Tag Archives: macmillan

Daydreams of Angels: Stories by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill Title: Daydreams of Angels: Stories Author: Heather O’Neill
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374280420
Genre: Short Stories, Literary
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Stories, stories and more stories is what should also majorly be a part of life. What else is there to life but that? “Daydreams of Angels” was my seventh read this year and as the other reads, this one also did not disappoint. Keeping my tradition of fairy tales and the surreal and sublime, this one followed close on the heels of “A Wild Swan and other tales”.

This is a weird bunch of short stories – of angels, monsters, of animals and children – just that they aren’t set in the age old world but in the world where we live and are a part of us all. The stories are brilliantly thought of and written. I remember talking about “Sting like a bee” which was extremely surreal and hit the spot.

Most stories are just like that – they manage to engulf you and take you to another world. The other thing that I felt or did not feel was that these stories were too childish or whimsical for me as an adult. In fact, most of them make a lot of pertinent points under the layers of being just stories. O’Neill’s strength is in her declarative sentences – she just announces what is happening and is not afraid of showing all her cards to the readers. To a very large extent, this kind of writing always works with me.

There is a story of Pooh Bear writing an apology letter to Piglet, who has been kidnapped. Then there is the tale of Violet who escapes her stepfather who lusts after her in “The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World” and she also thinks it is sad when you fall in love with someone. This is so much like Great Expectations minus the stepfather.

Some of the metaphors and images in this book are completely heartbreaking. As a reader, I could not get more of them and just wanted to re-read some of the stories. In my opinion, if a book manages to do that, then the author has just hit the nail on the head with her narrative and style.

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Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis

Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis Title: Can’t and Won’t: Stories
Author: Lydia Davis
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374118587
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When Lydia Davis writes short stories, you take notice. You observe them and linger in their bitter or sweet after-thought. You also get confused. You wonder what her stories are about. As a reader, you also want to give up some times. You do not want to turn the next page. That is what you feel like and you cannot help it. You keep the book aside and after some time you get back to the book and then it hits on you, what you have been missing out on. And then the true beauty of her writing hits you.

Lydia Davis’s new collection of stories, “Can’t and Won’t” is a fantastic collection of vignettes, of short stories and of really long stories. At some point, I did not have it in me to soldier on, and yet I did. I think most of it also had to do with the fact that I had read Davis’s stories earlier. So my recommendation would be that to read some of her works online and then you will absolutely love what she writes and the way she expresses herself.

“Can’t and Won’t” is a collection that makes you ponder, makes you doubt, leaves you confused, perplexed and at the same time wrenches your heart with the most basic observations about life and living. Most of these stories are either retellings of her dreams, or related to Flaubert’s life (which are brilliantly reconstructed) or tales that are about painful memories and indecision and wanting to deal with life.

The stories are sometimes complex, sometimes simple and sometimes just make you want to drop everything else and think about life. “Can’t and Won’t” is expansive. It is a collection that challenges you, delivered in well prose and above all conjures a sense of wonder and delight, with every turn of the page.

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Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood Title: Mrs Hemingway
Author: Naomi Wood
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1447226864
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

For some strange reason, even though I do not like the man’s writing, I have always been fascinated by the life led by Ernest Hemingway. Something about the way he lived and the way he had no qualms about it. Till recently, I did not even know that he had had four wives. That was news to me and I could not stop chuckling to myself about it.

There is also not much written about Hemingway’s life. So maybe that is why not much is known about him. “Mrs Hemingway” is a story of four wives and one husband and how each of them, were either too much in awe of him or just wanted him to love them and do nothing else.

The story begins in 1926 with Ernest’s first wife Hadley, leading to Fife (his mistress first and Hadley’s close friend), to Martha and Mary, all of them, telling her own story, her own life as Mrs Hemingway and what it was like to live with the man – the most alpha of all males – both in attitude and intelligence to a large extent.

Wood writes with a lot of flair and passion. With each wife and each story, she almost gives it another voice, which is needed in a book of this nature – considering four narrators and all formidable women. I love the writing, because it is to the point – all the emotions – from rage to envy to what one feels when betrayed, are all there, to be consumed and soaked in – to perhaps not analyse right or wrong – but just move with the story and where it takes you. I love how the references to Hemingway’s writing are made – subtle and so integral to the plot.

