Tag Archives: fathers

Book Review: Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love by Sarah Butler

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler Title: Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love
Author: Sarah Butler
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1447222491
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 292
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It was the title’s unusual quality that drew me to it. I wanted to then read it and find out more. What was the book about? Why this title? I was guessing that it would be a love story for sure, however I did not for once think it was a love story of a father and his daughter. Of the relationship they share and what they don’t and how their love comes to be and what they learn from it over a period of time. That in brief was the essence of “Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love”.

“Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love” may seem the usual run of the mill dysfunctional family story; however let me tell you at the very outset, that it is not. The story is about belonging and wanting to really badly and yet staying away from it. Alice has just returned to London after travelling abroad and come home to her father who is living at the pity and criticism of her two older sisters. She has never felt close to him and now everything seems different and new. Daniel her father is the other central character who is living homeless, from one shelter to another, and desperately looking for someone all these years.

The story shifts between both their perspectives all along the book. The dual narrative style completely worked for me. What I loved was the way Sarah Butler at some point made their lives overlap and make sense of the entire book. The novel’s every chapter starts with a list of ten things, about various things of life and those were my best parts of the book. More so, the book seems to be a love letter to the city. London forms a major part of the book, almost a third character which is described beautifully. As a reader, all I wanted to do after reading the book was catch a plane and visit the places she mentions.

It is very difficult to believe that this is Sarah’s first book. It is detailed, vivid and almost magical in its scope. It is about regular people and beautiful lives that twist and turn and how somehow one manages to make sense of it all. The book is gradual, subtle and absolutely stunning. It will definitely stay with me for a very long time with its unusual format and the usual miracles of love and happiness.

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Book Review: The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

Title: The Illicit Happiness of Other People
Author: Manu Joseph
Publisher: Fourth Estate
ISBN: 978-9350293645
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Manu Joseph is definitely the most promising writer on the Indian Literary scene as of now and well-deserved of that place in my opinion. Serious Men made a great impact in the literary world and rightly so. It was a sweeping novel of family, doubt, and loss in an emerging India, full of hopes, aspirations and the need to get somewhere. Manu Joseph writes with a keen eye to details. He knows what he wants to convey to the much-eager reader and he delivers to the maximum.

“The Illicit Happiness of Other People” is yet again another example of his genius. The reader should not compare it to Serious Men. It may be the same writing style, but of course, the plots are radically different.

“The Illicit Happiness of Other People” is set in Madras in the early 90s when technology was well on its way to invade the country and the lifestyle changes were crawling up unaware to the Great Indian Middle Class. Ousep Chacko is an anarchist. He is a family man. He is an alcoholic. He wants to know what happened to his first-born seventeen year old Unni Chacko, the highly talented comic book writer and illustrator. Why did he do what he did? What compelled him to? The only clue he has on hand is his son’s comic strip and he has to string and make sense of his son’s life through that and meeting people he doesn’t know existed in Unni’s life.

While this plot is unfolding itself, we have his second son, Thoma who hasn’t shown as much promise as Unni and is often ignored by his father. All his father wants is answers about Unni’s life. The other angle is that of his wife, who is suffering in silence. Unni’s cartoons reveal more than what Ousep wants to know and that reels the story in a completely different direction, with the arrival of a stranger who will change things for the three of them.

The book is beautifully written and heart-breaking to a large extent, with the right doses of humour thrown in. I must admit that it took me sometime to sink into the book at the beginning, but when I did, I could not stop myself from reading. The story is infectious and grows on you. Just when you think that the writing and characters have become predictable, there is a sense of comfort; Joseph surprises you by pulling an unexpected rabbit out of his wordsmith hat.

The writing and the characters reach out to you in ways you can never imagine. Your heart goes out to Ousep and yet there are times you wish he didn’t do things that he does. Thoma as the recluse is brilliantly etched and the mother, though silent plays a crucial part in the book. The highlight of the book for me was when it all made sense, when the book looped in. Characters searching for happiness and fulfillment in a book are most tragic for the reader. It almost holds a mirror sometimes. You then know the ulterior motives of characters. They just want happiness after all, so much so that they start despising others for being happy.

I cannot stop raving about this book. Nothing is out of place and nothing is flawed in the writing. Whoever says that Indian Writing has not yet reached its pinnacle has to read this book to probably take back their words. I would recommend it to whosoever I meet.

