Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara Book Review!

Hi Readers! It’s been a long time since my last book review! Well, after reading Madeline Miller’s Circe, I picked up another book that had been in my TBR for a long time, which was Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘The People in the Trees’! Ever since I read ‘A Little Life’, I have not been able to shut up about it AT ALL. So, it was only obvious some time soon I was to read the only other book written by Hanya Yanagihara! It took me 3 weeks to read this book despite it being a medium-paged book. And, it took another week to contemplate it. But, I am finally here to let you all know about my thoughts on the book! Here we go!

 

~~INTRODUCTION~~

The People in the Trees is an autobiography of a fictional scientist named Dr. Abraham Norton Perina. His whole story is penned in a few pages right at the beginning of the story giving us an idea of his life. It begins with a newspaper article stating how Norton is faced with the charge of sexual abuse by one of his 43 adopted children. It goes on to mention the Nobel Prize he won for his research of immortal life but with mental decay after the consumption of Opa’ivu’eke, which is a turtle found on Ivu’Ivu, one of the three islands of the Micronesian country U’ivu.

So, basically you already know what to expect from the book. In my experience, I’m not a fan of such reveals at the beginning. Though it doesn’t give us the entire story, it sure takes away the mystery. But, anyway, I still found the story extremely intriguing. Probably more so than any non-fiction biography, which says a lot!


~~CHARACTERS~~

The main and only character, I suppose I could say, is Dr. Abraham Norton Perina. While reading the book throughout, he comes across as someone who is leading a life apart from himself. He either doesn’t care about other people or does not possess the intelligence to understand the repercussions of his decisions toward other people. When he published his paper about immortality, he did not think about the impact it would cause to Ivu’ivu. Also, when he started adopting a dozen children after a dozen children, what was his thought process? It did not seem like he loved them at all, but only adopted them to cover his guilt of destroying Ivu’ivu. As a scientist, he might have an inquisitive & insightful approach to people & subjects, but as a human being, he was a big failure for me. I read page after page of his entire life story & when he reached the age of 71, I was not pleased with the person he had become.


~~OVERALL THOUGHTS~~

~~WRITING~~

After reading a bit of the novel, you understand how much amount of research, insight & intelligence it takes to come up with such a story. The scientific aspects, the invention of these islands & various trees & animals surrounding it. There was just such incredible writing. For the first 65% of the book, we read about the first time that Norton had visited Ivu’ivu along with Tallent & Esme. This being the major part of the book, it set the foundation of the story, which is incredibly interesting. You cannot put the book down during that part of it. After this part, the narrative shifts entirely from Norton’s professional life to his personal life. I didn’t care much for this change, because it completely changed the focus of the novel. I think it would have been better if there was a good merge of the two throughout the novel rather than the clear demarcation.

 

~~DESTRUCTION OF THE COUNTRY~~

Post Norton’s discovery, we see how it transformed Ivu’ivu. We see all the pharma companies getting into the island & destroying it only for the sake of a possible scientific discovery. It physically pained me to read that part, because in the most subtle way, Hanya Yanagihara has showed how we are doing the same thing to OUR PLANET! We are facing such a dire climate crisis because of so many reasons & reading this book makes it way too real. Because the first part of the story was written with magnificence toward the island is the reason why I could feel the pain when it was destroyed.

 

~~ONE MAIN CHARACTER~~

When I read ‘A Little Life’, I immensely enjoyed it because even though Jude was the main character, we also had all these other main characters – his friends & also so many others. It rounded up the story really well. Whereas in ‘The People in the Trees’, we only have one character, which is the exact opposite. But, even in this case, I enjoyed reading it because the one-character portrayal was immensely absorbing! You feel like you want to know everything about this fictional scientist!


‘A Little Life’ brings out the challenges of living with mental illness & captivates the reader through this. But, in ‘The People in the Trees’, we get the message of saving the Earth. Both are important topics & written through such an intense angle that it becomes impossible to not act on those. I hope Hanya comes up with a new novel with just as important a message as these two! I have rated Hanya Yanagihara’ The People in the Trees at 3.5/5 on Goodreads!

 

Until next time,



Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Circe by Madeline Miller Book Review!


