Review: The Wolves of La Louviere by Flore Balthazar

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My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this one.

 

This is a World-War-II themed graphic novel which is based on a true story (which I only realised later) of the author’s own family, and the diary of young Marcelle Balthazar who is fifteen at the time Poland is conquered and the war begins. In the book we see side-by-side, two storylines, one of the Balthazar family which comprises M. and Mme. Balthazar and their five children of whom Marcelle is the oldest, all studying at school, and M. Balthazar’s mother. When war begins, M. Balthazar is drafted, and Mme Balthazar must look after the family, and along with the other women in her town, take over the jobs that the men are no longer there to do. Alongside moves the storyline of Margurite Clauwaerts (also based on a real life character), school teacher to one of younger Balthazar children, who tells her students to be polite to the occupiers to avoid trouble, but herself is a resistance fighter, helping their men hide, and carrying what they need including ammunitions. While Marcelle’s storyline examines the themes that people living life amidst war must face, that of Margurite is of the dangers that the resistance had to face, and what befell them when they were caught.

 

This book doesn’t proceed in a continuous narrative, but as a bunch of connected incidents in the wartime, proceeding chronologically but in different time periods from the war’s start to when the town is freed by the Tommies. Many themes are explored, including the actual experiences of people in the war—not ones who were consciously part of the resistance but ones who had to lead daily lives, to look after their children and families in an atmosphere when the ‘enemy’ was in-charge, when rations and supplies were few, where families are forced to be apart, and when dangers were ever present. The Balthazar family is attempting to lead as normal a life as they can, the children continuing with school when they can, doing their daily chores, all the time wondering when their father will be back. The Balthazar children aren’t part of the resistance but they make small forms of protest wearing patriotic symbols and sometimes outsmarting the Germans. Marcelle’s account touches upon these issues and upon issues of gender equality (women having to take up all the work during war but having to go back to just being women after), voting rights (which came for women in Belgium much after England), and about how there were humans and demons (for want of better word) alike on both sides of the equation. One of the most powerful scenes in the book for me was that showing how the captives were no better than their captors when it came to their treatment of the ‘enemy’—something Marcelle rightly questions. Margurite’s story too touches one deeply. On a lighter note, I loved the Tintin and Quick and Flupke references in the book, especially that one character was reading King Ottokar’s Sceptre which is one of my favourite Tintin books. There is a bit (though very little) of adult content (which didn’t feel absolutely necessary for the storyline) and some violence, so this is not a book for younger readers. The wolf art/analogy alongside the humans was effective in making the point the author was trying to, though humans I think are far worse than any of the animal kind. This was certainly an impactful read, which I liked very much, though ‘like’ again is not a word one would use for this theme.

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Review: The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

monsters

My thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for a review copy of this one.

 

This is a very strange little book. I put in a request for it because essentially of the themes that the description said it dealt with, of Mary Shelley, and Frankenstein; of the thought processes that go into imagination, into creation, into reading and writing. And it certainly is about that, but just not in a way I’d expected or imagined. Our author or at least an author (still not sure whether this is meant to be the author himself or a creation through which he is speaking) is up in the mountains, close to the location of the Villa Diodati, where Mary Shelley at age nineteen first came up with her most famous novel Frankenstein, pondering over the book, which he claims he hates for various reasons, its elitism and “racism” among them. But alongside he also engages with various other questions that trouble him, the isolated environment in which he is which is beginning to get to him, the writer’s block that he seems to be suffering, his own work, which has been writing horror stories, which come back to haunt him. We see and experience what the author does, in a sense like a stream of consciousness style. Occasionally we hear another voice, the voice of another person I mean (you will see who I mean when you read the book) but that too is as the author has seen and heard it.

 

