Category Archives: Book Reviews

Disturbing Stranger, Charlotte Lamb, 1978

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I remember the first time a read a Mills&Boon published book and ever since then, it’s become almost an obsession. I admit I prefer these vintage romances over our contemporary ones. (In the next post, I’ll reveal what the first M&B I read was. Hint: It’s by Helen Bianchin. Can you guess?)
Disturbing Stanger was no doubt a great read, but I admit it’s not one of those which I extremely, fanatically love. We have our delicate heroine (M&B follows such common tropes, I swear, but I’m helpless; I truly love them!) – Laura Hallam, a young and beautiful woman with loving parents. We do not however know much about her ambitions apart from the fact that she wanted to help the man she loves- warm and kind-hearted Dr. Tom Nichol, whom she’s known and loved all her life. Enter an enigmatic, powerful and attractive stranger, older by more than 10 years and we have, what she believes to be the bane of her life- Randal Mercier, the son of her father’s boss. He spots her one night, while she is touring the slums in an effort to get to know what being with Tom entailed, and the chase begins.
Surprisingly, we are met with a hero who patient enough while wanting to possess her, that he courts her for a while, despite her being against it. Her family is very much leaning towards Randall and are more than happy to let her go about with him. It is only when calamity falls, that our hero becomes the typical M&B version of it, and sweeps her away to a romantic getaway after a quick wedding. I have noticed how very common this trope is- getting married first and falling in love later, admittedly one of my favorites.
The story climaxes from there and ultimately reaches the resolution with our couple living happily ever after. I really love the third person limited view that is always there in these books. No matter how many times I read them, the revelations always come like a hurricane, making my heart gallop a hundred miles an hour. The character of Laura, I feel is somewhat of a spineless creature, too homely for my taste. Randall was by far more favorite between them, for me. I think that the story was very well written and the characters made that way itself and as such, I will not complain about how mediocre a read it may have been. In all, I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay, 2018

The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay’s latest book, is a modern day interpretation of 90s magical punk and spiritual romance, a combination which I have never come across before. Now, a disclaimer: although I was given this first chapter by the author, this thought is entirely from a personal viewpoint and has in no way, been influenced.
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Now, having read Virginia Woolf before, I see the same stream of consciousness method applied in the first chapter. We have our young protagonist, Carlie, a young woman living in the 90s, whose life changes after a life-altering accident.
Within this one chapter, the author has beautifully portrayed the hollowness in the independence that people strive for. Carlie is a person facing a harsh reality- she does not really have any friends, and her parents are just people who gave her birth. They are just ‘family’ without the emotional connotations that otherwise come to mind when one talks of their families. It’s her husband who is her only ‘home’ in the world; someone others have not approved of, but in her defence- “She loved the fiery spark in his eyes, his sense of humour, and their common love for music. And his smile. His smile that showed his good heart. That was reason enough for her.”
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The accident in itself is a great loss for her and almost a foreshadowing of the great change that is to come, as we see in the blurb! There is mention of a brother who lifts up her gloomy mood while she is recuperating in the hospital and I cannot help but be eager to know more.
It is June 1994, when “she climbed aboard the spaceship, as she kept calling it, and flew high above and away from Johnny’s game-board piece, wondering if his warm soul was enjoying a similar view.” Yes, that’s how the author has ended the first chapter and it’s left me hungry for more. What spaceship? Is it a metaphor for something sinister? Or is it just a psychological figment of Carlie’s mind? I guess we can never be sure, until the book releases on 1st of June and we get out hands on it!
 
 

