BOOK REVIEW NUMBER THIRTY EIGHT
“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.”
So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.
Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay’s hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.
There’s no heart like the Indian heart.
I got one hundred pages into this book and was still not sure I wanted to be reading it. In fact, I seem to recall that it was only when I was about one third into it (300 or so pages) that I actually began to enjoy it and then all of a sudden I couldn’t put it down! Guess it takes a while for it to suck you in, but when it does, it won’t let go of you again.
Shantaram has some really high points and, unfortunately, some low ones too. I loved the secondary characters the most; Vikram and Prabaker were hilarious and endearing at the same time, while Abdulla and Khalid were complicated and mysterious enough to keep me interested. My favourite part of the novel was when Lin decided to live among the people of the slum because that episode was exceptionally heartwarming. Roberts is a master at conjuring the sights, sounds, and smells of Bombay, so much so that you feel like you are actually there, seeing, listening, and smelling everything he is describing.
As for the low points, I actually disliked Lin’s character, especially his fascination with Karla (annoying teen much?). I lost patience with the story whenever her name was mentioned or her character appeared. Plus her continuous references to L-O-V-E got me very close to pulling out my hair. The characters could be talking about anything and yet somehow she would find a way to connect it to the ‘L’ word. No thank you, yaar. The last problem I had with the novel was that, while Roberts tries to keep the reader engaged in the plot by keeping some information about major characters or events secret, when the facts are finally revealed to the reader they don’t really matter anymore mostly because s/he has progressed 100 pages by that time and has forgotten why this information even mattered in the first place!
This book is a must read, but does require some patience along with an open heart and mind.
- “She did it for him. She would’ve done anything for him. Some women are like that. Some loves are like that. Most loves are like that, from what I can see. Your heart starts to feel like an overcrowded lifeboat. You throw your pride out to keep it afloat, and your self-respect and your independence. After a while you start throwing people out – your friends, everyone you used to know. And it’s still not enough. The lifeboat is sinking, and you know it’s going to take you down with it.”
- “I hate sadness. I can’t bear it. I would rather have nothing at all than even a little sadness. I think that’s why I love to sleep so much, na? It’s impossible to be really sad when you’re asleep. You can be happy and afraid and angry in your dreams, but you have to be wide awake to be sad, don’t you think?”
- “Are we ever justified in what we do?…When we act, even with the best of intentions, when we interfere with the world, we always risk a new disaster that mightn’t be of our making, but that wouldn’t occur without our action. Some of the worst wrongs, Karla once said, were caused by people who tried to change things.”
- “I think wisdom is over-rated. Wisdom is just cleverness, with all the guts kicked out of it. I’d rather be clever than wise, any day. Most of the wise people I know give me a headache, but I never met a clever man or woman I didn’t like.”
- “Truth is found more often in music than it is in books of philosophy.”
- “I heard a warning, deep within – we usually do, when something worse than we can imagine is stalking us, and set to pounce. Fate’s way of beating us in a fair fight is to give us warnings that we hear, but never heed.”
- “The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men. It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds and there are bad deeds. Men are just men —it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good or evil.”
- “Suffering is the way we test our love, especially our love for God.”
- “Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we try to save them.”
- “Some women cry easily. The tears fall as gently as fragrant raindrops in a sun-shower, and leave the face clear and clean and almost radiant. Other women cry hard, and all the loveliness in them collapses in the agony of it.”
- “Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.”
- “I think it is a part of growing up, learning to control our suffering. I think that when we grow up, and learn that happiness is rare, and passes quickly, we become disillusioned and hurt. And how much we suffer is a mark of how much we have been hurt by this realisation. Suffering, you see, is a kind of anger. We rage against the unfairness, the injustice of our sad and sorry lot. And this boiling resentment, you see, this anger, is what we call suffering.”
- “If you’d been born in Palestine, you’d know that some people are born to suffer. And it never stops, for them. Not for a second. You’d know where real suffering comes from. It’s the same place where love and freedom and pride are born. And it’s the same place where those feelings and ideals die. That suffering never stops. We only pretend it does. We only tell ourselves it does, to make the kids stop whimpering in their sleep.”
- “Pain without suffering is like victory without struggle. We do not learn from it what makes us stronger or better or closer to God.”