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Book Review: Quilt by Nicholas Royle

Title: Quilt
Author: Nicholas Royle
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9780956251541
PP: 144 Pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Price: £7.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

From the very beginning of this book the reader embarks on a fictional journey that feels distinctly different from any they may have had before. Language in all its strangeness and beauty comes to the fore, whilst at the same time the very human story is movingly conveyed. The tale is about the profound nature of the everyday, about emotional events that every reader will experience at some time in their lives. But it is also funny and intellectual. It engages the reader’s thoughts, challenges them, calls for them to think about the very language they read and speak and inhabit. This is an inventive, risky piece of writing, which succeeds because of the way in which it combines flights of imagination with the sense of a powerful emotional reality.

I suppose Quilt qualifies loosely as a novel, in the sense that it has characters (really just the two), time more-or-less flows forward in linear fashion, and the author shows a grudging nod to such plot niceties as beginning, middle, and end. However, it’s also free-association stream-of-consciousness poesis, in which the writer gives full rein to his obvious infatuation with ontological wordplay.

The book starts out as a reasonably coherent if lyrical tale about a man dealing with his father’s demise, but quickly develops a Kafka-esque quality as the protagonist waxes weird on the philosophical and theological import of…wait for it…stingrays. As it happens, I have a thing for sharks and their compressed cousins myself, so was delighted by the professor’s unexpected dive into the philological murk of our subconscious substrate; however, crafty readers hoping for allusions to actual quilting will be much surprised, as mantuas are masked by mantas, and purls passed over for pearls.

The brief Afterword suggests some very interesting ways of thinking about fiction today, what it can do and what it might do. It also prompts a rethinking about Quilt itself.

Royle’s critical work is justly famous and has always had a kind of inventiveness more usually associated with literary writing. In Quilt he takes this creative energy to the level,as Helene Cixous comments on the back cover, of mythmaking. It’s an exciting development for English novel-readers.

Four stars, for reminding us that syntax is our servant, not master, and that words were created expressly to share thoughts, feelings and dreams which could not otherwise be communicated simply by pointing to rock, and grunting.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

I absolutely adored this book it gets a terrific 5 out of 5 gnomes for having a sincere engaging main character and a story that really keeps you thinking. This is one of the most well written and lyrical stories that I’ve read in a long time. It is so full of great quotes and lines, I have over thirty pages bookmarked where I wanted to go back and note what was said.

The overall story is intriguing in both structure and theme. Throughout there are excerpts from How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe so it’s like a book inside a book. The plot is explained like a story. Charles, the main character, lives in Minor Universe 31 where, “physics was only 93 percent installed,…” Some universes have more heroes and better protagonists then others. Minor Universe 31 though is very small.

Charles is a time travel technician, he repairs or helps people when they or the machine go wrong. He can open windows to other universes and see what he’s like there. Just thinking about that would be enough to paralyze me and most people because what if you find out that you’re the worst off out of all the possible yous? Charles doesn’t really live in the present, he uses his time machine and stays in between certain minutes so when he has to go in for repairs it turns out that from the present he’s been gone for ten years.

The secondary characters in this book are full of quirks but also very fun to read about. There’s Ed, TAMMY, Phil and Charles’s Mom. Ed, Charles’s dog he found was retconned out of a western show. TAMMY is the operating system of the time machine who has low self esteem and is extremely funny in her interactions with Charles. Phil, his manager doesn’t know he’s a computer program. His Mom lives in one hour of time because that’s all he could afford for her retirement. (This buying of a certain hour or time limit to live over and over is another interesting concept that is introduced which makes you contemplate what you would choose.

An incident occurs that leads to a time loop (because as any watcher of Star Trek can attest to, meeting yourself in the past or future is not the best idea). He has to figure out how to get out of the loop and why the book How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, a book seemingly written by him that he hasn’t written yet, is important. Because of the loop he gets to look back at important events in his life between him and his father. What follows is an epic journey to find his father that he lost long ago. The father and son relationship is vividly explored and it’s shown how he and his father came to build a time machine and the ramifications it had between them. It’s shown how the past impacts him and what happens to people that tend to live in the past. There is plenty of adventure along the way and a plethora of surprises as Charles goes through the time loop trying to figure everything out before it starts all over again.

Overall this book has quite the story to tell and will leave you thinking about it for a long time past the last page. Last but certainly not least is the major plus that How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe ends happily.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe; Yu, Charles; Pantheon; $24.00