Grandma’s words of wisdom #BookBytes -1

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I finally finished reading My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies by Fredrik Backman and it is full of interesting quotable quotes. Here’s one that caught my eye and is so full of wisdom.

Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the not-a-shit side as one can.

The language might not be quite kosher but granny does have a point.

#BookBytes

If you’ve been dropping by here you’ll know I used to do Teaser Tuesdays. Well with my rather disorganised reading/writing/blogging pattern I struggled with getting the post up on Tuesdays. And so I thought I’d just go with #BookBytes. The idea remains the same except I can post any day of the week.

You can join in too. If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage that leaps out at you demanding to be shared don’t ignore it. Share it on your blog. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll drop by.

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Jinnah Often Came to Our House #BookReview

 

Jinnah (2)

Book Title: Jinnah Often Came to Our House
Author: Kiran Doshi

The best way to learn history is to weave it into a story, a fictional tale with a dash of drama. When an author does that, and does it well, history becomes a captivating story rather than a dry collection of facts. It becomes easier to understand, to sympathise and to identify with. That’s exactly what Kiran Doshi does so very brilliantly in this book of his – Jinnah Often Came to Our House.

So he takes one of the most intriguing characters from Indian history – Jinnah, puts him in the story of Sultan and Rehana and sets it in the backdrop of the Indian struggle for Independence.

What we have then is a gripping book.

The story begins with Sultan a well-to-do upper class Kowaishi Mohammedon lawyer, or barrister, as they were called then. He is in the process of separating from his English wife. He then woos and weds Rehana, sets up his practice and goes on to make a mark in the Indian legal system. He vows to remain apolitical, to stay away from the freedom struggle, to focus on being just a lawyer. He fights cases for Hindus and Muslims alike, hence the nickname Azad.

This is also as much, perhaps more, the story of Rehana – the only surviving child of a forward thinking Muslim professor. She falls for the witty Sultan and fits into his life and his family like a long-lost piece of jigsaw. She wins over Bari phuppi, the matriarch of the family, who bestows a grant on her to set up a school for muslim girls (which she later opens up to all girls). Strongly influenced by Gandhi ji, Rehana later joins the Congress and fights for India’s freedom.

Most of all, this is the story of Jinnah, woven beautifully, inextricably with these two characters. Jinnah who is Sultan’s very famous senior and later, a friend. Jinnah, who parries and argues with Rehana in Shakespearean quotes and also nurses a soft spot for her.

The book talks about his turbulent marriage with Ruttie, the effervescent Parsi girl young enough to be his daughter (he was just three years younger than her father) and his brotherly affection for his (quite unpleasant) sister, Fatima. It talks about his journey from a pork eating, cigarette smoking liberal Muslim who believed firmly in Hindu and Muslim unity, to the man who fathered a separate nation for the Muslims.

The Review

The biggest strength of this book is its smooth gently-flowing narrative that keeps the reader turning pages.

It gives a fascinating glimpse of the Bombay of the early 20th century. It talks about upper class Muslims of that time, when men went hunting and got together at clubs to gossip; when the streets were washed by the bhishtees and the first Rolls Royce rolled out; the time when electric fans, flush toilets and hydraulic lifts were things only the very high-class could afford. It was absolutely fascinating.

While I was aware of the facts that lead up to partition I had little idea of the way the Congress spearheaded the freedom struggle, the various factions within it, the motivations of the people who joined it as also those of the few who decided to stay away. There was also the formation of the Muslim League, the way Jinnah initially distanced himself from it, decried it for trying to split the country on communal lines and then how he joined it because, as he said, better him than a conservative Muslim.

He continues to work for an Independent India till the Gandhi wave takes over the Nation, sidelining him completely. From the most respected man of the country he is suddenly lost in this wave, turning angry and bitter. It broke my heart a little bit to watch him change page by page until finally, driven largely by his ego, he decides to write a different history. And we watch as he singlehandedly forges a new country banishing India and Pakistan to eternal enmity.

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The book opened me up to new perspectives.

For instance there’s Gandhi. I have come a long way from idolising him to demonising him in my early youth, to now finally accepting him as an extraordinary man who had his flaws. The book reinforces that image. I could see how frustrating it would have been to live and fight along a man like Gandhi. Many of his decisions made sense only to him, though they were right on principle they took away from the freedom struggle. For people like Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose and perhaps even Jinnah in the beginning, the freedom struggle was supreme but for Gandhi it was his principles that were most important.

