Why? #BookBytes 7

For BookBytes today I have picked this quote from Jet Lag by Ann Birstein. Talking of Auschwitz the author says:

The million and half Jews had been shipped from all over Europe for the privilege of being murdered here. From all parts of Poland, of course, but also Hungary, Slovakia, Greece. Why? Why go to all that trouble? Why not shoot them on the spot? But I was thinking in terms of Nazi efficiency. I had forgotten the other why. Why murder them all?

Jet Lag, Ann Birstein

This is something I have often wondered. Why take the trouble of transporting millions and millions of Jews only to kill them? And again I have to remind myself that the bigger question here is ‘Why kill them at all?’.

Although the book didn’t move me as much as other WWII literature, it is worth a read. You can read the detailed review of the book here.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. The next edition is scheduled for May 21st. Do join in.

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Jet Lag #BookReview

Book: Jet Lag
Author: Ann Birstein

I took up JetLag on a recommendation from Sonali’s Book Club. That it was a World War II book was of course another big reason.

This is a travelogue..

..by the author who signs up for a European Discovery Tour – a trip that would take her to Jewish sites across Eastern Europe. She feels the need to explore her Jewish roots, to see the ‘origin’ as she puts it.

Along with her on the tour is a group of people each prompted by their own reasons. They travel from Warsaw and Auschwitz to Lithuania, Chez Republic and Hungary visiting all the sites of the horrible tragedy that was WW II. In Lithuania she visits the Yeshiva (Jewish Educational Institution) where her father had studied and tries to imagine what his life would have been like.

What I liked

The book brings home the tragedy in all its horror. Through Ann and her erudite guide we get to know of countless stories of life in the ghettos. These are stories of horror of course yet also of hope because people continued to believe that the madness had to end.

The Jews led almost regular lives, at least initially. They ran libraries, taught music and organised children’s operas. It is amazing how people kept on living ‘normal’ lives even in the most cruel, abnormal conditions. It shocked me to realise how easily we adapt to and accept whatever circumstances we are forced to live in. And that, I believe, is the biggest lesson history teaches us – to protest an unfair act no matter how small.

Many of them defied the rules too. They did it systematically and repeatedly till even that became their new normal. Above all, they wrote and photographed, constantly chronicling whatever was happening around them, leaving it all for posterity even as their numbers depleted day by day with groups of them being transported to the ovens.

Some instances talked about in the book will stay with me for a long time.

There were mentions of people like Emanuel Ringelblum the Warsaw Ghetto chronicler, Photographer George Kadish from Kovno, Lithuania and Abraham Sutzkever with his lyrical yet terrible descriptions of the holocaust. I spent hours looking each of them up on the Net and following their pictures.

The statistics are stunning in their enormity.

What could have been better

While the ghetto stories were inspiring as well as heart-breaking, the memoir didn’t draw me in. The narrative never became personal hence turned dull in parts.

Also, the people on the tour didn’t really come together as a group. I missed the warmth, the mutual sympathy that comes through a shared tragedy. Most of them had back stories but they were rather tenuous ones and I couldn’t connect with them with the exception of Rita and Max. They had both been at the concentration camps when they were young. Rita, as an 18-year-old, was incarcerated at Auschwitz and her husband Max was on the Schildler’s List. Their stories were moving, their dignity in the face of trauma, impressive. A book from their perspective would be worth a read.

I struggled with Yiddish terms and was glad I was reading it on the Kindle so I could look up the words as I went along.

Last thought: This one certainly deserves a read, however it is more of a fact file on WWII than a personal narrative.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Reading Challenge – This is my review for ‘A book written by a female author’.

Click here to buy this book

Not everything is awesome #BookBytes 6

I’m sharing a quote from the book 1984 by Gerorge Orwell. The first time I read it I must have been in my early teens. I have little memory of it perhaps because I would have had little or no understanding of it. Then I read it again some seven or eight years ago and was blown away. This is the third time I’m reading it and it strikes such chord.

The book talks of a dystopian society completely controlled by a central authority, that of Big Brother. People aren’t allowed to voice dissent. They’re not even allowed to think of dissent. If one does, it leads to ‘thoughtcrime’. A new language called Newspeak is created for the people. The dictionaries are constantly ‘upgraded’ to contain fewer and fewer words.

Here’s a quote from the book. 

‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words…’

‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thoughts? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.’

1984, George Orwell

I’m not going to talk about the book in this post, but just about the quote that I picked, about the dangers of a shrinking vocabulary because No words = No thoughts.

When our children (or even we ourselves), use ‘awesome’ for everything they like, and ‘gross’ for everything they don’t, it is perhaps time to take note. Awesome might stand for anything from a intelligent satellite in space to a delicious bowl of pasta. How ridiculous is that!