Hello Readers! After being in my bookshelf for months, I finally decided to read Madeline Miller’s Circe. And now I am obviously cursing myself for putting it off for such a long time! It was such a refreshing read & was fun to read a new voice. Being a person who is not much of a fan of Mythological genre, I need to say this – Read the book despite your preference for the genre! It will surely blow your mind & you just might have a new favorite author or genre.


~~GOODREADS DESCRIPTION~~

Now, usually I love to write my own description of a book that I loved, but to sell the book, I’m adding the Goodreads version. This is what finally made me read it!

“In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.”


~~OVERALL THOUGHTS~~

~~WRITING~~

The first thing I loved about the book was the FIRST-PERSON NARRATION. Now, I have read books with first person narration before, but NOTHING LIKE THIS! It was so powerful that it kept me completely hooked to the story. Also, the writing was incredibly FAST PACED. So much story progresses just in the first 40 pages! Both these things clubbed together, made it an exhilarating read.


~~CHARACTER-DRIVEN~~

The whole novel is strongly character-driven, which brings out the story even more beautifully. Circe’s character arc is obviously exceptional, but also the minor characters have impressive arcs.

Circe really started out with lying by her father’s feet begging for acceptance to telling him off that he need not count her as his daughter. She went from adoring her little brother Aeëtes to not giving a damn about him. She went from being unsure & confused to being confident & resilient. Not only was her art as a witch an incredible transformation, but also her own self grew as wild as the island in which she was exiled. The little girl who helped her uncle Prometheus, grew up to be a powerful witch of Aiaia who knew what she what & took it.

 

“You have always been the worst of my children,” he said. “Be sure you do not dishonor me.”

“I have a better idea. I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out.”

 

All the minor characters also have an interesting story line which is hard not to wonder about. Characters such as Odysseus when he was with Circe & then when he was in Ithaca seem like two entirely different persons. While the role of Telegonus was more of a son, I liked how the author voiced him his own identity. I also liked the connection between Circe & Daedalus. Not to mention the perfect character portrayal of Pasiphaë & Aeëtes. No matter where you are in the story, the characters will always make you continue reading it & that was exceptional!


~~WOMAN POWER~~

I think the main aspect here is the empowered transformation of Circe. Even though she is the daughter of the sun & a goddess herself, we see common patterns. Just like mortals, even Circe craved her parents’ attention when she was little. Only when she was exiled, did she slowly start to understand her self-worth. From randomly making a few flowers work their wonders to studying witchcraft in depth. Deciding to transform men who force themselves on her. Cautiously deciding to get pregnant before Odysseus was to leave. Creating all the charms for Telegonus’ protection. Welcoming people on her island & allowing them to stay while always being vigilant & brave. Having the intelligence to let Athena all wrapped up & finally finding the courage to stand up to her father. There is so much growth in her character. And just so much strength & hope & courage & I am here for it! Even though this is a story about Circe’s power, it is also about how Circe reached that power through pain, loss, death, love, desire & hope. Who wouldn’t want to read something as amazing as that?


~~MYTHOLOGY BACKGROUND~~

The main reason I put off reading Circe is because of its genre. Neither did I especially like reading mythological fiction nor did I have any knowledge of Greek mythology. But, not once did I have to google who is who. With zero knowledge of the actual story, I read this novel & came to love it. So, if you have any such doubts, just forget those & read this book right away! I have rated it at 4/5 on Goodreads!



Until next time,



Saturday, 31 October 2020

October Reads!



Hello Readers! Another month gone by! I READ 5 BOOKS IN OCTOBER & I’m so happy that I loved 3 of those 5 books! I have already written reviews for 4 of the books, so this is going to be a short post.

 

~~THE INIMITABLE JEEVES by P.G. WODEHOUSE~~

This is the last book that I read this month mainly because I wanted some light reading. Unlike some of the Wodehouse novels that I have read, I wasn’t much of a fan about this one. The theme is similar in most of them, but Jeeves always adds that hilarious touch. But, in ‘The Inimitable Jeeves’, the highlight is more on Bertie Wooster. After the whole disaster is averted, then Jeeves explains how he handled everything in the background. That bit was not much enjoyable to my taste. But anyway, in terms of light reading, it marked a good end to this month’s reading. I have rated The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse at 3/5 stars on Goodreads!