A Court of Frost and Starlight, Sarah J Maas, 2018

To the stars that listen, and the dreams that are answered…
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This series is a personal favorite and so, it is no wonder that I should have loved this book as much as I did the rest. Feyre and Rhysand continue to be my favourite couple apart from Aelin and Rowan, ofcourse.
I rated this a solid 5/5 stars!
In terms of the plot, I have come across many people saying they were very disappointed with this book because I suppose there wasn’t much action. But then again, we have to remind ourselves- this is a novella, almost a filler before the spin-off starts. I personally loved the book- the events made the overall atmosphere very life-life; it showed that life isn’t always about going to war or having those extravagantly dangerous missions and scandalous parties all the while. Every so often I find myself bored when a long time couple gets married in some soap or the other- I feel like since they’re together at last, after having faced so many difficulties and only come out stronger, there is nothing more to their story! But Sarah J Maas has shown that it is not so. She has depicted a very real and relatable story in this novella and I have loved it all the more for it. The plot as such is mostly revolving around the personal developments everyone is going through as well as the changes in the dynamic of the relationships, in the face of the scars left by the war.
The characters I feel are well round as before and all on the way to becoming much more wonderful in due course of time. I do admit I am very worried about Elain and Nesta- both their ways of coping with reality seems to me very self-destructive in nature. Everyone is facing one or the other dilemma or are rather at a crossword- confused as to the next course of action. I am praying for Azriel- our favourite shadowsinger; he deserves to be ecstatically happy after all that he has borne through the years. I feel bad for Tamlin too- how wretched he has become due to the circumstances, from the once majestic High Lord of Spring Court that he used to be. The introduction of new characters are also wonderfully done in this book and one cannot help but wonder if these are possibly key figures in the upcoming novels.
Now, onto the one question that has been continually nagging me- who is the woman referred to by Rhysand when he was talking to Azriel? Who the hell can it be? I’m sure it’s a clue- Sarah J Maas is notorious for her subtle hints after all! I’m super excited for the next book!
Coming back to the topic at hand, it truly was a wonderful book- howeve,r it isn’t for younger readers of course! The sex is scandalous! But nonetheless, the Feyre-Rhysand pairing is a majestically powerful one- one that will no doubt remain in our hearts forever, even when the series has long finished!
Disclaimer: The picture used above does not belong to me. 

Letters to my Son, Saravana Kumar Murugan, 2018

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Letters to my son is a love story and a story of love. It is a beautiful piece of literature that has portrayed how love heals all wounds and how, in our everyday life with its busy and hectic overtures, love is the one thing that binds us all to the people in our lives- who in turn keep us sane and happy. It explains how love can change the way people look at things- their perspectives and it’s power to heal even the deepest of wounds resulting from tragic loses. As we will see in the book.
(Check out this interview I did with the author- An Interview with Mr. Saravana Kumar Murugan (author of the bestselling Coffe Date) on his new heartwarming book- Letters to my Son )
This book is a story mainly focusing on the relationship we have with our parents and how these relationships affect us in our day to day lives. We see a widower Aarav, an optimistic man who after the tragic death of his dear wife, has taken the sole responsibility for his son Nirav. His abundant love and attention have helped shape Nirav into a wonderful young man and their bond is a beautiful one. We are also introduced to Mirnalini or Miru as she is fondly called, a vivacious young girl, in love with Nirav.
This novel has brilliantly portrayed the epistolary form of writing in the so-called “Letters to my Son” which have been written by Aarav for his dear son Nirav, on various occasions over the years. It is also a bildungsroman in the sense that we see the mental and emotional changes in Nirav as well as Mirnalini as they initially grow up in India and then go to the USA to pursue their higher education, without any chaperones.
It is truly a beautiful story and I felt that it could have been longer but then again, it is not a novel, rather a short story. And thus, for that, I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. It also features some very beautiful pieces of poetry as our protagonist Nirav is nothing short of a poet himself. Here is one such piece of poetry by Nirav:

In a non-smoker’s ashtray,

I burnt in a way,

Sent up fumes of grey,

Like love’s prey.

 We’d fight a lot,

More than we ever fought,

Still the love knot,

Never let us rot.

 

The Red-Haired Woman, Orhan Pamuk, 2016

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I’m going to begin my review by quoting again, one blurb for this book that was present on the back cover, by Kirkus Reviews on The White Castle, “Elegant and intellectually provocative”. The Red-Haired Woman is a literary masterpiece and as a Pamuk virgin, I fell in love with the writing style- almost like the lazy afternoons Cem spent under the walnut tree; rambling and peaceful.
The surroundings portrayed- with the political unrest, seemed very realistic as it pulls the reader in and makes him a part of the book. The cruel twist fate or destiny pulls in the blanket of our stars, makes it so difficult and strange for the people to accept the truth. Cem as an impressionable youth was portrayed as a vulnerable character, in need of a father-figure in his life, for his biological father could hardly be one. His frequent absences create in him the lifelong doubt that always gnaws away at his soul. So when he does find a father-figure in Master Mahmut, we see the dilemma he faces; there are times he feels an inexplicable bond with him and at other times, he is resentful, looking for possibly veiled barbs in whatever Master Mahmut said.
The whole story is beautiful tale and takes in and around Turkey and Istanbul. The scenic beauty that the author relays to the reader is of an arid and windy place, but unlike what we might imagine- there are buildings, electricity, communication lines etc., despite the contrasting pastoral and rustic imagery that come more easily.
Themes for filicide and patricide abound in this book, and Cem as the protagonist also recognizes how much he studies these two events, and yet, the themes of human relationships and human feelings, are perhaps the most dominant ones in this book.
I have also loved the red-haired woman but I do think that the author tries to keep her in the mystery surrounding her until the very end. Even the background we are provided for her is not enough to dispel the heavy fog surrounding this enigmatic woman. Nonetheless, she retained the perfect bit of vagueness for me as a reader until the very end, despite the little bit of soul-baring that she does.
I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars and rightly understand why it has been awarded the Nobel Prize; it is a literary masterpiece, I reiterate, one that will live through time- like the best stories ever told to man.

