Book Review — The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

This story takes us back to the narrator’s childhood days which were filled with horrors and revelations too mature for a 7 year old. As the eldest of two siblings, the narrator often found himself completely alone, and so would preoccupy himself with books. When a lodger commits suicide in his father’s car, a portal of darkness descends over him. Monsters unheard of take over his simplistic world. Driven to an extreme sense of despondence by his parents refusal to believe him and the suffocating dominion of the creature, he knows not a way out. But to his relief, as with any good story, he soon finds his savior in the form of his next door neighbors – the Hempstock women. With the help of Lettie Hempstock, the narrator assumes the role of a brave, tactical individual, ready to face every monstrosity that comes their way.  Gaiman’s writing is spellbinding as he weaves instances of the past coupled with creatures that bring despair.

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

This is my second Neil Gaiman book and it was brilliant from the start. Albeit told from the POV of a 7 year old, mind you its not a children’s book. We don’t get a name for the narrator throughout the book and you’d think that such an essential detail being missed out is a major bother. But its not. You can still connect with the protagonist because all the emotions he goes through are so relatable. There is a kind of peculiarity in this book, that I found to be quite normal. The boy’s relationship with his parents or sister isn’t very great and which the creature ultimately exploits. The Hempstock women are his life-jackets; his one and only reprieve from all the chaos.

The best thing about this book is its magical nature; everything that goes on can be interpreted in numerous ways. The Ocean, I felt was a metaphor for that earthly body from which we all rise and to which, one day, we shall depart. It is that regenerative source of energy which heals us. It is this very ocean that proves useful in the story. The creatures could have been spurred on by his imagination or could stand for something else. There was so much going on, some concepts took a little understanding, others were a breeze. The narrator’s sense of loneliness was so palpable. I wished he had some support from his family. The creature’s logic and reason are explored in the plot too. Every bit of the book was fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Give it a try. It is one of the best books I have read this year.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino enthralls his audience by spinning vivid descriptions of “invisible” cities. He uses the medium of culture, narration and imagination to convey the conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan being the mighty emperor demands that Marco Polo account his journeys around the world. What transpires after, is a treat to one’s mind. For Marco Polo speaks of Cities & Desires, Hidden Cities, Cities of the Dead and various such notions, categorically emphasizing the key aspects of different cities he has been to.

I wanted to like this book so much so that I re-read the first few pages over again. Its beautifully written, no doubt. The various cities he names capture your attention and move you to think about the similarities they possess. Many of the cities were magical and several others had a dystopian feel to them. But what didn’t sit well with me is the direction of the narration. Clearly these cities he described were only in his imagination or seemingly gathered from the other places he had been to. Talking about such non-existent cities didn’t serve any obvious purpose. I think I tried too hard to find meaning where there was none or maybe my interpretations were all awry. But I just didn’t get this book. I got the cities, individually, understood what they represented. But were they just for holding Kublai Khan’s attention? Having read chapters of other fictional books, that had a clear cut beginning and end, I found it difficult to process this one. The writing style is different, the form of the book is unique. They are sectioned as Cities & Memory, Cities & Desire etc. The distinction is clear too but for what aim? Was he just pitting different ideas against each other to see how Khan would react? I had more questions than should be, towards the end of the book. Loose threads that didn’t get tied. Perhaps I ought to read up more on the context of this book before I give it another try. Which I am determined to do as almost everyone else has given this book a 5 star rating. I suggest you try it, because its very different from what is usually written.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

Meera

 

To Mr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam

Image Courtesy - Google.
Image Courtesy – Google.

Dear Sir,

Few people have been as humble in power, forward in thought and strong in mien as you have been. You heard the voices of the youth, that were shunned and belittled and you brought us to the forefront. You upheld the beacon of hope to a nation that was on the verge of losing its glory. Not many know how to lead as you did.

Frankly, I regret not knowing the full extent of your being. Of all that you have written and said, of all your persuasion and guidance. It is in your passing that I realize the value of what I have missed out. And yet, it is never too late. Your words of wisdom will, till the end of time, be etched out for us to ponder on. Your efforts of carving a bright future for us will not be in vain. Someday, from above, you will see India reshape into the gem of a land that it was before the dark times. And it will not only be the youth but the senior folks too, who will pave the way to an India you envisioned.

Death is inevitable. It comes for us all. So we shed tears in pride, for having witnessed a man of such caliber, who sought to change our nation for the better. We revel in having known of such a distinct individual whose thoughts led us to question our unreasonable beliefs. In a world where people hold onto knowledge for the mere purpose of holding power, you believed in disseminating it to every individual who would listen. You have educated more minds in the ways of living than any moral science class could have. It is by these precious gifts to the world, that we will remember you. It is by these stepping stones you’ve laid out for us that we will strive to attain, for others and ourselves, a glowing future.

Thank you Sir, for all that you have given. May you Rest in Peace.

Yours’
A Hopeful Citizen,

– Meera

 

Book Review — Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan E. Mierek

I was provided an electronic copy of this book by the author for review. Thank you for the opportunity :) 

Escape From Witchwood Hollow is a novel that depicts the dire consequences of greed and insecurity on the lives of generations of people. Shunned as a witch, Lady Clifford flees into the forests of Arnn. There she finds respite from the townsfolk who want to kill her. Years pass in peaceful solitude before she finds the company of those who can appreciate her. Albertine, the second main female character, comes from a small town called Pipp where she stays with her sister and relatives. A letter from America brings joyous news that her father has made plans to have her married and settled in Arnn. And so begins a new phase of her life.

Honoria, after the death of her parents, moves in with her Aunt Priscilla. There she encounters the mysteries buried in a desolate, ruinous spot called the Witchwood Hollow. Supposedly, those who venture in are never seen again. Or so the legend goes. Will Honoria’s curiosity lead her into trouble? What of the stories of Lady Clifford and Albertine? Read to understand how these three female characters’ lives are woven together in a thrilling, astounding tale.

I was extremely enthusiastic about reviewing this book. The synopsis sounded too good. I only hoped that the novel was as good as I wished it to be. And it absolutely was. The story is a little slow in the beginning, but let that not hold you at bay. It picks up pace real fast and till the very end keeps you on your toes. The chapters shift back and forth between three generations. We are privy to the POVs of Lady Clifford, Albertine and Honoria. All of which were fun to read. The book has tons of characters, most of which are female. It wasn’t a very pointed fact but to me it felt like the novel tries to assert the strength and individuality of women. The author pays meticulous attention to detail. Sometimes, I felt that there was unnecessary information – tidbits that need not be mentioned. But most of which came in handy to piece the puzzle.

Honoria’s immediate liking for Leon was unconvincing. It appeared a little too lame how her thought process revolved around “Leon-this and Leon-that”. Her friendship with Harley and Amanda also led nowhere. But then again such things happen in real life too. So its excusable. The setting created by the author is very fascinating and magical. The plot is so intricate, it catches you off guard. Planning it must have taken some serious time and effort. I believe that the story wrapped up nicely. Its a quick read and takes your imagination to heights. Give it a try if fantasy is your genre.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Meera