Tag Archives: Faber and Faber UK

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal PeopleTitle: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages:  288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

So, I got to read this book last month and I must say that I enjoyed this one a lot more than “Conversations with Friends”. It felt as though Rooney has finally found her voice and she must stick to that. “Normal People” is a breath of fresh air that raises so many questions of class, race and above all, it speaks of love and what happens to it over time.

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. They attend school together and are familiar with each other as Connell’s mother is a cleaner at Marianne’s house. Connell, after school,  visits his mother at Marianne’s house so they can go home together. And in that time he gets to know Marianne, who is plain, stubborn and friendless at school. They share a connection, a bond and soon discover that there is something between them. Furthermore, they both get accepted to Trinity College in Dublin and this is when things change. Marianne is now the popular one and Connell is on the sidelines. What happens next and how they realize that they will always be in and out of each other’s lives is what the book is about.

I think “Normal People” is one of those books that has the power to wake you up from your stupor and see love, for what it is – complicated yet simple and a whole lot of wrongs till you get it right. The writing hits you hard and there are a lot of books mentioned which I loved. Connell and Marianne are loveable, endearing, and there are times you also detest them for doing the things they do. But there is always hope and some redemption.

“Normal People” is written in a manner that speaks directly to the reader. Rooney comes to the point quite directly and that is extremely endearing. The characters’ hearts and emotions so to say are placed in front of the reader, without judgement and the story plays itself out quite meticulously, to the point of being extremely relatable.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter Title: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Author: Max Porter
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 978-0571323760
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Grief – A word that we are most afraid of encountering in our lives. A word that has the capacity to change everything and turn life on its head and shake your being to the core. We all experience it, whether we like it or not. We have no choice in this regard. Life does not give us any choices. I guess after happiness, which we also share quite hesitatingly, grief comes close second as an emotion that is not shared. We keep it within and maybe that is when we need to be pushed to let it all out and get over it (so to say) and move on with life.

Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical my missing is. I miss her so much it is a vast golden prince, a concert hall, a thousand trees, a lake, nine thousand buses, a million cars, twenty million birds and more. The whole city is my missing her.

It is just that it kicks you senseless, this grief I mean. It will not let you be as well. I remember how I felt when my father passed away in 2001. Fourteen years seems to be a very long time and it probably is and yet grief is at the core of it all, mixed with regrets and prematurely died promises and hopes that we had as a family. So when I read, “Grief is the Thing with Feathers” I could not stop wondering about our lives in that phase from the time it happened to the time we moved on (did we?) and perhaps that’s why this debut by Max Porter struck such a chord with me.

Loss and pain in the world is unimaginable but I want them to try.

“Grief is a Thing with Feathers” is a book which can be read by everyone and that is what I think every book aims to be – to be read by everyone in the long run, for people to connect with it, for people to not leave it, for people to also wonder why did it end so soon (which happens to be more often than not when I read books such as this one – which is so moving) and of course for people to reread it.

Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.

The book is about the death of a mother and how the husband and two boys come to terms with her death. It is not as easy as it sounds. Life never is and that is the beauty of this book. They need something to help them cope – an external resource and that comes in the form of a giant Crow (fable-like, mythical quality, whatever you may call it, but it helps them live day to day), who transforms their lives inside out and will only leave once the healing is complete.

Grieving is something you’re still doing, and something you don’t need a crow for.

Max Porter’s writing shines on almost every single page. The writing style and composition of the book is varied – part prose, part rhyme and part poetry, it is a meditation on living and dying and the void called grief, thrown right in-between these two. My only grouse with the book was the crow’s voice at times, because I just could not understand that and that voice happened to be most crucial in the book. Well, having said that the story on its own is so strong that you cannot help but turn the pages, one after the other.

The narrative is not straight-forward and that is what sets this book apart from the regular ones written on the subject of death and grieving. There are silences in the book that speak to the reader and make him or her their own. The book is highly emotional but does not at any point become sentimental. The three voices in the book are so unique and distinct that even in less than one hundred and fifty pages you start developing fondness for all the characters, including the crow. The dark humour, the moving on pieces right in the end and the way life just comes full circle, whether we want it to or not is beautifully portrayed in these pages. It is a wild and at the same time a tender exploration of grief and above all most reassuring that the void does get filled at some point.

“Grief is a Thing with Feathers” is a sparkling debut which comes to be only once in a while. So I highly recommend that you go out there, pick up this book, read it and while you are reading, let not anyone interrupt the marvelous experience.

Here’s Max Porter reading from the book:

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Grief is the Thing with Feathers

Book Review: Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Title: Winter Journal
Author: Paul Auster
Publisher: Faber and Faber UK
ISBN: 978-0571283200
Genre: Memoirs, Non-Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When a writer writes a journal or something close to a memoir, it takes a lot from him or her. I am safely assuming that because anything which is personal, when put to paper, leads to memories surfacing and that must be at some level, difficult to deal with. Memoirs or something close to them isn’t easy to document. “Winter Journal” by Paul Auster is one such book and I will add to this and say that it is not your regular kind of biography or journal or a slice of the writer’s life so to say. It is indeed different.

