Tag Archives: love story

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift Title: Mothering Sunday
Author: Graham Swift
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1471155239
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 136
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have not read much by Graham Swift. I have always found his books to be slow and kinda dragging, however this time round when I did read his latest, “Mothering Sunday” – I was left with a tingling feeling of melancholy, happiness and some bittersweet feeling that I couldn’t place my finger on. In short, I loved what I read. The book is different. It is short – almost a novella and it takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions like no other book I’ve read in recent past.

“Mothering Sunday” is about a day that changes everything – 30th March 1924. The day is Mothering Sunday. The question is how Jane Fairchild, an orphan, spends her time when she clearly has no mother to visit?

Jane Fairchild is only twenty-two, working at a house as a maid since she was sixteen. She is in love with Paul Sheringham, young heir of a neighbouring house. The two you guessed right, meet again on that Mothering Sunday and life isn’t the same ever again.
The book is about her life, the love that she stumbles on and what happens thereof. I wish I could say more but I just cannot. You would have to read the book to figure that one out. The writing is superlative. People say that “Waterland” or “Last Orders” is his best work. I think hands down this one is. The writing is precise and yet says so much given the scope of the book.

The story is of Jane’s understanding of the world and how she comes to the conclusion and learns to make peace with her situation. All I can say is that the book has these fantastic metaphors and one-liners that will stay with you long after you have finished the book.

Play With Me by Ananth

Play With Me by Ananth Title: Play With Me
Author: Ananth
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143423621
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 252
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Indian literary scene is bursting at the seams with new authors, new plots (almost, and sometimes contrived), new ambitions and new hopes (for some of us at least). There is this surge of authors – this tide of “I-can-also-write” men and women. And amidst all of this, as a reader, I am often perplexed and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to read some times. It is not about choice. It is about the quality of writing. It is about the writing that is intellectually laced and about the kind of writing that aims to reach out to everyone. In all of this, there is the kind of book that is mid-way – somewhere there but not appeasing to the masses (or not aiming to at least) and yet it does. “Play with Me” by Ananth is one such book.

I thought “Play with Me” would be the kind of book which would not interest me. I thought I had nothing to do with the character’s lifestyles and choices. Sometimes, you feel the book is not for you and then when you read it, it changes your perception.

“Play with Me” is the sort of book that perhaps will not resonate deep, but you will see traces of your life in it. It is about life today in the metropolis – fast, rushing at neck-breaking speed, the pseudo-decadence that it reeks of and in all of this, souls trying to find something substantial to hold on to – love perhaps.

Sid is successful and charming. He has everything a man could ever want. It is about sex, loud music and living the good life. Enter: Cara (she had to at some point and she does, right in the first chapter) and Sid is head over heels in lust with her. This is what I love again about this book. It makes no bones about sex and affairs of the body. It is there, as it is lived out on a daily or a weekend basis in people’s lives. So Sid meets Cara and she takes him places he never imagined of. But of course, there has to be a twist in the tale and it comes when Sid finds himself falling for another woman and this time, in love.

This in short is the plot of the book. The writing is simple and bursts with energy. Ananth knows how to depict the modern gadget-ridden world with great aplomb. Sometimes, I found myself rushing through the book and at others I was mulling over what I had read. Ananth’s language is racy. The book is supposed to be that belonging to erotica, however in my opinion it transcends that and enters literary fiction very briefly, going back to being a meditation on love and life. If a writer can manage to pull that off, then you know for sure that the book is more than just a page-turner. “Play with Me” is a book that is a whirlwind. It seeps you in and doesn’t let go. Go read it. It will grip you from the first chapter on.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Play with Me

Book Review: My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes

My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes Title: My Face for the World to See
Author: Alfred Hayes
Publisher: New York Review Books Classics
ISBN: 978-1590176672
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 152
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are two protagonists in this novel. They have no names. They perhaps do not need names or so Hayes thought while writing this book and maybe he was right. When a reader reads it, he or she does not find the need for them to have names. He is he and she is she and that is all there is to it. The book is a short one – about a doomed love affair and the circumstances surrounding it and not to forget the backdrop where it all happens – Hollywood – right between the glitz and the glamour and the fake lives, so to say.

A screenwriter saves a young woman from drowning. He is living far away from his wife in New York. He is not a great success but has managed by all this while. He is aware of this. He has no connection to speak of to his wife and does not know how he falls for the young woman he saved. All he wanted was to be left alone. The young woman is aware that he is married and she has no concerns about love and is far from its illusions. And yet there is this attraction to this man. The magnetic pull so to say. The story thus takes off and is self-destructive bringing only tragedy in its wake. There is no other way to tell the story but the way Hayes says it – with clear precision and a tight narrative.

Alfred Hayes says something in such few words. I think the same thing would be said by other writers in so many words, almost so many pages. He possessed such an uncanny skill to not only say it the way it was, but to make the reader merge with his prose and become one for that read. He never names his characters and yet there are only so common in Hollywood, wanting not to be just another face.

The man and the woman’s conversations and meetings are the crux of the story. Their lives are chronicled smoothly by Hayes. For instance, the man has been married for fifteen years and this is brought to fore when the woman tells him, she was only eight when he got married. A stark observation such as this becomes magical in the writing of Alfred Hayes.

