Legends don’t die.

I am attempting to write a new poetry form called Diamante which, written in 7 lines, juxtaposes two similar or dissimilar subjects. It was horrible to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. To know that the magic he infused into his character as Professor Snape had not sustained him longer. But death is such. RIP, Professor. You will always be remembered.

Legend
powerful, diligent
aspiring, living, believing
leaving behind moral values
undoing, recalling, changing
temporary, blank,
Death

Always.

– Meera

Book Review — The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas had always been content with the rigid nature of his community. A community that was devoid of color, choices and history thrived through their meticulous efforts to keep everyone in line. There was no love, no wrongs; rather everyone lived in utmost peace not knowing the thrills of uncertainty. Ritualistic practices naturalized in every family unit ensured that the thoughts, opinions and actions of individuals were as per the dictum of the Committee of Elders. But when Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory, a position of honor and prestige, he realizes the potential that mankind earlier had. He realizes how bleak and dreary their existence currently is. And so he begins to question all he has ever learnt, thereby wandering onto unfamiliar territories.

The Giver is a book that everyone should read. Even those who don’t like dystopian fiction. It reveals what our future could look like. It unearths possibilities of a life where there would be no pain, no war, no abuse, no poverty. And yet it succeeds in dissuading us from wanting such a peaceful life. Not if peace equals to having no memories. Definitely not if peace means not being able to name your own children or choose your own partners. Such is a world that the novel presents us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it not because I liked the world it created but because it made me realize how petty our complains are sometimes. When faced with such horrendous laws and unfeeling people (as in the book), you automatically bloat with gratitude for the options and freedoms we all enjoy. Lois Lowry’s writing style is great and descriptive enough that we are able to visualize what she speaks of. It is very difficult to unlearn what you already know and describe it from a newfound perspective. But Lowry manages that perfectly well as we get the feeling that Jonas is indeed new to the concepts of snow, sunshine, love, color etc.

There are so many rules in the world constructed by the author that at times it was infuriating. The people in the book had all apparently opted for “Sameness”, i.e for everything to be uniform and hence repressing individuality or uniqueness of object or person. I found their concepts of “release” to be somewhat ridiculous. Surely, the separation and loss eventuated by release ought to be met with some grief. But there too people behaved almost robotic. The community has a multitude of Ceremonies, neither of which paralleled the joy humans can be open to. I wholeheartedly supported Jonas’ decisions in the end and felt that the climax, the resolution were all well fitting. This book makes you think and think again about your environment, your life and everything else. This being my first book of 2016, I am glad I picked it, for it was so wonderful. Even though its been tagged children’s fiction, there’s nothing extremely childish about it. Rather, it would be a good read for adults too. I recommend this book to all.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Seahorse by Janice Pariat

In Seahorse, Janice Pariat weaves a hauntingly captivating tale of a wandering soul looking to fill the void left by unsatisfactory familial relations, newfound self perceptions and a lackluster lifestyle. Nehemiah is an English Major student of Delhi University whose grief upon the loss of a loved one is swept aside through his interactions with a professor from his college. Nicholas becomes more than just a confidante to Nem and so his sudden disappearance leaves Nem devastated. Years later, an anonymous message sends Nem on a frantic chase to look for Nicholas and seek answers to questions that have been brewing in his mind all along.

I picked this up for a book club and the synopsis was so intriguing I had no doubts about starting it as soon as I got it. This book is unique in the way it is formatted as well as the writing style. It has no chapters but is sectioned into three parts. The way the novel is phrased doesn’t give you a distinct beginning, middle and end. There are tons of flashbacks used; some so abruptly placed, it took me a while to realize that it was a scene from Nem’s past. Pariat’s writing style is fluid and mesmerizing. Lines and paragraphs felt like waves lapping over my mind, receding and leaving their essence behind. Nem’s story is a tad bit draggy and simplistic. It is not fast paced or thrilling and so I had to make an effort to keep reading. But every time I thought I should take a break, some metaphoric line or philosophical quote would pull me back in. The main USP of this book would probably be that it is a retelling of Poseidon and Pelops’ myth. However, I didn’t know the backstory so I had nothing to compare this retold version with. Themes of homosexuality, estrangement, death, betrayal are explored in this novel. While I didn’t feel compelled to read the book, there was so much intensity and content in it that I wanted to finish it. Many a times I sympathized with Nem for he appeared to be so lonely and needy. His family too seemed rigid and not very loving. I didn’t love the book, neither did I hate it. Nem’s story is far removed from such matters of fluctuating choices we readers make. There was something increasingly motionless about the story – like a still lake. If you are philosophical or like retellings, you should give Seahorse a try.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