“Winter Journal” to me was more of a life lived and more years to go in the author’s life that was written about in the most beautiful manner. The book is written in the second-person narrative and I loved the approach for two reasons. Firstly, it is personal and yet detached from the self. Secondly, the narrative was easy to get into. Not at any point, did I feel that the book was boring or mundane and that says a lot for a collection of memories.

The best part of this book is that everyone can relate to some part or the other. When Auster writes of his mother and how she died and how he felt, I could co-relate it to my father’s death. The emotions are universal and Auster does a wonderful job of getting them right. I did not mind the fact that the book isn’t a traditional memoir. I loved that it was not that. The writing wrung me inside out. The pages when Paul Auster speaks of the twenty one homes he has lived in right from his birth made me think of the homes I had lived in and what does one truly call home?

Relationships are most extensively spoken about in the book. The ones he shared with his father and mother to his sister, his ex-wife, the love for his second wife, friends and children. Each relationship is connected with memories, thoughts and emotions that were enough to overwhelm me at various points.

The book is more of an elegy of aging, memory, loss and the relationship of the body and the soul to say. Winter Journal is personal and maybe that is why readers can connect to it, as it is written that way, without the impersonal. Paul Auster’s musings of his life till his sixty-four years is happy, sad, bittersweet and human above everything else. I remember the first time I started reading Auster, when I picked up The New York Trilogy, and since then I have read everything that he has written.

Winter Journal brings to surface life as is. The daily living and the losses that come with age and assessed in the later years are written about beautifully in this book. You should read this book if you want to connect and know about a writer’s life – the intimate details of writing as well, of memories that abound and life only but to be lived.

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Book Review: The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

Title: The Dream of the Celt
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Publisher: Faber and Faber UK
ISBN: 978-0571275717
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Mario Vargas Llosa is pure genius when it comes to the writing business. His sentences, his words, the plot of his books are beyond stupendous. The reason I praise him the way I do is apparent in his writing and he proves it yet again with his new book, “The Dream of the Celt”.

The Dream of the Celt is the fictionalized biography of Roger Casement (a failed revolutionary) – who was instrumental in Ireland’s struggle for Independence (after he served the British Government and was rewarded by them in more than one way), which culminated in the Easter uprising in 1916. That is just the basic plot of the book, which appears only in the third part. The first two parts of the book are about Casement’s struggle to expose the exploitation of natives in the Congo and the Amazon by rubber barons.

“The Dream of the Celt” is spot on with reference to not only the Peruvian scenery (but obviously he would) but also Irish culture and history, which is evident not only from the story, but also in the manner in which it is narrated. The other angle that Llosa explores is that of Casement being homosexual (and involved with powerful people in the system) as seen through his letters and journals. This propels the story beside the revolution.

I have read Vargas in the past and immensely enjoyed what he has written. Most of his novels center on a political theme or so. The historical novels explore the human toll taken by political idealism. This novel however explores somewhat the lighter side of Casement, which is quite a relief. At the same time, there are a lot of political issues seething at the core of this novel, due to which I had to read up a lot on the side, not only about Casement, but also about his revolution, its cause and thereby the effects.

Edith Grossman has done a wonderful job of the translation, considering that all elements of the book (I am assuming from the authors’ point of view) have been tied eloquently. The story moves back and forth from prisons to Roger’s outside-of-prison experiences, his ideologies and values, giving us a glimpse of the man he was.

The only problem that I had while reading this novel, like I mentioned earlier, was the political scope. It left me confused in places (especially when it came to the dates and which ship did Casement ride) but then it was alright after a while. Vargas can write anything and some of us will love all that he writes. That’s the power of his words.

This book is not for everyone though. It is a challenging read and you might not want to make this your first Llosa read. Try starting with, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter” or “In Praise of the Stepmother”, which is ideal to an introduction to this fabulous writer.

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Book Review: Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir by Adrian Tomine

Title: Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir
Author: Adrian Tomine
Publisher: Faber and Faber UK
ISBN: 978-0-571-27770-4
Genre: Graphic Fiction
Pages: 54
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I am a great fan of Adrian Tomine’s works. From Shortcomings to Optic Nerve (his graphic magazine so to say) to Summer Blonde, I have read most of his graphic fiction and I can say without doubt that he is very good at his craft. From the drawings to the story, nothing seems out of place for the reader. So it was a pleasant experience to read his very short graphic book, “Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir”, tracing the trials up to his wedding day.

The book is everything about planning a wedding and feeling strange and weird and exasperated about it. It is an account of the events leading to the wedding day as experienced by both – the bride and the bridegroom together. It is barely a 54-page book and can be read in 20 minutes. I could not relate to the book as of course I am not getting married anytime soon, however it is a great read even for the single ones.

I could not help but smile throughout the book. It is funny and emotional at the same time and you need that dose once in a while to make you smile. From the problem of who to invite to the DJ playlist to the caterers, wedding invitations and about the favour present (which coincidentally was the comic that lead to this book), this book almost covers all aspects of marriage, in a funny manner.

This book is nothing like his other works, which are more angst ridden and talk about the search for someone. It is about having found that someone and planning a wedding with her or him. I am not a laugh out loud person. I do not do that while watching a funny film or reading a funny book, however I did while reading this one. Read it on a nice rainy day. It is fun.

Here is a sample from the book:

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