Despite all the complications, the twists and turns, Kiran Doshi manages to tell this tale simply and with plenty of humour. 

Last Thought: Absolute must-read.

You can buy Jinnah Often Came to Our House by clicking on the image below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.

The Graveyard Book #BookReview

 

The graveyard book - Book review

Book Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman

The only Neil Gaiman book I’d read was Coraline, which I’d loved. This one had long been on my TBR and finally I managed to get to it.

The Story

A baby who has just mastered the art of walking, wakes up in the middle of the night. Eager to try out his new skills he climbs out of his crib and makes his tottering way down the steps from his nursery and out of the house. He has no idea of the dangers that await him out there. Or also, the bigger danger that he has escaped – a killer is out to finish the family. He stabs the baby’s parents and older sister but has to give up in frustration on not finding that one last member.

The child makes his way to the local graveyard where he is adopted by the ghosts and is named Nobody Owens. Nobody, or Bod finds friends, parents and a mentor among the dead. The graveyard becomes his home. But he is human after all, alive and very curious. As he steps out, he finds the graveyard is perhaps the safest place for him.

The review

This is a delightful little story – Gaiman’s tribute to the Jungle Book (did you notice the similarity in the title?). Just as Mowgli was adopted by the animals of the jungles where he was abandoned, so is Bod adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard.

He learns his alphabet from grave headstones and is coached by his dead friends in ghostly skills like fading, haunting and dream walking. He meets up with a variety of graveyard-residents  – the good ghosts and the bad ones, ghouls, witches, night-gaunts and the Hounds of God.

His life might seem boring what with barely any friends and even fewer living ones, but he manages to get himself into plenty of adventures.

The most intriguing bit is obviously the setting. It creeped me out a little bit in the first few pages but by the end of the book I found myself wishing Bod would just stay there in the graveyard with his ghostly parents and his mysteriously fascinating mentor; that he wouldn’t lose his special graveyard powers or venture out in the world; his potential be damned!

But step out he does, sampling school life for a bit and even making a friend but he always returns to the graveyard.

For someone like Bod who can see and interact with ghosts, the distinction between the dead and living is rather blurred. His mentor/guardian puts things beautifully in perspective.

“You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

I loved how simple yet profound that quote is and how clearly it helps Bod separate the living from the dead. That is perhaps what gives him reason to give up his dead friends and seek out living ones.

The writing is simple, the story extremely engaging. Each of the chapters is written out like a short story and yet each of them moves Bod’s story forward.

I found The Graveyard book a wonderful read-together book for me and my tweens. The idea of ghosts beyond the scary evil forces they are made out to be is such a novel one. Like Gaiman says in one of his interviews, this one is ‘Not a children’s book but a book that children will enjoy’ as will adults.

Last thought: Go read it.

You can buy The Graveyard Book by clicking on the image below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.

The Graveyard Book #TeaserTuesday

With the holidays upon us I have been in a happy reading space. I had long wanted to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman  and I’m glad I finally did. It’s a delightful read with a rather different perspective of things.

graveyard book

When you’re brought up in a graveyard with ghosts for friends you stop fearing death. So what can scare you then? Are there things worse than death?

Sharing a passage from the book for Teaser Tuesday – the brain child of Should Be Reading.

Silas said, “Out there, the man who killed your family is, I believe, still looking for you, still intends to kill you.”
Bod shrugged. “So?” he said. “It’s only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”

Drop by for a review of this gorgeous book, coming up soon.

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Which was the last book that kept you up through the night?

Carthicks Unfairy Tales #BookReview

Carthick's Unfairy Tales

I thought this majestic horse was a befitting backdrop for fairy tales.

Book Title: Carthick’s Unfairy Tales
Author: TF Carthick

I’d seen this one on social media and the title seemed intriguing. Then Shantala from ShanayaTales recommended it and the link was right there waiting for me and so here I am with the review.

Carthick’s Unfairy Tales takes seven well-loved fairy tales of our childhood and turns them on their head. Cinderella, Princess and the Frog, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel get a complete makeover in this short story collection.

You know the story, right? But this is a whole new interpretation, a different point of view, one that blurs the boundaries of good and bad.

So we have a Cinderella who isn’t as sweet a girl as we thought her to be and Rumpelstiltskin isn’t a nasty old goblin after all. A princess doesn’t go weak in the knees when her frog turns into a prince while the prince may not be good and kind and chivalrous.

I enjoyed figuring out who would be the narrator in each of the stories and the different point of view gave a fresh perspective.