This was a very different book from anything I’ve read before, and honestly even after finishing, this is a book hard to classify (it isn’t a story yet it is, it isn’t a literary essay, yet it is, and more such confusions) or even rate for me, in fact I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, even though I am trying to put down my thoughts. Both the Frankenstein and Mary Shelley theme, and that of authors and their creations (especially in the “horror” category) are explored alongside, the latter in some ways springing from the former and yet separate. The author claims to dislike the book, to hate it, offers some literary criticism, but then also takes us through what is admirable about it. The story (which I’m sure everyone knows) of how and where Frankenstein was created is mentioned, but while the blurb led me to expect that there would be a lot more focus on that aspect, this wasn’t really so. His criticisms of the book were points that hadn’t really occurred to me—so they were interesting to explore, and its message as our author identifies it was something that did stand out on my reading too so that I agreed with. Again the exploration of author and creation, how much of a creation is the author’s and how much it takes on a life of its own, and even touches the author, I found interesting to think about. The author/narrator’s own work coming back to haunt him in different ways was perhaps the fictional part of the story, but whether the atmosphere of the place, the isolation is a mere trigger to all of the rest that’s happening or represents something more is one point that I haven’t been able to figure out. The link between the Mary Shelley–Frankenstein issue, and the author–creation question made sense, as also did the question of why our author’s creations were perhaps haunting him (that there was more reason than one), but the ending was something I couldn’t entirely make sense of. I see some points that the book is trying to make (I think) but not I think entirely what it tries to say at the end—the ‘conclusion’ as it were.

 

The artwork between the sections was interesting—some of this made sense, the other parts didn’t (was it meant not to? Was it meant to represent the confusion?)—in the ARC version, part of it wasn’t very clear either.

 

But anyway, how do I rate it? I guess mid-way-3 stars. I can’t say I loved the book, not did I completely dislike it. It made me think of some things, some things made sense, and yet not all of it.

Shelf Control #13

Shelf Control

This is a feature, all about celebrating the books already on your TBR, and is one I’ve borrowed  from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. All one has to do is to pick one of the books on one’s TBR every Wednesday, and write a post about it (usually what it’s all about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such, but I guess up to you really).

So this week’s pick is something that’s been on my monthly TBR for a couple of months but I still haven’t gotten to it for one reason or other. And that is:

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The Dancing Bear by Frances Faviell is the author’s memoir of her time spent in post-World War-II Berlin. The author lived there with her son and husband when her husband was stationed there, and presents a picture of a four-year period after the war. It is a picture of a city in ruins, a city characterised by cold, famine, and illness, by tragedy. These themes are explored through the author’s interactions with the Altmann family whom she gets to know during her time in Berlin. The book shows us the city through the eyes of both occupier and the occupied.

About the author: Francis Faviell was the pen name of author and painter Olivia Faviell Lucas. She studied art at the Slade School of Art in London, and had travelled to India where she stayed as Tagore’s ashram, and also to Japan and China. In 1946, she travelled to Berlin where her second husband was then posted as an official in the British administration. Her time there also found reflection in one at least of her novels A House on the Rhine, set in a town near Cologne, at a time when Germany is rebuilding itself in the aftermath of the war. In fact, I have this one on my TBR as well.

Where and When I got it: Sometime early this year, this and a few other titles by Faviell were on offer on Kindle and that’s where I picked these up. I was supposed to read this with a book group last month but never got down to reading it. But I hope to pick this one up soon.

Why I want to read it: Last year with a group on goodreads I read the Berlin Stories/Berlin Novels by Christopher Isherwood which, particularly the second book, took us to pre-war Berlin and the city struggling with various things, parts of it crumbling, and alongside the political unrest and Hitler beginning to rise to power. This was a book I really liked despite not expecting to. And reading this made me interested to read about what shape life took after the war. One reads (though World War-II books aren’t something I read too much of though I know I should) not so often of that end of the story when it comes to the War.

And now for some bookchat: Have you read any books by Faviell? Which ones and how did you like them?

Or more on the theme of World War-II and related literature–what books have you read on this theme/period and which would you recommend? Each book gives us  point of view–do you have a list of books on the period that gives one a more rounded picture–a peak into the experiences of the different people on different ‘sides’ involved/affected? Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Malory Towers Challenge: Second Form at Malory Towers

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Book #2 for my Malory Towers challenge/project. In the first book that I read a couple of months ago we saw Darrell Rivers heading off to Malory Towers in Cornwall for the first time, where she is keen to make friends. But her admiration for the clever but hard Alicia John, and her own temper issues get in the way for a bit but she eventually settles down and finds a friend in Sally Hope, good-hearted and friendly, after she has got over her own issues in the first term, of sibling jealousy. My post on book 1 is here. In this book, the girls have spent a few terms at Malory Towers, and are now about to enter the second form with Miss Parker as their teacher. There are new girls as always, the very pretty and rich Daphne who Gwendolen and Mary Lou both admire, scholarship student Ellen who starts off her stint at Malory Towers well enough but begins to turn sullen and snappy, as the term progresses, and drawing whiz Belinda Morris, who is as scatterbrained as Irene. There are the usual school happening, lessons, a few tricks, and a concert which finds the two Mam’zelles arguing over who should be lead in their French plays. There are also some mysterious goings on with purses and valuables disappearing, and Ellen snooping somewhat strangely around the school which leads the girls to misunderstand the situation while the reader is aware from the start that Ellen, insecure about her ability to do well on tests, is beginning to consider cheating, as the pressure leads her to fall ill. Alongside, Alicia is jealous and angry as Sally Hope has been chosen head of form over her.

