Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Friendship

“She gave me nothing less than my entire world.”

Elizabeth Gilbert is a prose doyenne. Her novel City of Girls is an ode to relationships that the world miracles you into.

“To be honest, I didn’t understand what I was doing at college, aside from fulfilling a destiny whose purpose nobody had bothered explaining to me.”

Vivian Morris decides to spend the summer of 1940 in the limitlessness of the New York City with her Aunt Peg who runs a theatre called the Lily Playhouse. The Playhouse is a theatrical troupe full of life that makes Vivian come to life herself. She strikes an irrevocable friendship with Celia Ray, a spectacular showgirl, that twirls Vivian’s life into a glamorous vaudevillian show. Soon her life is overtaken by veracity and every shot of spiteful tequila gives her life a different high. With every glass of sparkling champagne comes a celebration of every flaw and a glassy hangover of indulging in more wrongs. What comes next when the city is taken over by girls like Celia and Vivian is only for the readers to find out.

“Youth is an irreplaceable treasure, and the only respectable thing to do with irreplaceable treasure is to waste it.”

There comes a day when life chooses to deprive you of whatever you take from it, and Vivian is forced to pay the price of her reserve. Whether she gains the city’s trust or loses it all is what only time can tell; and whether time heals or creates an illusion of normalcy is what Vivian is soon to find out. The city can either reborn Vivian’s quintessence or can give her spirits a euthanasia from all.

“It was more important for me to feel free than safe.”

The City of Girls holds captive of all the unwarranted feelings you might have had when you were an ingenue. It is a zephyr of all the expressions you would want to thunder on the world after you finally set your music free. It makes you want to spend your evenings with a glass of wine and with a hopeless dream of being a young soul in the heart of the New York City in the 1940s.

Quotes:

1. She was a keen horsewoman, and given that I was neither a horse nor fascinated by horses, we’d never had much to talk about.

2. Anyway, I arrived in New York City safely – a girl so freshly hatched that there was practically yolk in my hair.

3. Celia never met a mirror she didn’t love.

4. The two of us went digging for trouble with a shovel and a pickax that summer, and we never had the slightest trouble finding it.

5. Because I am not a child, I told myself – the way children always do.

6. A costume is a landscape, not a portrait.

7. It was a decision that left nobody happy – which is what my father might have called a successful business negotiation.

8. Yet she was a woman who bravely played the game of life anyhow – and allowed the game of life to somewhat play her.

9. Because I was an idiotic child, Angela, and at that age, I would have followed a stop sign.

10. My actions had failed me so I stopped taking action.

11. I believed that I was a good person, if not a good girl.

12. But maybe that’s where love grows best – in the deep space that exists between polarities.

13. She’s more church than Church itself.

14. The world just happens to you sometimes.

15. There’s a level at which everyone’s grief is exactly the same.

Book Review: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

“I was still the same girl who dreamed of a destiny greater than she was allowed.”

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is a spirited novel full of bright ethnicities and vibrant landscapes as it peeks into the life of Lakshmi Shastri, a newborn henna artist in the post-colonial city of Jaipur. The story goes on to oracle that much like Lakshmi’s intricate henna strokes, her life too, is a striking mandala of complexities in a palace full of blitz and hidden truths.

“Do you have any more questions?”

“Only the ones neither of us can answer.”

Lakshmi Shastri runs away from the barbs of an orthodox, traditional society into a world where she has a freedom of her own. She becomes a popular henna artist among the colourful streets of Jaipur, serving women of royalty. But calling her just a henna artist is undermining her value. She is also known to provide herbs and teas that can change a woman’s fate and can give her power over her prudence. But that’s not all the secrets she holds though. She discovers the secrets of the rich and the royals, secrets that can destroy their reputations in the Pink City of Jaipur; and can maybe, destroy her own too.

“My patterns were more intricate; they told stories of the women I served.”

Living in the divinity of her independence, she speed bumps over various truths about her long lost family, who had given her away into a life of an abusive marriage; a life that she had run away from, a life she propelled to leave behind. And just when her freedom had taught her enough about the world, destiny puts her to test her love.

