Tag Archives: Farrar Straus Giroux

A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Phillips

CP Title: A View of the Empire at Sunset
Author: Caryl Phillips
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374283612
Genre: Literary Fiction, Biographical
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

First, read this book. Then read all works by Jean Rhys, besides Wide Sargasso Sea. Or read all works by Jean Rhys and then read this book. Anyway, please do read Jean Rhys. She was a wonderful writer and I am only too glad that we have more of her to read, or even more about her, which Caryl Phillips does a brilliant job of in his book, “A View of the Empire at Sunset”.

And might I also say that this book will not be a happy read. It is dark, sullen and unforgettable (at least to me it was and still is). The book is a fictionalised telling of the life and times of Jean Rhys. Caryl Phillips does a brilliant job of fictionalising the life of Gwen Williams (Jean Rhys’s real name), the Welsh doctor’s daughter, who always wanted to be an insider to an English world, but was never one. The constant theme of home and missing what is home and then the back and forth to find home will keep you hooked and yet there were places where I thought: Wish he had written more about her writing life.

“A View of the Empire at Sunset” is about Gwen’s loves, her failed marriages and what she kept searching in men – and the translation of that in her novels and short stories (that is if you have read works, you can for sure see glimpses of those men and her in them). Her constant disappointments in love, miserable assessment of self and alcoholism loom large through her characters in Voyage in the Dark, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie and Good Morning, Midnight.

The place and setting of A View of the Empire at Sunset is for sure atmospheric – set in the waning years of the British Empire – Gwen thus is always an outsider from her West Indies birthplace, to her return now and then. The novel begins and ends in 1936, thirty years after she was sent to school and thirty years before she published Wide Sargasso Sea, which gave her career a boost like no other.

Having said that, Rhys’s travails are painful. At times, I just couldn’t bear to read about them. In all of this though, there are snatches of pure beauty and grace in the book, that Phillips manages to give us quite elegantly. Please do read this book if you want to know more about Gwen Williams the person and lesser about Jean Rhys, the writer.

 

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The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

The Shepherd's Hut Title: The Shepherd’s Hut
Author: Tim Winton
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374262327
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

“The Shepherd’s Hut” by Tim Winton is unlike anything I have read this year. It is experimental, it is thrilling and takes the reader on a self-discovery along with the protagonist in so many ways. There are elements to the novel that the reader realizes only either half-way in the book or when the book is done with and you are ruminating over it. Because ruminate you will. It is that kind of book.

The story is about Jaxie Clackton, a brutalized rural youth who is on the run from the scene of his father’s violent death and heads to the wilds of Western Australia. All he wants is to be left alone and he thinks he will survive with a rifle and a water jug. He is so mistaken about that. He ends up meeting once a priest, Fintan MacGillis and there begins the story of an unlikely friendship, love and yearning.

I loved Cloudstreet. That’s the only other book I have read by Winton. In comparison, it was an easier read. The Shepherd’s Hut doesn’t make it easy at all when it comes to cultural references. I found myself reaching to Google after almost every chapter. Barring that, Winton has captured the essence of isolation and solitude beautifully, almost close to perfection. The dreadful landscape, the tension of the characters and the connecting storyline falls perfectly in place with the harsh truth – just like a jigsaw puzzle.

You find yourself empathizing with both characters, their intentions, their aspirations, but it is Jaxie who will eventually take your heart away. What I also found most surprising is that I never got bored in the entire book given that it had only two major characters and almost no one else. Winton does a marvelous job of keeping the reader engaged throughout the book. The characters are not only fascinating but also extremely engrossing. It is the language, landscape and Jaxie and Fintan that make this book what it is – a heady ride of self-discovery and friendship.

