Tag Archives: Fourth Estate

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Fourth Estate
ISBN: 978-0008130824
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 544
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books and then there are books you cannot tear yourself away from. Books with intricate details and sub-plots that make you beg for more. The kind of books where the writing shines on every page and all you want to do is get home and race through it, savour it, hold it and not let go of the book till you are done with it. The book is “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and while I was late to this party, I was glad that I attended it. The book will leave you speechless and I am not just saying that for the sake of it.

The characters in this book do things that ordinary people do not. They are also a part of circumstances and situations that only ordinary people are capable of being in. Doerr brings to forth WWII stories that could have been forgotten. These are fictional, however these could also be true, given all that is hidden or not seen (a wonderful play on the title).

“All the Light We Cannot See” is a book of three stories – intertwining strangely enough, and not so. There are three stories. One of a French girl, who becomes blind and her father builds her a perfect miniature of their Parisian neighborhood so she can find her way home and navigate in their town. The second story is of an orphan named Werner who grows up with his sister in a mining town in Germany and has no choice but to join the force of Hitler Academy. He is interested in science and will do anything to learn that instead of joining the forces. The third story in the book is of a man who refuses to leave his home till he has no choice but to.

The book is about these stories and how Marie and Werner’s lives converge into Saint-Malo, where the action begins and ends, almost. Doerr makes the book profound on so many levels, that it is impossible to just speak of one. The writing is around seashells, physics, electricity, love, war and what it means to be human. I was completely overwhelmed and taken in by the writing. It is pure, surreal and makes you wonder why you didn’t pick this one up sooner than later. “All the Light We Cannot See” is a treat for all literary fiction lovers and you shouldn’t miss this one at all.

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All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan Title: The Americans
Author: Chitra Viraraghavan
Publisher: 4th Estate
ISBN: 9789351362593
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A lot has been written on the migrant experience. It has been written from various points of view. Sometimes, it is a man’s voice and sometimes it is a woman’s voice, journey and careening their way through an unknown land. I have also managed to read quite a few books on the topic. So when I picked up, “The Americans” by Chitra Viraraghavan, I was apprehensive. However, one hundred pages into the book and I could not stop reading it.

“The Americans” is about different people and how their stories merge together, at a point in the United States of America. This is what I loved about the book – the entire concept of six degrees of separation and how it was rolled in beautifully in the narrative.

There is an old man trying to find his way in a new land, on a vacation albeit. There is Tara, a single woman who visits America to look after her niece, as her sister is struggling with other issues. There are eight other stories that merge with these two and to me that was the highlight of the book. I am also somehow fond of books with short chapters and this one was written in that manner, which made me cry: Hurrah!

Viraraghavan has an acute sense of surrounding and nature to her writing. The book is set in 2005 and one can see that she knows America inside-out as she of course studied there and that has definitely helped in the research of the book.

The writing is lucid and heart-warming in most places. For me, what worked the most were the journal entries (or so they seemed) of books read by a teenager and her view of the American life. “The Americans” is a thought-provoking book on what it means to cross borders – physically and emotionally and sometimes what it takes to perhaps not cross them.

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Book Review: The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun by Saeed Akhtar Mirza

Title: The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun
Author: Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Publisher: Fourth Estate, Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-93-5029-206-8
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 247
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Sometimes you need to get rid of the pre-conceived notions and look at things differently. We need that so much as we tend to just think and believe what we have been taught or raised on. The ideas we grow on or read and take them to be true without questioning. That maybe is the biggest disease of our time and age.

I had not known of Saeed Akhtar Mirza before reading Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother. His first book is something else. A chronicle of religion, love, the simple life gone by and about his mother. Then I realized that he is also a film-maker, but that is a different story altogether.

“The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun” is his second novel and a book which I would recommend everyone to read. The book is about a history deliberately forgotten and tracks of it covered so no one can uncover the truth. There are two parallels to the story. One takes place in an American University in 2008, where four students from varied backgrounds and cultures set out to discover the truth, to understand how the past affects the present and the future sometimes. This essentially is about uncovering so called Western Epics (Literary, Philosophical, Medical and Scientific) whose roots are essentially found or taken from Islam manuscripts. The search starts because of a statement made by a Senator at the beginning of the book during a political rally, about how Obama is a not an Arab, but a decent American Citizen and that is viewed by Omar and his three friends on television.

The second track of the novel is the tale of Rehana – an Iranian from the eleventh century and her quest to learn from her husband, who is an older man of philosophy, sciences, and art. The need for her to question everything in sight and finding answers from her husband and people around her.

The book makes you realize that sometimes we are so ignorant of events taking place or that already have around us. It isn’t a religious treatise. It is just uncovering aspects of the past which we are unaware about (it could be true or not), or it could be a possibility of truth, which the author is trying to convey through this book. Saeed Akhtar Mirza dismantles the past and brings to us in its pure form – the way Europeans think how the modern world was built and what actually the truth could have been or is. For instance, how Algebra as a word was coined or who was of the opinion that light was made of particles, years before Newton could discover that. These facts were hidden or not sought after is because during those times and in that age, everything Islam was looked upon with suspicion and that is at the core of this book. The premise begins with the assumption that Dante Aligeri’s Divine Comedy, one of the cornerstones of classical European poetry might have stolen its idea and form from a book written by Prophet Muhammad himself.

The writing as was in the first book is brilliant and lucid. The future cannot exclusively belong to one religion or sect or community – it is a collective effort and sometimes more so individual efforts. Sadly, we still think and feel that way sometimes and that needs to change, which is brought about beautifully through this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it also got me thinking of how the world could have been created and where did ideas come from. Read it. You will not regret it.

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Book Review: The Valley of Masks by Tarun J. Tejpal

Title: The Valley of Masks
Author: Tarun J. Tejpal
Publisher: Fourth Estate, Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-9350290460
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 348
Price: Rs. 499
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I can tell you this much and I tell you this with extreme confidence and surety: The Valley of Masks is not like anything you have read. I have been reading books for almost three-fourths of my life and have never encountered anything like this book. The Valley of Masks grabbed me from the word. I had to put the book down and think about every chapter, every situation and every consequence due to an action. The book is that disturbing. It made me think long after I had finished the book as well.

What is the book about?

The Valley of Masks is about apathy. That is simply putting it. The book explores deeper issues – of class systems, the human race, the dogmas that surround us and ultimately about the human spirit – its failure to see and rise above everything else.

The narrator who initially goes by the name Karna, to X 470 while being trained to become a warrior (again, how appropriate is the name play) and finally as X47 as Wafadar has fled the doctrines and mountains of Aum. He is the one who decides to tell his story, the story of being hidden behind a mask, of Aum and its so-called principles.

The book is about an extremist organization that teaches violent perfection to young children; it takes priesthood to another level involving women and also strives to understand why naxalites killed and continue to kill. Aum (appropriately named) is the self-proclaimed leader of this cult – where equality is placed before everything else – so much so that they have the same face – a mask that is fitted to their face once they turn sixteen.

The more one reads the book, the more one is scared. What if this turns out to be a reality some day? The idea of how the human mind is more willing to submit and follow than stand up against. There are pages of discourse in the book, something others might not find relevant; however for me those were essential to the plot. They held the story together.

The Valley of Masks is a frightening book and it is set in times when it is highly possible for something like this to take place. This book has its moments and plenty of them, though it does go on a tangent at times. This is one book that I will definitely re-read and recommend to all.

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