“I had lived with Hari for only two years, but he had lived in my mind for half of my life.”

This novel carries many beginnings and ends in it’s repertoire and thus, it leaves us spinning into a thread full of ambient mysteries, leaving us unsettled, until the chaos is finally unweaned by a string of striking revelations.

Overall, a lovely read.

Quotes:

1. The darker the henna, the more a woman was loved by her husband.

2. Only a fool lives in water and remains an enemy of the crocodile.

3. But these were flaws for a husband to discover, not for me to reveal.

4. Stretch your legs only as far as your bed.

5. Freedom is relative.

6. She expected from me what wasn’t mine to give.

7. He knew the rules: we only revealed what the other needed to know.

8. Without parents to quash her dreams of romance, her imagination had allowed her to turn fiction into fact.

9. I believe you would agree that a family’s dirty laundry is best cleaned by its own.

10. She had been my personal monsoon.

11. In the pupils of his eyes, I saw what he saw: a sapling of a woman.

12. She knew no better because no one had taught her any better.

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Suspense

“The lagoon smelled of life and death at once, an organic jumbling of promise and decay.”

Delia Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, is full of pulsating sunsets; each sunset, a different story, each twilight, a divergent euphoria.

“She never collected lightning bugs in bottles, you learn a lot more about something when its not in a jar.”

If you are a person who finds his or her release in a book full of doleful melancholy, this feel-good novel is not for you. This novel, however, explores certain facets of loneliness but a reader will never find himself or herself alone. This novel is all about the calmness of a ripple in the sea and about the dewy grass under a quilt of thick mist. It is these little feel-good things that we take for granted, that actually make us happy; and luckily, this novel is all about them.

“And somewhere within, she worried she was also a piece of beach art, a curiosity to be turned over in his hands, then tossed back on the sand.”

Kya or the Marsh Girl, as she is commonly known in Barkley Cove, becomes a suspect for a murder. Kya, whose soul could only find closure with the marsh waters and the seagulls, and whose only family was Jumpin’ and Mabel, folks from the Coloured Town (its 1960s), is arrested and trialled for the murder of Chase Andrews, a popular quarterback in town who was secretly in love with her. How did Kya end up in this spiral of love is what Where the Crawdads Sing is all about.

“Leaning on someone leaves you on the ground.”

In the middle of this chaos, there is Tate, the only guy who taught Kya what it means to trust someone other than the sea. There is poetry, there is philosophy and there is innocence.

“Faces change with life’s toll, but eyes remain a window to what was.”

This novel has a music of its own and it ends up tuning into your soul and leaving you mesmerised by the rhythm of your own heartbeat. A must read!

Quotes:

1. But whenever she stumbled, it was the land that caught her.

2. Go as far as you can- way out yonder where the crawdads sing.

3. His dad told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.

4. Barkley Cove served its religion hard-boiled and deep-fried.

5. Sand keeps secrets better than mud.

6. There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.

7. Time ensures children never know their parents young.

8. Needing people ended in hurt.

9. Touching someone meant giving a part of herself away, a piece she never got back.

10. She hung like the sail where the wind just went out.

11. Why should the injured, the still bleeding, bear the onus of forgiveness?

12. It seemed to Kya that when Chase played these melancholy tunes was when he most had a soul.

13. Perhaps love is best left as a fallow field.

14. The next tide, the next current would design another sandbar, and another, but never this one. Not the one who caught her.

15. In another time and place, an old black man and a young white woman might have hugged. But not there, not then.

16. I guess some things can’t be explained, only forgiven or not.

17. She held it against her heart. Where else would one need a compass more than in this place?

18. Many times she’d seen marsh waters swallow yesterday’s story.

19. A lesser male needs to shout to be noticed.

Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman

“Love is never any better than the lover.” – Toni Morrison

How do you get somebody to call you beautiful? How do you get somebody to love you? How do you get yourself to look attractive? Why do we even think like this? Is beauty that sold out? Well, if you’re gonna be a cynical self-lover, then that’s all the love you’re gonna get.

“There can’t be anyone, I am sure, who doesn’t know what it feels like to be disliked..”