Starcrossed, Josephine Angelini, 2011

 
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It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, so pardon me if I might omit some facts about it. When I first bought it, I had no idea that it was a part of a trilogy and so I had bought only this. Otherwise, I could have definitely bought all three. But nonetheless, I remember that I loved this book so much that immediately after reading it, I wanted the get on to the next. It was my bad luck that I couldn’t get my hands on it. And so it has been till today. And stupid me, it is only now while I’m writing this that the thought comes to my mind- I could have just looked for the pdf!
Before  I speak more on Dreamless, I’d like to point out that the second book is Dreamless, and the third in Goddess.
Helen is our beautiful heroine, a young 17-year-old, living with her father in Nantucket. She’s the usual (so not!) islander, 5’11”, and shy and awkward. An average teenager, until one day when this new boy comes to her school. He’s irrevocably the most “beautiful boy” she has ever seen in her life, and the next thing she knows, she’s attacked him!
Lucas’s family is very realistically portrayed and I feel that it’s so much relatable to ours. There are squabbles all the time, but at the end no matter what, family sticks together. Overall, I rate this a 4/5 stars and only wish someone would buy me Dreamless and Goddess.

Ramayana: The great Indian epic, by Valmiki

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The Ramayana is one of the two most famous Sanskrit epics of India. It’s an affirmative epic and set in the Treta Yuga. It basically follows the eldest prince of Kosala kingdom- Rama, and his familial life. Other characters are Laxmana (brother), Sita (wife), Dasharatha (father), Kaikeyi(one of the three wives of the king), and also, Ravana (demon king of Lanka).
This is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Ascribed to the sage Valmiki, the Ramayana is also considered to be the AdiKavya or the first poem. As an Indian myself, I have grown up hearing stories of the Ramayana from my grandparents, parents and other elders in general. The story, apart from the usual entertainment aspect, also teaches life values etc. in Rama himself, we see an idealistic character, and while many people find faults within him, I for one, do not particularly hate him. His fault perhaps was placing his own countrymen above his own as well as his family members’ personal wants and choices.
There is also politics here- so much so that a crowned prince is sent to exile for 14 years. It has fantasy as well as mythological elements as well; demons, witches, divine weapons, giants etc. abound in this grand epic.
I have been reading the translated version of this epic for some time now, and I’ve been loving it. This Ramesh Menon translated version is as close as you can get to the original one. I would definitely recommend you all to give it a read before you pick up any retellings. And when you finally pick it up, do make sure to keep a pen and paper with you, so that you can write who the people are. There are just so many characters, that a person who has been newly introduced to it may be confused!
While writing this article, I was looking up some relevant facts about the epic and I came across this: “Sing his love, sing his praise, Rama set his wife ablaze. Got her home, kicked her out, to allay his people’s doubt. Rama’s wise, Rama’s just, Rama does what Rama must. Duty first, Sita last, Rama’s reign is unsurpassed,” – Luv & Kush, an excerpt of lyrics from Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues. 
 
If you finish it and like it, and are looking for something similar, I would definitely recommend you to give these books a read:

  1. The Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish Tripathi.
  2. Sita: The warrior of Mithila by Amish Tripathi.
  3. Asura: Tale of the vanquished by Anand Neelakantan.
  4. Sita: an illustrated retelling of Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik.
  5. Four brides for four brothers by Devdutt Pattanaik.
  6. Bhoomija: Sita by Anand Neelakantan.

At the moment, I can’t remember anything else but comment below if you do. Do tell me how you found reading that book.
 

  1. I shall be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram account soon, since I’m fast approaching my one year anniversary. Make sure you follow me @pretty_little_bibliophile on Instagram as well as this blog, to get a chance at winning some amazing things!

