Another WWII story, Lilac Girls, traces the lives of three very different women affected by the war. Kasia, a Polish young woman, spends the best years of her life in a Nazi concentration camp. Caroline, an American philanthropist falls in love with a French Actor and tracks him down in Paris only to lose him again. Herta, a German doctor of humble origins, carried out horrific acts on the prisoners, without as much as a prick of conscience. The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps: the indiscriminate killings, the medical experiments on prisoners, and the inhuman living conditions of the inmates are captured in their ugly nakedness. I believe I have read too much of WWII to be shocked any longer, but the story still touches you nonetheless. What I thought would be the strength of the book – the narrative continuing after the end of the war, including the Russian occupation of Poland – turned out to be the weak link. The characters, particularly Kasia’s – gets a bit mixed-up and irrational. The writing is not very attractive but the starkness of the story reigns supreme.
Read, if you are not saturated by WWII books.
Ancient Toltec wisdom for the modern age. Four simple agreements that you make with yourself to live a joyous life. The agreements are not extraordinary; they follow simple, common-sense rules like being true to one’s word, not taking anything personally and so on.
Read, if you are looking for some wisdom.
Rupi Kaur’s contribution to the world of books today: Poetry is back in vogue. Syeda’s ‘Love and Pain’ is a compilation of some intense, well-written, and mature poems. Most of the poems are beautiful in how they sound and what they paint. For me, the book scores on three counts: one, there is a lyrical, sing-song quality to the poems that is easy on the ears; second, many of the poems are deeply sensuous, without ever crossing the line into vulgar. It is interesting how the poet captures the sexual tension between a man and woman without using any overt sexual imagery. Third, the poems are very visual, they paint a very vivid picture. The only thing that didn’t work for me was that I didn’t find a flow in the order of poems, a sort of phasing from love to pain that the title and the foreword promised. Also, there was some repetition of ideas. However, overall, a beautiful, and mature compilation, that is a pleasant read indeed.
A sad-funny account of a lonely old man who wants to die, but can’t kill himself for one reason or another. Then, a pregnant immigrant woman and her family move in the neighborhood and give his life a meaning. It is a touching story for the most part and Ove’s loneliness is heart-breaking. The writing is witty, and humorous in parts. What I particularly enjoyed were Backman’s conjectures of what the cat might be thinking when it gives certain looks. Along the way, towards the second half of the book, the book gets a bit predictable, as Ove adds a bunch of characters to his team.
An aristocrat, Count Alexandre Rostov, is put under house arrest in Moscow, in Hotel Metropol, after the Bolshevik revolution. He learns to live there and makes the hotel his world. It is an interesting premise and the novel begins promisingly. A cheerful middle-aged man easily making peace with his much-diminished status. The first half has mystery, philosophy (after an encounter with an actress, he gets treated with disdain and becomes invisible), and pace. However, the second half is disappointing. Whereas his interactions with Nina, a little girl living in the hotel, were heart-warming, the story of Nina’s daughter being raised by him, the admiration she receives from his colleagues is a bit pollyanish. There is a stray chapter on Andre with no follow-up. The end is not quite clear – his motivation in getting Sofia to France and himself to be out of the hotel is not etched clearly.
Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, and an irrepressible comic, tells us of his growing up in South Africa. Born a crime, refers to his being the son of a white man and a black woman, a crime in the apartheid in South Africa. It is an interesting story of never knowing where he belonged in a very race-conscious country that views everything from the race lens. However, Noah is not particularly funny in narrating the story. There are a few comical situations (as in most people’s lives), but the writing is ordinary. South Africa is a fascinating country and I enjoyed learning more about the country.
Read, if you want to learn more about South Africa.