 

When I started reading this instalment, I thought I hadn’t read this before at all but about half way in I began to remember the story. This was a fairly enjoyable instalment in the series—with pretty much the ordinary happenings of school life, not only events but also personal issues like Alicia’s anger over Sally being chosen over her (in Malory Towers, it is the form mistress who chooses the head), Ellen’s insecurities, and the girls’ friendships. Ellen’s issue with her work performance is something that so many students and others face, and Blyton goes into two of the effects of this, one Ellen stressing herself out so much that she falls physically ill, and two considering turning to cheating so that she can do well, pointing out that it is only later that she stops to consider what her parents might think of what she did rather than exam results, and also the need for others (peers) to be supportive and empathetic rather than hard and needlessly (without proof) casting aspersions. It was also interesting how Blyton wove in the issue of disagreements between teachers and how that might be viewed by students. The third plot that stood out to me was the one where Mary Lou goes out to post a parcel in bad weather—here we are taken out of the school premises though not into a village or town but into part of the country with its cliffs and gales which might prove dangerous. Darrell in this one has to face her temper issues again, and finds that it isn’t as easy to keep it in check even when she’s aware of the problem. This was another instance in which Miss Grayling shows her sense and understanding, putting it across that she too sees this as something that will be achieved over time, and the fact that Darrell is trying is enough for the moment.

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Another Cover (Dragon Books, 1967): The Second Form Plays a Trick on Mr Young the Singing Master.

There were no midnight feasts in this one (I’m beginning to wonder if those only happen in St Clares) but definitely some fun tricks thanks to Betty and Alicia. Belinda’s drawing skills bring their own touch of humour to the story. Looking forward to see what happens in the next instalment.

Books on the Screen: Some Reads I ‘Discovered’ from Films and TV

Another post to do with lists 🙂 So, we often talk of our favourite books being adapted for the big screen or TV (or now, Netflix), and also about how the book is so much better (which is almost always the case–there are a few exceptions though). But this post, as you would have noticed from the title is not about that.

Groucho Marx once said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Perhaps, that is the thing to do for the most part but sometimes, TV can lead you to find some of those books you escape it to read. And that is what this post is all about. The books that I “discovered’ because of film- and TV-adaptations. Here are some of these:

 

anne of gg

Anne of the Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Back in school, when some of the boarders (I was a day-student) put on a tape of a 1985 (I think)  version of Anne, I found I really enjoyed the story a lot. This was, as far as I remember, the first three books put together but with some plot changes including Roy Gardner not appearing at all. But anyway, the series lead me to discover that this was based on the books by Montgomery which I went on to read. And of course, I loved the little redhead and her adventures on Prince Edward Island, when I read the book. Much later, I found more of her books thanks to a Shelfari friend, and now she is one my favourite authors.

 

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North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I happen to see the first episode of the 2004 BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South on TV, with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe (who I recognized as the ‘dentist’s daughter’ from the other show My Family that I watched some episodes of) and finding it interesting immediately looked it up. At first my search led me to the 1980s series by John Jakes set around the American Civil War, but soon enough I found the ‘right’ book, and read along as they aired the series on TV. I loved this story which was about the issues of differences and clashes between the industrial north and agricultural south, between workman and factory owner, between culture and enterprise, and of the need to understand the viewpoint of the other. I have since then, read this book a few times, and also others by Mrs Gaskell, another writer I have added to my favourite authors list.

 

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

I absolutely loved the 2008 film starring Fances McDormand and Amy Adams, and later found that this was a book. I finally read the book a few years ago with a book group on Shelfari, and it was sheer delight from cover to cover. If anything, the 1938 book was a touch more subtle, definitely less dramatic, and as enjoyable as the film. This light-hearted tale of a middle-aged governess who lands up at the wrong address, and into the house of the beautiful Delysia DeFosse, a mistake which changes both their lives was a wonderful read. The illustrations were an added bonus. Loved them!

