Tag Archives: Divorce

Ties by Domenico Starnone

Title: Ties
Author: Domenico Starnone
Translated by: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453855
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

To learn a language and not do anything about it is what regular folk do. It just sits in their memory and without any practice or anyone to speak with fades from there as well. That is how language works – more so when a new language is learned. But to actually do something the skills acquired with a lot of struggle, pain and heartache is perhaps what people like Jhumpa Lahiri do when they learn a new language. In her case, Italian and the translated work (by her) was Ties by Domenico Starnone.

I was anticipating this one for a while. I think it was more because I knew it was translated by Lahiri and I have loved almost all her books in the past, but as I read the book, I was taken in by the plot and I understood why I was waiting for it after all. “Ties” is a story of a marriage and also I would like to think of objects and empty spaces that surround us, where words get lost, and communication is dead between spouses. Also, might I add that “Ties” is not just another marriage story – there is a lot more to it which seethes under the surface as beautifully imagined by Starnone.

“Ties” is also beyond just the marriage of Vanda and Aldo. It is also about the other relationships that come with the terrain of marriage and how all of them get impacted when a marriage goes awry. The brokenness, the visible fault lines and sometimes not so visible ones, the routine and the mundane that act as barriers to them fulfilling their vows and above all no compatibility makes this book a rollercoaster of emotions read. To me, the book also symbolized time – the years of a marriage, the so-called affiliation between a couple, the ups and downs as they happen and above all the empathy for each other, which somehow is so fragile that it can break any time.

Domenico’s writing is sparse. I love how he doesn’t waste words when it comes to describing a situation, detail or emotion. I don’t know how the book reads in Italian but the translation seems just in place – just what is needed for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though initially it was a breeze to get into, later as the layers got added and it became a little more complex, it was tough but eventually it picked pace again.

“Ties” is the kind of book which has multiple facets to it – the ones that will make you see how sometimes marriages work and sometimes they do not – it is all around you for you to observe and make your deductions. At the same time, it is the kind of read that sticks – Starnone delves deep into the minds and hearts of common people and brings out every side to them through his characters. Lahiri’s translation hits home with the details, nuances and dialogue which is pitched perfectly for readers in English. “Ties” is the kind of a book which of course can be read for a weekend, but will stay for way longer than that.

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The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler Title: The Accidental Tourist
Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Ballantine Books, Random House
ISBN: 9780345452009
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

This book has wanted my attention for the longest time and I have ignored it for the longest time, till February 2015 set in and somehow this book came back to me and I knew I had to read it. “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler is a book that is not a fast read. It will not have you turn the pages at a neck-breaking speed. It will not do that and if you expect that from a book, then you should not read it. “The Accidental Tourist” is a book that should be read slowly, daily even, and in right doses. To me, that was the only way to read this book.

A couple’s marriage is lost in the wake of their 12-year-old’s senseless murder. Macon Leary is now lonely. He is a man who believes in the ordinary and the structure that he has built around his life. He is a writer of travel guides and does not do well with changes. Sarah Leary cannot cope with the loss of their son. She walks out on Macon. Macon is left to pick up the pieces and then he meets Muriel, who sets his orderly life spinning.

“The Accidental Tourist” is a book that will make you go out and hug people. It is the kind of book of new beginnings, lost and forgotten relationships and what it does to human beings. Anne Tyler is a master of writing about relationships and the modern frameworks they are bound by. She avoids the melodrama and eases the reader into the story. “The Accidental Tourist” is a book which you must savour and read and think about after.

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Us by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9780340897003
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There was a lot of buzz around “One Day” when it first released in 2009. I remember all the hype around it and decided not to read the book at all. I had of course bought it, but somehow did not want to read it or could not get into it, because of all the acclaim and the fact that almost everyone was reading it. The movie released in 2011 I think. I watched it in Bangkok, all by myself and hoping there was someone to share the experience with. “One Day” was a brilliant film according to me and then I read the book and was wowed by it in more than one ways.

Last year I received an uncorrected proof of “Us” and could not wait to get into it. With work and other matters pressing priority, the book took a backseat so to speak and I managed to read it only this month. And boy oh boy, did I love it! “Us” is written in vintage Nicholls style – with humour, some tragedy and also profundity in so many sentences that shine through the pages.