Toni Morrison through her novel, The Bluest Eye caresses the idea of acceptance through the element of beauty and constructs the storyline through a rainbow of encounters, some familiar to the readers, some firsts, each carrying a moral within its own season. I think that’s a very brave thing to do considering how sticky and peppery the situation around beauty truly is. And the worst part is, it still breeds on the people’s selective mindset of attraction based on racial outlines. Toni Morrison calls out that the only reason why roses are so loved by the world, is because of the ill-favoured dandelions growing wild under lampposts.

“We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness.”

The Bluest Eye talks about a young, black girl’s quest for blue eyes in a sea of carbon people, who prefer to love conditionally; the ones who’d rather love the sunlight through closed eyes. Pecola Breedlove dreams of the bluest eyes because she thinks that those are the only true licence of beauty; and even under the weight of this implausible dream, her wish seems to be the only honest plot, the only purest appeal among the rest of the lives in the story. However, there is more emphasis on the secondary characters in the story, more so to underline Pecola’s “non-existence” and “unbeing,” not because of her ugliness, but because of the world’s humour on beauty.

“He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see.”

The novel is a powerful petition on the ideology of beauty and its misinterpretations, and it connects the reader to its every hook. From Pecola’s unloving family to her bullies in school, from her parents’ early spiteful life to the helpless gazes of people who couldn’t love her, this novel exploits all the colours of reality, a reality that sadly, might be still in existence.

“(It) Ought to be a law: two ugly people doubling up like that to make more ugly. Be better off in the ground.”

The Bluest Eye starts like a poetry and ends in a litany; it starts with natural visions and sights and ends with a war for more closure to the world of the lost; it starts with a dream of a lighthouse and ends with an aggressive wave. The end is so powerful, so surreal, that the reader is left with a rattled cognisance of how ignorant the world truly is to beauty and to languorous innocence.

“You forgot, Lord. You forgot how and when to be God.”

It’s hard to put this novel into words. It has vulcanised my beliefs of the world and what people think about beauty. This internalisation of unnatural morals, specifically about beauty, makes me poignant for the believers of rigid faiths, who believe that beauty could only be theirs; that their concept of beauty could never belong to anyone else’s self-expression of it; not even in a novel.

Quotes:

1. Quiet as its kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.

2. The best hiding place was love.

3. Adults do not talk to us- they give us directions.

4. Misery coloured by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took all of the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet.

5. “But how do you do that? I mean, how do you get somebody to love you?”

6. The furniture had aged without ever having become familiar. People had owned it, but never known it.

7. An escapade of drunkenness, no matter how routine, had its own ceremonial close.

8. To deprive her of these fights was to deprive her of all the zest and reasonableness of life.

9. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.

10. When you ask them where they are from, they tilt their heads and say “Mobile” and you think you’ve been kissed.

11. Eyes that questioned nothing and asked everything.

12. He came with his own music.

13. She married a man with a slash in his face instead of a mouth.

14. Their laughter had been more touch than sound.

15. White women said, “Do this.” White children said, “Give me that.” White men said, “Come here.” Black men said, “Lay down.”

16. His feelings about her were mostly fear- fear that she would not like him, and fear that she would.

17. It seemed to him that lonely was much better than alone.

18. And then the tears rushed down his cheeks, to make a bouquet under his chin.

19. The pieces of Cholly’s life could become coherent only in the head of a musician.

20. He could go to jail and not feel imprisoned.

21. (He was) free to take a woman’s insults, for his body had already conquered hers.

22. Evil existed because God created it.

23. We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure and thought recklessness was freedom.

24. Our manhood was defined by acquisitions. Our womanhood by acquiescence.

25. She left me the way people leave a hotel room.

26. What makes one name more a person than another?

27. We looked for eyes creased with concern, but saw only veils.

28. We tried to see her without looking at her..

29. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life.

