Tag Archives: penguin viking

Days without End by Sebastian Barry

Title: Days without End
Author: Sebastian Barry
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780525427360
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 260
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

The more I think about “Days without End” by Sebastian Barry, the more I feel that I just must go back and reread it. This book is poetic to the point of it being heartbreaking and yet you can look at it objectively but not for long – because you will be swept away in this epic tale of the Wild West (and mind you, I don’t like these Wild West tales at all) that has such beauty about it even in the dark times that surround it – given the war with the Indians in the 1850s, soon followed by the Civil War.

Sebastian Barry’s characters are as human as they can get and there is no good or bad to it. You cannot pick sides and that’s the nature of war and love. Barry’s writing doesn’t come with layers of prose. He makes you see life, and not tell you anything. The show vs. tell craft is superlatively used in all his books (this being the 3rd that I read by him and can’t wait to gobble the rest). At the same time, there is this sense of stillness to his books – like a river flowing in the background whose gurgle you get used to till it is flooded – his writing is pretty much like that.

Thomas McNulty is seventeen years old and has fled famine in Ireland to come to the United States of America. He meets another orphan on the road, John Cole and they initially dress as women for 50 cents a dance to keep themselves from starvation. They head to the West, fighting the Indian wars, come back to civilian life, back in uniform for the Civil War. What will surprise you is how they build a family (I will not give away that part of the story) so for that you have to read the book.

This is the kind of book that makes you believe that love transcends all barriers – gender mostly and is pure. It doesn’t need validation and never has. It is not even a gay love story. It is just about love and that is enough. The sentences are mostly short but shine so much so that you would have to keep the book down and ruminate on each scenario and word that Sebastian Barry throws at you. His prose is short and subtle – painting the landscape with language as he goes along. The characters – even the minor ones like the Sergeant and the Major are well-etched. Some you love and some you hate.

“Days without End” is the kind of book that you will reread. You will do that because of the story, the setting and the emotions it will evoke inside of you. Might I also add that it isn’t for everyone – the writing has to grow on you but once it does, it is very difficult to let go of. A read not to be missed if you love the quiet life with some turmoil thrown in.

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365 Stories: Day 9: If I Forget You by Truman Capote

the-early-stories-of-truman-capote

I remember the first time I read Capote. It was Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I was astounded by his writing. Since then, I have read every single piece, short story, novella or novel by him and he definitely is one of my favourite writers.

The story read on the 9th of January 2017 was “If I Forget You” – one of his early short stories that never got published earlier. This story is about a teenage girl called Grace and how the going away of the love of her life affects her. It is beautifully told, capturing all the emotion of teenage and heartbreak but above all, the incomparable wit and eye for detail of Capote’s writing will take your breath away.

365 Stories: Day 6: The Black Dog by Ruskin Bond

death-under-the-deodars

Ruskin Bond’s stories warm and fuzzy. They are the kind of stories that are meant to snuggle you in bed and put you to sleep – once again dreaming of them. He is a master of his craft and every time I think I need to go back to the familiar, I can depend on his stories.

“The Black Dog” was a story I read yesterday as part of my 365 stories of 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is about Bond and his experience with a black dog as he travels one night to attend a party in the 70s in Mussoorie where he resides. The story is scenic (as it should be) and you will not get bored even once. It is short and to the point and will leave you wanting more. The story is from the collection “Death under the Deodars”. I still have to read the others and will soon get to them.

All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon Title: All That Is Solid Melts into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670922703
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Disasters. What do they take in their wake? When they happen, and when they are done ruining what they have to. What really goes away from people? Maybe from communities at large. Sometimes from villages, hamlets, small cities and countries. Every time I think about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a piece of me goes out to the silent sufferers. It is the single most tragic event of the nation, which has been forgotten so easily. I got started thinking about this, just as I finished, one of the most empathic books I have read this year – “All That Is Solid Melts into Air” by Darragh McKeon – about the Chernobyl Power Plant and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” takes into account lives of people – when the incident occurred in 1986. It stays true to the disaster, but does that with the human element involved, which is what I loved about the book. It was not just another “account” of the tragedy. I am glad that I read this book. I am also saddened by it, but then I know that this will only make me want to read more about the accident.

It is 1986. The world is going by just as it should. The Soviet Government controls every part of its citizens’ lives. Everything is monitored. Nothing or no one is left alone. In a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year old piano prodigy plays along silently, because he does not want to disturb the neighbours. His aunt on the other hand makes car parts on the outskirts of the city, and trying to hide her past at the same time. A surgeon buries himself in the hospital to run away from his failing marriage. And in a rural village in Ukraine, a teenager wakes up to see the sky, the shade of deepest crimson and blood dripping from his cattle’s ears. As all of this happens, ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unbelievable is taking place.

This in short is the plot of the book. These lives are about to change and they do not even know it. The title of the book comes from the Communist Manifesto and that should say it all, shouldn’t it? The way the book is written is simply stupendous. There is no way you will go away from the book without reflecting on what happened and what perhaps is still happening in the wake of the event. The book conveys the horrors without sugar-coating anything. McKeon’s writing is raw and bloody and there is no getting away from it.

“All That Is Solid Melts into Air” is a book which you should not miss out reading. There is human kindness in these pages. There is sadness. There are circumstances that one cannot do much about. There is hope as well. There is also the knowing that when tragedy will strike, the possibility of humans sticking together is very high, no matter what one might think.

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Conversations with Waheeda Rehman by Nasreen Munni Kabir

Conversations-with-Waheeda-Rehman Title: Conversations with Waheeda Rehman
Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670086924
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Editor
Rating: 5/5

So when you read about a legend, you just continue turning the pages. It does not matter. Their life has so much to offer and give insights about every aspect of life, that you cannot stop reading. The same happened to me while I was reading, “Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” by Nasreen Munni Kabir. I finished it in less than a day and then I could not stop thinking about it.

“Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” is a book which is just what the title says. It is a set of conversations with the legendary actor – her life, her times, her movies (select and not all are mentioned), her friendships, her family and the way she views life and how it was so easy for her one fine day to give up Bollywood and start living her life and creating a family and world of her own.

Waheeda Rehman has always been one of my favourite actors and continues to be, so I was only too eager to read this book and I could not stop gushing. From the experience of her first movie as the lead to the way she stuck to her decisions when it came to showing skin for the camera or not doing certain scenes, because she did not see the logic in them, she has stuck to her belief and faith throughout her career.

Nasreen Munni Kabir has managed to bring out the best in these conversations that spanned over two years in Waheeda Rehman’s Bandra house. The conversations are clear, polite and candid. Ms. Rehman does not shy from talking about things – she says what she has to and that is that. Munni Kabir is a great inducer of conversation. She throws open a question and lets Ms. Rehman say what she has to. I love that style and subtlety of questions, and of course one cannot forget Waheeda Rehman’s grace and style. I felt as though she was sitting right next to me, and I could hear all of it in her voice.

“Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” is a testimony and a very frank account of a celebrity who probably never behaved like one. She was always the odd one out – who proved time and again through her movies such as Pyaasa, Guide, Kaghaz ke Phool and many more as to what it really takes to be present forever – a great sense of cinema and acting. If you are an ardent lover of good cinema, then you should not miss reading this one.

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