 
 
 

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, 2014

This marvellous piece of historical fiction is hands-down the best book I’ve read so far set during WWII. It’s a beautiful and gripping tale of the harsh realities of life that people underwent during those difficult times.
Our main female character is a blind girl named Marie-Laure, curious, kind and brave, who overcomes so many difficulties to realize that her blindness is not necessarily a huge incapability. Her father, Daniel LeBlanc, the locksmith is a wonderful man, patient and benevolent to his little girl, always ready to answer the multitude of questions she has regarding a myriad of things. He is a great teacher as well, painstakingly supporting Marie-Laure through her rough childhood when her vision is taken away from her at the nubile age of six. He creates for her entire cities on wood and most importantly, perseverance and how the will to live is far greater than any fear and insecurity. The parts where Daniel is teaching her to cope with her blindness are also very interesting to read- the way he makes her the wooden city model, the puzzles on her birthdays, the braille books etc. He is truly a gem.
Grand-uncle Etienne and Madame Manec are also round characters as well, Etienne more so, as we see how the fear that has kept him house-ridden for more than two decades, control him; can make him cower.
Werner is another character I loved, because it gave me a glimpse of how young boys were ‘harvested’ and ‘brainwashed’ and made to feel that Hitler’s inhumane cause was a just one. I have been, unconsciously in my mind, all these years, blamed the Germans- the Fuhrer, his supporters and especially the militia under him- for willing to so blindly take the lives of others. But I have realized after reading this how this mentality is inserted into the impressionable minds of such young boys, so that when the time comes, they automatically do as they are told. This tale is truly a beautiful and painful and harrowing read, in a good way of course!
I truly have never read anything quite like it, and this book has made me realize how gripping these sort of historical fictions are and I am thirsting for more. I rated it a solid 5/5 stars!
What do you all think I should read next?

The Clothing of Books, Jhumpa Lahiri, 2017

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Without beating about the bush, I’m going to simply say that I loved this book!!! It’s honestly been a beautiful read. The book is really short; almost a long essay about the relation an author has with her books’ covers.
Some lines I picked up from this book are down below:

  1. I confess to having bought a book for its cover more than once, simply because I could not resist it, because I fell under its spell. I trusted the image, even if the content was less convincing.
  2. It makes quite an impression to display books with the jacket fronts facing out rather than the spines. Usually, all in a row on a shelf, books are discrete, rather reserved. They form part of the background, reassuring but neutral. Faced-out jackets are, conversely, extroverted, uninhibited, and unique. They demand attention. They say: Look at us.
  3. Each one of Baker’s paintings is the portrait of a book, but they tell us much more. They recount the passion of reading, both Baker’s and all of ours. They narrate the literary education of a generation. They preserve on canvas a world, a culture that is declining. They elicit nostalgia, recalling an era that no longer exists. Above all they show the relationship, the stronger ties of affection, almost a fusion between reader and book. Baker has said that books “come to stand for various episodes in our lives, for certain idealisms, follies of belief, and moments of love. Along the way they accumulate our marks, our satins, our innocent abuses- they come to wear our experience of them on their cover and bindings like wrinkles o our skin”.
  4. If I see an edition of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Shakespeare’s Complete Works other than the one I read in college, it seems like a different book. I fear that the unknown edition, the one I did not hold, that did not accompany me to the library, that I did not mark up and study, that I did not fall in love with, would not elicit the same emotion in me.

 
The essay sort of follows the relation the author feels with the covers her books may have, beginning at how her emotions developed starting with ‘uniforms’. There isn’t much I can say about the essay- it’s beautiful and rambling and it’s written in a simple language which easy to understand.
Overall, I rate it a solid 4.5/5 stars. I haven’t mentioned it before, but this is the first Jhumpa Lahiri book I’ve read and I have fallen in love with her writing so far. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
Have you read her works as well?