 

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The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

This one I “found” through a Hindi TV series called Siyaasat, which ran on the Epic Channel in 2014. This was an excellent series, and tells the story of the love of Salim/Jahangir, son of the Mughal emperor Akbar, and Mehrunissa, the daughter of one of his courtiers, a story which spanned many years, and many hardships before Mehrunissa finally became Jahangir’s wife. But of course, it is much more than mere romance, it is also a story of court intrigues, politics, and the always-ongoing battle between the heirs to the Mughal Throne. I loved the show and when I noticed it was based on this book, I ordered a copy and read it, and enjoyed it very much. The author I thought did a great job of fictionalising historical events.

 

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Ben Hur by Lew Wallis

This is one on my list that I haven’t really read yet (I featured this on Shelf Control # 12 earlier this week. Find that post here.) This was slightly different from the other entries on this list. I’ve seen the Charlton Heston 1959 film adaptation a few times, and found it fairly interesting. I particularly enjoyed the Count of Monte Cristo-type revenge story that it included and the exciting chariot race. This is the story of a Jewish Prince, Judah Ben-Hur who is betrayed by his childhood friend and falsely accused of treason, and who survives many hardships, encountering on his journey, Jesus, who offers him support and encouragement. But I had no idea this was a book till only some years earlier when I went through the 1001 books list where I found this listed. I’m looking forward to reading this and seeing the original story that translated into this and other film versions.

 

Longitude

Longitude by Dava Sobel

Another book and author that I’ve written about on this blog earlier (find that post here). This I first came across from the TV series starring Sir Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons, which tells the story of John Harrison, a self-trained carpenter and clock-maker who developed the marine chronometer and resolved a problem that plagued sailors for long, calculating longitude accurately when at sea, something that saved time, precious cargo,  and most importantly, also lives. Finding this was based on a book by Dava Sobel, I got and read this and enjoyed it very much. I have since read another of her books, and have a third on by TBR (all that is in the post linked above).

 

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The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

This one I, of course, found from the film starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews which I like very much. This one’s the story of a high-school student who suddenly finds out that she is the heir to a small European kingdom, and how she copes with this huge change in her life. And while I found and read the first book, in this case, the film for me was far better, and I didn’t really enjoy the book very much.

 

The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz–well, not quite the Wizard of Oz since I knew that as a book first (I did enjoy the Judy Garland adaptation)–in fact this was one of the books I enjoyed as a child. But what I “discovered” in this case from adaptations, mostly animated ones, but also one, if I remember right, with people, were the other Oz books. I had absolutely no idea that Baum had written fourteen of these books (and some other authors have written more). I’ve since read the Marvelous Land of Oz and have a couple of others waiting on my TBR. Lots of fun!

So that is my list, or at least as many as I can remember at this point, of books that I found through TV and movies. Are there books that you found this way? Which ones? And how did you find them? Looking forward to hearing about them!

 

Children’s Book of the Month: Syren by Angie Sage

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This is the fifth of a seven-book fantasy–adventure series featuring Septimus Heap by English author Angie Sage. I haven’t read any other books in the series before, and this was a chance find on the shop-soiled table in my neighbourhood bookshop. What attracted me to the book was the cover, and its somewhat different shape—it’s nearly but not quite a square. I loved the cover art—and the others in the series (one set of covers, in particular) are equally pretty.

 

Septimus Heap is the seventh son of a seventh son, and so as folklore tells us, he has magykal powers. He is apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand with whom he must serve an apprenticeship of seven years and seven days.

 