 

~~THE WHISPER MAN by ALEX NORTH~~

I think for the first time it must have taken me 10+ days to finish a thriller novel! I wish I could say it was anticlimactic, but it disappointed right from the beginning. Nothing in the story was grasping enough to make me keep reading it. I have rated The Whisper Man by Alex North at 2/5 stars on Goodreads!

Check out the full review here!

 

~~REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by ANNE TYLER~~

Redhead by the Side of the Road is one of the many books written by Anne Tyler. It was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2020 which mainly piqued my interest in it. Basically, this is the most simplistic story of a man named Micah Mortimer who lives a predictable life in Baltimore. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Redhead by the Side of the Road. And, I think every person who will read it will have their own customized takeaways from it. In a much basic sense, this book has achieved to be something beyond amazing. Usually I’m not a fan of such books, but this one is the clear differentiator. It’s a definite recommendation from me! I have rated ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ by Anne Tyler at 4/5 stars on Goodreads!

Check out the full review here!

 

~~ANXIOUS PEOPLE by FREDRIK BACKMAN~~

Anxious People is essentially a story about idiots, as you will often read it in the book itself. An idiot bank robber tries to rob a cashless bank & when that goes to shit, he takes a few other idiots hostage who are at an apartment viewing in the same building. This is then continued when idiot policemen enter the scenario. Anxious People is a much comical thriller with a lot of wisdom in it. You can never find another book written in this manner. This book is unlike anything Fredrik Backman has ever written but still as usual, he has won over the readers with this book as well! If you love CHARACTER-DRIVEN stories with a LOT OF TWISTS & also some LIFE LESSONS along the way which are truly relatable in the basic sense of HOW HUMAN WE ARE, then you will surely LOVE this book! I have rated it ‘Anxious People’ by Fredrik Backman at 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Check out the full review here!

 

~~COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE by HARUKI MURAKAMI~~

Though the story is a simple one, it has A LOT OF LAYERS to it. There are a lot of things happening which make the reader think about their own life. I think the importance of a chain reaction or a sequence of things is very well explored in this novel. I think my key takeaway from this book is that one decision can change your entire life, which is why we need to dig deeper & ask ourselves the right questionsI have rated Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage By Haruki Murakami at 3.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Check out the full review here!

 

So, these are the books that I read in October! I am glad that it included the best fiction books of 2020. I am currently reading Circe by Madeline Miller which is a mythological fiction novel. I am quite intrigued with the concept & will probably finish reading it soon! Happy weekend!!

Until next time,



Sunday, 25 October 2020

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Book Review!


Hi Readers! I have finished another Murakami book & I was so glad that I liked this one. Usually, people either like all his books or hate all his books. But, for me, I like some while dislike the others.

Check out all the Murakami books I have read so far:

A Wild Sheep Chase

Norwegian Wood

Kafka on the Shore

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

After Dark

And finally, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage which I have rated at 3.5/5!!


~~GOODREADS DESCRIPTION~~

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friend­ship, and heartbreak for the ages.

 

~~CHARACTERS~~

TSUKURU TAZAKI is the protagonist of the story. We see Tsukuru’s personality when he was 20 years old in high school as a part of a sacred group of 5 friends. And later on, we see his personality when he is 36 years old forming a new relationship with Sara, doing a job he loves but with no friends in his life. We see many emotional forms go through Tsukuru in this period. I saw his kindness, his ability to cope a shock, his depression, his loneliness, his hope & his trust issues.

Some of the other characters are his 4 other friends from high school - AO, AKA, SHIRO & KURO. There’s also another friend named HAIDA who Tsukuru meets in college. And then, we have SARA who pushes him to find himself.


~~OVERALL THOUGHTS~~

~~STRUCTURE OF THE STORY~~

I have a good experience of reading Murakami’s books. This being my 6TH BOOK, I now know what to expect. In most of his books, I have found the parts about magical realism consuming most of the story. However, in this book, the real story takes most of the credit, which is why I found a strong structure to the novel. There were actual events happening which were quite relatable & I could foresee something normal happening as well. This part stood out the most for me. While the foundation of the story was basic, in a Murakami world it became something more than that. The basic story was how Tsukuru’s 4 friends banned him from their group & then after 16 years, he wanted to know the reason behind it. If any average author had written this, it would have turned out something I’d never have read because it sounds so simplistic. But, with the Murakami touch, it becomes a lot better!