An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson, 2017

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An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson, 2017, was a book that was very much hyped about when it first came out. And no wonder, because have you seen that amazing cover? I mean, I think it is partly one of the reasons why it was so much hyped about even before it came out.
On that note, have you read my post about the importance of book covers and the so-not-followed proverb “Do not judge a book by its cover”, especially when it comes to books? Check it out here! First Impressions: About judging a book by its cover
So anyway, I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I did not think that it was that amazing for it to have a 5-star rating. The concept was very new I admit, but still, it could just not garner a 5 from me. Apart from that, the female protagonist is a nice character and this new trend where females are empowered is very good to see. It is going to be a really good influence on the young generation and for that fact alone, I really love this new trend. Rook as a prince did not do much justice, I think. He just seemed very helpless in the hands of his society where every action of his could bring unwarranted competition. Gadfly was an interesting character though and I felt like he truly is the behind-the-scenes maker/creator of the book.
Of the setting, there is nothing I could complain about. The lush scenery is something very rustic and I have always loved the pastoral. The fairy realms too were a curious and beautiful place. I think that I would be very happy if a prequel could be released that covers Rook’s relations with Gadfly before Isobel ever entered the picture, the Wild Hunt, the Alder King and also Rook’s previous love interest. There are a lot of loops left behind and I think that the author has done this deliberately. Well, if so, I will be very glad, for there are so many things I would like to know more about the characters. And yet, to my greatest horror, it is to be a standalone! What a shame!
The supernatural element was very gripping and influential throughout the book and this fantasy is quite the hooker and I fell, hook, line and sinker! But moving on, I thought that was a scope for more political palace intrigue and some more action scene perhaps, and definitely, more relationships should have been shown beyond the Rook-Isobel one.
There have been many uncountable comparisons between this book and the ACOTAR series, but in my opinion, ACOTAR is so much better than this. However, I cannot deny the fact that An Enchantment of Ravens was an instant New York Times Bestseller and as such there must be some merit to it. my final review on it would thus be that if the author decides to write a prequel/sequel, perhaps I would give this book another chance.
However, I would also recommend all Fae/fantasy/romance lovers to give this book a try! It is definitely worth it!

First Impressions: About judging a book by its cover

 
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We should never judge a book by its cover- that’s a proverb we’ve heard so many times now that I bet, whenever we judge somebody by their outward appearance, the inner voice always quips with these words. It’s inevitable. No matter how much we tell ourselves that it is bad, we fall back to our own habits- and who better to be put forward as examples but us- the incorrigible bookworms and bibliophiles!
One of my favorite books is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I have the edition, by Maple Press. Now, it’s not the most beautiful book cover in the world, despite the fact that I am personally biased with Rhett holding Scarlett close, and her wearing that magnificent red gown. It’s something I love, but it is not the prettiest cover in the world. And I have accepted that. However, there is a story I need to tell when it comes to this. I was left devastated after I finished reading this masterpiece and was looking for a suitable book to read next, preferably a sequel or a prequel. But as time passed on, I got over this heartbreak (I was a mere year 6 student after all, not even in high-school!), and forget all about this search. Then one day, I was at the annual book fair in my city and as soon as I enter this shop, my eyes (and I was not wearing my glasses mind you, without which I am practically blind) zoom in to this book, laid down about 5 feet away from me and around 6 feet off the ground in its shelf, its beautiful spine left to the viewer’s eyes. There was an instant connection. I ask the shopkeeper to bring down that book and lo and behold! It’s Scarlett- the sequel to Gone With the Wind! Of course I got the book and I still reread it every now and then.
What I want to share with you all through this post of mine is that indescribable and irrational bling that glazes out eyes as soon as they fall on a book with a beautiful cover. I have long left behind the guilt I might feel whenever I buy a book just for the sake of the attractive cover. What can I say, I fall hard for pretty ones! And I mean, who doesn’t? It’s a different thing entirely that some people do not act on it while other, like me, do.
The reason I am writing this, is because I recently read this non-fiction book called The Covering of Books by award-winner Jhumpa Lahiri. It describes how close and how important the whole process of making a suitable cover is, for the author. It’s their baby after all. This book made me think about how important it is for the cover to be able to convey the meaning the author wants to, to the audience. And in the process, if it turns out to be a bestseller just because of the looks alone, well..
I suppose this was just a random scribble. I am working on the review for the book and I’ll definitely be posting it soon. Meanwhile, I’m going to wish you luck- in completing that TBR pile, collecting enough money to order that book set you’ve wanted to for a while and so on! Happy reading and happy buying!
 
Disclaimer: The picture in the featured pane DOES NOT belong to me. I got it off the Internet.

