11-year-old Pecola Breedlove believes she’s ugly. And nothing can change that. Nothing at all. Unless … unless she could trade in her eyes for beautiful blue ones. Now if she had those blue eyes, things would be different; because then, everyone would love her.
As part of my pledge to read more books from diverse authors, I picked up Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I had seen it on more than one book list while I was trying to build my own. That, and the title which sounded light and happy, lead me to pick this one. Although the book wasn’t exactly light and happy, it wasn’t heavy either, it took me by surprise.
Such a Fun Age tells the story….
….of Emira – a black twenty-five-year-old, aimless and unambitious, yet to find her calling in life. In the meanwhile, she holds two part-time jobs, one of which is that of a baby-sitter for Alix Chamberlain’s three-year-old daughter Briar.
One evening while Emira is at the supermarket with Briar, a security guard detains her suspecting her of having kidnapped the child. A panicked Emira calls Briar’s father even as a man, Kelly, videotapes the incident.
The episode shakes up Alix who decides that she needs to take a greater interest in Emira’s life. Her stilted attempts at starting up a conversation puzzle Emira who has no need for this friendship. All she cares for is Briar, who she has a real and deep affection for.
Alix’s interest gradually grows into something bordering on a crush as she constantly tries to talk to Emira, gifts her expensive wine, tries to decode her interest in music, and looks through her phone when she isn’t around.
Things come to a head when Alix crosses all boundaries to ‘manage’ Emira’s life.
Such a Fun Age is hard to review, not because it doesn’t have much to say but because it evokes too many thoughts and you just want to talk about it rather than analyse it objectively. Which is why this will be more of a book discussion than a book review.
Bear with me, please.
We get to read the book through two perspectives, Emira’s and Alix’s
The difference between the two women couldn’t have been more stark and it’s not just about them being black or white. While Alix is a social media influencer, Emira doesn’t even have social media accounts. Alix is wealthy while Emira worries about her insurance. Reid brings out the difference beautifully, almost as if there can be no meeting point between the two.
That’s what it is at the beginning of the book.
Emira is as dismissive of Alix as Alix is of her. If anything, she doesn’t quite like her because Alix seems to prefer only her younger, calmer daughter while Emira’s ‘favourite human being’ is Briar, the older one precocious and talkative as she is.
While Alix changes after the supermarket incident, Emira doesn’t. On the contrary, she tries to pull away further because she doesn’t see babysitting as a permanent position. That is frustrating for Alix who is desperate to befriend her.
Also thrown into the mix, is Alix’s rather complicated childhood
When Alix was young, her family comes into a sudden inheritance and her parents go on a spending spree, to her acute embarrassment. Over the years, she learns to be comfortable with her wealth to the extent that she begins to take it, as well as the privilege that comes with it, for granted. Also, she turns into a bit of a snob. Of course all of this, without being aware of it.
When she sets about befriending Emira she starts looking at herself from Emira’s perspective and perhaps, on some subconscious level, the discomfort with her privilege returns, even while at a conscious level she remains unaware of it. With that, returns the embarrassment of her wealth. She takes great pains to convince Emira that she doesn’t splurge, that she’s a thrifty shopper, not that Emira is bothered at all.
Reid’s writing brings out all of that without actually mentioning any of it. That is exactly what good writing is. The undertones, the conscious and sub conscious motivations are all there for the reader to pick up on.
I have to talk about the incident at the supermarket
The reactions of the various characters to the incident took me by surprise. Emira has no wish to share the video with the world. The racist slur bothers her, but what troubles her more is her lack of a proper job which she feels would have given her some sort of standing in life, protecting her from incidents like that one. ’This wouldn’t have happened if you had a real f****** job,’ she muses to herself. In fact she is more worried that Briar would be taken from her than apalled at the incident itself. Perhaps because the scenario may not have been unusual for her. And that is just sad.
Alix and Kelly, (the man who records the incident) on the other hand are keen for some kind of a redressal. Alix stops shopping at the supermarket while Kelly suggests legal action or getting the guard dismissed, or going to the media.