– Meera

 

The Experience : NaNoWriMo 2015

I am not cut out for writing novels. I think that every year as November approaches. But then a wicked idea pops into my head each time. It would be unfair to the Gods of Writing and Imagination if I gave up before I even started. With that in mind, I was ready to participate this year. Not as ready as I would have liked to be but ready nevertheless. It was November 1st and I had no outline to my novel. I knew I would need one. The plot was complicated. I decided to start outlining the structure and characters of my novel. Till November 4th I did not write a word of my novel as I made use of all the imaginative juices to list down conflicts and twists amidst other details. My journey started on 4th and has been an uneven one up until the 26th (when I finished 50k words). I would call it uneven because within these 23 days, there were times when I wrote nothing and times when I was able to churn 3000-6000 words at a stretch. I bunked many days of college to stay at home and type. Writing had taken top priority. There were days when I remained in my room, typing away like a mad scientist, overcome with ideas that had to be slapped onto blank pages before they vanished.

My family has been the most supportive throughout this journey – not yelling at me for missing classes or neglecting family time. The most horrifying pothole in my way occurred when I reached 32k and finished what I had intended to write. My story had been written, with a beginning, middle and end. Yet I had to have 18k more if I were to win. Conjuring up additional obstacles for my protagonist to pave through and flashback scenes, I rowed my way to 50k. Then, I had thought I would peel off the extra during the editing process. But now it all fits. In fact, I believe there is still more potential for the story. I could add more or remove some – the essence of my plot would still shine through.

There were phases when I thought my writing style was lame or immature (not worthy of an English major student who has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember). With my parents’ kind words, I was able to get past that block. I am proud of the storyline, it was something I had been questioning about our world for long. But I still have to improve on the use of words and phrases. After all that, maybe I could consider approaching a publisher. For now, the winner’s title and certificate on my profile fills my belly, heart and mind. I am happy. As I can be.

Image Courtesy – Google

– Meera

Book Review — Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Twin sisters – Cather and Wren – have always stood by each other, whether it was their passion for the Simon Snow book series or coping with their family drama. But when they move to college, the sisters’ opposite personalities drive a wedge between them. Surprisingly, Cath who is not used to forming friendships easily, gets accustomed to her roommate Reagan fairly well. On the other hand, Wren’s new friendships begin to take up all of her spare time. Cath channels her loneliness and feelings of betrayal onto the fan-fiction that the sisters had been writing together. She gives Simon the reality that couldn’t be hers. Somehow, writing becomes her door to the outside world. She joins fiction writing class with an ambition to write to her heart’s content; she becomes writing buddies with a boy from her class and gradually grows close to her roommates boyfriend – all this while taking supreme control over the fanfic and attracting thousands of fans for her own book. What does it mean to be a fangirl? This novel throws light on exactly that. That and the drama which ensues in Cath’s life.

A friend told me that I had to read this before reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and that is what pushed me to open the book which had been sitting on my shelf for months. Fangirl has been written so realistically, you can as well imagine being the protagonist. Rowell’s writing style is extremely agreeable and easygoing. She makes you feel like you know all the characters personally and weaves most of them to be very endearing. Initially, I thought that Cath had Agoraphobia (a fear of venturing out into situations and places with large crowds from which escape may not be easily possible) but we learn later that it is nothing major. She displays traits of low self esteem and introversion. Her preoccupation with a fictional world results in her withdrawal from social settings. But she blossoms into a more confident person after meeting Reagan, Nick and Levi. Whether good/bad, her experiences with these people help her get out of the shell she had made for herself. Wren’s detachment from Cath and the fan-fiction they were writing is inevitable because of the nature she has. She is a person who lives in the moment, at parties and gatherings than through fiction. Levi, Reagan’s boyfriend, is shown to be an optimist. But I found his character to be a little superficial. Cath herself repeatedly emphasizes the fact that he is always smiling, even when facing goons at a party. That sort of dilutes the essence of happiness for me. How can someone be smiling all the time? Their mother left them at an early age. And so they have been living with their father. The bond they share with him is a friendly and affectionate one.