Sita: Warrior of Mithila, Amish Tripathi, 2017


I loved Scion of Ikshvaku so much that immediately after finishing it, I picked up Sita. It was a good enough read, but I do prefer the first book over this. I gave this book a 4/5 stars.
This book, like most of you already know, covers Sita’s journey and it converges with Book 1 at the swayamvar for which Ram is deceptively brought to Mithila by the cunning Vishwamitra. This book also clears a few doubts we may have had regarding the mysterious characters we were introduced to in the previous one.
Sita is an indomitable character and a round one at that. Her raging temper is something that is perhaps never seen in young princesses, or girls belonging to the nobility, whether adopted or biological. This fact in itself lends a certain originality to her character; she is more real than any prim and proper princess- she has a fighting spirit. She is beautiful and brave and the Prime Minister of Mithila! She is intelligent, pragmatic and tactful, and we see how wonderfully she complements Ram. (Fun fact: Sita is older than Ram by 5 years in this book. It must be noted that I have no idea whether it is so, in the epic itself, or not).
There are other characters as well like Samichi who is Sita’s right-hand woman and also the Police and Protocol Chief. She is a strong character in herself- a formidable one at that and that fact that she was from the slums meant everybody respected the hard work she had put in to reach the high post she was in. We also see Queen Sunaina, Sita’s adopted mother and King Janak’s wife. She too is a bold and kind character and it is from her that Sita inherited her burning fighting spirit.
However, the fact that stopped me from giving it a solid 5/5 stars, unlike its predecessor was that it simply felt repetitive in so many parts. I know that it is inevitable since the events in the book are taking place simultaneously with that of Book 1. However, it was a thing I did not like. The story was good overall, the characters enthralling and the plot ensnaring, however structure that the author adopted to write this story is not something I am a fan of.
I am looking forward to the third book in the series i.e. Ravan, which will converge with the other two, mainly with Sita’s kidnapping, apart from possibly the battle at Karachapa, and Sita’s swayamvar.

Scion of Ikshvaku, Amish Tripathi, 2015

So recently, I completed reading this book and I give it a solid 5/5 stars.

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It was so very realistic and corroborated by many believable facts, that at times I forgot that it was just a fiction. This is my first Amish Tripathi book and I must say that I have been enamoured by his style of writing. The narrative is compelling and just simply forces you to look deep into the recesses of your mind and soul. The attention he has given to detail is perfect and in the words of First City, ‘…one must congratulate Amish on reintroducing Hindu mythology to the youth of this country’.
The plot is exquisite and the characters are round and real in all aspects. I have never really liked Ram but despite that, I loved his character in this book. It is true that his law-abiding nature was perhaps his hamartia; although not quite, since he does go to heaven in the end, I suppose. This is a very close retelling of the Ramayana, fictionalized no doubt, but all the very more interesting for it.
It has given me a fresh perspective of the instances that might have been, apart from all the stories we have been told by our parents/grandparents. The women in this book are shown as very intelligent and self-dependent ones, which I see has become a trend in modern day retellings and all for the better I feel. Nonetheless, Sita being shown as the Prime Minister of her kingdom is quite an empowering fact in itself. She is not quite the damsel-in-distress we have often thought her to be. The bonding between the brothers is also beautifully shown with the occasional expected silly talks and jokes.
We also see the hatred that can arise in a person because of particular instances that may have happened in his past/childhood. For example, we have Ram who is blamed because he was born on the very day his father lost the battle (his first ever loss) at Karachapa to Ravan, the king of Lanka and also a very good trader.
The politics, I feel, is the most attractive feature in this book, apart from the Ram-Sita scenes, of course. Vishwamitra and Vashishtha are no doubt master players in this whole situation and the introduction of the Vayuputras and Malayaputras just adds more spice to the stew. I have not read the Shiva trilogy before this like I have already stated in the beginning, and as such, it was a bit difficult for me to catch hold of the histories and agendas of these two sections. For this matter though, I would definitely suggest reading that trilogy before reading the Ram Chandra series since that series comes chronologically before this one as well as being the first in publication orders as well.
If you want to gain a fresh new perspective on the Ramayana then I would definitely recommend you to read this amazing work and you will be delighted to know that the sequel follows Sita and also converges with this book towards the end. I have personally started reading the sequel and I’m loving it. Definitely, a must-read if you would like a new point of view for this great epic, keeping in mind that this is not the actual story but simply a fictionalized retelling to which the author has added a few of his own twists and turns.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1890

 

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13th April
So I just started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray yesterday, and so far I’m loving it. The writer has introduced Basil Hallward- the guy who paints the infamous picture, later on, the man in question that is Mr Dorian Gray himself and their mutual friend Lord Henry Wotton (Harry).
I could realize that Lord Henry is an influencer kind of person because, in the beginning, itself, we see Basil hesitant to introduce him to Dorian because he was afraid that the young Lord would be a bad influence on his friend. And it is just as well, I think, because boy, does he have a way with words! I have been mesmerized by the way Lord Henry speaks; there is this paradoxical quality about him that I really like, and he is just a very good orator. Most of the lines that I have underlined in the book so far are from his speeches. I’ll put in a few examples here:

  1. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are,—my fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks,—we will all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.
  2. I make a great difference between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains. A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain.
  3. Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger.
  4. I think you will tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won’t like his tone of color, or something. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. The worst of having a romance is that it leaves one so unromantic.
  5. There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral,—immoral from the scientific point of view.
  6. Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly,—that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self.
  7. ‘I believe that if one man were to live his life out fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream,—I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal,— to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be…. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—
  8. You are a wonderful creature. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.
  9. Because you have now the most marvellous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having…Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.
  10. And Beauty is a form of Genius,—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it…To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible… ‘Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which really to live. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly. Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar, which are the aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.
  11. Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.
  12. What a fuss people make about fidelity! … And, after all, it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. It is either an unfortunate accident, or an unpleasant result of temperament. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.
  13. She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.
  14. Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.
  15. I can sympathize with everything, except suffering. I cannot sympathize with that. It is too ugly, too horrible, too distressing. There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathize with the color, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.
  16. Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different.
  17. To get back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.
  18. Nowadays, most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.
  19. Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
  20. My dear boy, no woman is a genius: women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. They represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as we men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
  21. But you should not say the greatest romance of your life. You should say the first romance of your life. You will always be loved, and you will always be in love with love. There are exquisite things in store for you. This is merely the beginning.
  22. ‘My dear boy, people who only love once in their lives are really shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or the lack of imagination. Faithlessness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the intellectual life,—simply a confession of failure.
  23. When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls romance.
  24. To have ruined oneself over poetry is an honour.
  25. There is always something infinitely mean about other people’s tragedies.
  26. People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves.
  27. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.
  28. Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
  29. ‘I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a personality fascinates me, whatever the personality chooses to do is absolutely delightful to me… The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colorless. They lack individuality.
  30. The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
  31. Women are wonderfully practical, much more practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to say anything about marriage, and they always remind us… I have a theory that it is always the women who propose to us, and not we who propose to the women, except, of course, in middle-class life. But then the middle classes are not modern.
  32. You will always like me, Dorian… I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.
  33. I have known everything, but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid that there is no such thing, for me at any rate.
  34. There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating,—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing. Good heavens, my dear boy, don’t look so tragic! The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming. Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will smoke cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is beautiful. What more can you want?
  35. But she would have soon found out that you were absolutely indifferent to her. And when a woman finds that out about her husband, she either becomes dreadfully dowdy, or wears very smart bonnets that some other woman’s husband has to pay for. I say nothing about the social mistake, but I assure you that in any case the whole thing would have been an absolute failure.
  36. Good resolutions are simply a useless attempt to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for us. That is all that can be said for them.
  37. I fancy that the explanation is this. It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that has artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us. In the present case, what is it that has really happened? Some one has killed herself for love of you. I wish I had ever had such an experience. It would have made me in love with love for the rest of my life. The people who have adored me—there have not been very many, but there have been some— have always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care for them, or they to care for me. They have become stout and tedious, and when I meet them they go in at once for reminiscences. That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the color of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.
  38. I believe that women appreciate cruelty more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated. I am sure you were splendid. I have never seen you angry, but I can fancy how delightful you looked. And, after all, you said something to me the day before yesterday that seemed to me at the time to be merely fanciful, but that I see now was absolutely true, and it explains everything.’
  39. We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.

Basil Hallward also has some amazing lines:

  1. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them… It is the only thing that can make modern life wonderful or mysterious to us.
  2. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.
  3. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.
  4. You might see nothing in him. I see everything in him.
  5. I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry,—too much of myself!
  6. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography.
  7. I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a summer’s day.
  8. Don’t spoil him for me. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don’t take away from me the one person that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to my art whatever wonder or charm it possesses. Mind, Harry, I trust you.
  9. He won’t like you better for keeping your promises. He always breaks his own.