I liked that this incident didn’t become the central point of the book in the way I had thought it would. That would have been predictable. Rather, it triggers something entirely unexpected.
The friendships in Such a Fun Age
Alix has a set of three friends who are almost cliquey in the way they interact. Even though Alix reaches out to them for every decision, specially when it has to do with Emira, I didn’t get a warm vibe from the group. It was somewhat similar with Emira who also has three friends she hangs out with. However, it is only with one of them (Zara) that I see a real connection.
….was a little tame but then it was somewhat in keeping with Emira’s character. It would have been odd if she had suddenly turned into an ambitious go-getter with a high-flying job. However, with her knack for children, I’d seen her as a full-time nanny. Come to think of it the job Alix offered her was quite perfect. But I’ll let that go.
If you like books that explore diversity you might want to read my review of Girl, Woman, Other.
Good Intentions aren’t everything
That is my biggest takeaway. The worst situations in the book arise from the best intentions. There’s the white woman who calls for the security guard at the supermarket with the intention of protecting Briar.
Then there’s Alix who feels her interest in Emira gives her some kind of right to manage her life. So consumed is she with her own good intentions that she doesn’t bother to check if that’s what Emira wants. In fact, no one is bothered about what Emira wants, not Alix or Kelly or Tamra (Alix’s friend who is also black and so feels she can have a say in Emira’s ‘upliftment’).
Before I wrap up I have one small complaint (there always is one, right?)
It’s the dialogue. Look at this: “Why you tryna play one-drop rule right now?” I don’t know if this is how youngsters these days talk to each other but it didn’t work for me.
Also, I still haven’t been able to work out the thought behind the title.
That aside, Such a Fun Age is a wonderfully layered account making it hard to put characters into protagonist-antagonist brackets. It talks about race and class and privilege without getting heavy or preachy.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve reviewed it leave your link in the comments and I’ll drop by.
Last Thought: If books on race and class interest you, this one is a must-read.
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It was barely a surprise to be reminded of the existence of racism, I knew that, already. However, that it can be so brutal, so cruel and so clearly played out that someone could make a video, yet not be able to stop it – that was the horror of it.
It was like a page from The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.
Only, this was real life where a real man lost his life.
Since then, it has been heartening to see thousands of protestors out on the streets. I promised myself I’d do what I do best – write about it, read about it, mostly read – as many stories as I could, acquaint myself with as many perspectives as I possibly could.
I began to think back to the books I’d read on racism. The first one to come to mind was obviously To Kill A Mockingbird. I’ve read it more than once, watched the film, quoted from it over and over again.
Yet when I thought about it, I couldn’t find George Floyd in it.
There’s Atticus and there’s Scout and Boo Radley but where was George Floyd? Oh, there was Tom Robinson, tucked away somewhere, but he was barely there. I wanted to hear his voice. What was he feeling? What was he thinking? What was his family going through? I found barely anything.
If an anti-racism book doesn’t get the oppressed to speak out, if it continues to speak for them, it’s barely serving its purpose. It can only be a start, a small start in the right direction, nothing more.
Believe me when I say that it has taken a lot of introspection and some amount of courage to say this about a favourite book of mine.
I understand those were different times…
… that Tom really didn’t have a voice back then. I understand that a white man’s support would have been a large step. I’m not trying to take away from its merits. Atticus was a good man, a brave man, a just man and a wonderful role model as a father.
However, to continue to hold the book in high esteem is questionable
Specially in this time and age, when there are stories, scores of them, written brilliantly by people from marginalised sections themselves. (The Hate You Give was one such. Have you read it? The film is out on one of the streaming channels. Do try to catch it.)
Books like To Kill A Mockingbird and even The Help (another huge favourite) promote the white man/woman as the saviour. They seem to be giving a voice to the black man but what we really are reading is a white man’s story. It’s time the focus moved from the privileged sections of society to the marginalised ones. Tom needs to take centre-stage and tell his own story. We need to read his story rather than Atticus’.
These lines from a piece I found online articulate my thoughts well:
To Kill a Mockingbird is a white story written by a white woman in which black people are depicted as ignorant, hopeless, and in need of white saviors.
