Tag Archives: Laura van den Berg

The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

The Third Hotel Title: The Third Hotel
Author: Laura van den Berg
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374168353
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fantastical fiction,
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

“The Third Hotel” is a strange book. A strange and yet, a highly fulfilling, crackling read really. Clare is widowed and decides to go to Havana for a horror movie festival, which she had planned with her husband, a film critic. And when she does end up going to Cuba, strange apparitions and incidents occur that resemble what she is thinking or feeling – sort of the inner life we all carry within ourselves. She suddenly sees her husband alive and follows him into a world, where reality and fiction blur and that in essence is the plot of the story.

Laura van den Berg’s stories and novels have this quality of the fantastical. I think it is a constant as it has been repeated in “The Isle of Youth” (a collection of short stories) and even “Find Me” (a novel) which I have read. Her novel isn’t easy to get into but once you do, there is no stopping you as a reader.

The author takes the gruesome, the horror, the extraordinary and blends it with the everyday loneliness. There is this raw emotional power in the novel that is consistent and cohesive to the entire plot and the way characters behave. It almost reminded me of Murakami, Kafka and Cortazar a lot – the psychological revelation and the mystery surrounding everything – from the places to people.

Havana in itself is such a major character in the book that the book is nothing without it. Also, as you read along, the story takes over – it creeps on you unexpectedly – with multiverses and the undead presence of Clare’s husband that forms the crux of the novel. Berg’s writing is precise, blunt and told in effortless prose that is ambiguous and also thrilling at the same time. It is a challenging read but immensely rewarding. Stay with it.

 

 

387 Short Stories: Day 49 to Day 53: Stories Read

This is another set of stories read, from Day 49 to Day 53. From tomorrow, that is the 1st of February 2014, a new set will start.

The Collected Short Stories by Jean Rhys

387 Short Stories: Day 49: Story 49: In a Café by Jean Rhys
Taken from the Collection: The Collected Stories

In a Café is a story by Jean Rhys, which just like her books and stories touches on the topic of women being used by men. It is a sad story. It is about Phoebe and the life she thinks she was meant for and the life she comes to lead. It is about sexuality and about possession and about using women.

Rhys’s stories are born from an inner stream of consciousness. She saw. She felt. She made a note. She wrote. Her stories are strong. They are sad. They are weak. They are beautifully written nonetheless.

Gryphon and Other Stories

387 Short Stories: Day 50: Story 50: Poor Devil by Charles Baxter
Taken from the Collection: Gryphon and Other Stories

If you have not read, “The Feast of Love” by Charles Baxter, his most beautiful novel on love and loss, then I suggest you go and place an order for it right now and devour it. Till the time the book gets delivered, you read a short story by him called, “Poor Devil”.

This is from the collection, “Gryphon” and is about a couple heading for divorce. The couple is self-destructive and the story is succinctly told. He describes love, passion and its destruction just like Raymond Carver or at least that is what I think.

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom

387 Short Stories: Day 51: Story 51: A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
Taken from the collection: A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You and Other Stories

The title story which I read is about a mom who is determined to see her daughter through a sex-change operation. To me the story is written very sensitively and with a lot of passion. The idea that a mother can see through a child go through a sex-change operation says a lot about her determination and support and to me that was enough. Nothing else needed to be told then and it goes without saying that the story has been beautifully told, not trivializing it or making it too sentimental.

Tenth of December

387 Short Stories: Day 52: Story 52: Tenth of December by George Saunders
Taken from the collection: Tenth of December: Stories

George Saunders’ stories shine on every single page with reference to plot, style, imagery and the way his characters turn out to be. The stories are not only dark and funny but also touching. He completes the cycle of storytelling the way it should be done, without making the reader uncomfortable or getting too familiar with emotions displayed. He tunes in the living of today and what has happened in the past, and maybe that is why every single reader would be able to relate to what he writes.

I loved the title story, “Tenth of December” and only for that alone, I could give it five stars. It is about a character who walks into the December woods wanting to die, before becoming a burden on his family. Stories such as these make you wonder about the power in Saunders’s writing. It breathes everyday living infused with its tragedy and humour.

The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg

387 Short Stories: Day 53: Story 53: I Looked For You, I Called Your Name by Laura van den Berg
Taken from the Collection: The Isle of Youth

“I Looked for You, I Called Your Name” is about the woman discovering her husband’s personality and in the wake of that, her relationship is riddled with doubt and she also begins to understand herself. The nature of the setting, Patagonia in this case also lends to the fragility of the story. For me, what worked the most was the sudden bleakness you are witness to throughout the stories and yet somewhere down the line, there is the underlined hope that is subtle and exquisitely written about.

Book Review: The Isle of Youth: Stories by Laura van den Berg

The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg Title: The Isle of Youth
Author: Laura van den Berg
Publisher: FSG Originals
ISBN: 9780374177232
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always admitted to the fact that for me, short stories are a little more important than the novel. I am aware that there are literary greats who at one point mastered the form so well, that everything written by anyone after only got compared and perhaps looked pale when done so. There are also times an author comes along and literally makes you wonder about the most amazing genius he or she possesses when penning a short story and perhaps for me after Munro, there is now Laura van den Berg with her dazzling collection of stories, “The Isle of Youth”.

“The Isle of Youth” is mainly about women and their lives. It is about the angry women, the quiet women, and the women who just want to lead uncomplicated lives, which is never the case with them. I think what struck me the most in these stories besides the language, was the strong characterization of both – the men (who obviously are in the background and yet play a vital role) and the women, whose every act and move is monitored, giving the reader the much needed understanding of the why and the how.

Every story in this collection speaks for itself. From the first story in the collection, “I Looked for You, I Called Your Name” with honeymooners’ crash landing in Patagonia to the title story, right at the end, van den Berg will dazzle you with her characteristic eye for detail and landscape of emotions used.

The first story is about the woman discovering her husband’s personality and in the wake of that, her relationship is riddled with doubt and she also begins to understand herself. The nature of the setting, Patagonia in this case also lends to the fragility of the story. For me, what worked the most was the sudden bleakness you are witness to throughout the stories and yet somewhere down the line, there is the underlined hope that is subtle and exquisitely written about.

My favourite story in the collection is, “Opa-Locka” about twin sisters, who are detectives and are entwined in people’s lives, causing unnecessary complications. They discover nothing and leave trails in form of objects and amidst all of this; they are confronted by their father’s criminal past. Why is it my favourite story? Because of the sheer force used to tell this tale. Van den Berg has used all her writing charm according to me in this one. It is that good.

The stories are full of wonder and charm. The women are weak, they are strong, they love and sometimes they also discard their emotions, to make sense of the real world. The stories will have you not look away from the book, till you are done with the collection. They are perfectly structured, coherent and magical. There is no sugar coating and nothing that is saccharine sweet. They are the way life is to a large extent and that is what makes them so readable.

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