“Us” as the title suggests is about a couple and the story of their lives, quite literally from the time they met to when Connie Petersen announces to her husband Douglas that she wants out of their marriage. This is after three decades of their strong relationship. They have a moody seventeen year-old son Albie who clearly is more inclined towards his mother than his father. Connie has already planned a month-long tour to some European capitals. The timing is terrible but Douglas hopes that this will rekindle their relationship and things will change.

“Us” is a book full of hope, humour and one man’s attempts to save his marriage. The writing as I mentioned earlier is quirky, a little bit sad and told from a perspective which moves into the past and present and absolutely heart-breaking at times. “Us” is the sort of book that will make you look at your relationships differently and also make you want to work on them a little harder. The story could belong to anyone. It is because of this universal appeal that the book works on so many levels. Nicholls’ eye-for-detail is absolutely stunning. He makes you see the setting differently and the dialogues that are plenty do the rest of the work. “Us” is a heart-warming book to be read on a Sunday with lots of hot chocolate.

Do checkout the marketing video of “Us”:

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Us

Book Review : Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox Title: Desperate Characters
Author: Paula Fox
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393318944
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 156
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

It is not easy to write a book about marriage. It takes a lot. Sometimes I also think you have to go to that place to experience it and put it on paper. And then to talk about a failing marriage is something else. The emotions that seethe under and to bring them to fore, is not an easy feat. “Desperate Characters” by Paula Fox is one of those few books that manage to do it. It manages to evoke almost every emotion in the characters and the reader and but obviously, the sense of void, remains, as it always does, at the end of a good novel.

I got to know of “Desperate Characters” when I chanced across Jonathan Franzen’s favourite books and this one was somewhere on the top of the list, after Christina Stead I think. The book starts off with an accident and ends almost in the same manner. A couple – who seem happy on the surface – Otto and Sophie Bentwood, living in Brooklyn – the epitome of suburban bliss so to speak. The complete works of Goethe line their bookshelf, they own a Mercedes, and of course all materialistic gadgets of the time in which the story is set – 1969. Sophie is then bitten by a neighbourhood stray cat and from there on their lives change. The marriage crumbles. The decay is visible and for all to see.

America is changing, rapidly at that and in the book; their marriage to a large extent cannot handle the changes. The bite almost becomes metaphorical of their marriage – not healing, dark and almost septic. Fox’s characters are reckless. I think she conjures them that way. They cannot be anything or anyone else. The writing then is nuanced. So much so that you find yourself going over sentences, again and again, to soak yourself in the language and the emotions they convey.

What is most surprising is that the book released in 1970 and not many people know of it. I hope this will change, because I wish more people would read Paula Fox. She is one of the most underrated authors and deserves a chance for sure. Go and buy this one. Read it.

Here is a flavour of her writing:

Thus, they stand facing each other “rigidly, each half-consciously amassing evidence against the other, charges that would counterbalance the exasperation that neither could fathom.”

“Life is desperate.”

“You don’t know what’s going on,” he said at last. “You are out of the world, tangled in personal life…People like you …stubborn and stupid and drearily enslaved by introspection while the foundation of their privilege is being blasted out from under them.” He looked calm. He had gotten even.’

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Book Review: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Title: Flora & Ulysses
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406345186
Genre: Children
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always wondered what it is about children’s stories that immediately draw me to them. The need to read almost all of what is written in that genre and still crave for more. It is always so calming – the reading of stories written for children. At one point or the other, it almost makes you want to believe in everything and everyone – all over again. It makes you want to be a child – all safe and sheltered.

“Flora & Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo is one such book I stumbled on this year and I cannot be gladder than having read it before the year ended. “Flora & Ulysses” is about an eleven-year old girl, who is a cynic and a squirrel with superpowers. It seems wonderful, doesn’t it? It is more wondrous than it sounds. It all begins when a squirrel gets sucked into a Ulysses vacuum cleaner (hence the name), almost dies and survives because of Flora and before you know it, he has acquired super powers (which I will not discuss here) and also an archenemy that must be stopped. Besides this, the squirrel knows how to type and write poems (he loves poetry after all).

In all of this, there is Flora’s neighbour, her parents (divorced and estranged), a lamp most hated and a boy who will not remove his sun glasses, because he thinks he is blinded. To read such a story is always heart-warming. I could see myself fawning over the characters just as soon as I began the story. The book is all about hope and love and a heart that can change.

To me, the book was just right and came to me at the right time, when probably I was in danger of becoming a cynic. Sometimes you need the required optimism and belief from other sources and what other way to get it than through a wonderfully written book of young children, squirrels with superpowers and characters who want to change the world – one day at a time.

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