The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own.
I realise now, I need a better perspective. I also realised I didn’t have enough books on my shelves, even on my TBR list, where diverse people spoke out in their own voices. I set out to rectify that.
Here’s a fantastic list I referred to, for my TBR list. It has both fiction as well as non-fiction books on racism. You can pick out ones that appeal to you if you want to read more.
As readers, this is what we need to do – read, as many stories from as possibly diverse voices as we can. Read, not just stories of struggle and strife, but stories of happiness and love and friendship, because it is these stories that make people human, that help bridge the gap between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’.
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I’ve had an up and down kind of relationship with Jojo Moyes. First I read Me Before You and I cannot ever put into words what I felt for that book. Let me just say that it made me laugh and cry like no love story ever did. This, despite my passion for happy endings.
Then I read the sequel After You and was sorely disappointed. It was just so very mediocre that I lost interest in the Louisa’s life as well as in the author. Then someone (and I cannot for the life of me remember who it was), strongly recommended The Giver of Stars. And because she felt the same about the other two books, I trusted her and I’m glad I did.
Here’s what the book is about
Alice, an Englishwoman, marries the handsome Bennet Van Cleve, more to escape her dull, restricted life in England, than for love, and moves to Kentucky, USA. However, she soon realises that with her domineering father-in-law always around, she had exchanged one prison for another.
When she gets the opportunity of becoming part of a girl gang of pack-horse librarians she signs on eagerly. These women travel long distances on horseback, through sun, rain and snow, carrying with them books to be delivered to isolated houses on the hills.
The library is headed by Margery, a strong independent woman and Alice is at once awed and enchanted by her devil-may-care attitude. Beth, Izzy and Sophie make up the rest of the group. Through their books the women open doors not just to knowledge but also to comfort and camaraderie.
They become an inseparable team, a support system for each other, specially for Alice, who has to struggle hard on the personal front.
Partly because Margery supports Alice and partly because of her love for the mountains and the mountain-folk, she comes into a confrontation with the Van Cleves who own the largest coal mines of the area. The story takes on a dangerous turn when she is accused of murder.
What I thought if it
The book is set in Kentucky during the times of the Great Depression. It intrigued me to find out that pack-horse librarians really existed way back then. I couldn’t help but marvel at these brave women who travelled 14-15 hours a day, four-days a week to bring learning and pleasure to the hills.
…is gorgeous. Moyes brings alive the raw beauty of the mountains – the vastness of the terrain in all its magnificence, harsh yet beautiful, the clip-clop of horse hooves and the chirping of birds, the sounds and the silences, as the women rode in solitude. She describes the changing seasons in all their glory – the heat, the intense cold as also the angry rains.
Her descriptions of life on the hills are real. While she doesn’t romanticise or glorify it, she doesn’t make it pitiful either.
She talks of small-town life with equal authenticity, the dullness of it as also the the gossip-mills that never stop churning and feuds that go on for generations.
…proves that Moyes is a master story-teller. The library is the heart of the book. Interwoven with it are personal stories of the women with their individual dreams and struggles. The narrative moves from Alice to Margery seamlessly including a host of characters as they go along. The two romances are sweet in their own different ways.
Although the story takes time to be set into motion and nothing much happens in the first few pages, I was happy soaking in the setting and acquainting myself with the characters. This isn’t a pacey read, but Moyes keeps one engrossed.
…were well crafted. I liked that most of them had strong, credible backstories. Obviously Alice and Margery were my favourites. I specially loved the growth of Alice’s character. From a sedate, timid, Englishwoman, constantly cowed down by her father-in-law, to a rebel ready to take on the world for the people she loved and believed in – the transformation was wonderful.
What I didn’t like
In Moyes’ book black is black and white is white with a fair bit of stereotyping (the rich mean mine owner). That doesn’t happen in real life and it pretty much reveals the end. While I loved the characters, I’d have liked them to be more layered. A little bit of grey could have added depth and intrigue to the story.
Also, the language didn’t seem to be in sync with time the book was set it. I could have been reading any book set in modern times.
My biggest grouse was with the ending.
