Tag Archives: Home

Book Review: I’m Never Coming Back by Julian Hanshaw

Title: I’m Never Coming Back
Author: Julian Hanshaw
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0-224-09644-7
Genre: Graphic Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When someone writes about the human condition, the reader is almost forced to contemplate on his or her life. There would be no other way to read that particular book. I am amazed at what is being done with the so called, “Graphic Novel”. The ways of telling stories are plentiful. It also matters what the book makes you feel and think after reading it. “I’m Never Coming Back” by Julian Hanshaw made me think of Home.

The stories in this graphic fiction book are connected and that is what makes it even more interesting and special. Julian takes us across three continents in this book, zooming in on unusual lives and situations which maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.

The way the stories are interconnected is also quite out of the ordinary. Each story has an impact on the next. The characters are forever struggling, trying to make sense of things and life as they know it.

In Rye Train station, a woman impulsively buys the same ticket as the man in front of her and finds herself in Berlin. At Heathrow airport on the other hand, a traveler is visited by a memory that refuses to leave. These stories are very unusual – for instance, a tray of Singaporean rice noodles cooked in Christchurch takes a life of its own all of sudden. I mean, who would have thought of such a story? The magical realism in these stories is astounding at times.

The themes that are mirrored through the book are of “loss”, “food” and “travel”, taking the readers from the Coast of Denge, to New Mexico, via Berlin, Christchurch, Tucson, and Heathrow. The stories take on a shape of their own – from being humorous to evoking pathos to sometimes whimsical (an expert crab speaking to an out-of-towner).

Since it is a graphic collection of stories, it can definitely be read in one sitting, which is what I did. The entire book is bursting with imagination, which is not only refreshing but also contemplative. Hanshaw manages to convey so much through the expressions of his characters that sometimes words aren’t needed (anyway they are needed less for such a medium of story-telling).

I loved the collection. The colours and the graphics make it even more interesting to read. I am glad I started the month with this book. I’m Never Coming Back is definitely something that takes time to get into, however the style and graphics leave you spellbound for sure. A must graphic fiction read.

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Here is a sample from the book:

Book Review: Home by Toni Morrison

Title: Home
Author: Toni Morrison
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0701186074
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 146
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Toni Morrison is one of my favourite writers. I have almost loved everything she has written. She is amongst the writers who knows her craft and does not shy from writing on themes that are real and varied and sometimes plain scary. From the first time since I started reading her, when Beloved was gifted to the time I have finished reading her recent book, “Home”, Toni Morrison has managed to make me feel like no other writer has.

“Home” by Toni Morrison is somewhere between a novella and a novel, amounting to 146 pages only and yet as a reader you are amazed at the variety of emotions and themes she touches upon in limited words and pages.

The premise of the novel is brilliant: Trauma suffered by men who have returned from war and that too in the 50’s, the Korean War that ended in 1953. The war was fought between the Republic of Korea (supported by the USA) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. America provided 88% of the 341,000 International Soldiers which aided South Korean Forces. One of the soldiers in this story happens to be Frank Money, who has returned from war, kept his life on hold and has to return home to his sister Cee, who is in trouble. The book is about his demons, his love left behind (not much is spoken of her, just a couple of pages) his journey back home and in-between chapters of his sister’s life back home.

There is a lot of displacement in the book – from families that move to the hurt and anger that seethes and is denied an outlet. Men have to be strong. Times are changing. The war-returned souls cannot express their feelings, or confess their brutal acts. Owing to this, the issue of racism is subtle in the book.

Toni Morrison always ensures that you feel for her characters – be it Pecola in “The Bluest Eye” or Sethe in “Beloved”, she ensures that you cry or that there is a lingering need to save them. I could not empathize for any of the characters in this book. I just could not.

There was may be a lot going on in the book for me to be able to relate to anyone – the War, the racism, the issue of loneliness, poverty, abortion, and ultimately healing. Having said that, the one part that stuck to me was that of Cee’s and how she heals towards the end. That is beautifully written and expressed and I loved that about the book.