The books starts out with two parallel storylines. On the one side we have Septimus Heap who is setting out to fetch his friends Jenna and Beetle, and his brother Nicco, and Snorri (who I think is Nicco’s girlfriend, though I’m not very sure) from the trading post where they have stopped after their previous adventure. Jenna and the others have in the meantime met her father Milo Banda and his ship the Cerys, and have gone on board. Septimus sets off on his dragon Spit Fyre, and on the way back (only Jenna and Beetle have accompanied him), Spit Fyre is injured and they are forced to land on an island where everything is not quite as peaceful and calm as it seems on the surface—there is something amiss in the background. The Island belongs to the Syren, and she is luring more than one person there, though at this point it is unclear why. Meanwhile Wolf Boy is sent by Aunt Zelda to the Port Witch Coven to perform an unpleasant and dangerous task, which he doesn’t know is the first step to being her apprentice. At the Coven he finds Lucy Gringe (girlfriend of Septimus’ other brother Simon) has been captured by the Witches. He helps her escape but in getting away they end up aboard a ship, the Marauder captained by the shady Captain Frye, which is setting off on a mission to steal the light from Cattrokk Lighthouse, with a nefarious purpose. Both events end up related to a dangerous plot, and the rest of this about 630-page adventure relates how Septimus and his friends tackle the situation.

 

I really enjoyed this one despite the obvious drawback of reading a book from this late on in a series. This did mean that I wasn’t quite sure who was who, their backgrounds, what adventures they’d had in the past, how the magyk and such worked, among other things—and not all of those questions cleared up by the time I reached the end either. But the plot itself I thought was very well done—I liked how the author tied all the different plot threads together to create an exciting adventure. I only picked up some clues of what was going on, but didn’t entirely see how the different lines would come together, and what they were leading to. I also very enjoyed the world the author has created—there’s a map of the actual world―but I also meant the other elements—the magyk, alchemy, dragons, and jinnees—as other reviewers have said, not as dark as Harry Potter’s world but very imaginative all the same—there’s the magic of course, and also the legends, and even games (at least one in this one). And speaking of Harry Potter, while there were things one could compare, I liked that this one didn’t have its protagonists on in the Harry–Ron–Hermione as many fantasy series/books following Potter have done. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’s nice to see something different too. I liked many of the characters, Septimus himself, the Wolf Boy, Beetle, and Mr Miarr. But while the ExtraOrdinary Wizard may have been female, two of the girls in this, Lucy with her tendency to scream all the time, irrespective of the occasion, and Jenna who seems to rely on her emotions/heart more than her head didn’t come across too well, especially the latter. Syrah on the other hand I liked much better, and a part of her story was very well done—pretty scary when one thinks about it. I also loved Spit Fyre the dragon and Jim Knee (you’ll know who that is when you read the book).

 

This was a really fun read for me, and I definitely want to read more of the series. Of course, I can’t end this review without writing about the illustrations which I really liked very very much. Those of the characters of course, but my favourite was that of the ship the Cerys, which I though was really beautiful—all her sails and details stood out very well.

Shelf Control #12

Shelf Control

I ended up skipping this feature again last week because of simply too much going on  (it still is but I’m making an attempt anyway). This feature, all about celebrating the books already on your TBR, is one I’ve borrowed  from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. All one has to do is to pick one of the books on one’s TBR every Wednesday, and write a post about it (usually what it’s all about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such, but I guess up to you really).

So this time’s pick, is one of the oldest residents on my TBR–

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Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ  by Lew Wallace. I’m sure all of you or most of you must have seen one or the other of the film versions of this one. There are six film and TV verions including an animated one, the latest one being the 2016 adaptation starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman, and the one most familiar to me, the 1959 version with Charlton Heston that I saw many many times on (though not all of it each time) on TCM.

What it’s all about: This is the story of a fictional Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur, who is falsely accused of treason when a loose tile from the roof of his house falls on the Roman Governor during a parade. His accused is his own childhood friend Messala, now a commanding officer of the Roman Legions who has very different ambitions and views. Judah is sent to the Roman galleys while his mother and sister are imprisoned. Judah survives this ordeal, and is adopted by the commander of the ship going on to train as a soldier and charioteer to return to Jerusalem to seek his revenge. Alongside Christ’s story proceeds, and intersects with that of Judah every now and then.

When and Where I got it: This is an 1880 publication so now in public domain. I downloaded a copy via Project Gutenberg. This has been on my TBR for over three years now but somehow or other I haven’t gotten down to reading it yet.

A Little about the Author: Lew Wallace was an American Lawyer and Union General, besides being the author of various novels and biographies, the most famous being Ben Hur. He served as Governor of the New Mexico Territory and also US Minister to the Ottoman Empire.

Why I want to read it? Mostly because I watched and enjoyed the movie, which initially I didn’t really know was based on a book, and one that is seen as “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century” at that. I want to see what the original story on which it is based is like, how things play out–its historical adventure elements/aspects (the revenge theme is very Count of Monte Cristo and the exciting chariot race is something that remains in my mind from the film version) vis-a-vis the religious and philosophical aspects. This one is also among the 1001 Books You Should Read list (one of the versions anyway).

