for sure disturbing, but if it is to your taste, then I would recommend that you carry forth and finish the read, because it is extremely rewarding. The storytelling is unique and mesmerizing. Mackintosh is a new voice that has to be heralded, and this one most certainly read like a debut. It is that good.

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Nourishment by Gerard Woodward

I had heard a lot about “Nourishment” before reading the book, and from various sources. The Internet primarily did not give me any promising reviews and friends who had read it did not seem to be speaking favourably about it either. However, having said that I feel nourished (with all pun intended) after reading the book. I had also earlier heard a lot about “August” by the same writer and now I cannot wait to read that one.

Nourishment is set in 20th century England. The setting: World War II. Victoria ‘Tory’ Pace is alone in London working for a gelatin factory. Her husband has been presumed dead and her children have been evacuated and sent to live with a foster family. And if things weren’t  bad enough, her widowed mother decides to come and live with her. She then out of the blue receives a letter from her husband who is actually now a POW asking her to write him a dirty letter. ” A very dirty letter”.

This demand, on the face of it rather touchingly desperate, coincides with a piece of black farce concerning rationing, meat shortages and a bomb landing on the local butcher’s shop, the upshot of which is that the two women dine one evening on a meal that is almost certainly roast leg of butcher.

The violating of these two large taboos – obscenity and cannibalism – plunges Tory into a long, serio-comic process of self-discovery, as a woman, a mother (she has three evacuee children) and, later, as a writer. Her first efforts at epistolary smut, amusingly hopeless (“did ‘womb’ count as an erotic word?” she wonders at one point), are received with angry displeasure: “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!” Stung, but also wanting to do her wifely duty, she applies herself more diligently to considerations of the flesh. One day she wanders around the back of the gelatine factory where she works, and encounters the owner, a weather-beaten phallus of a man, training young boxers in a gym.

You see it coming, and it does: a steamy affair that provides Tory with her long-delayed sexual awakening, while also conveniently supplying her with material torrid enough to satisfy her husband. One more click of the plot, involving the disclosure (to the reader but not to Tory) of a nasty ulterior motive behind the husband’s request, having nothing to do with lust or even affection for his wife, and the machinery is fully wound up.

The unfolding of all this is deft and assured. Woodward has a light touch that enables him to glide over the bumpier improbabilities of his storyline. Sharp images constantly replenish the sense of reality – a mass of bluebottles, for instance, being batted from a pile of bones at the factory, “as though having collectively lifted a single baffled head, lowered it again to minute inspection of the bones . . .” Period detail – clothing, décor, streetscapes – is used sparingly but with precision. And there are funny lines throughout, though the humour tends to be at the expense of the characters, which adds to the distancing effect. Listening to her boss (a worthy addition to Woodward’s gallery of monomaniacs) proclaim his vision of a world converted to an all-gelatine diet, Tory “was certain there was something wrong with the idea. Then she had it. ‘But wouldn’t it wobble terribly?'” The rift you trip over, between what you expect her to say and what she actually says, triggers a laugh, but the line diminishes Tory as a character, and one’s interest in her dips a little as a result.

It also points to a certain silliness that runs through the whole book. Woodward has always cultivated a tension between the sublime and the ridiculous. Crisis, in his characters, often assumes peculiarly daft forms, and Nourishment is no exception. People turn their rooms into whisky distilleries. They set their heads on fire. They build junk robots that bear a sinister resemblance to other members of the family. For one stretch of her journey Tory surrenders, nunlike, to a compulsion to embark on a career in the local public convenience. “It’s done, Mother. I am a lavatory attendant.” The difference here is a certain lack of conviction about the other side of the equation, the seriousness. For all the energy and resourcefulness Woodward throws at his big motif of physical and emotional nourishment, he never seems quite as interested in it, novelistically, as he perhaps wants to be. The implied promise of the title (as in, say, Persuasion) is of a sustained investigation into the concept, but although the story checks off every imaginable kind of nourishment as it progresses, it never actually digs very deep into the idea. I wondered if the setting – that pinched wartime world – was perhaps a little too conveniently deprived and repressed to yield anything new about human needs and desires. However, at the end of it all, I did feel Nourished.

Here’s a peek into it through a Youtube Video Dramatization/Trailer:

Nourishment; Woodward, Gerard; Picador; Rs 615

Room by Emma Donoghue

Ok so here goes. I am not a fan of the Booker Nominations. For one, I do not get them. Second, they seem to be not to close to making readers read without any hiccups. Having said that, I had to chew on my words (and how) once I started reading, “Room” by Emma Donoghue.

I am not new to Emma’s works. I have read “Slammerkin” and loved it beyond words and the same magic was re-created with “Room”.

I was taken in from the very start: “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. Was I minus numbers?”

 Now that’s the power of writing. Something that grips you from the very beginning and doesn’t let go of you. And so starts the story of Ma and Jack who live in an eleven feet by eleven feet Room. They have no contact with the outside world. Jack doesn’t know what it means. He has spent his days playing with things he can make do with in the confines of the room, watching shows on TV (He thinks that everything and everyone he sees in the TV is unreal), and reciting and learning the songs, rhymes and stories that his Ma remembers. He has only been in touch (and that too not literally) with someone known as, “Old Nick” who visits his mother every night.

They are two captives being held in captivity and the story obviously is told from two perspectives.

Donoghue has captured their voices beautifully. The reaction of Jack when he gets to know of the Outside world and how sometimes a safe place can go awry, after Ma decides to plan an escape.

For me the book was an eye-opener. Of what parents do to keep their children from harm, to help them grow and make them take tiny steps – one at a time so they do not ever get hurt.

I loved reading the story from Jack’s point of view all the time. It is well-crafted.

According to me everyone must read this book. Please read it.

Room by Emma Donoghue; Picador; Available at all leading book stores; ₨499;