Tag Archives: book review

Thought of the week

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The best advice from a teacher in ” The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani:

“I will also advise that when they travel in their stories, they respect the people they meet and the values they hold. Their way of life is not for us to judge but our opportunity to learn. And to never forget that when you offer a hand of respect, you will in turn be welcomed.”

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“The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani

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Sejal Badani is a Goodreads Fiction Award finalist for her “Trail of Broken Wings”.

“The storyteller’s secret” novel takes you to India. The novel has two story lines. One is around 1940s-50s and the other one – 30 years forward, each with their own main character: a grand-mother and a grand-daughter.

Jaya – the grand-daughter – came to India from the USA to heal her pain after three miscarriages and the separation from her husband. There, she learns the story of her grandmother from an untouchable, who worked in his grand parents’ house as a faithful servant. Jaya learns of her true heritage when her grand-mother’s secret is revealed by her by that faithful servant. She learns her mother is a fruit of the passion between her grand-mother and a British officer she loved. In healing her own pain, she re-lives her grand-mother’s tough choices of staying in the marriage her parents arranged for her; staying with other other three sons when asked by the man she loved to leave with him and their daughter; stopping to do what she loved – teach and write stories – when family duties called.

In the story, the grand-mother dies young in very tragic circumstances. The author portraits the grand-daughter as a living testament to the materialisation of aspirations of a generation who although oppressed kept her dignity and left a legacy.

The story has a happy end of healing found by those who sought it. Although it gave the book a predictable end, it was just fine, after the intensity if the two parallel life stories of the grand mother and grand-daughter, who “found” each other 30 years after through storytelling.

While some reviews find the book not very exciting, it matched my reading needs at this stage. Even it it is fiction, stories of vulnerable deserve to be told in any form and cherished by those who live to harness the sacrifices made by generations before.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee

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My brain seems to be interested lately in women’s stories from all over the globe. Or maybe it is my heart. The heart of a girl’s mom.

“Pachinko” belongs to the type of the book I look forward to opening at the bed time reading. I absorbed the 400 something pages in no time.

The story spans through generations of a family who survived war, hunger, separation, discrimination and exile. The story starts in Korea and then moves to Japan. Above all, it is about soul-search and staying true to what truly matters no matter what.

The characters are authentic and their struggles and aspirations are so real you can feel it on your skin. The author did well her homework research. The book is a tribute to all silent victims of discrimination of those times on that place.

I cannot ignore the attention given to the role of women society expects from them, as described in this book and couple of others I recently read. “Women’s lot is to suffer” is reiterated couple of times in the book. That is saddening, to say the least. In fairness, the author does justice to feminine characters by endowing them with such strength of mind and spirit that it challenges the socially acceptable behavioural model for women.

Inspired by this, I bought for my daughter “Little Leaders: Visionary Women from around the World” by Vashti Harrison (more on the book in my next post).

“Like water for chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

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I love books with stories around the kitchen, where events and Mxican dishes recipes are intertwined with flavours. Reading recipes and cooking steps also makes me hungry, but that’s another story.

The story lone is built around Tita, who is given a multitude of roles throughout the book: she is a daughter, a cook, a lover, a sister, a nurse. The character has to fight for her right to decide how to live an authoritarian mother and a series of circumstances she finds herself in.

The writing style is impregnated with tenderness and a bitter-sweet taste of life in all its magnificence. It has magic, it has love. What else do you need?

I absorbed the book in no time and recommend to enjoy it with a cup of hot chocolate.

« Less » by Andrew Sean Greer

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“You will sob little tears of joy” said one review.

The book by Greer, a winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction, is a story of a writer – Arthur Less, who seeking love almost lost it, just to find it, after he run away to travel around the world. The author gives us a Less at first – from a 70s American bohemian period – to a Less Mexican, Italian, German, French, Moroccan, Indian to Less at Last.

I admired the writing style and the author’s sense of humour, so touching yet unforgiving in some places. Like this lines: “She was ostensibly German speaking, just as seventeen-year-old Less was ostensibly gay. Both had the fantasy; neither had carried it out.”

“Paper Wife” by Laila Ibrahim

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I was Intrigued by the title and the period it talks about. It narrates the story of a young Chinese woman who, by a turn of events, finds herself as a wife to a man she never met and a mother to a 3 year old. The title of the novel – “paper wife” – is a metaphor for the faked “documented” relationships for Chinese eager to immigrate to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.

The author did a great deal of research, so the reader can find out about the Angel Island Immigration Detention Center, in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants received the most scrutiny. They had to study hard the documents paid by their sponsors – husbands, uncles, brothers – who wanted to bring the dear ones to the United States. Th novel also describes the life in early China towns.

The central character is a strong feminine model who overcame difficulties and used whatever means she had to protect her family. Her believes and strong moral inheritance from her mother and grand mother are depicted with respect and admiration, owned to women who relied on their ancestral roots to let new roots of their families grow in a new land.

I found the novel a light reading, perfect for quiet evenings.

“The Red-Haired Woman” by Orhan Pamuk

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From the first pages, I realised that I missed Pamuk’s writing.

I read “My name is Red” couple of years ago and I liked it a lot.

“The red-haired women” is both surprising and unnerving. The story is build around the father-son relationship in different generations, from mythology to the story of the main character – Cem. Cem’s relationship with his father, a well digging master and later – his own son  are painted in all the shades of guilt, regret, revolt, admiration. As if unable to cope with all these emotions, fathers and sons end up with blood on their hands. It is in essence an exploration of the evolution of the meaning of fatherhood.

The end section narrated by the red-haired woman, brightens up a bit the finale. As “The Guardian” puts is “The twist in the tail isn’t perhaps quite as effective as that in My Name Is Red, but it still makes the reader feel as if they’ve emerged from the depths of a well into sudden and dazzling light.”