‘The Overstory” starts as a book with stories about people and trees – the connection between people and trees. The first section aptly titled ‘Roots’ is sublime. The stories are complete in themselves. But then in ‘Trunk’, the characters meet, and the story becomes more activist than literary and then in ‘Crown’, the literature gets tossed out and it becomes a passionate cause for environment. While the book scores big on making a case for preserving forests (I was dazzled by so many interesting, amazing facts about trees and forests), it falls short on storytelling. The progress of the characters is unidimensional, the pace slows down and the reading becomes a bit of drag.
Creatures that morph into human beings but are in reality from the other world were never my thing and hence the book was a mistake. Lettie Hempstock, her mother and grandmother are benevolent witches that save our protagonist from Ursula Monkton, an other world creatures-turned-babysitter. A story that ends tragically. Not my thing, I said, but as writing skills go, Gaiman is great. If ever I get into the genre, Gaiman it will be.
It is indeed the true stories that make for the strangest of fiction. “Before We Were Yours” tells an engaging true story of poor, disadvantaged children being sold to rich, privileged families. The sordid details of Tennessee Children Home are indeed provocative and disturbing. The narrative style of the book – two protagonists, one in the present, the other in the past – works well and the relationship between the two slowly becomes obvious. The writing is fine, but the pace could be quicker. What also doesn’t work for me is the build-up of the suspense not leading to something mind-boggling, a long tail that wasn’t required, and an unnecessary love angle.
Roy, a black American, is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. His young wife, Celestial, and his best friend Andre, and Roy’s parents fight to get him released. However, in the five years that Roy is away, the dynamics between Celestial and Andre change, and when Roy gets out, his world is quite different from how he had imagined it to be.
Let’s start with what doesn’t work in the book. First, the story is too simple, a love triangle at the end really, and second, the book ends with a whimper. The climax is weak. What works for the book is the powerful writing, the insightful characterization, and the distinctive POV of the three main characters. Roy’s state of mind while in jail, Celestial’s evolution, and their slightly twisted, sweet-salty love is captured really well. It is a lovely reading experience.
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?