Tag Archives: hachette

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

the-underground-railroad-by-colson-whitehead Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Fleet Books, Hachette
ISBN: 978-0708898390
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love the choices made by Oprah for her book club. She does a brilliant job of it. I also think that single-handedly she has had a huge role to play in getting America to read. I remember it was 2000 or something like that I when I was first introduced to her book club. Internet was in the very nascent stages in India and we had Star Plus though (it had not become Star World yet I think) and there was the Oprah Winfrey Show that would air every morning at 6 am and I would watch it religiously. That is when I was introduced to her book club and since then I have been a fan. From what is been told, Oprah actually got the publishers of this selection to sort of push the date of publishing right back so she could announce it on her network. I am mighty impressed and she is one of the few people who can pull this off.

The latest book (not Love, Warrior) that I have read from the stable is “The Underground Railroad” and I must say that I was mesmerized by this book. I have not read any other work of Colson Whitehead and always wanted to start with Sag Harbor but I am glad that it was this book that started it for me. “The Underground Railroad” is brutal. It is fictitious but I am sure that most of it has happened – and perhaps it is easy to talk about suffering in fiction than it is in the form of a memoir or biography. I honestly believe in this. I think that when you speak of human redemption, suffering or something that is so heartbreaking, fiction will get more people to connect to it.
So what is the book all about? Why am I raving about it?

The book is the story of Cora, the young runaway slave from Georgia. It is also about Caesar and how they both flee the Randall plantation and head north via an actual underground railroad. The story is set in 1812 and must I say that this book is not for the weak-hearted. There is a lot of violence and emotional torture but it had to be told because there is no escaping it. You cannot and must not sugar-coat sorrow. So Cora and Caesar are on the run and while that happens, Cora manages to kill a white boy who tries to capture her. From there on they are hunted endlessly and how they manage to do what they want to makes for the rest of the story.

Colson’s writing reminds me of Morrison. There are passages and sentences that will leave you breathless and you will reach out for that glass of water. It will happen. You will get angry because slavery is just not what should ever exist. You will also cheer for Cora and for some people she meets along the way. You will mainly hoot for the perseverance and courage of the protagonist and want to change things in your life. “The Underground Railroad” is not just a book about slavery, it is also a book about humanity and how there is always a way out. A must read this year and it will not disappoint you at all.

Moonstone – the Boy who never Was by Sjón

Moonstone - The Boy who Never Was by Sjon Title: Moonstone – the Boy who never Was
Author: Sjón
Publisher: Sceptre Books, Hachette
ISBN: 978-1473613133
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher, ARC
Rating: 5 Stars

“Moonstone – the Boy who Never was” by Sjón (pronounced Shawn) came to me in a boxful of other books. My eye rested on this one, because I had heard a lot about the author’s previous book “The Whispering Muse”. I wanted to find out for myself what the whole fuss was about this writer and his style. Let me tell you at the very onset that “Moonstone” will for sure be one of the top 10 books I would have read this year. Hands down!

It is the kind of book that doesn’t let you be till you are done with it. It is a historic novella in the sense. It is also a subtle love story. It is about struggle and the will to live against all odds and do what one must do anyway. It is about cinema- about the small things that make everything else seem so big and grand. It is a book set in 1918 and in Iceland – of course given the author is from there.

The book is about Mani Steinn (this is where Moonstone comes from – but again how it appears in the book is heartbreaking) – a 16-year old waif who is an enigmatic character. He lives with his great-grandmother’s sister. The volcano Katla has erupted and can be seen colouring the sky night and day from the streets of Reykjavik where the boy lives. The Spanish flu will arrive. The Great War grinds on. Things change. Mani has two loves of his life – Sola G and the movies. He loves the movies and well what he does for a living is something you will find out as you read the book.

The flu changes everything – the place, people, their lives, dimming the line between reality and delirium. For Mani it is about coming of age in one of the most brutal ways, about loving from afar, and the idea of watching movies one after the other is what life is all about. He cannot comprehend any other life till incidents set in motion and life changes completely.

Sjón’s prose is heartbreaking, crisp and there is so much said in such few words. This is the kind of writing that leaves you wanting more. From Mani’s life to the impact the flu has on the town to the magic of silent movies to describing the year 1918 and that too in about two months when the novel is set, is no easy feat. At this point, I must also speak of the translation by Victoria Cribb which is superlative. I’m sure it manages to convey what the author set of to.

“Moonstone” is the kind of book that evokes this melancholy feeling inside you, it makes you want to reach out and hug the writer for writing something so remarkable. It is a short book with a very big heart. I know for one that I will most certainly read a lot more that has been written by Sjón and I highly recommend that you do the same. Start with this one.

Her by Harriet Lane

Her by Harriet Lane Title: Her
Author: Harriet Lane
Publisher: W & N
ISBN: 978-1780220024
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I had heard a lot about this book on various online forums and sites. I was quite excited as well to read it. I finally read and finished it today. The book is very well-written, that’s for sure, and it’s just that I was a bit disappointed by the twist in the tale. Having said that, I give it four stars only because of the writing and the atmosphere Harriet Lane has managed to conjure in her book “Her”.

“Her” is a story of two women – Nina and Emma. Both are almost of the same age and living in London. They come from two different worlds and lead two very different lives. While Nina is a successful artist, Emma is a housewife who feels mostly stifled being at home and taking care of her children. And yet when they meet, there is something that draws them to each other, something almost unexplainable. Till the reader understands that Nina is up to something while meeting Emma (well sort of understand, rather, the reader can only guess). Why is Nina interested in Emma? Why does she have this obsession which is so subtle and yet there?