- “ There are only one million of them, the truly evil men, in the whole world. The very rich and the very powerful, whose decisions really count – they only number one million.The stupid men, who number ten million, are the soldiers and policemen who enforce the rule of the evil men. They are the standing armies of twelve key countries, and the police forces of those and twenty more. In total, there are only ten million of them with any real power or consequence. They are often brave, I’m sure, but they are stupid, too, because they give their lives for governments and causes that use their flesh and blood as mere chess pieces. Those governments always betray them or let them down or abandon them, in the long run. Nations neglect no men more shamefully than the heroes of their wars.”
- “We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.”
- “I sat alone, on a boulder, that was larger and flatter than most, and I smoked a cigarette. I smoked in those days because, like everyone else in the world who smokes, I wanted to die almost as much as I wanted to live.”
- “Khaled, my first teacher, was the kind of man who carried his past in the temple fires of his eyes, and fed the flames with pieces of his broken heart. I’ve known men like Khaled in prisons, on battlefields, and in the dens where smugglers, mercenaries, and other exiles meet. They all have certain characteristics in common. They’re tough, because there’s a kind of toughness that’s found in the worst sorrow. They’re honest, because the truth of what happened to them won’t let them lie. They’re angry, because they can’t forget the past or forgive it. And they’re lonely. Most of us pretend, with greater or lesser success, that the minute we live in is something we can share. But the past for ever one of us is a desert island; and those like Khaled, who find themselves marooned there, are always alone”
- “Sooner or later, fate puts us together with all the people, one by one, who show us what we could, and shouldn’t, let ourselves become. Sooner or later we meet the drunkard, the waster, the betrayer, the ruthless mind, and the hate-filled heart. But fate loads the dice, of course, because we usually find ourselves loving or pitying almost all of those people. And it’s impossible to despise someone you honestly pity, and to shun someone you truly love. ”
- “People haven’t stopped believing in love. They haven’t stopped wanting to be in love. They just don’t believe in happy endings anymore. They still believe in love, and falling in love, but they know now that… they know that romances almost never end as well as they begin.”
- “Men reveal what they think when they look away, and what they feel when they hesitate. With women, it’s the other way around.”
- “ I loved you the first second I saw you. I think I’ve loved you for as long as there’s been love in the world. I love your voice. I love your face. I love your hands. I love everything you do, and I love the way you do everything. It feels like magic when you touch me. I love the way your mind works, and the things you say. And even though it’s all true, all that, I don’t really understand it, and I can’t explain it – to you or to myself. I just love you. I just love you with all my heart. You do what God should do: you give me a reason to live. You give me a reason to love the world.”
- “I am an expert in the ‘tristesse’ . It is the perfect, definitive human performance. There are many animals that can express their happiness, but only the human animal has the genius to express a magnificent sadness.And for me it is something special; a daily meditation. Sadness is my one and only art.”
- “We are made out of stars, you and I.”
- “Men wage wars for profit and principle, but they fight them for land and women. Sooner or later, the other causes and compelling reasons drown in blood and lose their meaning. Sooner or later, death and survival clog the senses. Sooner or later, surviving is the only logic, and dying is the only voice and vision. Then, when best friends die screaming, and good men maddened with pain and fury lose their minds in the bloody pit, when all the fairness and justice and beauty in the world is blown away with arms and legs and heads of brothers and sons and fathers, then, what makes men fight on, and die, and keep on dying, year after year, is the will to protect the land and the woman.”
- “At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone. For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker. I still love you. And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.”
- “Every door is a portal leading through time as well as space. The same doorway that leads us into and out of a room also leads us into the past of the room and its ceaselessly unfolding future.”
- “Love is the opposite of power. That’s why we fear it so much.”
- “A politician is someone who promises a bridge even when there’s no water.”
- “There are few things more discomfiting than a spontaneous outburst of genuine decency from someone you’re determined to dislike for no good reason.”
- “There is no man, and no place, without war… The only thing we can do is choose a side, and fight. That is the only choice we get — who we fight for, who we fight against. That is life.”
I hereby rate Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts as A Must Read.
Filed under: Four Stars | Leave a Comment
Tags: Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
They say what goes up must come down and I guess that also applies to reading challenges. My university workload meant that I had to decrease my reading goal this year from 77 to 40 books, but I did not even manage to reach that amount! The most I could do was 37 books and I even failed to achieve the reading resolutions I had set. I look suitably shamefaced right now.
