Tag Archives: Chatto and Windus

Book Review: Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle

Tudor_Family_Story Title: Tudor: The Family Story
Author: Leanda de Lisle
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701185886
Genre: Historical, British Royalty, Non-Fiction
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There is a lot of reading material out there on the Tudor dynasty. I think every year some or the other book gets published and perhaps rightly so – given the scope and grandeur of this family. No other history has captured my interest the way the Tudor regime has and that is why I keep going back to it, time and again.

Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle however was a different read for me. Leanda de Lisle talks of things not mentioned that often. She takes on characters that were a part of history and forgotten – a man who fell in the Queen’s bed and what happened to Henry VII. The book takes into parts that are normally not spoken of. After all, every family has its own secrets and Leanda just talks of those and the past in this book.

The writing is fact driven and yet reads like a fictional account, which works splendidly for the reader. The book opens before the War of the Roses and ends with the death of the Tudor dynasty (Elizabeth I to James I). The book can get confusing at most times, however it is up to the reader to watch out for the family trees and charts and keep track of events and people.

I am a keen follower of the Tudor dynasty. I love reading everything about that time and era. This book is heavily researched and yet so readable. It succeeds in portraying kings and queens as people and also making the reader see the lives they had. “Tudor: The Family History” is one non-fiction read which perhaps I could reread later. Though the book is a big read, it is extremely satisfying and interesting. A book not to be missed for hard-core lovers of history.

Book Review: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy: Edited by Katherine Bucknell

The Animals - Edited by Katherine Bucknell Title: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy
Edited by: Katherine Bucknell
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701186784
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 528
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This has to be one of the best non-fiction books I have read this year. Or rather one of the best books of letters which I have read in a very long time. “The Animals” – Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and his long-standing lover Don Bachardy is a treat for anyone who loves being in love and reading about unconventional (so to say) love.

Christopher Isherwood was an acclaimed writer when he met Don Bachardy on a Santa Monica beach in 1952 and their love affair – or rather romance – or just love lasted until Chris’s death in 1986.

The book is about letters – they wrote to each other and the names they gave each other. Chris was Dobbins – the work horse while Don was Kitty – the young cat. The letters in themselves are sometimes calm and sometimes tumultuous and full of despair, jealousy and anger. It is the usual letters that lovers write and also somewhere down the line; they are unusual, given the nature of their relationship and the but obvious age-gap.

The letters make you ponder about the times they lived in, how they loved and how they did not fear to live as a couple – given the social thinking in the 50s. They wavered and fought like any other couple. They had their differences and yet somehow in the letters, you see the great love between them. Something that we all want to achieve. It did take me some time to get through the letters, however the experience has been extremely rewarding. The idea of getting to know Isherwood more and his relationships was intriguing for me and I am only glad that I read this book.

I will recommend it only to people who are interested in a book of this nature. Of a different love in a different time and age.

Book Review: New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

New Selected Stories by Alice Munro Title: New Selected Stories
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701179885
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If there is one short-story writer I would like to meet and know more about, it would be Alice Munro. Her skill and magnificence of the craft have always left me speechless. She writes without caring, without knowing and without expecting or so it seems every time I read her collection of stories. There is something about them which maybe cannot be defined. It can only be felt by the reader. It will be felt by you if you pick up and read any of her short stories. She is that wonderful and adept at what she does. I am only humbled every time I read her works.

“New Selected Stories” is a collection of stories from five books spanning from 1998-2009, almost a decade, depicting the key aspects of her writing. Why is she so good you ask? Or for that matter, why do I revere her the way I do? That is because she knows how to notice human beings. She sees them in their weakness and strengths and puts it down in the form of a simple story sometimes, with only too complex characters and how their lives are led, day by day and as the years pass on.

The stories never lose momentum. She always knows what to say and when to say it. For instance, “Chance” is all about fate and what role it plays in a person’s life, when she meets a stranger on a train. On the other hand, “The Bear Came over the Mountain” is about a woman and her husband dealing with her Alzheimer’s. “The Love of a Good Woman” is all about what it means to love and more so what it means to lose.

