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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

7 May

life-of-piI saw this book last year but did not think too much about it. The Oscars changed my mind.  Maybe I could give it a try, I thought. I did not know what I was in for.

Piscine (Pi) Patel’s father has a zoo in Pondicherry, India. The family decides to move to Canada. Just days off Manila, their ship sinks. Piscine finds himself in a lifeboat and thinks that they are going to rescue him within a few hours. After a few days, his hopes wane, and he discovers that he has a Bengal tiger as a companion.

This story is a splendid thriller. It is a story about human endurance, the will to live, no matter what. Pi has to feed himself as well as Richard Parker (the tiger). He has to make sure that the tiger doesn’t make him a meal. It is amazing that he kept going, day after day, because he had decided in himself that he was going to live.

The 227 days seem eternal, yet fly away as soon as you get reading. 227 days.  Hmm. It’s a bit ironical that Pi Patel is named after a swimming pool, and he has to spend many months in company of a tiger and lots of water, not to mention the sharks and all the marine life.

Published in 2001, this fantasy adventure novel is a rare read. It is simply fascinating! I wonder if there are more “Life of Pi’s” waiting to be discovered.

What we should all choose to read

4 May
200px-ChaimPotok_TheChosen

The book is set in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940s. Historical events that provide the backdrop for the story are the end of World War II, the holocaust in Europe, and the creation of the state of Israel.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok is by far the best book I have read in a long time. Not only is it well written but deep as well. Anyone who has ever experienced the depth of true friendship will find this book a treasure. The themes are profound and universal; you don’t need to be a Jew to enjoy this story.

The story is about two Jewish fathers and their sons. A baseball game gone crazy makes the two sons meet. They become fast friends. Each discovers the other; what they stand for, their hopes for the future, their family inclinations. Despite their differences, they are very good friends. This book teaches friendship and empathy in the deepest level.

I particularly liked the two quotes that I found at the beginning of the book:

-When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him.

In the same way, the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one. -Karl A. Menninger

-True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice. -Ben Jonson

The Scarlet Pimpernel

29 Apr

We seek him here, we seek him there,scar
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.

(A verse about the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel)

This is an adventure novel that reminded me of The count of Monte Cristo.

Lady Blackeney is 24 years old. A Frenchwoman, she is married to an Englishman, Sir Percy. She has only one brother, Armand.

The book is set in the French revolution, when the French sent hundreds of aristocrats to the guillotine each day. A mysterious English nobleman, the Scarlet Pimpernel, with his friends, (the league of the scarlet pimpernel) is helping the estranged French nobles cross the channel to find a safe haven in England.

Chauvelin, the French agent, is desperately looking for the Scarlet Pimpernel. He confronts Marguerite (Lady Blackeney) and shows her a letter incriminating her beloved brother Armand, proving that he is in league with the Pimpernel. Chauvelin offers to trade Armand’s life for her help against the Pimpernel. Contemptuous of her seemingly witless and unloving husband, Marguerite does not go to him for help or advice. Instead, she passes along information which enables Chauvelin to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity.

Later that night, Marguerite finally tells her husband of the terrible danger threatening her brother and pleads for his assistance. Percy promises to save him. After Percy unexpectedly leaves for France, Marguerite discovers to her horror that he is the Pimpernel. He had hidden behind the persona of a dull, slow-witted fop in order to deceive the world.

Desperate to save her husband, she decides to pursue Percy to France to warn him that Chauvelin knows his identity and his purpose. But the weather is too rough to cross over to France.  She must wait. Will she arrive in time? Will she be able to find her husband? What if Chauvelin strikes first?

I think that one can only fully appreciate the drama by reading the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

22 Apr

51HVp1aHbQL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX240_SY320_CR,0,0,240,320_SH20_OU01_”Franklin’s is one of the greatest autobiographies in literature, and towers over other autobiographies as Franklin towered over other men.” –William Dean Howells

”The most widely read autobiography ever written by an American. It has served many Americans as it may have served Franklin – to define what it meant, what it had meant, and what it ought to mean to be an American.” –Edmund S. Morgan, emeritus professor of history, Yale University

These are two editorial reviews, and high as they may sound, it was definitely hard sailing for me to finish this book. First, 18th century American English is not one of my strong points, and neither do I have appreciation for American history, as yet. Second, it is coupled with the author’s observations about literature, philosophy, religion, civil life and what not.