Nevertheless, I did manage to review fifteen books (the same number as last year – do I see a pattern emerging?) which you can explore by clicking on the links below:
For those of you who are interested, the following is a list of my favourite books from this years list (in alphabetical order):
- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
On a happier note, I was very happy to receive my annual report from WordPress. It looked so great and they made my blog sound much more interesting than it probably is! Loved this particular excerpt most of all though:
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
My goal for 2013 is to read at least fifty books so let’s hope this year is more productive than the last one. See y’all next year!
Filed under: Special Posts | Leave a Comment
BOOK REVIEWS THIRTY FOUR – THIRTY SEVEN
ON TONI MORRISON
If someone had told me exactly a year ago that I would be reading four novels by Toni Morrison (one of which I had already read and very much despised) I would have most likely flipped a table or, at the very least, cried like a four year old. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but what I mean to say is that my response would not have been positive at all. One university course on Toni Morrison, four novels, and three hundred and sixty five days later, however, I am glad to say that I have become much more appreciative of Morrison’s work and have even found a favourite among her novels. Can you guess which one?
THE BLUEST EYE
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT read this book unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re emotionally ready. Not only will it tear your heart out, but it will also stamp on it then, for extra measure, run it over with a truck. And this time I’m actually not exaggerating. The Bluest Eye is one of those novels that really gets to you; the first time I read it I hated it because it depressed me. The second time round the effect was pretty much the same, but because I was (sort of) prepared for what was to come, I was able to focus more on Morrison’s themes, symbolism, and writing style, especially the amazing way the form and structure of the novel ties in with its content. This novel is not one I would recommend to everyone; in fact most of the time I find myself steering people away from it, but it is a must-read if you plan to delve into Morrison’s psychotic world. My advice would be to read it with a group so that if you find yourself sobbing uncontrollably on the floor someone can at least pass you the box of tissues.
Ironically, Beloved did not make it to my list of beloved books. I recognised and appreciated the racial aspect of it (for instance, the terrible things a mother would willingly do to save her children from the chains of slavery), but other than that it didn’t really work for me. It was a very difficult read for one what with the narrative continuously flitting from one character to another and from the past to the present and back again. The first half of the novel was a good read, but I didn’t like it much after that.
As in Beloved, I found the racial aspect in this novel very compelling, but felt that the story line itself was lacking something. I could probably write a book about the unanswered questions I was left with after reading Sula. I didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters so much so that I was actually relieved when one of them finally died (not telling you who though).
SONG OF SOLOMON
Maybe it was the fact that the protagonist of Song of Solomon is male rather than female, or that it made me laugh at times, or that the main character ends up a better person than at the beginning, but I actually enjoyed this novel. Milkman, for all his shortcomings, is an endearing character and his friendship with Guitar is one of the best parts of the novel. Fourth time lucky, I guess!
COMING NEXT: LOVE
Thanks to my learning experience with the the four novels above I am now much more confident about picking up another Toni Morrison book. Next on the list is Love, which was given to me by one of my university professors about two years ago and has been sitting on my shelf since that time. I wonder how this one will turn out?
- “For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one.” [Beloved]
- “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover’s inward eye.” [The Bluest Eye]
- “You a woman and a colored woman at that. You can’t act like a man. You can’t be walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking whatever you want, leaving what you don’t.” [Sula]
- “Perhaps that’s what all human relationships boiled down to: Would you save my life? or would you take it?” [Song of Solomon]
I hereby grant the four novels by Toni Morrison an average rating of A One Time Read.
Filed under: Three Stars | 1 Comment
Tags: Beloved, Love, Song of Solomon, Sula, The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
BOOK REVIEW NUMBER THIRTY THREE
It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humourous – and a consummate musician.
When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiance – a member of the underground – go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?
Only the living need forgiveness.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book that made laugh out loud. And I don’t mean a little chuckle to myself now and then, but a proper stomach-clutching-tears-almost-running-down-your-face laugh that made my family and friends seriously reconsider the health of my mental state. It’s not all fun and games however; there are parts – like Madras’s attempted rape of Pelagia, the death of Carlo – that move you to tears for a completely different reason. I simply loved the way the story oscillates between happy and sad events, and yet the author manages to convey both almost perfectly.
I say almost perfectly because there are, as with any other book, some weak points in Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. I found the historical narratives very difficult to digest as I did not recognise half the names nor understand what was happening. I feel like some knowledge of the historical context of the novel – and of the social context of Greece in particular – is important before reading. The other weakness was the ending; it was not as convincing as the rest of the book, and although I support realistic endings as opposed to ‘they lived happily ever after – the end’, I still couldn’t find anything to wash this one down.