~~MAGICAL REALISM~~

Now, I know I mentioned above that I liked the structure of the story, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t MISS ON THE MAGICAL REALISM ASPECTS in his usual books. Especially in this one, there was a lot of scope for that. There were a few pieces which were focused on this area, but they felt a bit forced into the story. Such as the story Haida tells Tsukuru Midorikawa’s death story up in the hills. Also the stations master’s story about people with 6 fingers.

In context to the Tsukuru’s life, I had a feeling that Tsukuru might have raped Shiro in his dream & it being a Murakami universe, I thought Shiro would've realised what he did. I suppose something like this happened in ‘Norwegian Wood’. So yes, I would have loved a bit more fantasy!


~~COMMON THEMES~~

There is always an underlying common theme in all the books by Murakami. Firstly, there is a lot of sexism with respect to the bodies of all the female characters. There is one kind of writing which is romantic when two people are being intimate, and then there’s the other thing that Murakami does. I have become immune to this, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me. And, all the female characters are always attracted to the protagonist in some time frame or other, which is another level of sexism.

Secondly, we always have an empty vessel of a male protagonist leading a dull & routine life. But still he is the babe magnet. I’m getting a bit tired of this. This aspect is common in a LOT of his books & I have started to outright HATE IT.


~~MENTAL HEALTH~~

Unlike any other Murakami book, in this one we actually see important topics being unearthed. We see how Kuro, Ao & Aka side with Shiro because of her mental illness. But they don’t realise that by doing this they are only pushing Tsukuru further into a corner because of which he goes badly into depression. There was this link between the two which I thought was very thought-provoking.

Also, probably for the first time, we had the existence of gender identity mentioned in his books. Usually there are only straight people in the story, but not in this one, which is important.


~~CHAIN REACTION~~

I think this is what stuck with me for the longest time. Though the story is a simple one, it has A LOT OF LAYERS to it. There are a lot of things happening which make the reader think about their own life. I think the importance of a chain reaction or a sequence of things is very well explored in this novel.

Tsukuru’s life changed completely because a decision was made for him by others. If this wouldn’t have happened, his whole life would have turned out differently. One decision can change your entire life, which is why we need to dig deeper & ask ourselves the right questions. We need to ask ourselves…

Why did I decide this 5 years ago?

What made me chose option A over option B?

How will my life be different if I chose Career A over Career B?

What will be the consequences of my decision for me & others around me?

Am I making this decision or is it being made for me?

Is this going to bring me happiness?

 

Along with all the decisions we make, it is also important to take responsibility for our decisions. If our decision leads us to the wrong path or an unhappy life, then we need to accept that & try to move on from that. One wrong decision is not the end of the world. We are not dull empty vessels in a novel, but real human beings with so many colors to ourselves. We need to find the colours of our life. Just because our names aren’t synonymous to colours, doesn’t mean we are colorless. All the emotions we feel bring out different colours within us & that is what we need to embrace!



Until next time,



Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman Book Review.


Hi Readers! Now that I have a HUGE TBR PILE, I have come up with a new way of reading books. I am already reading Little Women in the morning before work. Then, I am reading The Vanishing Half post work before sleeping at night. Because this constitutes only 2 hours reading max a day, my speed has become unbearably slow. That is why, on weekends, I am going to start an entirely new book & finish it in 2 days, which is exactly how I finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman! I know it’s a bit of a flawed plan, but I can’t think of anything else so it will be this till I get bored of it.

 

~~INTRODUCTION~~

Anxious People is essentially a story about idiots, as you will often read it in the book itself. An idiot bank robber tries to rob a cashless bank & when that goes to shit, he takes a few other idiots hostage who are at an apartment viewing in the same building. This is then continued when idiot policemen enter the scenario. Anxious People is a much comical thriller with a lot of wisdom in it. You can never find another book written in this manner. This book is unlike anything Fredrik Backman has ever written but still as usual, he has won over the readers with this book as well! If you love CHARACTER-DRIVEN stories with a LOT OF TWISTS & also some LIFE LESSONS along the way which are truly relatable in the basic sense of HOW HUMAN WE ARE, then you will surely LOVE this book!

