It is heartbreaking to see Idols fall. Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ ranks amongst my all time favorites. However, ‘The Golden House’ disappoints. It’s a very ordinary book that attempts to link the Bombay blasts, the 12/26 attacks on the city, into a fictional tale of an odd family living in New York. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? The problem is not with the story. Surprisingly enough, it is the telling. It’s ordinary, high strung, and doesn’t delve into Rushdie’s magic-realism world. Maybe it’s the beginning of the end of the legend or our times?
The book selects ten lesser known historical events that had a profound impact on America. Massacre at Mystic, California gold rush, the civil war battle in Antietam, Manhattan project, and Elvis Presley phenomenon are some of the events that are covered. The significance of the events on the course of history made for fascinating reading. The linkage of the events with their impact on American way of life is brought out well and in an engaging way.
Who reads poetry these days? The answer is a million people! Rupi Kaur’s self-published book has sold over a million copies and has been a New York Times best seller for over 52 weeks. It is modern poetry, from the perspective of the woman of today. The poems are both feminist and reflective at the same time. Like any collection of poetry, it has a few gems – thoughts so engaging, words so beautifully crafted – that the words just roll off the eyes, leaving a strong impact. And then there are those are ordinary and barely poetry. I am not sure if the huge success if fully deserved – the explicit angle certainly helps. An interesting read, overall.
Set in the period just after the civil war, ‘News of the World’ is a sweet story of an old man and a young girl bonding in strange circumstances. Johanna had been kidnapped by Indians as a child, and after years with them, she is being returned to her relatives. Captain Kidd, the old gentleman, who makes his living reading news of the world in small towns, is tasked with taking her to her relatives. Thus begins an unusual journey, where the girl, with no English, and Indian in her ways, and the old man forge a bond that lasts a life time. Jiles does a good job capturing the tumultuous tension of the period, where everything was unsettled and new norms were being put in place (she ignores the race aspect completely though). A little verbose at times with the setting, but a smooth read overall.
‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is experimental, magic-realism writing. Willy Lincoln, Abe Lincoln’s son is dead, at a time when civil war has just started causing major causalities. Willy Lincoln makes it to the other world, the world between here and the ultimate there, populated by people with still-unfinished business in this world. It is the multiple stories of those people that are interesting – as their stories encompass civil rights and the race divide, the same sex love, and many other issues of that time and today. The writing is superb, the stories engrossing, if too many. It is a little difficult to understand at the beginning , but the story unfolds slowly, draws you in and holds you.
Aza Holmes is a teenaged germ phobic, whose day to day life is fraught with her fighting with her own self, to get over her irrational fears. The story of the missing millionaire, and Aza findings his whereabouts, her romance with Davis, friendship with Daisy, all serve as a backdrop for Holmes story. Green does a great job of portraying the main character – her teenage issues, and her dealing with her mental illness. Your heart goes to Aza and her inability to enjoy herself. Written with humor and exceptional compassion.
These are turbulent times indeed. Ultra-nationalist, populist leaders in power in Russia, India, Turkey, US and many more places. Snyder provides a list of twenty things ordinary citizens can do, not to get sucked into the spiral of potential dictators, drawing lessons from the twentieth century. Defending institutions, being aware of the dangers of one-party rule or domination, speaking out, and believing in truth, are some of them. The book does make a compelling case for being watchful, to ensure that the twentieth century history (rise of Hitler, persecution of Jews, the Holocaust, World War II), are not repeated. Some of the parallels drawn between today’s leaders and Hitler are chilling. However, the writing, when it’s theorizing, is not engaging. It holds attention only when there are examples of twentieth century that bear an unpleasant resemblance with today’s events.
Read, if some of today’s leaders are ruining your sleep.