30. There is no gift for the beloved.

Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Historical Fiction, Love, Coming of Age, Loss, Political Fiction

Ogbenyealu is a common name for girls and you know what it means? “Not to Be Married by a Poor Man.” To stamp that on a child at birth is capitalism at its best.’Adichie

Adichie is one of the greatest revolutionary writers who possesses the ardour of a person who holds reverence for the soil that has shaped them. The constructs of her novels, make us bleed for more stories from her cultural skies. Half of a Yellow Sun is a eulogy of a novel for the wings of the resigned freedom of Biafra, that sweeps you with an admiration for the history of Africa; the history that doesn’t dwell on struggles but instead, flights on courage.

“He would be Biafran in a way he could never have been Nigerian.”

Half of a Yellow Sun pays homage to the Biafran war (1967 to 1970) and it’s staggering consequences. No information on Wikipedia can do justice in deciphering the true reality that was suffered by the Biafrans, but this novel gesticulates its every detail and reflects all of its truths. Its frankness awes me and grips me to an extent that makes me angry about where the humanity of the rest of the world was lost when Biafra was suffering. Right from the plight of the untrained soldiers who raped young girls as a sign of manhood, to the deadly kwashiorkor disease that gripped the lives of children who were the only innocent facets of the entire war, Half of a Yellow Sun shares respect for the calms and the storms of the Biafran War. 

“Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

Like every other novel written by Adichie, this novel too, shares an endless metamorphosis of love – between Olanna and Odenigbo, a love that turns to family and then into implausible faith, between Olanna and her twin sister Kainene, a hate that turns to love and sisterhood due to the concerns of the war, between Richard and Kainene, a gatecrashing love that is left incomplete right when it was perfected and between Ugwu and Eberechi, a love that transcends the war and finds its end in it too. These relationships are put to test and the war pliantly breaks down every little emotion the people have ever held, until all that has been left later, is just the melancholy blues.

“..perhaps that shade of blue was also the colour of hope.”

As a Gen Y, I have only had first hand witnesses of riots, strikes and snippets of communal violences. But after reading this novel, I have now witnessed war; the one that is not just fought for the country but also, for the five million souls and more that died as a culmination of the war.

Master should have lowered his voice; he should know very well that a beggar did not shout.”

Almost all the wars that have been fought, have been fought for peace (I mean, was history always so ironic?) You turn towards violence to get answers for your qualm towards peace. Honestly, what exactly is peace? Is peace the quiet swoops of winds over the dead bodies during an air raid, whose families, after not being able to recognise the shelled and disheveled bodies, would bury empty coffins, as a funeral not for someone who died for the country, but for someone who was murdered for the consequences of his country? Or is peace the haunting silence of the bombed people with charred faces? 

But perhaps it is the whole point of being alive? That life is a state of death denial?”

For now, I think that peace is the sunshine on the orange trees of Nsukka, on the day the half of a yellow sun ceased to exist, and Biafra was erased for the sake and the victory of the leftover humanity. 

‘NO TELEPHONE TO HEAVEN’

Quotes:

  1. She had already told him he spent too much time around women cooking, and he might never grow a beard if he kept doing that.
  2. But she feared that this was because theirs was a relationship consumed in sips.
  3. Greatness depends on where you are coming from.
  4. ‘Have you ever been to the market in Balogun?’ She asked. ‘They display slabs of meat on tables, and you are supposed to grope and feel and the decide which you want. My sister and I are the meat. We are here so that suitable bachelors can make the kill.’
  5. She’s trying to make her way in a new world with skills that are better suited for the old one.
  6. This was love: a string of coincidences the gathered significance and became miracles.
  7. And it is wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It’s possible to love something and still condescend it.
  8. They had not planned to have him and, because of that, they had raised him as an afterthought.
  9. Of course, we all hate somebody, but it’s about control. Civilisation teaches you control.
  10. They may have collected the firewood, but we lit the match.
  11. A basis for unity does not exist.
  12. She wanted to ask him why they were all strangers who shared the last name.
  13. Does inequality have to mean indignity?
  14. I think love comes first and then reasons follow.
  15. Starvation was a Nigerian weapon of war.
  16. He writes about the world that remained silent while Biafrans died. He argues that Britain inspired this silence.
  17. He had read somewhere that, for true writers, nothing was more important than their art, not even love.
  18. Death is the price of our liberty.
  19. I was told that Biafrans fought like heroes, but now I know that heroes fight like Biafrans.
  20. Richard had told them that a country born from the ashes of injustice would limit its practise of injustice.
  21. There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.
  22. Richard would write about this , the rule of Western Journalism: One hundred dead black people equal one dead white person.
  23. The more he wrote, the less he dreamed.
  24. His life would always be like a candlelit room; he would see things only in shadow, only in half glimpses.
  25. How much did one know of the true feelings of those who did not have a voice?

