The month in books: April

On the personal front April was a tiresome and trying month. I had very little or rather no time at all for myself and it seemed an unsettling period. The little hours of solitude that I snatched for my reading had me read these wonderful books which truly sustained me through those distressing days.

Firstly I owe the revival of my spirits to none other our beloved Rowling. Reading Goblet of fire sort of rekindled those feebly glowing embers of enthusiasm. It was my second time I think. The first time I read it, I remember clearly, was many years back and under a thick blanket, shuddering at the death of poor old Frank. I felt the very same fervour in this reading too. And I am pretty sure that it will never die out. My love for the Harry Potter series will definitely be with me throughout my life.

While there are many critics who argue that Rowling’s writing is too logical than fantastic I can but only detest that argument. Stories can be logical, magical, anything! That’s what stories are- impossible, possible, imaginative, real… The fact that as a child the book awed me and as an adult it remains a true and faithful friend, who sees me through tough times, even provides an unparalleled escape is a testimony to its brilliance. Only very few books have that power and the Potter books have it in them.

And with the alleviation of cloudy moods I even ventured headlong into ‘Pottermore’ and had loads of fun buying my wand and getting sorted. Mine’s a beautiful Sycamore with unicorn core wand and to my surprise I found myself in Hufflepuff house. Ouch! But the hat never goes wrong.

The other book that completely aided in my healing was Mr. Oliver’s Diary by Ruskin Bond. It’s a short and sweet book that will stay with me forever. It tells the endearing tale of a perfect school teacher, the strict and bendable, Mr. Oliver. It’s a children’s book and I loved it. Somehow I am never comfortable calling books as ‘Children’s books’ because I enjoy them wholly as any child would do and I am strictly way past my childhood. I never tire of them and it isn’t surprising that I turned to these very books in a very troubled time. Not intentionally though, but perhaps instinctively.

This also tells a very good principle to keep in life if you ask me. Stay a child at heart. When a book meant for kids can cheer one up so well, keeping your heart and mind like a child’s can certainly go a long way to leading a happy and fulfilling life. Yes and the book also has many a treats on the platter to cater to every imaginable childish craving- from croaky, slimy frogs to hot, savoury snacks to snow, ghosts and a cute love story.

And then I read a painting. Yes, I can only describe that book as a work of pure art painted in words. How else can anybody discuss about a work by the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore? ‘Shesher Kavitha’ a Bengali masterpiece by Tagore was recently translated to English by Dilip Basu. I recently read a little review of the translated version, ‘The Last Poem- A novel’ and instantly ordered it online. It was a long wait of forty eight hours before I held it my hands. This one is a true feast for the romantic sort. It is tragic, in a way, mind you yet it is not. That subtlety in its storyline kept me in a trance for hours later. Once taken up it is next to impossible to put it down. The story pulls you into its mire of poetry, nature and love; the three very elements that I live on. It is a beautiful little novel and in a way renders true beauty to the word beautiful.

Here’s a tiny eloquent poem, one of the many poems that bridge the romance :

Waterfall, in the crystals

of your flow,

The sun and stars

See each other

And here is another favourite of mine:

Let the shadows swing and play

Upon your waters,

Let the shadows mingle

With the music of your laughter,

Give it a voice

The voice of eternity.

The last poem in the book, from which the book derives its name, is a classic. There are several surreal illustrations, by a very talented Dinakar Kowshik, interspersed between the pages and they are great tools that aid in gluing to mind the quintessence of the characters. All in all, one marvellous book that I can just look at and feel happy.

 

 

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Jane Austen January: The Final Chapter

Jane Austen SOURCE: Google

It feels a bit disheartening not to be able to complete the fourth book in my attempt to read four of Austen’s fantastic novels this January. But what with tight writing schedules, other readings to get done, a bit of health issues too I’m happy to have experienced three delightful books by ‘The Lady’- Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

What I learn from Austen every time I read is the credibility of characters more than anything. The stories just seem like normal love stories but beneath them lies the world that I so take pleasure in knowing and understanding. I love the bows, the dinners, the manners, the ribbons, the dresses, the manners, not to mention the wonderful suitors. Though live back then is touted to have been boring by the children of technology of today’s world, in my view it is quite the contrary. With grand and elegant pianoforte’s to be mastered, room full of books by the masters of English Literature to be devoured, long and insightful letters to be written to the dear, courteous notes and calls to be given to neighbours, breathtaking parks and mansions to visit where was the time to be idle? Living like that has always been one of my many utopian dreams.

But Austen more than sufficiently provides for my fancies. Whatever views literary critics may take I for one will always admire the novels and turn to them for comfort and camaraderie.

Now I thought I might share some of my favourites out of her six popular novels.