 

The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis Title: The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Author: Peter Sis
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN: 9780374380694
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 48
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“The Little Prince” somehow makes it to some list or the other. It is also almost every reader’s most beloved classic. It is fondly remembered by both – the young and the old. What makes it so special? Why does the world recommend it to be read? The magic lies not only in its plot but also in the way it was written and illustrated by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. I did not know much about Saint-Exupery while reading “The Little Prince” or even after that, till I bumped into “The Pilot and the Little Prince” by Peter Sis online and knew that I had to own this book.

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is about Antoine De Saint-Exupery, who was born in 1900, at the turn of the century when everything was new and progressing. Everything was developing. The world was in constant change mode and full of new inventions and technology, not to forget the most important invention of them all – airplanes.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 1

Saint-Exupery always dreamed of flying, far and wide and beyond everything else. So much so that he learned how to fly against his mother’s wishes and decided that all he wanted to do was fly. So much so that he would even tie cloth to his bicycle in the hope of it flying someday.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 2

The book is about a man’s discovery of who he wanted to be and what it sometimes takes to be who you want to be. “The Pilot and the Little Prince” juxtaposes the lives of both, Antoine and the little prince and how he got to writing this book.

What is also most surprising is that this was not his first book (contrary to popular belief) and also the fact that his other works are equally good if not more. What struck me most about the book is the way Peter Sis has encapsulated his life in forty-eight pages. Page after page, the reader is treated to the blue of the ocean, to the glow of the sky and also to the blood of the German’s assault on France in WWII, where Antoine was enlisted as a war pilot.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 3

From his plane, he reflected on life and what lay before him. He thought of things magical and life that went beyond the ordinary. Antoine also read books on his plane. He just wanted to fly and write about his experiences and in 1943 of course his masterpiece, which we all know as “The Little Prince” was published.

On July 31, 1944 he took off for a flight to photograph enemy positions east of Lyon and never returned. That was the end of a writer, an aviator and a human being who only wanted to talk about what he saw and observed.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 4

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is a delightful book. It is brief, beautifully illustrated and yet takes a lot of time to read through and sink in the marvelous illustrations. This is a book meant for both children and adults. It is the kind of book that will warm your heart and yet leave you melancholic.

Here is a trailer of the musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Weber of “The Little Prince”:

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Buy The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine de Saint

Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton


Title: Was She Pretty?
Author: Leanne Shapton
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374299262
Price: $20.00
Genre: Graphic Fiction
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5

Have you ever been out with the person you’re seeing when you run into someone who they know, but seem not to want to introduce you to? When you ask later, they’ll say, “Oh, that was just a friend.” In your mind you’ll conjure up all manner of sordid details about their past association because, obviously, it was an ex. The jealousy will be overwhelming even though your partner came home with you and seems to have completely forgotten about the encounter.

That’s what this book is like.

Was She Pretty? deals with the insecurities all current boy/girlfriends feel about the ones who came before them. Even if the relationship is long gone, there’s something about the fact that the person you’re with has a past that was separate from you that’s somehow intriguing, and most of us are more than a little curious about who came first.

The book is an illustrated story with short vignettes about couples, their exes, and the details that remain to plague the current flame. One woman has an emergency at her boyfriend’s house and finds (to both her horror and delight) a half-empty box of tampons. There is the man who will never let his current girlfriend answer the phone in his apartment, and you can just tell she thinks it’s because of the ex. These tales are all short, a few lines at the most, but tell a story in just a few sentences. They are further illustrated with the author’s drawings to develop the point.

The reason I enjoyed reading Was she Pretty? is because envy or jealousy as an emotion is so raw and all pervading. You can almost sense it in every person alive and most of the time sadly enough it is because of the person you aren’t with. Who are they with? What are they doing? What is going on in their life? These questions and more do not seem to let go. That is the beauty of this book. It stays and it lingers.

Was She Pretty? is an interesting book and will take no time at all to read. If you’ve been that guy or girl, the distrustful or openly curious one who can’t just let the past be the past (and I think we all have at some point or another), it’s worth it to see someone put those feelings into words and then illustrate them so candidly.