Captain Correlli’s Mandolin may be a challenging book at times, but it is definitely worth it. It will keep you smiling for a long time afterwards.
SPECIAL FEATURE: DEFINITIONS
This book was full of words that I needed to look up in the dictionary. There are so many that I need to compile a list so that I can remember them for future reference.
Abnegate: renounce or reject (something desired or valuable).
Adduce: cite as evidence.
Aficionado: a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime .
Amenable: (of a person) open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled.
Anodyne: not likely to provoke dissent or offense; uncontentious or inoffensive, often deliberately so.
Filed under: Four Stars | 1 Comment
Tags: Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernières
BOOK REVIEW NUMBER THIRTY TWO
Elizabeth is in her thirties, settled in a large house with a husband who wants to start a family. But she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a rebound fling later, Elizabeth emerges battered yet determined to find what she’s been missing.
So begins her quest. In Rome, she indulges herself and gains nearly two stone. In India, she finds enlightenment through scrubbing temple floors. Finally, in Bali, a toothless medicine man reveals a new path to peace, leaving her ready to love again.
Everything really is going to be OK. (And if not OK, then at least comic).
Every time I started reading Eat, Pray, Love I didn’t get much further than Italy, and considering the fact that Italy is the best part of the whole book, it’s not really surprising that I initially held such a positive opinion about it. I never expected not to enjoy India and Indonesia as much as I did Italy, but that was the unfortunate outcome. In the beginning, I found Gilbert absolutely hilarious, her consciousness about her own strengths and flaws and her talent for writing about her experiences an inspiration. But somewhere in the midst of India, I started to feel that I was relating to her less and less, and even her jokes didn’t seem so funny to me anymore. By the time I got to Indonesia, I felt kind of cheated, wondering where the Gilbert of Italy had disappeared.
People who labelled this book as a chronicle of a ‘white woman’s problems’ weren’t that far off the mark. Gilbert’s troubles seem rather inconsequential compared to seventeen-year-old Tulsi’s fate of having to submit to an arranged marriage, or Wayan’s struggle to make a home for her young daughter and the two orphans under her care. Never once does Gilbert stop to think about how lucky she is that – unlike Tulsi - she gets to choose her partner, her major, and her career, and that - unlike Wayan – her divorce did not result in her losing her family and friend’s support. Even the fact that she is able to embark on a journey of self-discovery across three different countries, without worrying about financial (and even social) consequences puts Gilbert very high up the privileged list.
I don’t wish to undermine the author’s painful experiences. Pain is the same for all human beings, no matter who they are. But to transform from a person who starts off so grateful for every experience of pleasure in Italy, whether large or small, to one who fails to understand how Indian women can put up with ‘busting up rocks under the sweltering sun’ without just ‘fainting and dying after fifteen minutes’ is rather a shame.
- “What a large number of factors constitute a single human being! How very many layers we operate on, and how very many influences we receive from our minds, our bodies, our histories, our families, our cities, our souls and our lunches!”
- “Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.”
- “Time – when pursued like a bandit – will behave like one; always remaining one country or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you’re banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you.”
- “We’re miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentment and mortality.”
- “You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
- “There’s a reason they call God a presence – because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time.”
- “Look for God. Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”
- “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. ‘How much do you love me?’ And, ‘Who’s in charge?’ Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering.”
- “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person that you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.”
- “The devout of this world perform their rituals without guarantee that anything good will ever come out of it.”
- “There’s a reason we refer to “leaps of faith” – because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don’t care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn’t. If faith were rational, it wouldn’t be – by definition – faith. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be… a prudent insurance policy.”
- “Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.”
- “Why does suffering never end? Why must everything be repeat and repeat, never finish, never resting? You work so hard one day, but the next day, you must only work again. You eat, but the next day, you are already hungry. You find love, then love go away. You are born with nothing – no watch, noT-shirt. You work hard, then you die with nothing – no watch, no T-shirt. You are young, then you are old. No matter how hard you work, you cannot stop getting old.”
- “Man is neither entirely a puppet of the gods, nor is he entirely the captain of his own destiny. We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses – one foot is on the horse called “fate”, the other on the horse called “free will”. And the question you have to ask every day is – which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?”
- “All the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people…The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.”
I hereby rate Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert as Just Ok.