Favourite Setting: Barton Park from Sense and Sensibility

Enjoyably Annoying character: Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensilibity

Favourite Non-heroine Sibling: Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Notorious Character: Frank Churchill from Emma and Lydia from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite Stately character: Sir Thomas Bertram from Mansfield Park

The character(s) I laughed my off reading: Collins and Catherine De Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite hero: Fitzwilliam Darcy( I know, very typical, but that’s that)

Favourite heroine: I just cannot zero in on one. It would be pointless to cherry pick for the Austen fan that I am.

Favourite lucky character(s): Fanny Price from Mansfield Park and Wickam from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Parent/ Parents: The Morlands and Mr. Woodhouse

Favourite Saint: Anne Elliot from Persuasion

Favourite kids: The Musgroves pack from Persuasion

And the list is endless I think, so it would be best if I just let it be.

And now it feels like I have come to the end of something so enjoyable and invigorating. Nonetheless, I will continue to read them in the future. And it was a bang-up start for the year and thanks to all of you who joined in to make it an even more pleasant experience.

Jane Austen January: A tale to relish

Via Google

“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex”

These are the opening lines of one of my favourite novels of all time. At first when I read I thought it a very unassuming starting and that elusiveness is what I like most about it now. It was indeed a very happy excuse for me to read Sense and Sensibility so slowly, allowing for other hum drum things to get in the way, while I thoroughly took in the tale one bit at a time, once again. But nevertheless it was fresh as ever. I never stop being amazed with the little astonishing dialogues and other tit bits that I missed last time.

I love stories where there’s less crowd and more action. This is exactly one such story. Though I’m easily provoked to declare every one of Austen’s novels as my favourite, I completely reserve my total love to Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Marianne, are just the two sisters who can capture my interest- one all composure, the other all passion. I’ve always admired how much their characters do justice to the title, the words- Sense and Sensibility. I suppose that’s the beauty of a classic- you love it through and through from its title to the font of the print in various versions.

But this isn’t just about the superfluous beauty for the story is well entrenched into the ways and workings of the society which makes it a perfect mirror to project love and despair in all its intricacies. Elinor and her sister, poles apart in their personas eventually set their hearts upon men who are equally different from one another. But strangely their hearts are broken in an arguably similar manner- in that they both have other women who are in the way, for quite dissimilar reasons though. While Elinor secretly suffers her losses, Marianne, whose love for Mr.Willouby, was openly known to the world, is mortified to know that he was to marry another lady Miss Gray. A typical heartbreaking twist yet the reasons for the betrayal that unfold and the way in which they are introduced to the reader sets its mark as a work of Jane Austen. Elinor’s disappointment in Mr. Edward Ferrars’ secret engagement to Miss Lucy, her short time companion, is borne by her with so much of natural virtue.

Of course the sisters meet with happy endings in the end, as all of Austen’s lucky heroines. But the intermediary trials and lessons of Elinor and Marianne are certainly endearing. Marianne’s notions of love and wild passion are subdued by her shockingly disappointing relationship with Willouby and she learns to love sensibly in the end and finds happiness in her long time admirer and well wisher, Colonel Brandon. For Elinor it’s more of a test of her fortitude and constancy that she triumphs to be rewarded with a happy life with Edward Ferrars.

I love the book for three others reasons apart from the beauty of the tale. Firstly it is the ironies that are aplenty and very humourous to note, as always. The most important one bring that Edward who couldn’t read with feeling for the entire world, wished to take orders. I constantly kept imagining the annoying Mrs. Palmers saying, “Oh! How droll Mr. Ferrars sermons are!” Secondly, the characters with whom I instantly got used to than I usually do interested me. Thirdly, the beautiful parks and walks that Marianne so enjoys earnestly made me yearn, once again, to live in that fanciful era.

I must also admit that I have myself learnt a few vital lessons for Elinor represents the kind of person I certainly wish to be and Marianne’s character is nearly what I am.  If I have to recommend a great read now with delightful people, well plotted story with romance too, one that you would want to read over and over, it should be this.

Jane Austen January: Re-visiting Emma

Emma had to be the first book to read as a part of Jane Austen January because the first joys of reading it years ago remained with me. And I must say it was just like visiting an old friend’s when I read it now. It is a formidable book in terms of size and a masterpiece in terms of the one and only captivating character- Emma. In no other book have I found myself so freely, without any ambiguity in deciding, declaring that the heroine is the one who is to be admired the most. I love her sensibility, as they say, and that innocence which is so characteristic of her and her alone.

After reading so much of Austen I no more seek to understand her style and writing but just admire it. I haven’t read any accounts of Austen’s personal life as yet, unfortunately. But as I understood from the movie ‘Becoming Jane’, Austen was determined to give her readers excellent suitors for her heroine. I read Emma much before I read Pride and Prejudice for the first and even after Mr. Knightley stuck on to his No.1 position in my view. Of all the things I love in Jane Austen’s books it is the starkly different men that she introduces. The very name, Knighley, so regal and stoic, captured my heart. And then his unfaltering, noble love for the one girl who enraptured him, even when she was just thirteen!