Book Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Bildungsroman

“It was as if he had suddenly been made to see that the Incredible Hulk was really just green paint.”

Adichie can even make jargon sound urgent and important, so imagine what an already urgently set agenda novel would sound like; more like scream like. 

“The Tanzanian told her that all fiction was therapy, some sort of therapy, no matter what anybody said.”

The Thing Around Your Neck is one those books that makes you feel maudlin for all the people you never knew existed, who struggled with such condor, that it makes you let out a silent prayer; not just for other people out there but also for yourself, to have the same everlasting courage that radiates off most Africans, in surviving through this black hole of an endless struggle we call life. 

“Is it a good life, Daddy?” 

“It is not good or bad,” I tell her, “it is simply mine.”

I wouldn’t have believed someone if they had told me that twelve short stories were enough to rip my world of leisure and comfort apart; that my world of leisure and comfort is just a dream that looks too real, a dream that will be broken once I wake up into the dawn of real life battles. It takes just twelve stories to believe that the world is unapologetic to all the independent women, who are powerful today as a result of fighting through sexual abuse and commodification, to all the people who have died while striving to challenge the heathen society’s misleadings (their graves still flowerless) and to all the men who live everyday with the knowledge that they could soon be murdered and yet continue to voice out the falsities set up by a histrionic government. It takes just twelve stories to realise that the world is not just full of glamorous people, but of those people who hold dignity of their myriad journey of struggles and who hold sovereignty of their strong opinions; people who are truly glamorous with freedom of expression and compassion. 

“It was as if he was performing his life instead of living his life.”

The Thing Around Your Neck chokes you enough to make you realise about life’s worth.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. The British had a way of using words like “expedition” and “pacification” for killing and stealing.
  2. It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.
  3. It is what America does to you, she thinks. It forces egalitarianism on you.
  4. Perhaps he was mourning a time immersed in possibilities.
  5. It is our diffidence about afterlife that leads us to religion.
  6. “You speak such good English,” he said, and it annoyed her, his surprise, his assumption that English was somehow his personal property.
  7. Ujunwa thought she might like her, but only the way she liked alcohol – in small amounts.
  8. White people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same – condescending.
  9. You can’t use human reasoning for God.
  10. Everybody has a crisis of faith. It’s normal.
  11. How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?
  12. How can a person claim to love you and yet want you to do things that suit only them?
  13. I read a book that says that we don’t fall in love, we climb up to love.
  14. People ruled over others not because they were better but because they had better guns.
  15. It would cause her to make a clear link between education and dignity; between the hard, obvious things that are printed in books and the soft, subtle things that lodge themselves into the soul.

Book Review: Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale

Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance

“She had tried to replace him with others, but they had only doodled, left mere doggerel on the warped pages of her heart.”

Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale is a playlist that celebrates the songs and rhythm of the city; not just of Mumbai, but of Bombay. Reading this book is like having a 3AM conversation with the streets of the city – conversations that are raw, surreal, uncaged and free of the consciential laws of right and wrong. Milk Teeth has the audacity of revealing the secrets of the city by celebrating the honest eccentricity of its life and the diverse realities that it has given its loyal inhabitants in the most fun and comical way.

“The seesaw of their friendship had seed-and-sawed plenty, never getting a shot at the equilibrium that adulthood sometimes brings to childhood friendships.”

Ira Kamat is a journalist and a beat reporter unveiling the soul of the city. She believes that in discovering the heart of the city, she might as well discover the essence of her own heart. Kartik Kini has a corporate job and works with an MNC. He believes that in the rustic identity of the city, he might one day find his own.

This is not a love story, this is a story of two lovers whose hearts beat for a city they call home; a home of the broken-hearted, a home of the outcasted, a home of the rebellious lovers, a home of the prodigals, a home of the piteous orthodox, a home of the new-age liberals, a home of the self-fashioned warriors, a home of the zealous dreamers, a home that belongs to all (but whose people only warmly welcome a few.)

“There was a clarity, a certainty of purpose behind everything she said and did; it could only come from knowing your place in the world.”

One of the best parts of this novel, is its ending- it is not a normal cliffhanger, but it gives the reader the liberty to construct the fate of the novel by themselves, just the way how they construct the fate of their lives around this city. It makes you fall in love with Mumbai over and over again. And for those who remember it as Bombay, it makes you reminisce the city that taught you how to love- with its lit up Queen’s Necklace and its intolerant bustling locals, with its familiar faces at the Iranian Cafes and its memories embracing the Worli Sea Face

I must say, at the end of this spirited novel, I found myself even closer to my city.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. This incident was going to become a fold in the dull pages of their days; no matter how one flipped through the volume, one would land on this dog-eared episode.
  2. A divergence of interests and concerns was inevitable, it was believed, and when that happened, what else but romance could hold them together?
  3. You could put all the French or Italian you wanted in their names, but you couldn’t take Mumbai out of the buildings: the clothes drying outside the windows would remain, and so would the mud streaks from flowerpots on windowsills.
  4. Shobha Kamat was a petite woman who appeared apologetic about even the little space she occupied.
  5. He was the perfect match. On paper, that is.
  6. It was this lightness of pocket that gave her more leads than any lightness of conscience.
  7. There was plenty of anger on offer in Mumbai and it was easy to look away. But every once in a while, someone with imagination crafted their fury like origami into something delightful.
  8. New money shouts, old money whispers.
  9. Try as hard as you may, the first coat of paint shows.
  10. Just because you know something’s going to happen doesn’t mean you look forward to it.
  11. The third cup of coffee was a special weapon in her arsenal, like the brahmastra from the epics, to be welded occasionally and against the most insidious of enemies, one’s own demons.
  12. The details of his face remained hazy but the idea of him had taken root.
  13. If he touched her then, it would flood her being with all the colour there was and the world would turn black-and-white and fade into nothingness.
  14. They were curled up like two commas placed together, a typo in the story of their universe.
  15. Bombay has seen centuries of plurality and only a few years of bigotry.
  16. The communal violence that started after the Babri Masjid fell came to an end after the blasts, but the spell of peace that followed felt like hate was only shedding its milk teeth.
  17. History had become a wholesale shop for excuses-thats why you need a statute of limitations.
  18. Beauty is nothing but a promise of happiness.
  19. But how much; how much of the city can one rightly claim, in exchange for sweat, for blood, for life itself?
  20. Passion was temporary, she repeated to herself, like ink over the skin, like the memory of a dream.
  21. Doesn’t looking at the sky make you think that we are all equal in the eyes of the universe?
  22. To love was to protect, even from yourself, and yet, she had crushed him.
  23. You needed two things to succeed in this city, Kartik had heard, dress and address.
  24. Her expressions changed rapidly as if she were browsing through a catalogue to find a look she liked.
  25. Like archaeologists, we are delicately brushing off dust in order to excavate what remains of our friendship.

Book Review: The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Genre: Domestic Fiction, Epistolary Novel

‘To the Spirit:

Without whose assistance

Neither this book

Nor I

Would have been Written’

– Alice Walker

You come across books that host unconventional literature; and then you come across books that enclose unconventional language. The Colour Purple is proof of the fact that by using a local dimension of the ever-dynamic English language, a story can be made incredibly authentic. And thus, in reading this book, you are not just in Africa among the Olinka tribe in words, but also in meaning.

Alice Walker is a fearless writer, who has written unfiltered accounts, reflecting the brutalities parasiting on the life of a common African-American woman. With a sense of veneration, she has approached this book by correcting the inaccurate laws of racial and religious reality that has been set up for Africans, hinting towards the theme of racial colourism.

“‘Hard times’ is a phrase the English love to use when speaking of Africa. And it is easy to forget that Africa’s ‘hard times’ were made harder by them.”