I’m sure most/many of you have seen one or other of the film versions? Which one or ones and how did you like them? And have any of you read the book? What did you think of it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Murder at the Happy Home for the Aged by Bulbul Sharma

happy home

The Happy Home for the Aged isn’t your regular, formal old-age home but rather a house where older people, who have no one of their own, are welcome to come and live. It is owned and looked after by Maria, whose grandfather essentially invited older people to come live there when he lost much of his family. Maria now looks after the home and also runs the Tip Top Café in the little village of Trionim in Goa, and Leela does the cooking and general upkeep in the home. There are five residents, Rosie who still likes to look her best, Prema, who is sharp-tongued, fond of food (actually they all are) but won’t admit it, the Russian painter Yuri, a retired civil servant Deven, and Cyrilo, pianist and a local. The residents don’t all always get along but life or whatever is left of it is going on as it does. But one fine morning, a body is found in their garden, hanging from a mango tree, and it isn’t suicide as it seems at first glance, but murder. But they have no idea whodunit nor even who the victim was. The residents are excited by the murder and all ready to help the police but when Inspector Chand neglects to even speak to them, not thinking it worthwhile since “they can’t hear or see anything, so what will they know poor things?” Slighted, Rosie decides that they, the five of them (and Maria for they can’t not tell her) will solve the murder together and show that Inspector what old people can do—Maria and Leela join in. Alongside we have Maria’s story—she has three suitors, the dashing Francis who she prefers but who really isn’t worth her affections, Bobby who has quietly loved her since they were children, and Inspector Chand who dreams of marrying her despite his mother’s opposition.

 

I enjoyed this book so so much. It was such fun seeing the residents light up and get into action once they decide to solve the mystery—it very much reminded me of Miss Marple whose doctor (Hyadock?) prescribed a good murder mystery as medicine to get her spirits up. That is exactly what it does for the residents of the Happy Home, and for Maria and Leela too, and not only that, it brings the residents closer to each other, getting them to open up more about themselves as well. I really liked the way the author got the message across that old doesn’t mean useless, nor does it mean that you aren’t human anymore—you are still a person, with the same thoughts, desires, beliefs, though may be not always the physical ability to do things as when you were young (though the number of ailments among the ‘younger’ set makes one wonder whether that really is the case). Other people (people in general) are ever ready to stereotype, to disbelieve something the residents claimed they saw just because they are old, or to attribute illness to old age, without considering for a moment that age doesn’t necessary mean those things. And Rosie, Cyrilo, Deven, Prema, and Yuri prove that. I liked all of the characters (except the ones we weren’t supposed to like—the ‘villains’) and their individual personalities came through very well.

 

And of course, the setting was another stand out in the book for me. A small village in Goa, relatively free of tourists, though not entirely so. Life is peaceful for the most part, close to nature, with the sea, fresh fish, spice farms, and generally quiet pace of life, disturbed every now and then by the wealthy from larger cities like Delhi and Mumbai who arrive at certain times of the year, living in palatial mansions at the edge of the village. There are the small tensions within the village too, between communities (like the Inspector’s mother who will never accept a Christian bride for her son), but nothing that really disturbs the day to day life.

 

The mystery itself was fairly enjoyable as well, not unpredictable but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would come together.  With a bit of drama at the end (and a few unexpected events in the middle), it added a bit of excitement to the whole story. But generally, this does have the ‘feel’ of a ‘feel-good’ book. Really enjoyed this.

And Some More Books: What’s New on my TBR Pile

I last wrote a post in May on What New on My Bookshelves (here) and while I didn’t not shop/download over these past few months, over the last few weeks I’ve ended up buying quite a few books (on three separate occasions), so I thought they deserved a post of their own. All of these were ordered online. So here goes.

 

So first I got myself a copy of Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. This is the story of twelve-year-old Alice Queensmeadow born white from top to toe in a land where colour is what defines you and constitutes your magic. She sets off on a journey through the mythical and dangerous land of Furthermore to find her father who has vanished three years ago. Why I wanted to read this book is because of all I heard about the descriptions and lush prose in it. The world is beautifully imaginative, and I love the little illustrations.