Though Pride and Prejudice is touted be her best, Emma I personally feel surpasses it by being more than just a love story. There isn’t blind passion, and most of all there’s no hurry at all. Everyone is done justice and there’s happiness. I love this most about this book. Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father is another ingenious creation, a formidable check to the progress of fast-moving love. But not once does his character seem as an impediment, neither to Emma nor to the reader. He is one cute character who I always enjoy reading about. And the quaint country side, the gossips, the seriously hilarious misunderstandings, the apologies, the parties amply provided for the drought of Austen’s world that I faced last year.

If there’s one thing I admire more than the story itself, it’s the long letters that Austen never fails to include. I hope I can someday be able to write a fictional letter half that length, with the same quality and also find faults with it. Every time I read them I seriously feel for the loss of the art. One of the main reasons that reading Austen is so delightful for me is that even in the midst of prejudice and class conflicts the importance of humaneness shines forth. It provides me with the re-assurances that I sometimes need when caught in the quagmire of life.

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” said she afterwards to herself. “There is nothing to be compared to it. Warmth and tenderness of heart, with an affectionate, open manner, will beat all the clearness of head in the world, for attraction, I am sure it will. It is tenderness of heart which makes my dear father so generally beloved—which gives Isabella all her popularity.—I have it not—but I know how to prize and respect it.—

It’s also interesting to note that it was just a matter of talking a small idea out and a whole bunch of people end up at a picnic or a party. And there’s no dearth for humour too in Emma. This is one excerpt that I love:

“Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider;—you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. I am no young lady on her preferment. Married women, you know, may be safely authorized. It is my party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests.”

“No,”—he calmly replied,—”there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is——”

“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.

“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”

Though there’s very little description of places in this book it still is exciting to imagine it. And now these are for your pleasant perusal:

Image courtesy: JASNA

Box Hill

~ You may also want to read this informative and insightful article Adoring the Girl Next Door: Geography in Austen’s Novels  
(The next thing for me will be to hunt for the DVD because I haven’t watched it as yet. Be sure to tell me about it if you’ve seen it)

Book Review: Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

Via Google

A rich Chekovian novel by one of the most gifted of contemporary Indian writers.’- THE NEW YORKER

And I couldn’t have agreed more on this one. This is one novel which picked up from my local library by falling in love with its title at first sight. I also happen to be a fan of Anita’s rustic A Village by the Sea. So, I only had to walk up to the librarian and get the book issued.

Anita’s delicate yarn of a tale excited me with its characteristic slow and observant attitude. The plot in simple terms is about the awakening of reality for the characters and a subtle reunion or rather peace-making. The book has powerful core of nostalgia which steers the story forward. It is essentially a family tale- about a lonely, crude woman Bimala, her sensitive and delicate sister Tara, their romantic hero of a brother Raja and Baba, an autistic sibling. Bimala resides alone in their home since childhood taking care of the autistic brother while Tara is married off happily to an NRI and Raja leaves home to pursue his passions. When the family reunites there’s much disconnect between the characters and how everything becomes one again makes the whole story.

Now what makes for the beauty of the novel though is Anita’s sharp eye and eloquent pen. I couldn’t help loving those light crisps of witty comments on nature, people, society and the like. This extract can well acquaint you with the point:

…Bim had never seen anyone so dressed. So bathed, so powdered. She seemed to be dusted all over with flour. Perhaps she had fallen into a flour bin, like a large bun. But she smelt so powerfully of synthetic flowers, it must be powder after all. And her white sari crackled with starch, like a biscuit. And her hair gleamed with coconut oil, and flecks of gold glinted at the lobes of her ear and in the ringed folds of her neck. Altogether a piece of confectionery, thought Bim.

A human being called ‘a piece of confectionery’ is something so out of the realm and undeniably original. This sense of freshness that is garnered to every mundane aspect of life drew me deeper into the book. Honesty is another parameter that keeps throbbing in me to be ticked off while I read any book. And the truthfulness with which the identity crises and the unsettled pasts of the NRI’s is handled really appeased my anger from reading several other poorly presented soups on the same issue.

The several quotes of peotry from Lord Byron’s collections, Iqbal’s royally enchanting verses provided more insight and food for thought. When I read a book it is these extra things that add richness to it. Anita seems to have a natural way of adding richness and elegance to her works. The book is Chekovian in the sense that it subtly brings to terms the reader with the tale and the tale with its proceedings. This added to the typical flavours of the Indian sub-continent made the book one idyllic read.

This is my one other favourite line from the book: An invisible cricket by her feet at that moment began to weep inconsolably.