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!



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!


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.



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.



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.



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.


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.”



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.


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!


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?


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,

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