What I like about the book the most is the fact that the reader is aware that it will not end on a happy note, and yet the urge to keep reading. The power of prose surpasses everything I suppose. The turning point of the story is in Tijuana – where the true faces of both characters are splendidly brought out. There are no perspectives in the book. There is no judgement. There is the storyteller with a story to say. “My Face for the World to See” is a book about love, about choices that we sometimes make and sometimes do not know how they were made, and above all it is about loneliness, life and what we make of it.

Affiliate Link:

Buy My Face for the World to See from Flipkart.com

Book Review: The Frost on his Shoulders by Lorenzo Mediano

Title: The Frost on his Shoulders
Author: Lorenzo Mediano
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1-60945-072-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 137
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A small mountain village of Biescas de Obago, at the foot of the Pyrenees. The people of the village, living their lives, following their own customs and traditions. This is shortly before the Spanish Civil War. A love story that should not have taken place. A teacher, who is an outsider, sets to tell the truth of what happened at that time. That forms the basis of, “The Frost on his Shoulders” by Lorenzo Mediano.

The reason I started with the plot and that too in a rather unusual manner is because the writing is different and highly satisfying. Back to the plot: The plot starts with the villagers chancing upon an article written by the school teacher, dredging up old history and besmirching the name of the town. The villagers are infuriated. They want the teacher to take back what he has written. The question remains: What did he write? He retracts the article, apologizes and goes on to document of what really happened – the love story of a young shepherd boy, Ramon and his wealthy beloved, Alba.

The story is narrated by the teacher. The restriction imposed on the lovers is not because of any animosity between the families. It is basically to ensure that the social construct of the village is not broken. Here at some point, I also began to draw similarities to 1984 by Orwell, only because of how individualism was broken and not willed to grow.

I liked the teacher’s voice, as he was the outsider and Mediano has ensured that he has the tact and honesty while narrating the story. Another thing which struck me was that the book is tagged as a work of “ecofiction”, which essentially means putting the environment and surrounding above the plot or on par with the plot. Ramon’s rebelling against society for instance is clearly explained and supported by nature.

Lorenzo Mediano’s writing is clear and shines throughout the book. The societal constraints as expressed and what the lovers will do to not be a part of it is written with such great subjectivity, that the reader cannot help but get further embroiled in the story. The story is about landowners (Alba’s side) and workers (Ramon’s side), who agree that things should be the way they are and no one should be allowed to cross boundaries.

“The Frost on his Shoulders” is definitely one of the best reads for me of 2012. Concise and touches on almost every aspect of life. A must read if you want to experience a different kind of writing.

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Frost on His Shoulders from Flipkart.com

Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann

This dual-time narrative follows the stories of two very different men who can’t let go of the women they love. In 1992, Leo Deakin loses his girlfriend in a bus accident in South America and struggles to get over her death, wondering how he could ever possibly move on. He sees Eleni in everything he does, yet her continued presence in his life causes him to fall into a spiral of depression. Meanwhile, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the outbreak of WWI, Moritz Daniecki leaves his beloved Lotte to fight the Russians. He ends up captured and placed in a Siberian POW camp, and it will take him years to trek back to Lotte after he escapes. The memory of her brief kiss keeps him going through the cold winter and the harsh life of Revolution-era Russia, but will she still be waiting for him when he makes it back to their village? And what is the link between Leo and Moritz’s tales of enduring love?

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while but I never got around to reading it until I was sent a copy. I really enjoyed reading about the “other side” of WWI. While everyone knows about what went on in Britain, the USA, Germany and even France, Russia and other Eastern European countries often get forgotten. Moritz’s story was tough and truly heartbreaking, as he devoted himself to travelling across Russia despite not knowing whether Lotte would wait for him. The descriptions of the state of the Austro-Hungarian army and the POW camp were rather horrific, and not for the faint-hearted! There were some scenes that made me feel a bit sick, but you truly understand what the soldiers experienced. Even those who have never studied this period in history will be able to appreciate this book as it gives you a flavour of the Eastern front of WWI without expecting any prior knowledge. I also loved the way that Moritz’s story was told, in his death-bed speech to his oldest son during WWII. I could almost hear his voice as I read the story.

Leo’s story, on the other hand, was told in third-person and I felt rather detached from it. While I was intrigued with the premise – a man waking up in a hospital in South America and having no idea how he got there – the mystery of his accident and Eleni’s death was solved very quickly, and I found it difficult to connect with him. I sympathized with his plight at having lost his love, but the way that he dealt with it didn’t sit well with me. Despite claiming that he was mourning Eleni, he got involved with a couple of women who he didn’t care about and it made me feel rather uncomfortable. I explained the situation to my fiancée and even he thought it made Leo an unlikable character. Leo also makes friends with Roberto, a physics lecturer, and makes connections between physics and love. These were kind of interesting, but didn’t mean a lot to an Arts student like myself! I was happy with the conclusion to Leo’s story and I warmed up to him a lot more in the last few chapters, but overall he was difficult to connect with.

This novel is worth reading just for Moritz’s story – it truly is a tale of heroic love. Leo’s is heartbreaking in its own way, even if I didn’t always agree with his actions. Don’t read this if you’re feeling sad, as the plight of Moritz and Leo will probably just make you feel worse! I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys dual-time narratives (I suspected the connection early on but it’s still worth reading to uncover it!), unusual tales of love or historical fiction. And it’s completely possible to read this without knowing anything about WWI, the Russian Revolution, South America or physics!

Random Acts of Heroic Love; Scheinmann, Danny; Black Swan Books; £7.99