Filed under: Two Stars | 1 Comment
Tags: Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
BOOK REVIEW NUMBER THIRTY ONE
In Iran in the late 90s, Azar Nafisi and seven young women, her former students, met every Thursday to discuss forbidden works of Western literature. Shy and uncomfortable at first, then began to open up – not only about the novels they were reading but also about their own dreams and disappointments. Their personal stories intertwine with those they are reading - Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby and Lolita, in this rear glimpse of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran.
It takes courage to die for a cause, but also to live for one.
In its review of the book, The Times declared that “Reading Lolita in Tehran makes you look at the dusty classics in a startling new light” and that is exactly what Nafisi’s analysis of the works of Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James, and Austen does to the reader. I found myself not even minding Lolita that much (I hadn’t really enjoyed reading it) and I was all for rereading Austen.
But when you think about it, despite the fact that I found this analysis interesting to read, it does not really fit within the context of the book. I felt that Nafisi should have put more effort to bring her own characters to life rather than discussing the characters of the classic novels, which I think was partly the reason why her tone seemed too formal, almost as if she was writing a literature essay. This was other than the fact that all the talk about revolutionaries and anti-revolutionaries got me very confused, and her social/political discussions were not very convincing. In my opinion, the author would do better if she stayed away from such issues and stuck to writing about literature.
- “Memories have ways of becoming independent of the reality they evoke. They can soften us against those we were deeply hurt by or they can make us resent those we once accepted and loved unconditionally.”
- “Hope for some means its loss for others; when the hopeless regain some hope, those in power–the ones who had taken it away–become afraid, more protective of their endangered interests, more repressive.”
- “She resented the fact that her veil, which to her was a symbol of scared relationship to god, had now become an instrument of power, turning the women who wore them into political signs and symbols.”
- “One cancels the other, and yet without one, the other is incomplete. In the first photograph, standing there in our black robes and scarves, we are as we had been shaped by someone else’s dreams. In the second, we appear as we imagined ourselves. In neither could we feel completely at home.”
- “None of us can avoid being contaminated by the world’s evils; it’s all a matter of what attitude you take towards them.”
- “Empathy lies at the heart of Gatsby, like so many other great novels–the biggest sin is to be blind to others’ problems and pains. Not seeing them means denying their existence.”
- “I told them this novel was an American classic, in many ways the quintessential American novel. There were other contenders: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter. Some cite its subject matter, the American Dream, to justify this distinction. We in ancient countries have our past–we obsess over the past. They, the Americans, have a dream: they feel nostalgia about the promise of the future.”
I hereby rate Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi as A One Time Read.
Filed under: Three Stars | 1 Comment
Tags: Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
BOOK REVIEW NUMBER THIRTY
A vulnerable young girl wins a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine and finds herself plunged into a nightmare. An autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath’s own mental breakdown and suicide attempt, The Bell Jar is more than a confessional novel, it is a comic but painful statement of what happens to a woman’s aspirations in a society that refuses to take them seriously…a society that expects electroshock to cure the despair of a sensitive, questioning young artist whose search for identity becomes a terrifying descent toward madness.
I couldn’t see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.
Most of my friends gave this novel a negative review and I understand why. At the beginning it’s hard not to be annoyed at Esther Greenwood, who seems to have it all and yet still manages to act unsatisfied and make herself miserable. After she returns home from New York it becomes even harder to relate to her behaviour, even though I knew that I myself acted sometimes the way she did. Still, it was mostly pity that I felt towards her, rather than empathy. She, in a way, reminded me of Holden Caulfield, the hero of J.D. Salinger’s The Cather In The Rye, although, admittedly, a less likable female version.
I didn’t much like the scenes at the mental institutions either, but I was still able to appreciate the interesting themes in the novel, especially those concerning society’s prejudice against women. This is the kind of book that I would advise you to read in a few days (not any longer) because it will be easier to understand the causes behind Esther’s unstable psychological state and her subsequent breakdown.
- “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath’.”
- “I’m not sure why it is, but I love food more than just about anything else.”
- “I thought he was the most wonderful boy I’d ever seen. I’d adored him from a distance for five years before he even looked at me, and then there was a beautiful time when I still adored him and he started looking at me, and then just as he was looking at me more and more I discovered quite by accident what an awful hypocrite he was, and now he wanted me to marry him and I hated his guts.”
- “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”
- “I couldn’t stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not.”
- “I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say ‘Fine’.”
I hereby rate The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath as A One Time Read.
Filed under: Three Stars | 1 Comment
Tags: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar