We all love to travel, to new places, new cities in cars, buses, caravans, by air, by the sea but I have travelled everyday since I was ten through books. I have let the ocean kiss my feet on the Coast of Ipanema and nosed around in Calgary and my travel expenses have never been more than the price of a McDonald Cheese Burger. Here's my travelogue where books can be found through the countries they have taken me to. The reviews are not professional and definitely not worth putting into a book review assignment for school! They are just a string of words that tell you what I felt when I travelled to a certain place. If it suits you, you go and book yourself a trip. If not, well...we'll keep it there!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Murder in the CathedralMurder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why haven't I reviewed this? Why? Why? WHY? How could I be so stupid?

Never mind.

Presenting: The Review of Murder in the Cathedral

Very rarely in a reader's life does (s)he come across a play that poses questions of morality and martyrdom, glory and grace the way this play does. Paralleled in its poignancy only by Saint Joan perhaps, this play is so much that the dramatisation of an episode in history. No, it's not just about martyrdom, or Thomas Becket or even Christianity for that matter. It is about an individual's opposition to authority , about standing up against something that one may have approved of in another position or place or time for the sake of duty and for the greater good.

Becket, thus, comes across not just as a noble Christian Bishop but also as a man with deeply contrasting personalities: the Chancellor who had enforced the Traditional King's Revenues from the churches and the Bishop, who stood up against the Constitutions of Clarendon.
Personally, I hold that no playwright would have juxtaposed this better than Eliot! What makes is more beautiful is the time when Eliot came up with this play: 1935—The year history marks for the Rise of Fascism (Couldn't be better timed than that, could it?) when, what was needed in Europe at large was individual's opposition to authority.

Simply put, the play appealed to me on a lot of levels. The words didn't just slip effortlessly by my eyes but also touched me somewhere deep within. So simple, so brief and so profound! And more importantly—timeless, when it comes to the life lessons embedded in it!

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The Five Orange Pips (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #5)The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Three stars to a Sherlock Holmes?" you ask me, incredulously. "That,too, on a day when you claim to be Sherlocked?"

Believe me, I tried! I wanted to give it more and would have and could have, if it had a more fascinating end! You will agree that a story that begins with five dried orange pips and a death should have had a more exciting, a more dramatic end than plain arrest of the culprit(s) once they reached America? Am I honestly unfair in asking for a more thrilling end? An elaborate story?

It almost felt like Sir Arthur got tired eventually or lost all imagination in the end and just decided to finish it.

I'm sorry, Sherlock! You had me at the edge of my seat (or rather, my bed) for the most agonising 20 minutes of my life only to have me slump down, defeated, in the end. You're Sherlock Holmes, after all!

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

LoveLove by Pablo Neruda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are very few poets in the world that you can claim to read in a state of half sleep, early in the morning and who can still fill your heart with their words, bewitch your senses and charm your imagination the way Pablo Neruda does. Apart from the poems of love and beauty, what really captured me in this collection was this particular poem about the mermaid and the drunks. An outwardly creature tormented by the world, surprised by how cruel humans can be, how inebriated they can be blind to all that is good and pure and simple, it was the one poem that said a thousand things through a short fable.

Neruda is the master of enchantment and I highly recommend this book to anyone, who claims to have even an ounce of feelings in their heart.

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The House Of The SpiritsThe House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's funny when you find yourself reviewing the same author with the same words. For Isabel Alllende , my reiteration is the 3F Factor : Fact, Fiction and Feminism. Let me break it down for you:

A Fact: You cannot possibly find a more heart wrenching and faithful account of the Military Coup in Chile.

The Fictional Aspect: Hello? Haven't you heard of the delightful genre called Magical Realism? Could fiction or narration get any better than that?

The Feminism: A mother starts the suffragette society and involves her daughter in it. A woman learns the art of bonding with her unborn daughter that she passes down through generations. A wife stands up against an abusive husband defending her daughter's love and life. A woman emerges stronger than before after rape, humiliation and imprisonment, learning to love another's children like her own and helping fellow inmates to bear it all with fortitude and dignity.

Like I have already said about Isabel Alllende , you cannot do the 3F better than her. The result gives you goosebumps, shatters you, sends you into throes of depression and yet makes you celebrate the fact that because you are a woman, your soul and spirit is indestructible, that only you alone can allow anything, no matter how brutal, break you!