***** Spoiler Alert*****
This last bit might have spoilers so stop here if you’re wary of them. And though I’m trying to keep it to a minimum I can’t help but rant just a tiny bit.
The court-case as the grand finale was an inspired idea, but the end was too easy, too tame. Also, had I been the judge or jury, it wouldn’t have convinced me at all, and lastly, it in no way assured me that Van Cleve was well and truly vanquished.
That’s all I’ll say. If you’ve read the book I’d love to know what you though of it, specially the end.
Despite the end, I’d recommend The Giver of Stars as a good read.
Last thought: A read well worth your time.
Moyes faced plagiarism charges after her book was published. Kim Michele Richardson accused her of plagiarising her novel The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
And so that’s my next read. A little bit to check up on the claims of plagiarism but more because I don’t want to come back from the mountains of Kentucky or let go of the lives of pack-horse librarians.
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Book Title: All the Bright Places Author: Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places had been on my TBR for a long long time. Finally, I got to it over the lockdown.
Quickly, here’s what it’s about
This is the story of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theo Finch is the quintessential misfit, the ‘freak’ of the school while Violet Markey is a passionate writer and one of the most popular girls. While Theo has a history of depression, Violet has recently lost her sister in an accident leading her to withdraw into herself.
The two meet on top of the school bell tower teetering at its edge. Finch talks to Violet, persuading her to get down and in the process saves himself too. Later, they are paired off for a geography assignment ‘Wander’ where they have to discover and document the wonders of the state of Indiana. As they journey through the state, slowly, reluctantly (for Violet) they strike up a friendship as they try to heal each other.
What I thought of it
The story unfolds through two perspectives with Finch and Violet taking up the narrative, in turn, giving us a glimpse of both their points of view.
Let me first talk about our two protagonists
Finch is fascinating. We get to know early on that he is battling depression/bipolar disorder. He has many personalities hidden away inside him. There’s this thing he does – every few days he takes on a personality and then he proceeds to talk, walk and act as that person would. That had me intrigued. I do get though, that it might have appeared very confusing to people around him, specially to Violet. Once, in a wave of frustration, she demands which one is his ‘real’ self.
Finch obsesses about suicide, researching is, writing about it, even experimenting with it often, constantly on an edge.
He’s a bit of a bully when it comes to Violet. It annoyed me but it works in her favour because he drags her out of her depression, pulling her along on the path to recovery, slowly but surely.
In stark contrast to Finch, Violet’s character seems rather dull. While he hides way his dark periods under a flamboyant devil-may-care attitude, she is quiet and withdrawn. I couldn’t connect with her character; which is strange because I loved the relationship she shared with her sister and I could empathise with her emotions as she tries to come to terms with the latter’s death. Yet, she lacked the layers and depth that Finch had.
In any case, the more flawed a character the more interesting it is, and Finch has a definite advantage there.
The idea of ‘Wander’
The idea of wandering around your own city or state is charming. I loved the places Theo and Violet discovered. We often take our surroundings, our towns, cities and states for granted. Every young person should try to take up this assignment and rediscover his place of birth, should try to look at it as a tourist would.
Violet has a blog, along with her sister, which she abandons after the latter’s death. As she recovers she decides to launch another web-magazine titled Germ that has everything a young adult might need – from fashion and style to counselling and help for mental issues.
What’s even more fascinating is that the Germ Magazine for young adults really does exist. Taking the idea beyond the book and making it real is fantastic.
Tackling young adult mental health issues
All the Bright Places tackles the issue of mental health among young adults with depth and subtlety. It’s heartbreaking to watch how helpless Finch is in the face of his depression, how desperately he wants to stay ‘awake’. He puts on a cheerful front but he longs to be understood.
“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”
I hated the near-absence of his mom. I get that she had a lot to deal with in her own personal life but I couldn’t wrap my head around the way she left Finch to his own devices, knowing that he had mental health issues. I was so so sorry for him. It made me sad to watch a smart and intelligent boy having to struggle to stay afloat like he did.
On the contrary, Violet has a very clear advantage in how invested her parents are in her well-being, how clued in they are to her every mood, how they celebrate every small sign of recovery. And that is perhaps why she stands a better chance at recovery.
I have to admit I found the end disappointing. It left me feeling angry and frustrated.
The title of the book
I thought a lot about the title and what it meant to convey. This definitely isn’t a ‘Bright’ book. In fact it’s rather morbid. That said, there are some genuinely warm, happy moments and that is perhaps what the title implies: that all of us have some ‘bright places’ even though darkness might lurk around the edges. Or perhaps it implies Violet’s and Theo’s wanderings and the ‘Bright’ places they encounter along the way. I’d love to hear what you thought if you have read this book.
All the Bright Places: The film
Obviously, I had to go and look up the film after I was done with the book. And obviously, I found it wanting. It was too slow for my liking. I did like Justice Smith, who plays Finch, perhaps because of my bias towards that character. As for Violet, she was even more uninspiring than the one in the book.
Last thought: Not the perfect book to read during a lockdown but if mental health issues intrigue you, you’ll like this one.
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You have a bunch of friends – all avid readers. Bibliophiles, they call themselves. Bookworms is what you think of them as. It gets to you the way they are always talking about books. They rave about Harry, drool over Darcy and laugh at Bertie Wooster. They rant when Chetan Bhagat judges a reality show and cry when Harper Lee passes away. Even as you are comforting, smiling or simply looking on in perplexity, you wish, fervently, to be a part of it all.
The thing is they’re readers and you’re so not.
Oh you do love a good story but ‘Where’s the time?’ you ask, and ‘Who has the patience?’ There are always things to be done, deadlines to be met, bosses to be pandered to, phone calls to make and chores to be completed. Then there are the books themselves – big and cumbersome. It’s a daunting task. Right?
Well, today is Book Lovers Day (aka National Book Lovers Day in the US) and here’s help for you if you want to become one. These five simple ideas might just help you join the club.
Read what you like
That’s the first rule of increasing your reading – Make it easy for yourself – you’re doing it for pleasure, right? Well don’t let it become a chore. No stomach for classics? Let them be. For now. Remember you’re in for the long haul. There’ll be time enough later. Pick a comic, a romance, a thriller, a short story anthology – whatever suits your fancy. Don’t be cowed down by book snobs, don’t go by what’s in and do not be embarrassed of your choices.
Read at the doctor’s, read as you wait to pick your son from football class, read as you wait for the milk to boil, read on the bus, on the local, in the car. I’ll leave out ‘read in the loo’ in case my mum’s reading. But you know you can. Better than reading labels on bottles of moisturiser, I say. One’s got to keep oneself occupied after all.
Keep a book close by
Make sure a book is always within easy reach – in your bag, in your top drawer, on the centre table of your living room. And never never leave the television remote on top of your book. You know what is most likely to happen, don’t you? Yeah you’ll pick up the remote to get to your book and will forget to let it go and before you know the television will be blaring and hours would have gone by, your reading time swallowed in one big time-leap. Remotes have a habit of doing that. Stash them away somewhere deep.
Never go ‘bookless’
Once you’ve finished a good book – make sure you have another one waiting. Reading is a habit that feeds on itself. You give yourself a gap and you begin to forget how much fun it is. Before you know it, months have gone by without you having read a thing.
Give technology a chance
If you put in Gone With the Wind in your holiday bag all you’ll end up with is a very painful shoulder. Go for a Kindle. It’s way easier to carry around specially while you’re travelling and want to carry more than one book. Give audio books a chance. It might not be reading but you’re still listening to a book. It might lead you to a real book one day.
That’s it. Vary your reading, mix up genres and keep at it. Once you strike a real friendship with books you’ll find joining in your friends’ book gossip is just the smallest of pleasures. Books will give you much more for they are friends, philosophers and guides all rolled in one enchanting mix.
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The Wind Done Gone was a novel written by Alice Randall which tells the story of Gone With the Wind from the point of view of Cynara, Scarlett O’hara’s half sister, Mammy’s daughter. She’s a slave too. The names of all major characters, other than Mammy, have been changed. Tara becomes Tata, Scarlett becomes Other, her father, Gerald O Hara becomes Planter, her mom becomes Lady and Ashley becomes The Dreamy Gentleman. Like Scarlett she also falls in love with ‘R’ and after he leaves her, Cynara becomes his mistress.