The author begins by describing his life in Boston, then he moves on to Philadelphia where he works for a printer, one Samuel Keimer. He then goes to England after befriending some prominent political figures, and works for yet another printer.

After his return, he started his own printing-house, and a debating club called the Junto. He basically was a pioneer in many projects: fire brigade, police force, the University of Pennsylvania etc. By the way, he also found time to conduct scientific experiments on lightning and at some point was the postmaster general of the USA.

A truly outstanding man, to say the least.

The Autobiography itself was written in three different times: 1771 in England, 1783-83 in France, and 1788 in America. If Franklin meant to complete it, he died before he got the chance.

Favourites

17 Apr

I came across this post from a fellow book lover, which exactly expresses my feelings.

I'm a Book Lover and Proud!

Favourites

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The novel-after feeling

14 Apr
loss and gain

A philosophical novel written after Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism

Yesterday I finished reading Loss and Gain by Henry Newman, and as I write this, I have just finished Prince Caspian. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just read books, but Lewis’ book is an afternoon read. In fact, it is a children’s book. After all the theological dose in Loss and Gain, I needed something light.

But I am more or less in the same frame of mind as after I finished Loss and Gain. Time seems to stand still. After reading the last page, I find myself thrown rudely into reality. (This happens to me after every book I read). My head kind of throbs. I need  time to take in the fact that now I am in the real world and that the book characters and all that happened is imaginary. It is almost the same kind of feeling as the end of a movie, seeing the credits with nice music, and then bang!, someone switches on the lights and you stare at the blue screen in shock and disbelief.

What to do? Go on with life? Get another book to immerse oneself in? Wouldn’t it  be nice if there was no TIME? I mean, we could enjoy a good book forever? It sounds like a joke, I know. But I don’t know what to do about my throbbing head.

Anyone got ideas?

The last chronicle of Barset

12 Apr

149789This is the last of the Barsetshire tales. It is so hard to keep flipping the pages knowing that at some point, one will flip for the last time. Many of the characters are already familiar: The archdeacon and his family, the bishop of Barchester and his wife Mrs. Proudie, the humble abode of the perpetual curate at Hogglestock, the Framleys etc. The clergy of the Church of England is Trollope’s specialization.

The story centres on the alleged theft of a cheque of £20, by none other than the Rev. Josiah Crawley. Everyone is keen to unravel or take advantage of the mystery. Old family rivalries are renewed, friendships are strengthened, and lovers find comfort in each other and hope for the best. It is indeed a trying courtship between Major Grantly, whose sister married a Lord and Grace Crawley, whose father has been accused of stealing the cheque of £20.

John Eames, who we left heartbroken in The small house at Allington for his unsuccessful bid for Lily Dale, makes a final effort to win the lady of his dreams. I must admit that I expected things to go differently. Why can’t Lily learn to forget the past i.e. to forget Adolphus Crosbie’s jilt and agree to live her life and not dwell on what could have been?

As for Crawley, how sweetly the reader relishes his triumph on Mrs. Proudie. She is absolutely domineering, she is the bishop. But here comes a pauper, almost disgraced in the face of men, who is able to tell to her face what everyone thought about her all along! The ending in this regard is no surprise, but it is dramatic.

antt

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

Anthony Trollope had this to say about the book:

I regard this as the best novel I have written. I was never quite satisfied with the development of the plot, which consisted in the loss of a cheque, of a charge made against a clergyman for stealing it, and of absolute uncertainty on the part of the clergyman himself as to the manner in which the cheque found its way into his hands…. I have never been capable of constructing with complete success the intricacies of a plot that required to be unraveled.I agree it is well written. I could hardly keep down the book. Both Trollope and some of his later critics have considered The Last Chronicle to be his greatest novel. I am no literary critic, but among his books, I like Doctor Thorne best.

Are there any Trollope fans out there?