– Nettie

I’m sightless and my mind still lingers between the letters traversing between the two sisters, Celie and Nettie, to and from the American South and Africa; who were separated by a series of consequences of their being African-Americans of the early ’80s, when slavery was still in existence and also majorly, of their being females of an awfully patriarchal society. 

“I’m poor, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”

– Celie

Celie is forcefully married at a very tender age to a man with four children only because her father wanted to get rid of her, after raping her. She is diligent and is ready to face her fate in silence and conviction that maybe one day, she would be the mistress of her own fate. She soon meets the woman she wants to be like – Shug Avery, an African sensational popstar and as the seasons pass, they become dictators of their own life, sharing a revolutionary love that is unwonted in its sexuality.

The Colour Purple symbolises a dream that was once despondent, which is now  fulfilled; a dream, too daunting to attain, now comes within reach and into the arms of the dreamer; a dream that you once nurtured in an age of innocence, is engulfing you in your chosen reality.

Do not take Alice Walker’s words for granted; she can set you on an inferno and can still manage to get you alive.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. But I don’t know how to fight. All I know is how to do is stay alive.
  2. It’s like seeing you buried, she said.
  3. Its not nice to speak ill of the dead, one say, but the truth never can be ill.
  4. I can’t remember being the first one in my own dress.
  5. His eyes were sad and thoughtful. His face begin to look like a woman’s face.
  6. The Lord don’t like ugly, she say. And he ain’t stuck on pretty.
  7. Think about heaven later.
  8. She looks like she ain’t long for this world but dressed well for the next.
  9. He clear his throat a lot, like everything he say need announcement.
  10. She probably be happy to do most of what you say if you asked her right.
  11. Life don’t stop just because you leave home.
  12. We had the kind of love that couldn’t be improved.
  13. A girl is nothing to herself; only to her husband can she become something.
  14. Tashi knows she is learning a way of life she will never live.
  15. Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.
  16. All her young life she has tried to please her father, never quite realising that as a girl, she never could.
  17. The God I have been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other men I know.
  18. Not being tied to what God looks like, frees us.
  19. I couldn’t understand why we have life at all if all it can do most times is make us feel bad.
  20. A burnt finger remembers the fire.

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Genre: Romance, Victorian, Bildungsroman

“Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still.”

There are times when I feel like I have been born in the wrong era (probably because of a fumbled-up incantation, just a wild guess.) I long for the world that existed during the times of endless ballroom dances, of horse-riding evenings along sunny moors and definitely, of the stately country-side dresses with bonnets. When this longing turns unbearable, I surround myself with Regency novels. One day, I found myself sitting down with Jane Eyre; and now I’m not the same person I was before. Except for the fact how I still regret not being conceived in 1800s, everything else has changed, especially my idea of love.

“You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I need not ask you; because you never felt love.” 

– Mr. Rochester

Jane Eyre is the woman every woman wants to be- ideal. She’s an ideal governess and an ideally independent woman, but does the characteristic of being ideal actually help you out when you are in love? Charlotte Bronte structures Jane Eyre as a flamboyant character, full of alacrity and enthusiastic independence, who knows exactly how to address the readers and tours them through sufferance and principle learnings and hopeful sighs and weeping romantics (there’s scope for happy tears too, just in case I got you worried.) Charlotte Bronte writes with such a piquant animation and intelligent humour that you cannot help but fall in love in the first laugh.

One of the most important dimension that Charlotte Bronte exploits in the novel Jane Eyre is feminism. Not many people during the colonial times acknowledged feminism, because apparently they were getting their men ready for wars and their daughters ready for marriage (speaks a lot about socially acclaimed sexist obligations, don’t they?) Charlotte Bronte did not just acknowledge this, but instead, delivered full-blown feminist ideologies, challenging the concepts of the religiously principled patriarchal society, in the most straightforward way possible and I still think she was being too polite. 