We all know what happened after the book was published. Margaret Mitchell’s estate sued the author and after much litigation a settlement was reached. The book was branded a ‘parody’ and all but disappeared from public memory.
There are other spin offs to Gone With the Wind. There’s Rhett Butler’s People, which traces Rhett’s journey and there’s Scarlett, the official sequel to the book. None of them could come close to Gone With the Wind.
While spin offs, sequels and series have almost become a norm, I haven’t come across many novels that have tried to tackle a story from a different perspective. Of course copyright issues might be a deterrent.
Some authors like Chitra Banerjee and Kavita Kane have explored other POVs in Indian epics and I’ve loved most of them.
I find different POVs fascinating. For instance, I’d love to read a book from the point of view of an upperclass wife in The Handmaid’s Tale. What did she feel as she watched her husband bed another woman? Did she, even for one small moment, feel a pang of sympathy for the Handmaid? Or did jealousy and insecurity chase away all other feelings?
I’d love to read Rebecca from Maxim’s point of view. The backstory leading up to her murder and then his encounter with the new Mrs de Winter would have been quite a roller-coaster.
So tell me, which popular book would you like to read from an alternate point of view?
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What do you do if you lose your papa in an accident and your maman, pregnant with a baby, moves to a far away place in her head where you cannot reach her? In a place where she cannot abide loud noises, cooks when she feels up to it but mostly keeps to her room?
Well, you take care of yourself the best you can even if you’re just five. You make sure you don’t bother maman, you play in the meadow, splash around in the stream and eat fruits or make yourself a sandwich when you’re hungry. Most of all, you try to find ways to make maman happy because you want her back with all the wanting in your little heart.
That’s the story
..of five and half year old Peony, better known as Pea, her little sister Margot and their mum Joanna. As Joanna loses herself to depression the two little girls are left to their own devices. They spend their days talking and playing. During their wanderings they meet a man, Claude and Merlin his dog, and strike up a friendship. Claude keeps his distance even though he is affectionate and caring but the girls come to look upon him as the father figure they miss so much.
Set in the summer of a small French village, that is the all the plot you’ll find in The Night Rainbow. It isn’t much, so if you’re looking for a story you will be disappointed. Nothing really happens. The narrative has the dull sameness of the routine of Pea’s days. As you progress through the pages you wait for something to happen. You wait for the market days when Pea gets to go out with her mum as much as she does. You look forward to her interactions with Calude or even the small chance encounters with other village folk.
But here’s the thing, the book draws you in. You step into it and you feel what Pea is feeling. You find yourself grinning when she manages to draw a smile from Joanna, you cringe in the dark with her as she battles her imagined monsters and you want to hold her and hug away her yearning for a real family.
This one isn’t meant to be read for its racy narrative, it is one of those soul-stirring stories whose beauty lies in its slowness. There’s a bit of a revelation towards the end which makes the story even more poignant. And I wonder how I missed it through the book.
Perhaps the book affected me as it did because it spoke in a child’s voice.
Pea was a delightful heroine. Sometimes she seems a trifle old for her age but I forgave her considering she’s had to run her life on her own. I had to try hard to not get judgemental about Joanna. Mothers cannot afford the luxury of withdrawing into themselves when they have a five-year-olds to look out for. My heart broke for Pea as she tries, tries ever so hard to make Joanna happy. Her deep yearning to bring a smile to her maman’s face, for the hugs, the kisses and the cuddles, for the warmth of the old times and her childish attempts towards that are heartbreaking. When she fights the night demons, her loneliness is palpable and yet so strong is her concern for Joanna that she is refuses to wake her up.
There were times where I wanted to shake Joanna out of her depression. If that were even possible. But when I would put away the judgemental mum in me I’d feel so so sorry for her. To have lost a baby first then your husband, to be far away from your own home, with hostile in-laws, heavily pregnant and all alone – how terrible must that be. She tries. She cooks somedays and smiles too but the sadness weighs too heavily on her leaving her lethargic and uncaring.