We are turning into a generation that doesn’t think or feel as much, a mentally, emotionally impoverished generation. What’s worse is that we are doing it wilfully, voluntarily, lazily. We are rejecting the depth and richness of words and hence that of thoughts and feelings.

My takeaway from this particular passage is to explore and to use language in all its beauty and to help my children do the same.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.


Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. The next edition is scheduled for May 7th. Do join in.

Me first? #BookBytes – 5

I finished reading this delightful book. Here’s a quote that spoke to me.

‘This is what you do’, Mindi said. ‘You follow your so called passions and don’t consider the consequences for other people.’
This charge again. It would be easier to be a criminal fairly prosecuted by the law than an Indian daughter who wronged her family. A crime would be punishable by a jail sentence of definite duration rather than this uncertain length of family guilt trips.” 

Balli Kaur Jaswal, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

This quote got me thinking. And it’s not just about daughters, though it definitely holds more true for women in general. While I don’t support the old-fashioned idea of self-sacrificing women, I do think one needs to consider the repercussions of one’s action, specially on loved ones. No one is an island, at least most people aren’t. So what one does is, more often than not, likely to impact others.

And yet one owes a debt to oneself – to do the best for one’s own self. So how far should one go in search of personal excellence or satisfaction or simply in the pursuit of passion or happiness? How does one strike a balance?

That’s a decision each one of us has to make for oneself. What do your think?


If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared do join in with #BookBytes. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month so the next edition is scheduled for April 16th. Do join in.

The World’s Worst Children 3 #Review

Book Title: The World’s Worst Children 3
Author: David Walliams

Here is a book that’s quintessentially David Walliams. What? Haven’t read Walliams yet? Well then, this is a good place to start.

The World’s Worst Children 3, is the third book (obviously!) in this series of the terriblest children you’re ever going to meet. There are ten short stories about ten terrors. Walliams imbues his protagonists with one troublesome flaw after another, building up their ‘atrocities’ till you’re clamouring for an end. Of course the end comes and in the most traditional, old-fashioned way.

There’s Walter the Wasp with a tongue that spews insults, there’s Hanks Pranks who can’t help but play pranks, there’s Boastful Barnabus who cannot stop boasting and a host of others. They offer a bunch of laughs as they trouble, tease and torment finally meeting their just desserts, leaving a lesson for young readers.

Some stories hit the spot to perfection. For instance there was Honey the Hogger – the tale of a girl who hogs the loo making her brother squirm when he needs to pee. This could have been lifted straight from my home. Oh and Kung Fu Kylie was a bit of a wicked winner, delivering a chop to her Geography teacher for giving her an F. That’s something I’d definitely not propagate, but the appeal to kids is undeniable.

This is the kind of book a child can open at any page and begin to read. Replete with delightful alliterations, it makes for a fun adventure, even though my children are a little over age for it. The illustrations by Tony Ross are gorgeous and the glossy pages add to its good looks.

Walliams picks up Dahl’s formula of strong children as protagonists set off by rather weak adults and takes it forward with élan. As an adult I have enjoyed a few of his books (The Boy in the Dress) while some others I have found over-the-top. I give three stars to this particular collection because it offered some laughs yet had nothing new to offer and not much of a storyline either. Also, I really have to mention, that the first story, The Terrible Triplets, had me gagging. But that’s my point of view as an adult.

As a mom to twins, I do know that children have a whole different reaction to all things gross and are rarely as freaked out as adults. They also seem to revel in repetitions laughing over passages just as hard each time as they had the very first time they read it. For them the book is a winner.

It provided us with a welcome change during the rather stressful exam season.

Last thought: I’ll put this one down as a fun read for children.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Do you care for what people think? #BookBytes – 4

Early this month on Women’s Day I shared a quote from Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Here it is.


What a fantastic read this book is proving to be, full of immense wisdom yet in no way preachy and so very relatable. Today I share another one from the same book. Take a read.

“This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path—the my-isn’t-that-impressive path—and keep you there for a long time. Maybe it stops you from swerving, from ever even considering a swerve, because what you risk losing in terms of other people’s high regard can feel too costly.”

Michelle Obama points out a trap a lot of young children fall into, specially girls. They strive to be ‘good girls’, to do what they think is expected of them, to stick to paths that are ‘considered’ impressive, without once looking inward. This is counter-productive on so many levels. They end up their shortchanging themselves, not using their inherent strengths and talents and disregarding their interests, condemning themselves to lives that are in no way fulfilling, simpy to win the approval of others.

If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage that leaps out at you demanding to be shared do join in with #BookBytes. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month so the next edition is scheduled for April 2nd. Do join in.

The Night Rainbow – A hauntingly beautiful read

Book Title: The Night Rainbow
Author: Claire King

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.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info