Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - April 29



Every Thursday, I shall read one of Tagore's poems as translated in this book or some other poem I can find. I shall post some lines from the poem and perhaps a detail of how I liked this poem or not. Any others who want to join in this meme are absolutely welcome to do so!

By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this world. 

But it is otherwise with thy love which is greater than theirs, 
and thou keepest me free. 

Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone. 
But day passes by after day and thou art not seen. 

If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart, 
thy love for me still waits for my love.

This is again, absolutely gorgeous and stirring. It's a theme I can relate to, though I obviously can't write about it well enough. The entire poem is simple yet binding and powerful. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays - April 27

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away! 

I'm about 68 pages into Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and while the writing is beautiful, I'm not too sure I like the lead character so far. However, it's a long book and I'm hoping it will be a rewarding read :)

" She would no more underline in a library book than allow the butcher to return too much change. How had she come to a point where she could so easily tell herself that adultery with a friend's husband was all right? "

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella


Rating: 8/10

Review:
The last time I laughed out loud while reading a book was while reading Bridget Jones' hilarious interview with Colin Firth in Bridget Jones' Diary 2: Edge of Reason. I thanked my stars I wasn't reading the book while travelling on a bus, because that would have been an embarrassing ride and I'm not good at stifling  laughter. That was almost a year ago.

And now, thanks to Tanu's wonderful recommendation, I'm glad I read Undomestic Goddess, which was quite the laugh riot. The reason I love this book is because it gave me just exactly what I expect from a good chick-lit book: loads of fun, laughter and a good romance.

Samantha Sweeting is a high-profile lawyer who is perennially busy. Just before achieving her dream of becoming partner of one of the most prestigious law firms, she makes a terrible mistake that will cost her big time. In a trance, she walks out of her office, takes a train, lands up at a posh house where she is thought to have come for an interview. An interview to be the housekeeper of the house. Difficult when you're a lawyer with an IQ of 150+ and have zero domestic skills.  

Samantha's journey as she learns everything from doing the laundry to ironing clothes to making dinner and finding love, is so hilariously written by Sophie Kinsella. Kinsella's witty, effortlessly funny writing reminded me of Meg Cabot, whose books are mostly well-written and I enjoy reading. An example of the fun writing is below. I adore Harry Potter references and this particular one, referring to Samantha unable to plug the iron, worked so well:
'I expect you're used to another model,' she adds wisely as she clicks it shut. 'They all have their own tricks.'
'Absolutely!' I (Samantha) say, seizing on this excuse in relief. 'Of course! I'm far more used to working with a...a...a Nimbus 2000'
Trish peers at me in surprise. 'Isn't that the broomstick out of Harry Potter?'
Also...sample this:
Broad beans shelling:
Each time I split open it's like finding a row of pale-green jewels. And when I put one in my mouth, it's like-
Oh, OK. It needs to be cooked.
Yuck.
I loved suspending logic for this book. You can find a hundred errors if you wish to. The story is unrealistic too. But I didn't really care. I found it better to be caught into the mindless fun and have a laugh and unwind! This is a long book at almost 400 pages, but is very easy to read. I read it in a matter of a day.  

I loved the book  a lot, also because I could relate to Samantha. Well, obviously not entirely. My work is  quite strenuous and tough and I'm always in a hurry. Not as hurried as Samantha whose job is a bit of an exaggeration, though it works for the book.  Plus, much like Samantha, I am totally your Undomestic Goddess, the anti-thesis of Nigella Lawson. 

Of course there is a happy ending and all is well. The whole narrative that included reporters and newspaper headlines ( SAMANTHA CHOOSES LAW OVER LOOS ) was absolutely funny. In the hands of a less-talented writer, this book might have been a bit of a bore, but Kinsella writes so well without overdoing anything. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.

I'm also looking forward to the movie based on the book, that supposedly releases in 2011.  It ought to be fun! And oh, if it was left to me, I'd cast Katherine Heigl as Samantha. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Character Connection: Jo March


This fascinating meme is hosted by The Introverted Reader and I'm very excited to participate in this! In this meme, you get to spotlight any literary character that you love.


Little Women is one of those books that I've read in every stage of my life since I was about 10 or 11. The reasons for liking it have seen some changes through the years, but there has been one constant : I have always loved its amazing heroine Josephine March. She was the first woman character about whom I remember saying 'Wow..I want to be like her'. 


