Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reviews - Finally!

Last year I decided to keep an official record of books I wanted to read. I would read blogs and other sites and learn about new-to-me books and jot the titles onto little bits of paper which I would promptly lose. I found a beautiful notebook:

and it quickly became essential to me. It is primarily a list of books that I've read about accompanied by the person or blog who has suggested it. It has also become a catch-all for other bits of paper about books. Every few weeks, I look through the pages and sometimes I notice patterns. The same book turns up again and again. I begin to think, hmm..obviously there is some reason I keep writing down the title of this book....I'd better just read it. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood was one of these books.

The Ghost Writer is about Gerard, an Australian librarian who has always felt, no, known, that his mother is hiding something from him about her past in England. Gerard's closest friend is Alice, his English pen pal to whom he has been writing since he was a young teen. Alice refuses to meet Gerard in person until she has recovered the ability to walk - she was in a terrible car accident that killed her parents. Eventually Gerard decides to find out the truth about everything for himself and travels to England where the action and the answers come to a climax. I was really enjoying this book until I came to the last 1/5 or so. I really do not like novels in which it feels as thought the author is writing a screenplay. That is to say, there is too much description of place and action. I don't really care to try to imagine the layout of a large and confusing house....I just want to know what is happening. The author has included four stories within the book. I'm not sure if I just didn't remember that or just glanced over it but either way I'm glad I didn't remember. I'm not a big fan of short stories and realizing this might have turned me off from reading this book. In this case I enjoyed the stories within the story, and it didn't feel too jarring to me going back and forth. I took a peek at the reviews at Amazon and realized that people seem to either really like or dislike this novel. It is not really my regular fare, and I'm certainly glad I decided to read it.

I asked Literary Feline recently about books set in India or by Indian authors. One of the authors she recommended was Amylya Malladi and I decided to pick up her first novel at the library. A Breath of Fresh Air was a quick yet intense read. It is the story of Anjali, a woman whose first marriage ended in divorce. Anjali is remarried and after a fair number of years comes in contact with her ex-husband. This was a very interesting story to me on a number of levels. It explores the relationships between men and women and Anjali's conflicting feelings about her stable marriage and her more wealthy ex-husband. The fact that the book is set in India adds another dimension to the story, that of a culture in which divorce is particularly rare (that is my understanding here, please correct me if I am wrong), and a culture whose expectations of women are so different than that of my own, even now. Anjali and her husband have a child who is ill, which was a very sad part of this book and really touched my heart. I certainly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

If anyone has any other recommendations of books to read about this part of the world, I would really welcome them.


Eva said...

I agree that the end of The Ghost Writer could've been done a bit better, but I really loved it. :)

As far as books about India, I've been collecting international book reviews from various blogs and linking them by country. India's on this page, just scroll down abit-lots of suggestions!

My two favourite Indian writers are Salman Rushdie and Jumpha Lahiri (she writes more about the disapora).

melanie said...

Definitely interested in A Breath of Fresh Air, I have to think about Ghost Writer. Thanks!

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you enjoyed A Breath of Fresh Air. The story about Anjali's daughter really touched me as well.

StuckInABook said...

The Ghost Writer sounds very good - though wondering how much the title gives the game away?!?

Sarah said...

I really love the author Jhumpa Lahiri. Her book of short stories, "Interpreter of Maladies" is my favorite book of hers. If you prefer novels "The Namesake" also by Lahiri is also really good. I think Lahiri's prose and descriptions of emtions and places are beautifully writen.

Tara said...

Eva, I think you are part of the reason I read The Ghost Writer! Wow, thanks for the fantastic link! That's an amazing list. So much to read and explore.

Mel, no problem!

Literary Feline, thanks for the great suggestion. I plan on reading more of this author and I have one of Umrigar's books on order from the library.

Simon, well, yes, there is that! I thought the same.

Sarah, Hello! Thanks for stopping by. You know, I also really liked Interpreter of Maladies. The Namesake is one I should really read. Thank you for the suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Tara, have you read Rohinton Mistry's book, A FINE BALANCE. I read it some years ago (think it was actually an Oprah book) but it was such a wonderful story. Made me long for Indian food all the time. LOL

Lisa said...

Have you read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya? I really enjoyed this book set in India.

Mrs of the Regiment said...

What a great idea to keep a note book of book ideas. I have been trying to keep my paper lists more orderly but there are just too many books on them. Besides, any excuse to buy a nice notebook is good!

I think I might also need to give A Breath of Fresh Air a go after all these wonderful reports.

Carrie K said...

It sounds like a good book though. The title might be a spoiler? Interesting.

I keep an Excel sheet of book I start to read. I keep trying to add reviews, comments and books bought but so far it's not working.

Iliana said...

I'll second Kay's recommendation for A Fine Balance. It's one of those books that will stay with you.
I like your notebook. I have so many notebooks my problem is using just one. I tend to be all over the place :)

LK said...

I'm with Kay and Iliana!

I also have heard that Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri is very good, but I have not read it myself.

Tara said...

Kay, I have not read A Fine Balance, though I am aware of it. Those Oprah books were putting me off, but this one sounds more than worthwhile.

Lisa, No I have not - I will check that out. Thank you for the suggestion.

Pink Lady Bug, Nice to see you! I know what you mean, I love pretty notebooks too.

Carrie K, "but so far it's not working." Hehe. My huband is all about excel sheets for things.

Iliana, thank you for the recommendation. I have another notebook I record books read in - it's sometimes hard to keep track!

LK, thanks LK - lots of praise for A Fine Balance. I've heard of Death of Vishnu...in fact looked at it in Barnes and Noble yesterday but wasn't sure what people thought of it.

lazy cow said...

What about A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth? Huge book. I got through 1/3 of it when it first came out but someone told me the ending so I gave up in disgust. Now that I've totally forgotten what it's about I may pick it up again!

Tara said...

Lazy cow, that is a huge book, isn't it? I've seen it on the shelf. How annoying that someone spoiled it for you.

Nan said...

And, as if you haven't heard enough ideas, there is a great little mystery series by Barbara Cleverly.


And to give a different view from all the other suggestions, M.M. Kaye wrote the best autobiography I have ever read. Three books! She admitted she had this gift of recall which is just amazing.

1. The Sun In The Morning (1990)
2. Golden Afternoon (1997)
3. Enchanted Evening (1999)

And then there is Kipling who seems to be coming into favor again after being looked upon negatively for a long while. Cath and I have been talking a bit about him recently.

Nan said...

Oh, I just found two titles I'd written down in a little book I have called Books To Check Out:

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghui,
and India in the 1920s - I didn't list the author. Sadly, I have no notes, just the titles. One other I jotted down is All Fishes Come Home To Roost: An American Misfit in India by Rachel Manija Brown . It's about growing up in India in a hippie ashram.

Tara said...

Nan, you've given me lots to investigate here. Thank you so much for the book lists!

Danielle said...

I have a similar (though nowhere near as pretty) book to keep reading lists. I drag it with me in my bookbag even. Have you read EM Forster's A Passage to India--I have yet to read it, but I have it on my list. Also there is a Persephone book set in India, but the name escapes me at the moment. I need to read more about that corner of the world as well.

Tara said...

Danielle, I think you shared it once, no? A Passage to India is a great idea, and thank you for reminding me of The Far Cry (persephone). I'd forgotten that was set in India - and I have it!