Book Review… Educated by Tara Westover

#bookreview

This book, at 384 pages, is probably the heaviest I’ve held in my hands in the last few months.

It’s weight is not so much physical, as it is visceral and emotional. It makes you sink deeper into your couch later into the night and may also have the power to tangle you emotionally in the morning… Leaving a cloudy, laden feeling.

I was glued from the very first page, I didn’t have to wait for the story to pick up pace, it was already galloping when I joined in. It became my constant companion till today, I shall miss it, I am glad it’s over.

Tara Westover had an unbelievable childhood, she and her family lived with dynamics that can make ones jaw slack with disbelief, and probably every family drama might pale in comparison to what transpired regularly at the foot of her beloved mountain.

The unfolding of a life, poorly home-schooled at first and then soaring to meteoric academic heights is astonishing and inspiring. However, the normalization of dysfunctional behavior within families, the emotional sea-saw and tug-of-war, can leave a reader drained. How Tara kept her head above water, is the reason this book is a must read.

It is a powerful book with an equally powerful message about grit and determination, it is about being lost over and over and yet finding oneself…always.

Not since, ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara, have I been so deeply moved and so emotionally drained, yet curiously alive and filled with gratitude. Gratitude for writers who share stories such as these, gratitude for their brilliance which makes us forget the passage of time even as our time-lines intertwine seamlessly.

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Book Review… Girl with a Pearl Earring

#bookreview #fortheloveofart

Remember Steve McCurry’s ‘Afghan Girl’, looking over her right shoulder, remember being mesmerized by her eyes? That expression? The juxtaposition of colours? Well, the cover of this book, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ will do the same to you.

If you pick this book, you’ll find yourself turning back to have a look at the cover, mid-story, stare at mystique of her eyes, fathom her expression, read those lips… As the story progresses and more of her personality is revealed, one searches for the artists genius in her face.

Vermeer is an artist who’s work I have always admired. Reading a fictional story about his life, his family and his approach to art is beautiful.

The real hero of this story, however, is Griet, a sixteen year old who joins the Vermeer household as a maid.

We walk through the entire story holding onto her hand. Her insights and perceptions are sharp and quite often unbelievable in their maturity. She stands apart from the others, mature and independent, as others fumble around, her young life is put in disarray when the artist decides to paint her… How she copes with it and how her life pans out, is what you need to read the book for. It is sure to transport you to another era.

Tracy Chevalier is an author that I wish to read more. All her other books have made it to my ‘tbr’ list 😊

Book Review. ‘Dark Circles’ – Udayan Mukherjee

‘Dark Circles’ comes across as a simple, stark read.

The language is without frills and the dialogues, deceptively mundane.

The author has a story to tell and he goes about doing it with surgical precision.

Even with no life-altering wisdom or deeply insightful commentary on life, this book still had me riveted.

Ronojoy, twelve, and his brother Sujoy, six, are left in the care of their grandparents when their mother moves into an ashram. Twenty – eight years later, Ronojoy is handed a letter along with his mother’s meager belongings, all fitting neatly into a suitcase after her death.

The secret that the letter reveals, however, has the power to derail the lives of many… What should Ronojoy do with it, becomes the burning question.

The letter sheds some light on the events that transpired before and after she shifted. They are gripping and disturbing. The consequent fallout does take one by surprise.

As the story unfolds and finds it stride, one goes along for the ride. The path it takes meanders through the dark abyss of disturbed minds, disrupted during childhood and their fervent effort to come upon some stability in adulthood.

Udayan Mukherjee’s book deals with just that… Layer upon layer of pain originating like concentric circles in a pond after a pebble of a disturbing truth is dropped.

The relationships that are built up are neatly done, their reactions are very authentic…I was left feeling that some more creative risks could have been taken… The story moves around well-known localities of Delhi. It all sounded familiar and sometimes it felt like a friend was narrating a story that could’ve transpired in a neighbour’s house.

I wonder if this colours one’s view of the story as opposed to a fictitious, unfamiliar setting.

The face and name of the author seemed familiar too. Udayan has been on television, hosting shows and giving his valued inputs on the stock market. That he is a gifted writer too, came as a pleasant surprise.

Book Review… When I Hit You

I didn’t think I could start it, I didn’t think I could finish it, but it was done…today.

This is not an easy book to read.

As the name suggests, it deals with an abusive relationship of an unnamed protagonist with her husband, a university professor with communist leanings.

One gets sucked into the chapters and encounters the systematic breakdown of the human spirit as witnessed in a brutal, isolating relationship.

The level of brutality increases with every passing day where the narrator, an aspiring writer, finds every avenue of communication with the outside world unavailable to her. As she sinks onto her cocoon of isolation, the brutality of physical assaults increase. Her husband’s desire to beat her into being an idealized version of an obedient wife leads to situations that are too painful to read through.