Overall, I did not find this book as moving as her other books. Maybe because of the length and that it was trying to say a lot, but couldn’t. At the same time, no one can contest the writing. She is as breathtaking at her skill as ever. Darkness and loneliness are at the core of this book and one doesn’t have to go through war to understand both. I do hope there is more of “Home” in other installments or prequels or anything – but more, because I wasn’t satiated with this one. I need more of her writing.

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Book Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norrmal? by Jeanette Winterson

Title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0-224-09345-3
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction
Pages: 230
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We think we know life and what it has in store for us. We like to predict. We feel safe in its outcome. We pattern it for ourselves and intend to stick to the pattern. And then there are some for who life doesn’t quite work out that way and they then chronicle stories we read and want more. Jeanette Winterson is one such writer, who I admire a lot and she has grown to be my favourite writer ever since I can remember. I vividly recall the first time I read, “Written on the Body” and re-read it several times, because I wanted to feel alive and it helped me feel that way. It is one of those books I will never ever forget. It had an impact and continues to.

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” was a question posed by Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive mother, when at sixteen Jeanette decided to leave home and study, and more so to be with her girlfriend, that her adoptive mother disapproved of. The title of her autobiography is the same.

I started reading this book two days ago and I have been taken on a rollercoaster ride with it. From Jeanette’s adoptive process to the conditions in which she was brought up – yearning for love, deprived of books (and reading them on the sly), left outside on the porch for doing or saying something inappropriate and not been given a chance to live to the freedom she snatched with both hands on leaving home, this book makes you wonder. A lot actually. About what home means and the sense of longing that prevails throughout life if you haven’t felt at home. The book towards the last few chapters also talks about Jeanette’s search of her real parents and the emotional ride through it all.

The fact that Mrs. Winterson (the foster mother), a woman of alarming eccentricity and neglectful cruelty believes that Jeanette was a child to whose crib Mrs. Winterson was led by the Devil and not God is enough to give the reader an inkling of the author’s growing years. Mrs. Winterson dreamed of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming, which Jeanette used as material for her first book, “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” beautifully. And then there were small joys – of the beach holiday she took with her parents, the kindness of the local librarian and of her English teacher Mrs. Ratlow, who took her in when she was left out, make you think about life and its adversities and the power of words that can make everything alright.

I could connect to this book on so many levels – from the time Ms. Winterson talks about books to love (about wanting to be love and not knowing how to love) to the confusion in her head to the clarity, I was enthralled by this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I will definitely go back to it again. Sink in its words. That’s the only way to love a book. Read it again. Read it the first time.

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Book Review: The Garden of Solitude by Siddhartha Gigoo

The Garden of Solitude
Author: Siddhartha Gigoo
ISBN: 9788129117182
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Rupa and Co. 
PP: 260 pages
Price: Rs. 195
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When I received The Garden of Solitude from the publishers, for a long time it sat on my book shelf without being read. I was too engrossed in other books that demanded my attention and would not let me be. That’s what reading and reviewing does to you after a point of time. You just do not know what to read next and what to keep for later. Well that’s the story of my life most of the time when it comes to reading and now to the review of “The Garden of Solitude”.

I was taken in by the book’s title – it is carefully chosen and for sure describes the mood of the book. A lot of books have been written about the Kashmir Situation, so much so that I have almost stopped reading them, till I read this one. The Garden of Solitude is about a Kashmiri Pandit Family driven away from the Valley in the wake of armed insurgency and political turmoil. The family is uprooted and forced to live in Jammu, in the wake of loneliness, suffering alienation and no place to call home. Sridar – the son of the family is the protagonist and the story is seen through his point of view.

What does it take to survive in an unknown territory, when all you have are memories of home? How does it feel to lose someone dear to a situation that you never wanted to be a part of? The entire book is about Sridar wanting the solitude back – the longing for peace and quiet moments that he and his friends have lost along the way.

The topic is touchy and the premise is dangerous, in the sense that it takes a lot to write on a subject like this one. All in all what I can say about the book is that it should be read. The writing is beautiful and the emotions are raw and lucid, to touch every reader who picks it up.