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Book Review: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey Title: True History of the Kelly Gang
Author: Peter Carey
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571302017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

The second book in the “The Novel Cure” reading challenge happened to be True History of the Kelly Gang and I took it upon myself to finish reading this one. It was a tough read for sure however I loved it in most parts and therefore could also be done with it. It took some time unlike other books, however having said that, it was quite a rollercoaster of a read.

In “The Novel Cure”, the book is recommended to cure the disease of being accused and it does that to a very large extent. The book is but obviously about the very famously infamous Kelly Gang and their bush-ranging activities, which made them outlaws and ultimately lead to their deaths. It is about how Ned Kelly became an outlaw and a bush-ranger even if he didn’t want to, and it is surprising how his mother pushed him into becoming one under the apprentice of Harry Power (the mother though makes for a very formidable character in the book).

The book’s narrative is a little off – in the sense that the styles keep changing. However, once you get the drift and get used to it, you actually enjoy Carey’s writing. The story is written in parcels – that Ned wrote on scraps of paper for his baby daughter to read, when she grows up, as he will not be around to tell her the story of his life.
There is no high ground in the book. There is no justification for what Ned does besides the love for his family – which is more than enough most of the time and yet there might be some readers who would judge him and his actions, which of course I do not think is the right way to look at this book.

For me, the writing was a little slow at the beginning, however it picked up pace and I liked the book a lot. Some of it was also heard through an audio book, but that definitely counts. Some scenes are graphic if you have the stomach for them. I can also imagine why this book won the Booker. The language and structure are definitely in place. All in all, a very satisfying read. Definitely helps you cure the feeling of guilt and accusation.

Next Up: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (for Adolescence)


Book Review: Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Title: Half-Blood Blues
Author: Esi Edugyan
Publisher: Picador USA
ISBN: 978-1250012708
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is not easy to write a book with Jazz as the main character that is always lurking as the “backdrop”. In fact it isn’t easy writing about music at all; no matter how tuned you are to it and what your sensibilities are made of. Esi Edugyan manages it wonderfully through his book, “Half-Blood Blues”.

“Half-Blood Blues” alternates between 1992 and 1939/1940, whose major characters are three African-American men who met in Weimar, Germany playing together in a jazz group. The book brings out the world inhabited by these three men and their longings, passion, betrayal over the years, while the music silently plays on.

The tale is narrated by Sid, and he moves in time, back and forth to unfold the story of a talented trumpet player, Hieronymus Falk. The musicians struggle against the growing danger of Nazism and each experience varying degrees of safety (or lack of it) in Europe based on their background and citizenship. One of the most endangered is Hiero, a German of mixed race who is taken by the Nazis one night and never returns. Sid witnesses this and the major focus of this novel is Sid’s guilt as he grapples with what he did and what he did not to save his friend’s life.

The book in itself reads like poetry at times. Esi has a knack of writing and presenting the story in a manner that is graceful, lyrical and sometimes heart-breaking. The novel explores the other side of World War II, the persecution of Blacks and German “Mischlings” in Germany. What I loved was that the book is set against the backdrop of Jazz, which was then banned in Germany because of it being seen as, “degenerate”. So there are two biases – one against a set of people and second against a genre of music, both of which are wonderfully brought to surface by Esi Edugyan.

Esi allows the reader to explore the world through Sid’s eyes, where everything is not wrapped up tidy and neat. She creates the historic context, allowing readers to live there for a while with her flawed characters. She makes you think about what it would be like to live in a world where everything seems and has gone wrong, where may be music is the only thing left that one can rely on completely and unconditionally. Music is the only thing that seems to make sense at times.

Esi has a powerful voice though at times I felt disconnected from the book however came back to it to be enthralled for a while. Read it if music and identity interest you together. It is a great combination though.

Booker Quiz

Hello everyone! This is me – The Hungryreader and I am hosting this quiz on Booker Prize Winners on my blog today. Please leave your answers in the form of a comment. Please do not forget to include your name and email address. The 2 winners will receive a copy of “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes and “Pigeon English” by Stephen Kelman. This Quiz is only open to residents of India. Please submit your responses by the 31st of October 2011. The winners will be picked by lots.

Here we go:

1. Which book won the first ever Booker Prize in 1969?
2. Which Thomas Keneally book won the Booker?
3. In which month is the Man Booker prize shortlist usually announced?
4. In 2008 which novel won the 40th Anniversary ‘Best of Booker’ award?
5. Who, at 32, was the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize?
6. Which author famously said that she planned to spend her prize money on building a swimming pool in her house in Provence?
7. In which year were only two books shortlisted?
8. Who was the first Irish novelist to win the prize?
9. Which book is the fastest selling Man Booker winner ever, selling over half a million copies in th the UK alone?
10. Name the Penelope Fitzgerald title that won the Booker?

So start commenting and posting your answers.

All the Best…

The Hungryreader…

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;