With this I’d also ordered Listen O King: Five and Twenty Tales of Vikram and the Vetal by Deepa Agarwal, an adaptation of Indian traditional tales of the wise king Vikram and a celestial spirit Vetal who the former must capture for a sorcerer. Each time Vikram captures Vetal, the latter tells him a story with a riddle which he must answer. If Vikram knows the answer, but doesn’t tell, his head will explode but if he does answer, Vetal returns to the tree from which he was captured and the process begins all over again. I wrote more about this book on Shelf Control last week. Read about it here.

 

Next, I bought Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, who I’ve never read before. This is not one but two murder mysteries (which I love to read). Editor Susan Reyland is given a manuscript by detective novelist Alan Conway, but reading it she finds that it is unlike Conway’s previous books. While it does feature his detective Atticus Pund and is set in a manor house, there is another story hidden amidst its pages. Susan must solve two mysteries, the missing chapters of the novel and how that story ends, and the real life death of Alan Conway himself, who she is convinced has been murdered.

With this I also bought my first John Green book, Turtles All the Way Down, but since I have already read and reviewed this (here), I won’t talk about the book in this post, except to say that I liked it very much.

The third set of books I got was also the largest–five books–three fiction and two non-fiction.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller is one book I’ve been wanting to read based on all that I’ve been hearing about it. But before saying anything about the book itself, I have to say how beautiful I find the book itself–the cover is simply gorgeous–flowers and leaves embossed on it, and the front inner cover (my ed is a paperback) has a map of Aeaea which is also so nice. This of course is the story of Circe, Greek Goddess, daughter of Helios, with powers of witchcraft. She is banished to Aeaea, where she hones her craft but finds herself drawing the wrath of men and gods.

Then I also bought A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (also published as The Widows of Malabar Hill). Set in 1920s Bombay, and based on one of the first female lawyers in India, Cornelia Sorabji, the central character Perveen Mistry works at her fathers law firm, one of few options available to her. She finds herself involved in the case of Omar Farid, a wealthy mill owner who has left behind three widows and a strange will. The widows are in Purdah, which means only Perveen can interact with them. This sounds really interesting because of the setting and mystery and I am excited to read it. This is the first of a series which sounds very promising.

Finally, another murder mystery, Murder at the Happy Home for the Aged by Bulbul Sharma. This one is set in Goa, and as is apparent from the title, in an old-age home. The residents of the Happy Home for the Aged find a body hanging in a tree in their garden. While this shatters their tranquil life, they soon come together and decide to solve the murder despite the police advising them that they are better off singing bhajans (religious songs) than solving mysteries. This one I am looking forward to both because of the mystery and the setting (place and people).

And the two non-fiction reads. Both are history and both Mughal history. Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth by Audrey Truschke is a short (really short 144 pages of text) bio of the sixth and and perhaps, most reviled (by some) Mughal emperor. Truschke attempts to present a more rounded picture of the emperor, who is certainly a study in contrasts. Very cruel, definitely but was he more so than any other emperor? I’ll have to read to find out.

The second book also on Mughal history, is Attendant Lords. Going a little further back in history, it covers two of Akbar’s courtiers, Bairam Khan who was regent when Akbar took the throne at only thirteen, and his son Abdur Rahim, also an important minister and poet. In fact, ignorant me only very recently realised that Akbar’s minister Abdur Rahim, and the poet Rahim whose couplets were very much part of my school lessons were the same person. This bio by TCA Raghavan traces the lives of the two men, and the reigns of the first four Mughal emperors.

Finally also the two approvals I’ve got recently from NetGalley.

The Monsters We Deserve  by Marcus Sedgwick takes us back to the days of the creation of Frankenstein and to the Villa Diodati where the Shelleys with Byron and Polidori made up their ghost stories. According to the blurb, this book delves into questions of reality, imagination, and the creative act of reading any writing. Humans make monsters but who really makes who? Definitely intriguing.

Finally, the Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner (again, that cover) is the story of two sisters living a peaceful life in a little village away from the other parts of the world where jews are facing troubling times. Their family has a secret however, their Tati can turn into a bear and Mami into a swan. But soon mysterious men come to their village and the sisters must rely on each other to save themselves and their people. The fairy-tale theme plus the folklore (and that cover) is what is making me really want to read this one.

So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do let me know! And even you haven’t read them, but plan to, I look forward to hearing about it, and and about the new additions to your shelves!