“Mrs Hemingway” is a rare, short treat, about a writer and his women. Of the personal side – the anguish and need to cope and move on from one betrayal to another. This is a story of four women – who shared the same man and the same love that came from them for him. It is the story of love and life, of art and the self-destructive button it carries in its wake. “Mrs Hemingway” is a treat for all literary lovers.

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Book Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Title: Anya’s Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second, Macmillan
ISBN: 9781596437135
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 221
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Anya’s Ghost is a great graphic novel for young teens – especially for young girls. The themes touched on this novel are universal – body image, being a part of a group or clique, the need to belong and the need to identify your roots and not let go of them, no matter what, and not to mention ghost busting as well.

Anya’s Ghost is one of the few graphic novels I have read this year and I enjoyed it to the hilt. I always have felt that writing a graphic novel is far more difficult than writing a short story or a novel for that matter. It isn’t easy. It takes a lot to add words to images and vice-versa; however Vera Brosgol does an amazing job of it.

Anya is a regular 9th or 10th grader at a lower-tier public school, who is embarrassed of her immigrant past. She has no friends at school, except for Siobhan. One afternoon, Anya has a fight with her and storms off into a nearby forest where she falls in an old well. There she makes an acquaintance of a ghost from 1918 named Emily. She has been hovering there next to her skeletal frame for years, mourning the death of her fiancé in WWII and herself at the hands of a murderer. One of Emily’s bones accidentally enters Anya’s bag and once she is out of the well, she realizes that Emily is here to stay. Before long, Emily and Anya become friends and Emily helps Anya overcome all her problems – with boys, fashion, school homework and friends. Anya’s world is idyllic till Anya realizes that all is not what it seems and what she has got herself into.

Vera Brosgol has very intelligently through a ghost story merged the issue of identity and what it means to get over one’s foreign-ness in America. Brosgol seamlessly weaves through being funny, touching and thrilling. This is a book that can be enjoyed by all and for every graphic novel lover, I would recommend it so it can take the place on the shelf close to American Born Chinese and Blankets.

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Book Review: The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

Title: The Paperbark Shoe
Author: Goldie Goldbloom
Publisher: Picador Books
ISBN: 978-0312674502
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 384 pages
Price: $15.00
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Set in Australia during World War II, “The Paperbark Shoe” is ostensibly the story of Gin Boyle Toad, an Albino woman, who has married beneath her social class in order to escape being institutionalized for life. Although a trained classical pianist and a member of the moneyed class, Gin is an outsider because of her pigmentation. Her husband, Mr. Adolphus Toad, is a crude farmer of short stature who has some unusual proclivities; his size and oddities place him outside conventional society. Antonio and John, two Italian prisoners-of-war, are participants in a worker program designed to aid Australian farmers. Outsiders because of their nationality and because they are the enemy, the two integrate their lives into those of the Boyle household. Yet, they are never fully accepted as part of the family unit and remain aware of their outsider status. As outside observers, the two surviving Boyle children, Mudsey and Alf, are affected by and comment on the adults’ interactions.

Goldbloom’s command of language is extraordinary. In relating his story, she is able to make the reader empathize with even the despicable Toad. Goldbloom’s description of the things Gin has learned since coming to Wyalkatchem, page 35 in the ARC, is a powerful testament to the strength required to survive in the harsh Australian ranchlands. One can feel the pride Gin takes in her accomplishments, though that pride is tinged with despair. Even as Toad and John, and Gin and Antonio establish relationships, they remain outside the conventions of polite society. Goldbloom draws the reader into those relationships, their joys and their sorrows.

This novel flows smoothly from beginning until it reaches its final chapter. Only there do the scenario and plot seem to become disjointed from that of the main text. It is almost as if the chapter had been written at another time and tacked onto the book’s end. While it is a powerful text, in and of itself, I do not think the book would have suffered without the inclusion of that final chapter. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful novel and richly deserves a five-star rating. If you are looking for an interesting, character driven book which will keep your attention from beginning to end, I urge you to read Goldie Goldbloom’s “The Paperbark Shoe.”