The God of Small Things  – ★★★★★
Once in awhile a book comes your way which is so powerful in its message, so inexplicably poetic in its presentation and so wondrous in its understated emotion that you may wonder how come you have not read it yet. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is that book to me. The notable feature of the book is that it is a debut novel which won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. It takes a cross-generational approach to tell the story, but at the heart of the plot is a pair of twins – brother and sister – seven-year old Estha and Rahel respectively – who grow up in Ayemenem, part of Kerala, India, in the late 1960s. This is a turbulent time to grow up because there is political unrest and uncertainty in the country, and financial and other hardships, as well as all kinds of injustice, are seen as just part and parcel of life. However, the twins are not concerned with the Big Things, and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their nine-year old English cousin Sophie Mol. Her father and the twins’ uncle Chacko is welcoming his ex-wife Margaret and his daughter to India. At the height of all the excitement, however, everyone is quite oblivious to the dangers lurking just on the periphery of their lives, and these dangers seem to just wait for all the circumstances to conspire in their favour to strike the final blow into the very heart of the small lives of Ayemenem. Continue reading “Review: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy”
“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably…They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in…You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t…[in them] you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic” (Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, 1997: 229).
This November I went to New York, NY to celebrate my birthday, and am presenting some of the slightly off-the-beaten-track highlights of my journey below. New York is magical in autumn when it is covered in all those bright red and yellow leaves and it is not yet too cold.
Starting with Central Park or “the Green Lung” of New York, there are a number of interesting statues and sights there, including Strawberry Fields, dedicated to John Lennon, Hans Christian Andersen statue and the Loeb Central Park Boathouse. My favourite has got to be the statue to Balto, a heroic sled dog that led his team on the final journey to transport serum to Nome, a town that was battling an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925. Those who have seen the animation Balto  will be particularly impressed. Some people criticise the monument, saying that Balto was simply the last in the relay race to deliver the medicine with his man, but it is also fair to say that the statue symbolises the tribute to all sled dogs that were involved in this race to save lives, including to Togo and Jack.
Nearby, there is also the infamous and majestic-looking, in all its Gothic glory, Dakota Building, which was built in 1884 across from Central Park and was the city’s first luxury apartment block. It notoriously housed a number of celebrities, including Leonard Bernstein, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, Judy Garland and Rudolf Nureyev. The interesting trivia here is that the building has its own in-house power plant to provide heating for its notable residents, and the applicants who were rejected by the board to be residents include Cher, Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The site can now be considered strangely eerie and tragic since in the building’s entrance corridor occurred the murder of John Lennon and the building also features in the psychological horror by Roman Polanski Rosemary’s Baby . Continue reading “A Trip to NYC”
Francis Cabrel, French singer and song-writer, turns 65 years old today, and I thought I would share one of his songs – Je l’aime a mourir.
“There was, she thought, so much to be said in favour of a game of cards. One was not compelled to pretend, could be silent without being dull, could frown without people being overtly solicitous about one’s happiness, could triumph over a man and not have to giggle and simper when one did it. One could kill time, obliterate loneliness, have a friendship with strangers one would never see again and live on that sweet, oiled cycle of anticipation, the expectation that something delicious was about to happen” (Peter Carey, 1988: 227).
The Mystery of the Yellow Room  – ★★★★
“Obvious signs have never been anything to me but servants; they never were my masters. They never made me that monstrous thing, a thousand times worse than a blind man – a man who cannot see straight” [Leroux, 1907/Ed. 2010: 126].
This French author influenced Agatha Christie and wrote The Phantom of the Opera . His name is Gaston Leroux, and some claim that his The Mystery of the Yellow Room is the greatest detective story in the world. This is a serious statement, but his story is also an ambitious one. Influenced by the stories of Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe, Leroux conjured up his own, deciding to focus on the most fascinating of cases – the seemingly impossible crime. Miss Stangerson gets attacked in the Yellow Room of the Château du Glandier in a manner which says that her attempted assassin could not have easily come to the room, and nor could he have escaped from it at all after the attack. Miss Stangerson locked the room behind her when she went to her room and got attacked, and the adjoining room was occupied by her father Mr Stangerson and Old Jacques, their employee. The crime could not have been committed, or could it have? The case falls into the hands of a young crime journalist Joseph Rouletabille, and the young man is determined to prove that he is a match for the famous criminal investigator Frédéric Larsan. Continue reading “Review: The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux”
Shanah at Bionic Book Worm has created this autumn-themed book tag, and I just could not resist doing another tag.
- CRISP FALL AIR – A book that felt fresh and new: Christopher Priest’s The Prestige 
This book is far from perfect, but the idea behind seems original and the structure new. Most people will know the plot from Nolan’s film The Prestige (2006), but it is still an exciting read, even if you have seen the film (the book is different in its beginning and in its end). The plot mirrors the stages of a magician’s trick, and Christopher Priest provides the reader will all the hints to solve the mystery in the very beginning. There are a couple of surprises in the book, even though the story is also slightly predictable and goes into the direction of pure fantasy, which may not please everyone.
- HOWLING WINDS – An ending that blew you away: Thomas P. Cullinan’s A Painted Devil/The Beguiled 
I was impressed with Cullinan’s The Beguiled. It is so much more underneath than this simple tale of girls living in a boarding school during the Civil War and their interactions with a wounded soldier who comes to the school’s doorstep. The book is psychologically interesting because it contains multiple unreliable narrators who, throughout the novel, try to persuade the reader that their version of events is true. It is up to the reader to make his or her mind up in the end. The ending is well crafted and did surprise me. Also, the film by Sofia Coppola did not do justice to the book or its characters at all, even though it was spot on regarding the atmosphere. Continue reading “The Fall Book Tag”
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle  – ★★1/2
In his debut novel, Stuart Turton takes an unusual twist on a murder-mystery. The Inception, Groundhog Day-mentality meets The Rules of the Game/Gosford Park setting. In other words, the setting is one grand manor house in the UK with the shooting season underway, and our protagonist Aiden Bishop wakes up each day in a body of one of the guests who was invited to the masquerade at the house to celebrate the arrival of Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter of the house owners. Now, the rules are set for Aiden. He cannot escape the house and will have each day repeating itself, waking up in a body of a different guest, unless he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. Each day repeats itself and Evelyn gets murdered. Will Aiden be able to solve her murder and free himself from the never-ending loop? The great things about this book are the brilliant concept, including all the psychology behind it, and enticing setting. However, those who got too excited should also hold their horses. This is because as the novel progresses, it becomes a dull, pretentious and overly confusing read. Continue reading “Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton”
“Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily – no hourly – and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim. Between them there exists a disquiet, a strained curiosity, the hysteria of an unsatisfied, unnaturally repressed need for recognition and exchange of thoughts – and also, especially, a sort of nervous respect. For one person loves and honours another only as long as he is unable to assess him, and yearning is a result of a lack of knowledge” (Thomas Mann, Death in Venice [1912:41]).