Though Pea rarely cries or even complains, her longing is tangible and that is what makes this a sad, haunting, beautiful read. When Shelly said ‘the most beautiful songs were born out of the saddest things’ he could have been talking about The Night Rainbow.
Last thought: It’s definitely worth a read but it’s likely to pull you down into a well of sadness so pick it up with care.
All day today I have struggled to write this letter. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, neither is it about being able to find the words to say what I have to. The trouble this time round is rather strange – I don’t know who I should be writing this letter to. Who is it that made me want to write? Who is it that continues to inspire me?
Should it be my grade I English teacher who told my dad I needed to read storybooks because my English wasn’t up to the mark or my class VII English teacher who taught me to appreciate Shakespeare making me mug up speeches from Merchant of Venice till I could recite them verbatim (I can still reel off My Mind is Tossing on the ocean.. and The quality of mercy is not strained..)?
Should it be Enid Blyton who made me fall in love with talking toys, magical trees and mysterious islands or should it JK Rowling who reminded me that magic wasn’t only for children?
Should it be Georgette Heyer whose style I copied, without even being aware of it, in the first story I ever wrote (and tore up right away) or should it be PG Wodehouse who still appears unwittingly in some of my writing?
Should it be the editor of the daily who picked me for my very first job even though I had no experience or should it be the one who accepted my first story?
Should it be my twin muses who inspired me to begin a blog and then later, pestered me to come with a new story every night for years on end and then listened to them so spellbound that I began to believe a little bit in myself? Or should it be friends who laughed at all the right places when they read my writing?
Should it be my mom, dad and sister who read what I write, come up with ideas when I’m stuck, even vet some of my posts, or should it be my fantastic blogging family that keeps me going day after day with kind words of encouragement?
I shall never know and for that reason this letter shall never be written.
Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but havebeen inspired…
After the entire world had read it, reviewed it and heaped praises on it, finally I got around to reading Twinkle Khanna’s Mrs Funnybones. In fact, this really isn’t a review at all, just some thoughts about the book. If you’re one of the minuscule number who, like me, haven’t gotten around to it you could take a read.
I read her columns, along with millions of others, and like them too but somehow I kept pushing the book away. The thing is I’m a novel -reader. Bits and bytes of storytelling don’t tempt me. But then the kids’ had their exams and I was looking for something short, light and happy that I could read on and off between their multiple calls for help. Mrs Funnybones fitted the bill to a tee.
This is a collection of, what seem like journal entries or blogposts, from the life of Twinkle Khanna – a mom of two.
What would have otherwise been random disconnected, though interesting, slice-of-life entries, transform into an engrossing read by her unfailing wit and self-deprecatory humour with bits of life-learnings thrown in. The book is a perfect mix, specially in my current preoccupied state of mind.
I shared this quote on twitter last week. I loved it and apparently, so did some 600 other tweeples.
Twinkle Khanna had a short stint at Bollywood, is the wife of a famous actor and the daughter of one too, however the book doesn’t read like the life of a celebrity. And yet there is no effort to block off the famous family members or shy away from the fame – the husband’s or the mom’s. They step in and out of the pages of the book perhaps just as they walk in and out of the house – easily, naturally, nonchalantly. I enjoyed those glimpses.
The book has plenty of endearing moments – her sleeplessness over an impending photoshoot as also her worry when a bunch of family members descend at her home for a festive get-together, her rush to the book-store to buy a book that her son needs for an assignment, her impatience with fasting for Karwa Chauth, yet finding the fun in the festivities. Enjoyable, relatable.
The best thing about Mrs Funnybones is that she finds a connect with you without ever getting mundane.
I have to add, though, that try as I might I cannot picture her hailing an auto with two children in tow. Are the days of famous people being mobbed really all gone? Or even that bit where she’s frying McCain samosas in the kitchen, drenched in sweat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disbelieving her, just finding it hard to. No, it isn’t the same thing.
Last Thought: A perfect read for the in-between times.
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