Perhaps it's got to do with her love for books, passion for writing and theatre, or her fiery, wild ways, but Jo is, to me, the most interesting of all the March sisters. She's not the most beautiful girl around, she has a horrid temper, she has to be with Aunt March, which is quite a pain for even the most patient person and in times of turmoil, Jo takes charge. I remember crying when she came home having cut her hair - her 'only beauty', to get some money for her family. That is one of the most powerful scenes from a book, etched in my memory and I was filled with awe and admiration for Jo. I also loved the tender relationship that the wild 'tomboy' Jo shared with her quiet sister Beth.


It is of course, pointless to talk about Jo March without talking about Laurie. I know so many people were disappointed that Laurie and Jo didn't get married. In fact, many readers sent letters to Louisa May Alcott to have them married. But she persisted on them remaining 'just friends'. I'm actually okay with it, because in a way, I see it as a lovely thing that Alcott showed that a man and woman can remain friends. This is what Jo predicts for herself:
"An old maid, that's what I'm to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children, and twenty years hence a morsel of fame, perhaps....'" 
However, in the later books, Jo meets and marries Professor Friedrich Bhaer and becomes a famous writer. Jo is able to resist pressure of the society and does not get married very soon, but waits till she herself is sure that this is a right decision. She wants to go to college, she loves learning and I just could relate to her so much every time I reread the book. Little Women is a book that I heartily recommend for everyone and Jo March is a literary character who is hard to forget.

Winona Ryder plays Jo magnificently in the 1994 film version of Little Women and Christian Bale is a great Laurie. If you haven't watched the film yet, I strongly suggest that you do. It's one of those films you can watch together as a family and enjoy tremendously. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - April 22



Every Thursday, I shall read one of Tagore's poems as translated in this book or some other poem I can find. I shall post some lines from the poem and perhaps a detail of how I liked this poem or not. Any others who want to join in this meme are absolutely welcome to do so!

This song of mine will wind its music around you,
my child, like the fond arms of love

The song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side and
whisper in your ear, when you are in the crowd
it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams,
it will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.

It will be like the faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the heart of things.

And when my voice is silenced in death,
my song will speak in your living heart.

I know I say this for almost every single Tagore poem, but I totally mean it every time: what a beautiful, emotional, stirring poem! Reading this poem is an experience in itself: it's like a warm, loving embrace. This is the kind of poem I memorize or write down to read through whenever I feel like it. It's a poem worth cherishing. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Truth About Melody Browne - Lisa Jewell


Rating: 6/10

Review:
Most reviews and blurbs about this book have nothing but high praise, calling it a 'life-affirming' story that will 'move you to tears'. Cry, I did not. But I enjoyed reading this book, which evokes a sense of optimism and hope, even though its lead character has had quite the tragic childhood. 

Melody Browne cannot remember anything before her ninth birthday, because of an accident that burnt her house down and with that, her memories. Several years later, when she is in her thirties, a single mother to her teenage son, an incident at a hypnotist's show during a date turns her life around. Melody starts getting flashes of memories of the time before she was nine and leads her to question even the basic things about herself and her life. 

The premise is intriguing, though on paper it isn't as interesting as it sounds. The story is told in alternate chapters of the past and the 'now', which at first is confusing, but you get used to it. It took me 180 pages to get absorbed in the book and feel for the characters. But after that, forget the unrealistic scenarios that prop up aplenty and willingly suspend disbelief, it is an easy, light read. Though a tad too long at 372 pages, the book is a fast read. 

Jewell has a way with words and writes so simply, yet evocatively and can conjure images with her writing. Some scenes, especially, were so powerful and emotional. I enjoyed reading the parts where Melody was a child; those parts are written so beautifully, so sensitively, with a lingering touch of innocence that can make your heart break for the poor, unfortunate child. Sample this line:
'Melody's face was more slapdash. Unconventional, according to her mother. Melody wasn't sure she liked the idea of unconventional. Anything with an 'un' in front of it tended to be a bad thing, as far as she could tell.'
The book is by no means perfect. Some things are resolved too conveniently. Some characters, like Melody's boyfriend Ben, seem too good to be true. And after a point, the book rambles and does go meandering and repetitive. Still, it is definitely worth reading if you are in the mood for an emotional book that is well-written. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Persuasion - Jane Austen


Rating: 9/10

Review:
Persuasion is Jane Austen's last completed novel, a short one at that, written during a period of illness that would go on to take her life. If I had to sum up this book in a word, it would be 'remarkable'. Indeed. Remarkable because the heroine Anne Elliot, unmarried at 27 ( which even by modern standards is considered a tragedy), finds a second chance. Remarkable because with such minimal interaction, Austen puts across the flavour and beauty of a relationship.