The book is chilling. It is also quite an intriguing read. Lane’s writing is sharp and has a lot of detailing that only helps build the suspense. I loved how Emma’s housewife ennui is explained throughout and how Nina’s perspectives are portrayed. Both women’s stories unravel through their views of similar situations, told in alternating chapters.

My only grouse was the build-up to the end in the penultimate chapter. I just had a problem with that part. The ending however is so brilliant that it will leave you with your jaw dropping. This thriller is interwoven with the past and the present and explores human psychology with great casualty. It is quite shocking to see Nina’s character build and do the things that she does with such calm.

You must read this book for the plot, for the characterization, for the way the women are depicted, for the details and above all for a good chill running through your spine.

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

Make Good Art Speech by Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art Speech by Neil Gaiman Title: Make Good Art
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 9781472207937
Genre: Speech, Non-Fiction
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I picked this book only because of Neil Gaiman. Even though this was just a commencement address made by him in the year 2012 at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, I knew I would enjoy it immensely and I did. There is something about such speeches that are so positive, that it makes you want to believe in a better world for one and all. I remember feeling the same when I read George Saunder’s speech on kindness in the form of a small book, “Congratulations, By the Way”, and this time it was a speech on making good art, aptly titled, “Making Good Art”.

“Make Good Art” speech is all about making good art and the purpose of art in our lives and generations to come. He encourages all artists – from painters to writers to musicians, to do just one thing – break all barriers and think out of the box (I know it is clichéd but it works) and make good art. That is all there is to it.

The book is a small one and doesn’t take time to finish, however, for the words to seep in, especially if you are an artist, means that you have read and reread it. You have to be one with what Gaiman says and the advice he dispenses. I love Chip Kidd’s illustrations and the ones that he does in this book, just blend effortlessly with Gaiman’s words.

“Make Good Art” is for everyone out there who have wanted to create something. It is about successes and failures and how it will not be an easy road every time you decide to create art. “Make Good Art” is perfect to be gifted to one who is confused about what he or she should do in life. It is a read for all of us.

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Book Review: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg Title: The Middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenberg
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0721-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 274
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I guess every family is dysfunctional and deals with their problems in their own way. Maybe that is what makes families what they are – the one support system you cannot do without, irrespective of the size of the family. These thoughts and more crossed my mind as I finished reading my last read of January – “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg.

On the surface, the book is about a morbidly obese woman Edie Middlestein, who has been advised by the doctors to either lose weight or die and her family coming together to save her. On the other, it is about failed relationships and the cracks that appear sooner than we know and how life has the ability to never let things go the way we want them to. Edie and Richard have had a wonderful American suburban life for over thirty decades with their kids – Robin and Benny, a nice house, a great job and everything seems rosy, except for Edie’s eating disorder. Richard leaves Edie and then it falls on the kids and Benny’s wife Rachelle to get things in order, for almost to save Edie.

At the heart of the book, there are always so many questions gnawing the reader’s mind: Why did Edie eat the way she did? Didn’t she know the implications? Why did Richard leave her? Also, what I found most intriguing in the book was the way their religion (Jewishness) is inter-connected beautifully in the book, without overtaking it. The Middlesteins has been written very well and that is what kept me turning the pages. The writing is wonderfully structured and goes back and forth in time to explain the things Edie and the rest of the family does. Of course the more traditional elements of every dysfunctional family are brought out excellently, so I could also somewhere see parts of my family there – the sort of inane connect a reader has with a book. Read it if the idea of something dysfunctional and full of some dry humour captures your interest and attention.

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Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Headline Review, Hachette India
ISBN: 978-0-7553-8403-7
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 215
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Do you believe in love at first sight? And does love at first sight happens because of collective circumstances that lead to it? The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a book as the title says, quite what it is – love and the chances of it at first sight.

When Hadley misses her flight to London by four minutes, she never expects to meet Oliver – someone she instantly connects with, someone who has his own set of problems and so does she, and it is quite interesting to see how they solve their own problems, one by one, over the course of one day.

The book is a young adult romance so to say and yet it is written with so much maturity on so many levels. I could relate to Hadley in so many ways when I was seventeen – the same anxiety, fears and worry about the future. Hadley has had an estranged relationship with her father. She is on her way to London from New York to attend her father’s second marriage and does not know how to react to it.

Oliver on the other hand, has his own life which he doesn’t share initially but the layers are soon peeled and reality sinks in. The reality that when they are done with the journey and land in London, (they are seated next to each other 18A and 18B for seven hours on the flight) what will become of their friendship/relationship. Will they meet again? What does life have in store for them, if it does for the two of them together?

I found the book a sweet read. There were no mushy romantic moments and I liked that. The book in that case does not get boring. Jennifer E. Smith knows the craft of writing for young adults. It is not the typical romance novel, and that’s why it worked well for me.

Jennifer writes with a quick pace. She doesn’t make the reader wait for things to unfurl. She knows that the reader expects this and this is what needs to be given. The ending worked very well for me. It is sweet for almost all characters and a little fluffy. The book makes you want to travel, because at the end who knows what might happen on an airplane ride to two strangers. To read something light without it being too mushy, you must pick up this book.

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