Thursday, July 06, 2006

To Read Or Not To Read - Is That A Question?

Not to me. From childhood, ever since a teacher (bless her) thrust a well-worn Enid Blyton book at me, I have never been without books. Despite my mom's best attempts to coerce me away from books at least at mealtimes, the habit has persevered. Indeed, I am quite the laughing-stock at several restaurants in Chennai, for plonking myself on an unoccupied table and reading away to abandon. IMO, the excietement of reading a thriller is paramount when you are either eating, or in the loo (yeah, I am wierd, I know!). I am so wierd that in our house every loo has inbuilt bookshelves!

Some of the books that I have read over the past few months have been quite interesting, and some others have been outright trashy. Here I describe a few of the interesting ones:

'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver is a humdinger of a book, though morbid at times. The book worked for me at several levels: as a commentary on society's perceived notions of the mother, as an interpretation of the possible motives that compel a teenager to kill his peers and most of all, the more-than-ample suggestions that the narrator may not be presenting an entirely unbiased account. The book is about Kevin Katchadourian, who kills 10 people at his school when he is just 15. The tale is narrated by Eva, Kevin's dysfunctional mom. To the author's credit, neither Kevin nor Eva ever descend to being merely stereotypical characters - they are complex, difficult (even hateful) characters sometimes, but on the other hand even Kevin is endearing sometimes. For those of you who enjoy serious reading, this is an amazing read.

'The Poisonwood Bible' by Barbara Kingsolver is an interesting read, but IMO falls short of being great. The book narrates the tale of a fiery evangelist who tears his family away from everything they are used to, and hauls them away to the politically volatile Congo. The story moves forward through the viewpoints of the preacher's daughters. Despite a great plot, the book really fails to propel itself to a modern classic. Kingsolver failes to bring alive the Congo, the way Wilbur Smith used to bring alive Africa in some of his earlier works (or as Khaled Hosseini did Afghanistan so eloquently in the wonderful 'The Kite Runner'). Also, one of the protagonists - Rachel - has no character graph at all. I did enjoy all the biblical references, though (I am a big fan of all biblical fiction).

'The Pilot's Wife' by Anita Shreve is highly overrated, IMO. I could foresee where the book was going almost from the beginning; was almost like one of those cheesy 80's Jeetendra-Rekha-Jayaprada potboilers. I did like the way she conveyed the way the family copes with the sudden tragedy, but the other-woman-angle (sorry!) was uncalled for. Recommended only for staunch followers of Danielle Steele and the like.

'Like Water for Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel is more like a re-telling of a legend (like somebody narrating the Ramayana, for instance), and less of a conventional novel. Once this fact was firmly entrenched in my mind, I was absolutely entranced by this novel. First of all, the book follows a unique, rivetting format: every chapter begins with the recipe of a dish that Tita is currently preparing, and then dissolves into the actual plot. And the Mexican recipes (especially the quail in rose-petal sauce one) sound really yummy, I have to admit (but my being a glutton has nothing to do with the quality of the book!). This is a great, great book - just have to see the movie version too.

I am currently reading:

'Hangman's Journal' by Shashi Warrier: This boasts of a plot that seems (at least in the initial stages) similar to Adoor Gopalakrishnan's latest masterpiece 'Nizhalkuthu' (Interplay of Shadows). The books got some good reviews, and Shashi Warrier has written some decent stuff before ('Night of the Krait', 'The Orphan' etc).

'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' by Marina Lewycka is next on my list. This too has been heavily recommended to me, and is supposed to be a damn good read; let's wait and see!

P.S.: Excuse the bastardization of the great Bard's work!

8 comments:

Shruthi said...

I particularly liked the title! :)
Interesting list! Will keep my eyes open!

Ranjit Nair said...

@Shruthi: Thx!!

saumya said...

hey
me smita's freind/ cousin - i dunno - something

thot i'll chk out waht she is gettin into

hmm readin ur blogs - looks like she's pretty ok - thot uncle might get her a mallu with a big fat muchi

but yeah u seem pretty ok

u should chk out O3 to - thats pretty good to

www.o3.indiatimes.com

www.o3.indiatimes.com/saumya


Cheers
saumya

Amodini said...

I really liked the "Pilot's wife". The other woman angle seemed to me to be very well-written. SO I tried another Shreve "All he ever wanted" but couldn't get beyond a few pages of that. Also read "Like water.." a few years back, and have never liked it because of the way the story unfolded, very surreal and not really there - though it a lot of hot air :-). Also thought Kiterunner wonderful and reviewed it in my blog.

And speaking of the "Pilot's wife" there's a desi film "Dosar" along the same lines.

aami said...

Hai samanahrudhaya,
Read some of ur posts...
Its really exciting...
Let me quote my favourate author...
One moment,you have nothing,the next movement you have more than you can cope with...
This is what i felt when i travelled through ur words...
Regards
Aami
http://friendforudear.blogspot.com

aami said...

...realy its a good effort from ur part..Congrats and all the very best...
From
http://friendforudear.blogspot.com

Ranjit Nair said...

@Saumya: Hey, thx (for the backhanded compliment!!). Hope to meet you for the wedding !!!

Ranjit Nair said...

@Amodini: Yes,I have seen 'Dosar'. Somehow,I found the whole book predictable. Btw,the Lance Armstrong autobio totally rocks!!!!