The language is simplistic but you get bits of interesting life philosophy thrown in. Sample this one from Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

You have to try everything. You need to poke your nose everywhere. Isn’t that what being human is all about? You call it intelligence, curiosity, spirit of enterprise and other fancy names. But the fact remains that you are nothing but nosy busybodies. 

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Rumplestillskin. It kept me hooked and the end took me by surprise/shock. That’s all I’ll say to keep the review spoiler free.

Last Thought: If you’re looking for something sweet and sappy, this one is not for you. However, if it’s the unusual and unexpected you’re after, even dark and twisted maybe, give it read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – #BookReview

Eleanor Oliphant-2

Book Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman

When one receives two recommendations for the same book on the same day and then is urged on by a few others, one’s will-power really stands no chance. I am only human after all. That’s how I found myself heading over to Amazon and clicking ‘Buy now’ on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Four days later, it has been delivered and read.

The story

The book tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant (obviously) a thirty year old woman. She is a quaint character, dry and friendless, who leads a simple life, with few interests and no ambition. She has no friends and doesn’t miss having them either.

She has a mysterious, perhaps dark, past, moving from foster homes to juvenile shelters, never staying at one place for too long, never forming relationships. All she seems to have are weekly phone conversations with her ‘mummy’ who is in some kind of prison and continues to have a strong hold on Eleanor’s life.

She works at an office – the one she joined right after college, and has been there for nine years. She is aware that she is the subject for gossip and ridicule and doesn’t quite mind it, even laughing at the jokes cracked at her expense.

Then one day she gets caught up (rather reluctantly) in rescuing an old man who has collapsed on the street. That’s how her life begins to change, one bit at a time.

What I loved

I didn’t warm up to Eleanor through the first few pages. But then she isn’t a loveable character, definitely not one you can love at first sight.

She improves immensely over the pages. I grew to love her quirky sense of humour. Her world view is endearing – she finds the entire world strange even while the world thinks she is the strange one. The matter-of-fact way in which she accepts her exclusion is at once funny and sad. I loved how she accepts her looks despite the scar on her face.

Initially, I found it odd how judgemental she was. She judged everyone, all the time, without even being aware of it. She judged them for the way they behaved, the way they ate or conducted themselves as also the way they dressed and looked. Which is why it was gratifying to watch her grow out of that mindset, one that had been fostered in the early years of her life. It was wonderful to watch her find her own voice, which was gentler, kinder, more considerate.

The book brings out in heartbreaking, frightening reality how much our childhood experiences mould the adults we become. This was the most remarkable thing about it –   Eleanor’s transformation – her journey from merely ‘fine’ to happy and content. That remains my most precious takeaway – that being fine is not enough, that life is much more. Life is about relationships, about finding love and happiness.

The not so good bits

First, there was the bit about her mother. Considering that she affected Eleanor so strongly I wanted to know more about her, about their relationship, what was it that led to the ‘accident’. But we never get a really clear picture – only the bits and pieces from Eleanor’s rather shaky memory. I was left with many unanswered questions.

However, my major issue with the book was that it had too many shades of two of my most loved reads – A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project. Those two are so high up there among my all time favourites that I could not help but recognise them here.

Comparisons are odious I know, but also inevitable.

When it comes to portraying a curmudgeon with a heart none can beat Ove. One connects with him right from the first page when he goes to buy that iPad (this one also has Eleanor going to buy a computer). Then there’s the likeness with the inimitable Don Tillman of The Rosie Project, as the wonderfully sweet scientist with Asperger’s Syndrome. Eleanor’s portrayal of social ineptness reminded me of him and his character was crafted so much better that her oddities didn’t stand out. Perhaps had I read this one first I would have enjoyed it without the comparisons.

Also, she’s never had a McDonald’s burger in thirty years of her life?

Last thought: This one is most definitely worth a read. Do pick it up.

Have you read the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Click on the link below to buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at Amazon.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine #TeaserTuesday

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman came highly recommended and lived up to much of its promise.

Eleanor Oliphant

The protagonist Eleanor is an unusual character, rather dry and uninteresting, but with a unique perspective towards people and life in general. Here’s my pick from the book.

I feel sorry for beautiful people. beauty, from the moment you possess it, is already slipping away, ephemeral. That must be difficult. Always having to prove that there’s more to you, wanting people to see beneath the surface, to be loved for yourself, and not your stunning body, sparkling eyes of thick, lustrous hair.

The review shall be up soon on the blog. Do drop by for a read.

 

 


download

If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Which was the last book that kept you up through the night?