Read it if you've ever felt weak. Read it if your soul needs nourishment. Read it if you come from a family of strong women, who cherish strong mother-daughter bonds. Just go, read it.

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The Boy in the Striped PyjamasThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Memory : A couple of years ago, when my best friend drove rather fast, with me in the passenger seat, and I screamed for safety, he asked me, "Isn't this the best way to die: with your best friend for life? Or would you rather live without me?"

Those were my thoughts exactly when I reached the part of the book where I knew catastrophe was about to strike! If something must happen to Shmuel , then leaving Bruno behind would be heartless. And what would happen when he grew up to find out what "Out-With"was and who the "Fury" really was? The guilt would have ruined him and scarred him for life! It was kinder that he died innocent and ignorant with the one person, who it was best to die with.

Don't get me wrong: the story shattered me to pieces! And yes, I do think John Boyne is a monster to have created such an amazingly delicate apocryphal story of such innocent friendship with such delicate, profound imagination, and then bringing it down with a crash.

I do have to grant him the sense of poetic justice though: for a Nazi Commandant to finally feel some of the pain so many Jews went through...

Oh, go read it, if you've ever loved any friend of yours with a childlike innocence, with a winsome loyalty. This book is a bittersweet chocolate that you ought to taste!

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Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are three ways of looking at this book:

1. By looking at Conrad as a xenophobic whiteman in Africa

2.By looking at the book as a white man's denunciation of colonialism

3.By looking at it like I do!

Of course, I would prefer my own view here in this review. This is a book after all, that led to this whole "Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" debate after Chinua Achebe's eponymous lecture in 1975, and over the years, I've heard many people, mostly "blacks" and "whites" arguing about whether or not this book is racist.

African writers talk about his xenophobic, de-humanising depiction of Africa and its inhabitants. European and American critics argue it was an "eloquent denunciation of colonialism."

I say- Hogwash!

Now, maybe because I read this book while listening to Kenneth Branagh's audio book performance, but I could only trace one thing in Marlow's, or for that matter, Conrad's tone. It wasn't xenophobia, it wasn't just denunciation of colonialism, it was sarcasm!

Conrad and Marlow came across to me as that one voice- a voice! - that was struck by one thing: moral degradation in these people, who had set out into an unknown continent "to civilise." To him, these people, described by the colonialists as "enemies," "pilgrims, " "savages" were real people, who needed no "civilisation."

Nowhere does Conrad depict Africa as an anti-thesis of Europe. Rather, he talks of it as a continent with its own culture, its own beliefs, which, strange as they might seem to a foreigner, were very much a part of its inherent civilisation. Instead, it is the so-called civilised white people, with their proverbial White Man's Burden, who he finds savage, dark and dehumanised in a continent where no one is watching them.

Conrad's hint, through the repeated juxtaposition of light and darkness, black and white, is not revolving around xenophobia or colonialism. Its spotlight happens to be on a moral rhetoric:

What does an educated, civilised man do when there's no one watching over him? Doesn't absolute power, even in the name of the Greater Good, corrupt absolutely?

That's what Kurtz's character was all about.

Another question that Conrad and Marlow seem to be asking here is,

When you say words like "savage," "barbaric" and "uncivilised," what are your parameters to define savegery, barbarianism and uncivilised society? Isn't the definition subjective? What exactly do you mean by "The Great Civilising Mission?" Isn't the idea of development and civilisation just as subjective? And also, is becoming inhuman yourself justified to "civilise" to your so-called barbarians?

For inspiring such a beautiful train of thought, this book, which I approached gingerly because I assumed it would be oh-so-racist, is a 5/5 for me. Hopefully, with a bit of insight and an open mind, it will be a good read for you, too!

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe, just maybe, this book was lost on me but I had the most terrible time finishing it! It's brilliant till about Chapter 3 and then you hit a snag! The narrative loses its charm and also much of its lyrical quality, too.

No, I don't think Joyce's writing style is difficult! I think it becomes vague and virtually non-existent! It's like the poor man had fever and was writing deliriously.

If it wasn't for the first two and the last chapter, I would have thrown this book away. The stars are for the three chapters.

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