~~CHARACTERS~~

There are a lot of characters in the story, but it’s never confusing. We have the policeman father-son duo of Jim & Jack. Then there’s the bank robber. Then we have the hostages; Anna-Lena & Roger, who are husband-wife; Zara, who stands out the most; Ro & Julia who are wife-wife; Estelle who is the sweet elderly lady; Lennart, the rabbit & lastly the estate agent. This is a FUN combination of people who start out as strangers who want the same apartment to becoming friends during the hostage drama one giving up the apartment for the other. It was TRULY AMAZING to see so much going on in each of their lives in addition to what was happening in the hostage situation.


~~OVERALL THOUGHTS~~

~~NARRATIVE STYLE~~

I absolutely love reading it when the narration is not just one big collection of words with one story ongoing. What keeps me engrossed is different styles of text, multiple story lines of different characters, past, present & future of the same story with multiple perspectives. And, Anxious People had all of this. We have every single character’s own story, we have the hostage drama’s past & future, we have Jim & Jack’s version of the story, we also have the police interrogating the witnesses in a dialogue narration. All these factors matter into making it a whole good piece of fiction!

The only thing where I had a problem was with the voice of characters. In the interrogation room, all the characters talk in the same manner. There was a lot of scope to give all of them a different voice, a different style of talking & a different sense of life because there are so many of them. But, instead, it just feels like we are reading what the author has written, when it should be like we are reading what the characters have to say. This bit was quite disappointing in an otherwise impeccable work of fiction.

~~UNPREDICTABILITY~~

When I first started reading it, I had no idea what I was in for. But soon when the bank robber takes all the apartment viewers hostage, it becomes evident how it will end. We have an amateur bank robber who failed to rob a bank because it was cashless & just because the bank robber doesn’t know what to do next, he/she takes those people hostage. Everyone in the room know this. So it is fairly obvious that all these hostages would eventually help the bank robber in escaping. But, the unpredictability of the whole thing still exists because we don’t know exactly HOW they will help the robber escape. I loved how we don’t find that out until the very end!

I also like the unpredictable parts about all the people’s stories connecting to the bridge. That was something ingenious which I never saw coming. That bit just goes to show how we may never know whose life we are impacting unknowingly which is why we should ALWAYS be kind to one another.



~~FEEL-GOOD~~

There is the golden touch of Backman’s writing in this story in the way wisdom flows right in the middle of the story but with the perfect balance of wisdom & fiction. There are so many things in that novel having multiple layers. We see how a person decided to rob a bank only because he/she cannot pay a month’s rent. We see a teenager who was to commit suicide was saved by another only so that the former becomes a psychologist later in life. We see how a young boy is unable to prevent a suicide which later makes him want to save people & so becomes a policeman. All the distant connections in the novel may seem too bizarre & unlikely, but the point is that they happen on the daily & in such sense that we never even realise whose life we have touched. We see how everyone is essentially the same. The next person finds adulthood just as daunting as you do. The next person is just as human as you are. At the very core, we are all the same. This story restores a person’s faith in humanity & the goodness of things.

While keeping it mellow yet powerful, the writing is just perfectly humorous at times. Only when you look at it from afar, you realise how hysterical the situation is. Likewise, if you pause & meditate to look at your own life from a distance, you will realise how funny it is that you don’t actually have anything to worry about. In that sense, this book is one of the best feel-good novels that I have read recently.

~~TAKEAWAYS~~

Throughout the novel, I felt like the author has literally taken a shot at everything that’s wrong with the world. He has mentioned how unemployment & poverty can drive a normal person like you & I to take a drastic measure like robbing a bank. In a prose where he mentions how it is wrong to kill & later goes on to mention in a sarcastic manner how it is okay to kill animals because we need food. He has also called out vegans, most of whom are vegan for themselves but tell the world it’s an effort to save the planet. And the most obvious of all is that we all have our anxieties so it’s okay to accept it & live our life. He talks about mental health in such a subtle yet effective manner as no one has talked about before. I’m pretty sure if I read this book again, I will have more takeaways from it.


~~CONCLUSION~~

I have rated Anxious People at 4.5/5 stars & this book goes in my favourites! With this fresh writing & a new vision, Fredrik Backman has restored my faith in his books. I am definitely going to read whichever books I haven’t yet read by him!

Until next time,

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