Anne Elliot was engaged to Captain Wentworth, an engagement that Anne broke off after being persuaded by her mentor and friend Lady Russell who found the match unsatisfactory and the man, not distinguished enough to marry an Elliot. Eight years later, the Elliot family is in a financial strain and they sell their magnificent estate of Kellynch to Capt Wentworth's sister and her husband Admiral Croft. And Capt. Wentworth and Anne meet again, leading to an intense emotional experience for them both and indeed the reader.

The plot is simple enough, but as usual, Austen writes beautifully. The lead characters are mature adults, not the impassioned, wild youthful heroines or heroes we might be used to. Anne Elliot is no Elizabeth Bennet. She is soft, polite, well-mannered and sometimes, too good to be true. Indeed it is easy to like Anne, but equally easy to find her boring, much as some other characters do. Her opinions, wishes are disregarded by a cold sister Elizabeth and a vain father obsessed with looking good. Anne is often invisible to her direct family, excepting her other sister Mary, husband Charles Musgrove and their family. She is quite the tragic heroine in a way, except, Anne shows admirable restraint and strength in the face of many a problem. 

Captain Wentworth, once slighted for being ordinary is now accomplished, rich and proud of it. He, instead of depending on family wealth, has made his own fortune. The tilt of fate that has played around with his and Anne's lives, leading to great tension between the two of them is wonderfully written. This is an intense relationship. Even when they aren't talking to each other, the feelings, the little gestures, the glances are full of meaning and emotion. 

Wentworth and Anne don't have too much time together, nor do they dance, which is quite the custom you'd expect between hero and heroine of that era. But as usual, Austen presents such an impeccable analysis of the emotions of the leads. She builds up the anticipation and tension so well that the reader is involved with their relationship. You await the next chance when Anne and Wentworth are thrown in together. 

The only little flaw I can find with this book is that the sub-plot with the Wickhamish Mr. Elliot wasn't too much to my taste since I definitely saw it coming. And it was rather too conveniently dealt with. However, there are some outstanding passages that stamp the genius of Austen. I especially loved the excellent argument between Anne Elliot and Admiral Croft about who feels more for their love: men or women. 
 Admiral Croft: "..Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."
Anne: "Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
Anne: " I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as--if I may be allowed the expression--so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone."
Captain Wentworth's passionate letter to Anne had me smiling with admiration. It is another wonderful display of Austen's many talents as a wonderful writer. Austen is quite the quotable writer and Persuasion has several such gems that are amongst the best lines I've ever read.

I do not intend to compare Persuasion with any other of Austen's novels to pick a favourite, because to me, there is no need to. Persuasion is so entirely different; a nuanced look at a mature relationship and of second chances to love. It might not be as witty and fun as Pride and Prejudice or as elegant as Sense and Sensibility. It does not boast of a vivacious heroine like Emma. But Persuasion touches you deep in the heart and strikes you emotionally, making it a unforgettable book worth cherishing.

This quote sums up this book well:
"When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort. This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it to be truth; and if such parties succeed, how should a Captain Wentworth and an Anne Elliot, with the advantage of maturity of mind, consciousness of right, and one independent fortune between them, fail of bearing down every opposition?"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - April 15



Every Thursday, I shall read one of Tagore's poems as translated in this book or some other poem I can find. I shall post some lines from the poem and perhaps a detail of how I liked this poem or not. Any others who want to join in this meme are absolutely welcome to do so!

Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the 
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.

Of all of Tagore's poems, I love most his patriotic poems. This is such a beautiful wish for his country, much on the lines of Where The Mind Is Without Fear, which is one of my favourite poems ever. 

This is such a wonderful line. So much meaning and beauty in 10 words!
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world

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