Wednesday, September 30, 2009
My mom finished reading this book in a couple of days. That is a phenomenal occurrence because she never reads anything other than magazines. But Sudha Murthy’s “Dollar Bahu” is such a charming and simple read that even people like my mother will be drawn by it. The story is extremely straightforward, predictable even, but it’s the language and the sheer simplicity with which Murthy portrays emotions that keeps you hooked. Dollar Bahu is about the monetary ambitions of a middle class lady named Gouramma. It is also about two women who come as daughter-in-laws to the family. The elder son’s wife is a down-to-earth humble lady but Gouramma treats her shabbily because she is not wealthy. The other son’s wife, both of whom are in the US, is always praised sky-high because she is smart, good looking and comes from a rich family. But Gouramma realizes her folly as the book unwinds and finds that the grass is not always green on the other side.
Dollar Bahu, which has been made into a television serial and also been prescribed as a text in schools, impressed me so much with its conversational style that I picked up another work by Sudha Murthy called “Gently Falls the Bakula.” In the forward she states that the book was written in the 80s so some things might seem irrelevant now. The theme definitely is ageless – about a woman who gets married to her love but after a long time into the marriage she begins to realize that her identity was erased almost to the point of non-existence. This is an issue, which is present in most marriages even in today’s world. The man goes after his career while the woman, however qualified, is forced to be at home at some point in time.
Sudha Murthy’s writing is very simplistic, her stories are taken out of daily lives and her characters could be your neighbors. Women’s issues are the highlight of her books and without sounding like a feminist she manages to put them across by weaving them into the plot and her stories echo her own personal thoughts. At times I felt that her women have too much shading of black and white – either they are extremely compromising like Shrimati or extremely callous like her mother-in-law. Perhaps, there are people out there like that and Murthy might be writing from experience and these are hardly factors to stop me from buying another book of hers.
Verdict: A breezy, interesting and light read
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Image Credit: Harper Collins
OK, before I review this book, let me place one fact straight in the library : I absolutely love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's works. I have read her previous works, One Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, and I was floored. Here is a brave new writer indeed as Achebe said, one who chronicles the history of her country, Nigeria, in a voice that is present, and reverberates through the channels of culture, time and space. So when I picked up The Thing Around Your Neck, I was expecting nothing but the same magnificence in words from one of my favorite authors.
And Adichie does not disappoint. She deviates from her earlier two novels by presenting to us a set of stories - 12 stories set not just in Nigeria but in America too. I shamelessly borrow from the product description on the book:
In 'A Private Experience,' a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she's been pushing away. In 'Tomorrow Is Too Far,' a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother's death. The young mother at the center of 'Imitation' finds her comfortable life threatened when she learns that her husband back in Lagos has moved his mistress into their home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to re-examine them.
My regret: Why, sigh, why were these characters only populated into a short story? Each of them were so fascinating that I would have to loved to have read a novel about them. The Nigerian literature scene is buzzing - and I only wish that local booksellers here stock more of them!
This is a fawning post but I can't help it - rarely do I meet a writer who makes me cannibalistic in my reading. I just want to devour all her works - I am now left waiting for more.
Special: Watch Adichie interviewed by CNN, where she talks about the book's "immigrant experience," and how "marriage as an institution isn't set up to benefit women," and how "Cinderella books should be banned."
Verdict: Just read it.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I hadn't heard of Rebecca Miller. Bogged down in all the pessicitudes of life (yeah, new word I just coined now in utter pessimism), I had stopped reading books. Not completely but well, it seemed no book captured my attention long enough and intensely enough. I wouldn't still say that the Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller captivated me. But it did one good thing - it made me read the book straight in two days, and I didn't find my mind wandering around in 4000 different corners of the earth while I was doing so.
Surprise, after I finished, I found that Private Lives has been turned into a movie. I am not sure I would be seeing the movie, but Private Lives interested me simply because Pippa was such a believable character. She seemed to resonate my own mind, and her journey from being a drug-infused rebel in her youth to compliant housewife for Herb Lee, mega publisher, and socializer, and then her slow unraveling of herself was fascinating. The novel moves through two parts - Pippa's youth told in the first person, and then Pippa at 50 - locked in a marriage to a person 30 years her senior, two kids, Ben, who seems too perfect to be true, and Grace, in who Pippa sees most of herself - a photographer on assignment in Afganistan. There was a small section of the book that explored Grace's character - her struggles with Pippa, and her consultations with a psychotherapist but it was too short, too brief, and almost as if the writer forgot she had to develop Grace more.
Private Lives is no classic but it is a light read, enjoyable, and for those who can identify with Pippa, it offers a little more insight.
My favorite quote from Private Lives : "Marriage is an act of will" says Pippa while talking to her best friend. I later found that it is just an echo of Pope John Paul II's own quote.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Its been quite a while since this blog has been active. I just finished reading ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear,’ by Jean M Auel and thought that I can reprise this blog with my review. Because I really could not put this mammoth 500 page book down. In my opinion it could have been pared down to maybe 300 pages but perhaps all those descriptions is what gives the book its beauty. It also shows off Auel’s expertise with all things Ice Age.
Cave Bear is set millions of years ago in the Ice Age when Earth was still relatively young and people viewed life as black and white. Anything evil had to be disposed off and anything good had to be kept. But that is not how Ayla, the central character’s life, turns out. She is different from the Clan into, which she is adopted after being found fighting for her life. After much deliberation the Clan accepts her but Ayla is not just different in appearance but also in thought. Her strong personality, curiosity and defiance to many traditions lands her and the people who love her into a lot of trouble.
Well wrought out in terms of story as well as information, Cave Bear is a must read for people interested in pre-historic stories. Auel’s range of knowledge is equally fascinating as she nimbly hops from describing the benefits of the hollyhock (a flower) to the effects of unheard of plants (at least to me) like sweetrush root. Due to the length of the book the characters develop well and we see different aspects of them. Save for the sometimes tedious descriptions, the book is gripping and is a marvelous adventure, emotionally infused and as good as the hot cup of tea that Iza brews.
Verdict: Thrilling story in a very different setting