I do not know why but every time I read a short story by Alice Munro, I am forced to introspect and think of events in my life. If a writer manages to do that, then maybe there is something about her. Her stories are just like life – bittersweet and often unexpected. You cannot put down her collection and do anything else. The only problem sometimes is the length of the stories, but I guess that is okay, because once you get engrossed in any of them, you do not want it to end. And honestly I do not know of how many authors I can say that? I can say that about Alice Munro for sure. All my money on her writing skills. She is beyond super. These fifteen stories will dazzle you every time you read them. You will reread for sure.

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Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell Title: Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Author: Karen Russell
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0701187880
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Short stories are integral to what I read. They always have been. I do not remember a time not reading short stories. Maybe that is how I started reading. A writer cannot hide behind a short story. This is how Jonathan Franzen put it subtly in one of his essays on Alice Munro (which I think everyone must read), the short story genius. Sometimes I feel that the short story has not been given its due on the literature scene, but then I start thinking about the writers and I am glad that that is not the case. At least not when publishers are still publishing a collection of short stories (which is rather difficult to find these days) and when readers like me are reading them.

This brings me to the review of a collection of short stories I finished reading quite recently. “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” by Karen Russell is a collection like none other that I have read recently. I had heard a lot about Karen Russell. Her first book of stories and novel were major hits and I knew that if I were to start with the author, I would with this book and I am glad it worked that way.

The collection as the title suggests is rather weird. The stories start abruptly and it takes a while for the reader to get into it, however once the reader does, then he or she wonders why did the story/stories end so soon. That is one of the best compliments according to me, a writer can receive. There are eight stories in the book and each of them different than the other – from vampires surviving on lemons to a bunch of girls almost imprisoned in the Meiji Empire, reeling silk for the Emperor and Japan’s trade (which has a brilliant twist to it) to a boy on the verge of growing up and coming to age, stumbling on clues that could be the probable future to the Gothic Old West (which by the way gave me the creeps as I kept reading it).

The stories are written as matter-of-fact and with deep intensity. Karen knows how to write sometimes for herself (which doesn’t seem like that though) and at times for the reader, maintaining a perfect balance and rhythm. The only story which I did not enjoy in the collection was, “Dougbert Shackelton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating” as it was too short and ended way too soon, without providing anything to me as a reader.

The mix of stories could not have been better in this collection. The stories border on the weird side of life, the one that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about. They are haunting and refreshing – both at the same time and that is what makes the collection brilliant and rather unique. I would definitely recommend this one quite highly, but more so because I also have a soft corner for short stories and this one doesn’t disappoint at all.

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Book Review: Dear Life by Alice Munro

Title: Dear Life
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701187842
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Alice Munro writes and if you are ardent fan, you ensure that you read the book in almost a sitting, cherish it, reread it and only then you feel satiated. This always happens to me when I read a collection of stories by Munro. I have to reread it for solid and sometimes inexplicable reasons. There is no any other way. That is my personal connect with her, as there are other quirks when it comes to reading other writers. However, that is for a later date.

“Dear Life” is the new book by Alice Munro. Munro writes of people, emotions, and links what is familiar to her – the Canadian terrain, which almost becomes the core of each story. She captures the essence of life, the daily humdrum of living, and what it is to be human and make your mistakes over and over again.

“Dear Life” is a collection of ten stories and four autobiographical pieces, that center on Munro’s childhood. The others are written in typical Munro style – not giving away too much and at the same time letting the reader know exactly how much is needed to get into the thick of the story. A poetess in an unknown territory, who wants more from her life eventually and decisions are made for her. A soldier who is on his way home to his fiancée steps off the train before his stop, only to find himself in love with another woman. A woman grieves over the past and its consequences.

The four autobiographical pieces were the ones that stayed with me the longest. I guess that was maybe because they were written with a little more emotion than the others. According to me, Alice Munro’s craft is unlike the rest who fall in the category of the short story. Her writing is sometimes with heavy weight attached to it and then at others there is this lightness to it, which makes you wonder about how she does it so effortlessly (or so it seems).

Stories are formed. Stories are told. The writer needs to be strong enough to do that. Alice Munro is a storyteller par genius. She knows exactly when to write what word, which emotion fits in what context and what should the characters do or not do. Her stories are almost like watching a concert – they reveal themselves bit by bit, sound by sound and word by word. That is precisely why you must read, “Dear Life”.

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