The storyline is really good, nothing too extravagant but very grounded. We witness how the sisters deal with different issues in varying ways. Moreover we learn how fans create a totally different world by situating the objects of their praise at an apex and then producing merchandise, alternate endings, costumes and fan clubs. What I didn’t like much about the book were the snippets of Simon Snow stories that were included at the end of each chapter. While I absolutely love epistolary novels, I didn’t like reading Simon Snow because I didn’t know the whole story. So I couldn’t wrap my mind around why the tidbits had been incorporated. That being said, I really enjoyed Fangirl and I look forward to reading Carry On. It is definitely a feel-good book and I recommend it to everyone.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Frances and Yasha’s paths cross at the top of the world. One of them has come to Norway to get away from family troubles by immersing  herself in the Yellow Room art project. The other is here on a family mission, one that pains and disturbs him a great deal. While Frances must deal with her family splitting apart due to various reasons, Yasha has to put up with his mother’s sudden appearance with her boyfriend in tow. Finding comfort in a stranger’s embrace, the two forge a relationship that help them cope with their respective worries. The Sunlit Night is a realistic fiction about finding light even in the darkest of times from unexpected sources.

I had earlier picked up this book but couldn’t get past the first few pages because it is a bit slow in the beginning. But the synopsis is so heartrending that I had to give it another try. This book is extraordinary in its simplicity. I felt that there is no looming sense of a structured plot or characters brought to life. What I really liked about the book is the very normal and endearing way the lives of two people have been followed. You sort of forget that they are fictional characters and begin to believe in their story. The book alternates between Yasha and Frances’ perspectives. The author’s writing style is different and lovely. Not too long sentences and fantastic descriptions. The references towards the midnight sun are so mesmerizing even though you can only picture it through Frances’ eyes. I felt that it depicted their polarized states. Frances and Yasha, who lived in US, have come so far for different purposes to a common end – peace. I didn’t quite understand Nils character and Frances’ connection with him. He was her mentor but his behavior was a bit odd and the way his story ends puzzled me as it felt incomplete. The abrupt shift (uncaring to persistently pursuing) in Yasha’s feelings towards Frances also seemed rushed. Nevertheless they made sense together. Its a cute story with a different air compared to the usual contemporary book. You should give it a go..

Ratings – 3 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka

A play based on the natives of Yoruba, Death and the King’s Horseman marks the journey of Elesin Oba (the chief Horseman of the King) who is meant to sacrifice his life and follow the dead King into the afterlife. Filled with ritualistic nuances and a strong emphasis on the conflicts between colonizer and colonized, the play portrays Elesin’s conviction to perform the ritual and ultimate failure in sticking to his words. Simon Pilkings, a British Officer, not only intervenes in the sacrificial ritual but plays an integral role in sending Elesin’s eldest son Olunde abroad to study, thereby separating father and son. The ploy of the colonizers to tame the supposedly “uncivilized” natives pushes the plot forward to its ultimate disheartening end.

We had to read this play as part of the curriculum for Postcolonial Literature in college.  While the authenticity of the culture of Yoruba natives is kept intact through their dismissal of the colonizers rules, their freedom to practice rituals as per their heritage is denied because of the might of the colonizer. Apart from the theme of culture and freedom, we also witness a spark in the Women of the society who know their place and are firm in their beliefs. They are depicted to be the strong face of Resistance that is gradually building up. I found the character of Simon Pilkings to be so infuriating and that of his wife Jane Pilkings to be rather insensitive and foolish. Even though she is more docile and approachable than Simon, she doesn’t stand up for herself when mistreated by him. Her views are unworthy in his eye as he often orders her to “shut up”.

