Tag Archives: Kidnapping

Hostage by Guy Delisle

Title: Hostage
Author: Guy Delisle
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-1911214441
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 432
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Guy Delisle’s graphic novels deal with humanity on a grand scale. When I say humanity I mean the issues we deal with not only on a day to day basis, but also the ones that sometimes go unnoticed – the events that go unspoken of, the people who get caught in unsuspecting circumstances and whose stories aren’t told as much. Delisle’s graphic novels till now (at least the ones I’ve read) have dealt with his life as the spouse of a Médecins Sans Frontières (literal translation: Medicine without Frontiers) physician in different cities. “Hostage” is different from these.

“Hostage” tells the story of Christophe André and his kidnapping in early July 1997 from his Doctors without Borders office in Nazran, a small town in the former Soviet Republic of Ingushetia. His kidnappers took him to Chechnya, where they tried to get a ransom of a million dollars. The story is of his captivity and how he managed to survive in the face of a hopeless situation – when he was moved from one place to another, when he didn’t know if he would live to see the next day or for that matter a random act of kindness from a captivator meant so much.

Delisle recounts André’s harrowing experience in hostage and not once the reader (of course me in question in this case) gets bored. Delisle conveys the psychological effects of solitary confinement through some brilliant use of colours, paneling and muted colour washes. Hostage had me hooting for Christophe and all I wanted was for him to go scot free without any injury. Your heart goes out to him as he is cuffed to a radiator, doesn’t know why he is here, doesn’t know whether his organization would pay for him and whether or not he will be able to attend his sister’s wedding or ever see her (heartbreaking in my opinion). I for one had goosebumps while reading this because I started wondering how I would behave in captivity. Would I be able to have any hope? Would I give up too soon?

The topic is grim and something that perhaps most people may not digest well. It being in a graphic form, in fact sometimes makes it only too real. Having said that, the book is compelling. Christophe managed to keep his sanity (you have to read to find out how he managed that) in an environment that was not conducive at all and yet is alive and managed to tell his tale to Delisle, which now is in the form of a brilliant graphic biography (I might even call it a memoir because all experiences are of Christophe after all and were narrated to the author). “Hostage” is a book that filled me with a lot of hope, troubled me at times and also made me see how easy it is sometimes for common folk to get into situations beyond their control. I also for one wouldn’t be surprised if someone decided to make a movie out of it.

You can buy the book here: http://amzn.to/2sZXYpo

Book Review: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Title: The Borrower
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 978-0670022816
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

“I might be the villain of this story. Even now, it’s hard to tell.” So begins Rebecca Makkai’s enchanting debut novel ‘The Borrower’ which tells the story of Lucy Hull, a small-town librarian who inadvertently ‘borrows’ a child and takes him on a road trip which turns into a journey of discovery for them both.

And yes it is hard to tell whether Lucy is the villain or hero of this story. The child in question, Ian, is an alarming precocious, engagingly nerdy boy who hails from a right-wing religious family and finds solace amongst the stories found in the library (just not the ones his mother allows him to read). His parents are sending him to classes run by the sinister ‘Pastor Bob’, a dodgy evangelist who claims to be able to ‘cure’ children with homosexual tendencies, so when Lucy discovers that Ian has been camping out (no pun intended) in the library one night, she allows herself to be persuaded to take him to his grandmother’s house. However, it soon becomes obvious that Ian is sending her on a wild goose chase.

There are times when you want to shake Lucy but undoubtedly her heart is in the right place. Like any good liberal bankrolled by Daddy (a cruel way of putting it but nevertheless true), she is shocked to the core by the thought of her studious, unconventional and emotionally manipulative young charge being sent to classes to reprogramme his sexual orientation. But is she any better – so certain of the moral high ground that she’s prepared to usurp his parents as the controller of his life?

Makkai fills the book with all sorts of literary references, from Lolita and Crime & Punishment, to Goodnight Moon and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Fans of children’s literature will be particularly delighted by the little gifts that Makkai includes throughout her prose. (My favorite: the nod to the Choose Your Own Adventure books – loved it!)

This book is very funny, as well as thought-provoking. It certainly gives conservatives a tough time but it doesn’t let liberals off lightly, either. Lucy winds up doing a lot of soul-searching as she realises that her own ideological position also has its nasty side, and that we all tell stories about our past in order to make excuses for our moral blind spots. Tolerance goes both ways, and regrettably includes acknowledging the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit. The extremely unrealiable narrative of Lucy’s own Russian emigree father is an interesting subplot in its own right and an excellent foil to the primary story. To say this very entertaining novel is a commentry on the culture wars that are presently tearing America apart makes it sound a lot heavier and worthier than it really is. It’s the mark of a skilled writer when they can introduce such complex and serious themes with a light touch and keep you reading and caring about the characters throughout.

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The Borrower: A Novel