This book is an insight into what we read as ‘domestic violence’… Two words that fill the heart with terror about what happens behind closed doors. A secret on one wants to interfere with or know about. The shroud of silence, the hidden bruises the hurting heart are laid bare in this book.

What we are introduced to is also the indomitable spirit of the narrator and the will to live and reclaim her life.

I was in a small lift once and as the doors shut a sense of claustrophobia threatened to overwhelm me… I remember trying desperately to focus on my breathing to calm my racing heart… It was this feeling that revisited me over and over again as I read this book.

The realisation that thousands, if not millions of women go through this ordeal in their relationships on a daily basis, filled my heart with deep sadness.

It’s a difficult book to read but it’s a pertinent one.

Book Review.. Too Much Happiness

#bookreview #shortstories #bookexperience
Alice Munro has the gift of weaving short stories with a very long life.

Much later the skeleton of a story might surface up and you might find yourself becoming completely silent, trying to flesh it out. You’ll move backwards in your mind… Trying to piece a story together. Posing and answering questions in solitude to yourself.

Some of the stories in this collection of ten are quite unforgettable.

I’ll remember ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘Face’. The first for its viciousness and the other for the unconditional love that children have for their best friend. Both stories are intricately built up, immensely readable.

“Wenlock Edge” makes me wonder if things like these do happen… That people take advantage of their money and position to fulfill their quirky idiosyncrasies, taking advantage of the young with impunity.

The peep she gives into people’s lives, makes one feel like a voyeur. It’s ‘none of my business’ I want to say to some stories or ‘get your act together’ to another.

“Deep-Holes” made my blood run cold. Any story, whether fact or fiction involving children disappearing, physically or emotionally, fills me with fear… There’s a helplessness to the situation that seems beyond anyone’s control.

There is roiling emotion, like a heaving sea, behind names and people and their stories. It’s a tremendous ability to capture them and Ms. Munro definitely has that gift.

How does one choose a certain title from a group of short stories, I’ve always wondered. ‘Too Much Happiness’ wasn’t my favourite story but it certainly was the title for which I bought this interesting book. 😊

Sweeping Changes–A life-altering book

This is a life-altering book😊.

It is beautiful to look at, wholesome to hold, a delight to consume and easy to digest.😁

This book was gifted to me in 2002 and has always been in my line of vision, no matter how many new titles were added and subtracted from my library. I have read it three times and underlined more and understood better as I have grown.

It also makes me understand why books are called our best friends… It’s not only because they give us good company but also because they give us good advice and sound, age-old wisdom.

As the title suggests, the book is about finding joy in everyday living… It is about finding something wholesome and beautiful in the ordinary by cultivating an eye and an attitude to recognize it, the Zen way.

There are sentences in here that hold the book together much like the role gold plays in the Japanese ‘Kintsukuroi’ art of increasing the beauty and value of broken pottery. Not that the chapters are lacking in any way…😊

I love the idea of looking beyond the obvious… Giving respect and attention to what we take for granted, like windows, doors, water, cooking, mirrors, rooms, sharing, living, giving, … There is a whole world to rethink about and make new relationships with.

This beautiful book gives hope, urges you to slow down and savour your life from exactly where you are. It encourages one to celebrate what one does as ‘routine’ and finds ‘mundane’ by looking at these tasks with fresh eyes and a mind that is calmly present.

Printed word is powerful and if it is backed by playful joy and lightness, it becomes an instant ally. This book has given me hours of joy, it has helped me be more organised and it is because of ‘Sweeping Changes’ that I have a broom in my studio at all times… One that I truly enjoy using😁!

Book Review.. Finding Gobi

I have two adorable pugs, but that is not why I bought this book 😊.

The story about a little stray dog latching on to a runner during a gruelling 155-mile ultra marathon run in the Gobi Desert piqued my curiosity.

The fact that she matched stride for stride with an elite athlete for nearly 80 miles made a stunning picture in my mind. I couldn’t wait to find out more about this tenacious little pup.

While the book is about Gobi, the stray and Dion, the runner, it is also about falling desperately in love with an animal, in an alien country and not have the heart to leave her there, it is about learning new emotions within oneself. It is also about how sometimes animals choose us rather than the other way round.

I have always enjoyed reading about athletes who push their bodies and mind to the utmost limit and survive to tell the tale. Here, Dion has done a remarkable job of capturing what long distance elite runners endure, what motivates them, and why they do what they do.

The book made for an easy, interesting read. I loved going through YouTube videos about these two amazing beings after reading the book. Just type any of their names and up they pop!

I was surprised that a story that captured the collective imagination of millions was missed entirely by me.

The book is heartwarming, like hot tea on a cold winter day. Read it for the real life love affair between man and his best pal! It is not a tear-jerker like many pet books but a delightful, peppy read that might inspire you to reach for your running shoes and put in a few miles 😁!

Heck! If the mutt can run 80 miles, we can surely do a few!! Phew!