Another important factor that draws this novel close to my heart is how the story keeps weaving the definition of true love. A love that’s painted by patient lovers, the ones that can wait their entire lives for a person who makes them believe in the poetry of unconditional love; a love that can be their eyes to prettier sunsets and rosier daisies, the one that proves the existence of happy endings. It’s funny how the mansion at Thornfield entwines Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester in a lovely serenade, irrespective of their frictions in class, age, countenance and principles; and I say it’s funny because they truly end up loving each other without their love breaking each other down. 

It almost makes you dwell in the possibility of a love that’s hand stitched just for you; a love that’s threaded from red roses, the thorns not bleeding the romance but rather, protecting it; a love that can keep you warm, not just till the end but till eternity.

Reader, do not go looking for love. Let love come to you. And that’s Jane Eyre for you.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. “Come, Miss Jane, don’t cry,” said Bessie as she finished. She might as well have said to the fire, “Don’t burn!”
  2. Breakfast was over, and none had breakfasted.
  3. It’s weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.
  4. It is not violence that best overcomes hate-nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury.
  5. Her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
  6. I am a defective being, with many faults and few redeeming points.
  7. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings.
  8. Desire brings anything but gratification.
  9. It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.
  10. There are grains of truth in the wildest fable.
  11. It is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which if unreturned and unknown, might devour the life that feeds them.
  12. He made me love him without looking at me.
  13. To my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him.
  14. Men and women die; philosophers falter in their wisdom, and Christian in goodness.
  15. As if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for you, and you wanted to read the tablet of one’s heart.
  16. I found you full of strange contrasts.
  17. Never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.
  18. Reason and not feeling, is my guide.
  19. It was but love of the senses.
  20. There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.

Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Genre: Romance, Fiction, Magical Realism

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is, without a doubt, the most ingenious and insightful storyteller of the current conventional times. His stories are like a breath of freshly blossomed lillies on a midnight summer breeze. Love in the Time of Cholera is a masterful piece of a love story that is unconstrained from any evils that reality could ever foster.

“All that was needed was shrewd questioning, to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were as the same as those of cholera.”

Florentino Ariza confesses to Fermina Daza about his vow for everlasting love for her; after fifty-one years, nine months and four days of being in love with her; on her first night as a widow after the death of her husband Dr. Juvenal Urbino; when both of them are dawning in their early seventies. A childhood love story that never found an end, is born anew in the twilight of their lives.

Love in the Time of Cholera is full of strong, distinguished characters which highlights Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s exceptional skills when it comes to character building. He paints the sunny Caribbean cities with stories of irrevocable love that surpasses the outbreaks of civil wars, cholera and infidelity. One of the most important aspect of this book is how the author makes the reader chase the eccentricity to which love can travel, the revolutionary modes taken out of unrequited love and the unorthodox ways in which love can be endlessly kept alive. 

Lastly, Love in the Time of Cholera is an intelligently put book of lovers, poets and dreamers who pray, to a God of their own, for a love that flames their lives into a phoenix of happy endings.  

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
  2. Each man is master of his own death, and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain.
  3. Life had shown her that perhaps it was exemplary.
  4. …she had helped him to endure the suffering as lovingly as she had helped him to discover happiness.
  5. Only a person without principles could be so complaisant toward grief.
  6. But if they had learned anything together, it was that wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.
  7. …it was as if he had dared to look death in the face for the first time, and it had looked back at him.
  8. The man who has no memory makes one out of paper.
  9. In reality they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line.
  10. It was difficult to imagine the number of things that men left after love.
  11. On night she came back from her daily walk stunned by the revelation that one could be happy not only without love, but despite it.
  12. I turn over to you the keys to your life.
  13. Little by little the fragrance of Fermina Daza became less frequent and less intense, and at last it remained only in white gardenias.
  14. … her allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
  15. The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.
  16. It is as if he were not a person but only a shadow.
  17. She always felt as if her life had been lent to her by her husband.
  18. My heart has more room than a whorehouse.
  19. Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness, but stability.
  20. Humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest.
  21. Old people, with other old people, are not so old.
  22. He was beginning to defer his problems in the hope that death would resolve them.
  23. Love is ridiculous at our age, but at theirs it’s revolting.
  24. He was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.
  25. Too much love is as bad for this as no love at all.