The innate tendency of the colonizer to classify what they don’t comprehend as “insane”, “barbaric” is more than evident in the manner Simon speaks about the natives.  The plot is so rich in the way it intersperses the fight of indigenous people – against foreign forces that attempt to oppress them in their own lands – with that of the ignorance of the colonizer which finally leads to dire consequences. It was very enlightening and wholesome but I had to give it a 2 star rating because of Elesin’s monologues and dialogues with others which flew above my head. I didn’t understand most of what he was trying to say as he always spoke in riddles. I had to rely on a lot of other sources to get the gist of it. And I believe that if you can’t make sense of what’s going on in a book then you can’t get the complete essence of it. So while the story is really good, I found it difficult to process a lot of the content.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the most popular Gothic classics, Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde sets the mark for numerous psychological and literary studies. It is the story of a certain Mr. Hyde, cold and villainous who surfaces as a relative of the kind Dr. Jekyll, scientist extraordinaire.  When two old friends of Dr. Jekyll’s – Mr. Utterson and Dr. Lanyon – notice this absurd shift in the scientist’s demeanor, they take it upon themselves to solve the surrounding mystery about the newfound connection. Mr. Hyde’s appearance is marked by Dr. Jekyll’s tendency to become a recluse and maintain a distance from the public. This puzzling hide and seek of the two has Mr. Utterson completely befuddled. And what comes to his understanding makes the two friends wonder how Dr. Jekyll could have ventured into such uncharted territories.

A truly classic book, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde maintains its air of suspense from the very beginning. The dark and chilling atmosphere of the plot is reflected in the clime of its setting. The plot is splendid and thrilling. I would have rated the book higher if some of the content was more decipherable. At some instances I couldn’t understand what was going on. As in the author’s writing style was a little overwhelming at times. Dr. Jekyll is portrayed to be the responsible, amiable and skillful individual whereas Mr. Hyde is the exact opposite. He has no remorse for his actions, is very antisocial and not kind. I was aware that the book had something to do with split personalities but fortunately I hadn’t been spoiled with the details and so the climax did come off as a shock to me. I felt that while it was representative of the dual nature of man, this form of escapism was totally unnecessary. I understand that Dr. Jekyll, tired of always being the good guy, wanted to explore the other side for a change. But he didn’t have to invest in such a risky endeavor because that is playing with one’s life and not appreciating it as much as he ought. We all at times reach a point where our personalities change due to circumstances but I don’t believe that such a drastic change is needed to balance out the good and the bad within us. A must read classic of the epistolary kind, this book envelopes you with its stunningly eerie tone and ending.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

 

Book Review — Plum Lovin by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin is a short novel in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich which is centered around Stephanie’s attempts to take over Annie Hart’s business as a relationship expert while Diesel protects Annie from an irrational goon with supernatural powers. Annie, wanted for murder, is on the run and staying out of the radar. Stephanie is under orders to capture her at all costs. Only Diesel knows where she is and he drags Stephanie into helping Annie with the promise that he’ll hand Annie over after everything has been sorted. So bounty hunter turned match maker, Stephanie wades through multiple relationship drama while dealing with her own problems, hoping to solve them all.

Not having read any Janet Evanovich book before, I didn’t know what to expect. This book seemed to be more of a romance genre than mystery/detective. It starts off with Stephanie talking about her boy problems and how she is confused or juggling between three men in her life. She has been assigned the task of capturing Annie Hart for murder but somehow gets sidetracked into managing Annie’s match maker job. A good majority of the novel is spent in finding ideal matches for Annie’s clients and Stephanie herself getting drawn in by Diesel’s charm and classy nature. We are made to believe that she is pushing him away but its clearly evident that she is somewhat besotted with him.

I didn’t like it much because a lot of it wasn’t believable. And I am not even referring to the supernatural powers that Diesel and other “unmentionables” have. The power to inflict a rash, while being extremely out of the box, is surely not worth the hype. The writing style is good and easy to process. I just wish there was more content and the characters were more grounded. I don’t think I will be reading any more books from this series cause I couldn’t connect with the protagonist in this one. I highly doubt I’ll be able to understand her antics in other books. If you are into books that are tethered to the love angles between most of the characters, then this one’s for you.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

Meera