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 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: 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: 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.

Book Review: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Genre: Romance, Psychological Fiction

“..the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets.”

In a middle school fancy dress competition, I dressed up as Arundhati Roy. Little did I know that five years later, this book was going to change my life; that I’ll ever be picking up a book that accurately fulfils ‘the promise of a story.’

Rahel and Estha, the fraternal twins, come back to their hometown, Ayemenem, and meet each other after what feels like a Long Time. Arundhati Roy guides the story through this town of Ayemenem where Rahel’s and Estha’s childhood history cajoles a tale that whispers the secrets of their family, the casteist air of the city, the political bearing of the atmosphere and the hidden specks of exploitation and discriminatory mishaps that seed in a city’s existentialism.

Arundhati Roy then introduces The God of Small Things and explains the readers how the God of Small Things is always happy and cheerful, even in troubled situations, due to ‘the relative smallness of his misfortune’ or due to the considerable minuteness of a problem. And how, it is this smallness of a misfortune that, in turn, results in big, undeniable consequences.

The ending makes Rahel and Estha, now thirty-one, realise that they are just as ill-fated as they were years ago when they were young, with only each other to count on, always looked on by The God of Small Things, only to end up in a situation that their mother, Ammachi, had ended up in when she was their age; a situation that lead to their ruins, that caused a calamity in their family. A situation that centered around love; a love that was punishable, forbidden and unrequited.

The God of Small Things is a wholesome book that you can only dream about. A story that connects the dots of all the realms of reality. A funny, epitomising tale of two child-like hearts discovering the world. A daunting, eccentric tale of unexpected love stories. A tale that breathes the horrors of Life and the consolation of Death. A book that fills you up with a flourish of colours and emotions. A book that sets you free.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. It’s curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined.
  2. The source of his brittle elation was the relative smallness of his misfortune.
  3. She’s living her life backwards.
  4. It was a time when the unthinkable became thinkable and the impossible really happened. 
  5. That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.
  6. People always loved best what they most identified with.
  7. Thats what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.
  8. …she recognised nothing around her. Only her fear was familiar.
  9. There are things that you can’t do – like writing letters to a part of yourself. To your feet or hair. Or heart.
  10. If he touched her, he couldn’t talk to her, if he loved her he couldn’t leave, if he spoke he couldn’t listen, if he fought he couldn’t win.
  11. And once again, only the Small Things were said. The Big Things lurked inside unsaid.
  12. Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Genre: Historical Fiction

“…I would often wonder if indeed there was more to existence than what logic and and my senses could grasp.”

– Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

India is a place that has cradled many epics and legends, but the two most loved epics of this culturally rich peninsula have always been the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Both the epics recite countless tales of heroism with its legendary heroes, the vices of vengeful characters and the aftermath of every befallen curse. The Palace of Illusions is a wondrous book that captures the tale of Mahabharata, but there is a difference- Chitra Banerjee chose to write Mahabharata from the eyes of the most underrated, prominent character – Panchaali (or Draupadi.) Yes, a tale of male heroism and folly through the eyes of a strong female; a female who was destined to change the course of history, a female who was born with a prophesy to cause the great war of Kurukshetra and a female who lost before she could even love.

“Wasn’t power singular and simple? In the world that I knew, men just happened to have more of it.”

Chitra Banerjee dauntingly voiced out one of the major things that we always noticed, but never gave a thought to – the minimalistic portrayals of strong women in Mahabharata. This book points out that females were not only a specimen to care for their husbands, but also, they were much more powerful in their approach and independent in thought than most other characters. An epic with women in the forefront. 

The book tours the readers from the suspicious and unprecedented birth of Panchaali, the princess of Panchaal, who always looked at the world with the eyes of an unfiltered critic. The readers then swim into her endlessly strong friendship with Krishna, who was loyal to her till the end, with the trust that they eternally shared; her personal lives with her five husbands, and how she supported and strengthened them through their highs and lows; her mystical attachment to Karna, a saga of its own and her journey from a girl who loved to hear the story of her mysterious birth, to the woman who loved her palace that was full of intriguing illusions, is what this ocean of a book, a tale of tales, has to offer. 

It is a greatly crafted piece of art, an epic crowning the strong females of Mahabharata, a book that I would happily read to someone who says that Mahabharata is all about the masculine Pandavas and Kauravas, to give them a piece of enlightenment that the reason why women survived the great war of Kurukshetra was because they lacked ego and were far more virtuous than the men, each with her own distinct identity, that further created history.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. Each story will come in its time.
  2. And shut up as I was in this mausoleum of a palace, how would history even find me?
  3. This made him a fair ruler, but not a beloved one.
  4. So that what you started in milk could end one day in blood.
  5. Remember that, little sister: wait for a man to avenge your honour, and you’ll wait forever.
  6. Love comes like lightning and disappears the same way. If you’re lucky it strikes you right.
  7. But my believing is not important, nor yours. Thats not why stories are given to you.
  8. Doesn’t the imagination always exaggerate or diminish truth?
  9. “Ah forgiveness,” Dhri said. “Its a virtue that eludes even the great. Isn’t our existence a proof of that?”
  10. Nothing has more power over us than the truth.
  11. No matter how skilled they were at battle, ultimately it would not help them because they were forever defeated by their conscience.
  12. But truth, when its being lived, is less glamorous than our imaginings.
  13. I wanted to believe that sometimes good may happen without bad biting its heels.
  14. There’s so little in life that’s worth it.
  15. No one can shame you, he said, if you don’t allow it.

Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Romance, Fiction

“I only became black when I came to America.”

– Ifemelu

Americanah is a very intelligently put gutsy novel that animatedly talks about the contemporary American life through Nigerian eyes. Ifemelu dives into how the military and protestant way of life in old Nigeria compels her to fly to America, only to make her realise how difficult it was to even dream as a black person in America. There is a birth of a new Ifem as she discovers the passions of an American lifestyle, being entitled to carry her race and her African identity as a badge of an outcast from Brooklyn to New Haven; the start might have struck her like sour grapes but she soon catches up and leads us on a breath-taking adventure on becoming an Americanah. At the same time, she compares and contrasts the two different lives that she had been living, one in Nigeria and the other in America, and brings to light the dark, unchecked realms of both of her worlds, keeping the readers alerted and alive through till the showdown until she gets back to Nigeria, to her homely roots, her reincarnated Americanah self, sinking into her old Nigerian fairytale, to fulfil an incomplete wish.

Apart from the political hubbub of Nigeria and the black under-privileges of America, Adichie tells us a love story. A love that transcends time, a love that surpasses long distance and miscommunications, a love that seeds from self-affection, a love that honours brilliance of two minds and souls, a love that has got a hundred lives, a love that might have definitely touched YOU once and made truth of its presence some time.

The book makes you gasp at astonishing realities that Adichie has so bluntly expressed, it makes you suffer at the struggles of settling down in the American livelihood, it makes you believe in the good behind all the hustle and it makes you laugh.  The end ends the subtle mood swings on a perfect note, and the reader is left feeling respectful for the endearing adventure they have had, as much as the properly strung ending. It’s a book that you would never forget, a life you got to live in the most unexpected of ways.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. ..her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.
  2. I like my hair the way God made it.
  3. There was something immodest about her modesty; it announced itself.
  4. ..you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did.
  5. She laughed, too, whenever he said,”I am an agnostic respecter of religion,” and she would tell him how lucky he was to be married to her, because even though he went to church only for weddings and funerals, he would get into heaven on the wings of her faith.
  6. You can love without making love.
  7. She believed in other people’s happiness because it meant that she, too, might one day have it.
  8. They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect when you’re gay or if you’re a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you’re recognisably black.
  9. Racism is absurd because it’s about how you look. Not about the blood you have.
  10. If the “slavery was so long ago” thing comes up, have your white friend say that lots of white folks are still inheriting money that their families made a hundred years ago. So if that legacy lives, why not the legacy of slavery?
  11. She still admired him, his moral fibre, his life of clean lines, but now it was admiration for a person separate from her, a person far away.
  12. You do not marry the man you love. You marry the one who can best maintain you.
  13. It’s very hard to be a clean public official in this country. Everything is set up for you to steal.
  14. There are many different ways to be poor in the world but increasingly there seems to be one single way to be rich.
  15. Love was a kind of grief. This was what the novelists meant by suffering.

Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept By Paulo Coelho

Genre: Romance, Fiction

This book is proof that Paulo Coelho is the only author who can turn spirituality into poetry. Right from the beginning, you see a sunrise of a poetic love story that sets very cleverly at the end.

“Legend says that the River Piedra is so cold that anything that falls into it – leaves, insects, the feathers of birds – is turned to stone.”

By the River Piedra is a book about love- love for an old school sweetheart, love for breathing in the miracles of life and love for the feminine side of God and religion. Pilar finds herself meeting her childhood lover after eleven years only to find him so spiritually awakened. Love is not on her mind when she first meets him but the rains of small miracles work their magic along the way. She discovers his world and in this world, the readers discover their faith; this faith is something you may not have ever expected to seek, for it is a faith of the enlightened. 

This book underlines the patience behind every spiritual belief, flushes positive vibes through its readers and is calm in its demeanour just like the River Piedra; it turns our doubts about love and belief into solid stones of truths. It makes us pray and believe that even when we are swept off in an endless cyclone of despair, miracles persevere and reach out to those who have the guts of believing in the unseen.

And even if the cyclone prevails and changes your horizons, this book will help you recover your faith.

A handful of some of my favourite quotes:

  1. Seek to live. Remembrance is for the old.
  2. All love stories are the same.
  3. I noticed that his voice hadn’t changed. But his words certainly had.
  4. Everyday God gives us the sun and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy.
  5. Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow.
  6. I was there because suddenly life had presented me with Life.
  7. The song was right: it must have been the lunatics who invented love.
  8. “Let’s lie down on the ground and feel the planet’s heart beating.”
  9. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggle for your dreams, than to be defeated without ever even knowing what you’re fighting for. 
  10. The Gods throw the dice, freeing love from its cage. And love can create or destroy-depending on the direction of the wind when its is set free. For the moment, the wind was blowing in his favour. But the wind is as capricious as the Gods-and deep inside myself, I had begun to feel some gusts.
  11. ..and the universe always conspires to help the dreamer.
  12. This was a silence that spoke for itself.
  13. The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And save us.
  14. We are our own greatest surprise.
  15. …all wisdom was the result of listening to one’s own soul.
  16. We are all a part of that same miracle.
  17. These pains are not the kind that hurt.
  18. God hides the fires of hell within paradise.
  19. What I remember is that love returned in the form of another man, new hopes and new dreams.
  20. Dreams mean work.