Was it just me or does Dorian Gray not feel like the central character of the novel at all? Am I prejudiced towards Lord Henry Wotton a.k.a Harry? Dorian too has a few lines, short and profound, but nothing compared to what I think Harry has:

  1. I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything. Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry is perfectly right. Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I will kill myself.
  2. I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself, I feel that.
  3. I felt that this gray, monstrous London of ours, with its myriads of people, its splendid sinners, and its sordid sins, as you once said, must have something in store for me. I fancied a thousand things… To the present day I can’t make out why I did so; and yet if I hadn’t!—my dear Harry, if I hadn’t, I would have missed the greatest romance of my life.
  4. But Juliet! Harry, imagine a girl, hardly seventeen years of age, with a little flower-like face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark-brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion, lips that were like the petals of a rose. She was the loveliest thing I had ever seen in my life. You said to me once that pathos left you unmoved, but that beauty, mere beauty, could fill your eyes with tears. I tell you, Harry, I could hardly see this girl for the mist of tears that came across me… Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don’t know which to follow. Why should I not love her? Harry, I do love her. She is everything to me in life. Night after night I go to see her play. One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison from her lover’s lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap. She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a guilty king, and given him rue to wear, and bitter herbs to taste of. She has been innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed her reed-like throat. I have seen her in every age and in every costume. Ordinary women never appeal to one’s imagination… But an actress! How different an actress is! Why didn’t you tell me that the only thing worth loving is an actress?’ ‘Because I have loved so many of them, Dorian.’
  5. She is all the great heroines of the world in one. She is more than an individual. You laugh, but I tell you she has genius. I love her, and I must make her love me. You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain. My God, Harry, how I worship her!’
  6. She has not merely art, consummate art instinct, in her, but she has personality also; and you have often told me that it is personalities, not principles, that move the age.
  7. As we were sitting together, suddenly there came a look into her eyes that I had never seen there before. My lips moved towards hers. We kissed each other. I can’t describe to you what I felt at that moment. It seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one perfect point of rose-colored joy… I have been right, Basil, haven’t I, to take my love out of poetry, and to find my wife in Shakespeare’s plays? Lips that Shakespeare taught to speak have whispered their secret in my ear. I have had the arms of Rosalind around me, and kissed Juliet on the mouth.
  8. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were wonderful, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never think of you. I will never mention your name. You don’t know what you were to me, once. Why, once …. Oh, I can’t bear to think of it! I wish I had never laid eyes upon you! You have spoiled the romance of my life. How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art! What are you without your art? Nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you would have belonged to me. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face.
  9. So I have murdered Sibyl Vane,’ said Dorian Gray, half to himself,— ‘murdered her as certainly as if I had cut her little throat with a knife. And the roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden. And to-night I am to dine with you, and then go on to the Opera, and sup somewhere, I suppose, afterwards. How extraordinarily dramatic life is! If I had read all this in a book, Harry, I think I would have wept over it. Somehow, now that it has happened actually, and to me, it seems far too wonderful for tears. Here is the first passionate love-letter I have ever written in my life. Strange, that my first passionate love letter should have been addressed to a dead girl.
  10. If one doesn’t talk about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as Harry says, that gives reality to things.

 
 
14th April
From whatever I’ve read so far, I can make out that the character of Lord Henry Wotton is quite shallow. He is a rake, very obviously. He seems to say a lot of things- wonderful things; he has a loud mouth. But it all seems like a façade to me. He must possibly be a lonely person trying to deny that, through all his antics. He is a person in denial of the fact that his life has no meaning so far. Nonetheless, I love his character. He has that whimsical quality about him that I like- he makes me think. He is a chauvinist when he gives his speech- “My dear boy, no woman is a genius: women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. They represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as we men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”
One line Sibyl Vane has said that has left me unsettled was- “To be in love is to surpass oneself… he has preached me as a dogma; tonight he will announce me as a revelation. I feel it. And it is all his, his only, Prince Charming, my wonderful over, my god of graces.”
Another poignant line of hers is “You came,—oh, my beautiful love!—and you freed my soul from prison. You taught me what reality really is. To-night, for the first time in my life, I saw through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness, of the empty pageant in which I had always played… You had brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a reflection. You have made me understand what love really is. My love! my love! I am sick of shadows. You are more to me than all art can ever be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play? When I came on to-night, I could not understand how it was that everything had gone from me. Suddenly it dawned on my soul what it all meant. The knowledge was exquisite to me. I heard them hissing, and I smiled. What should they know of love? Take me away, Dorian— take me away with you, where we can be quite alone. I hate the stage. I might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that burns me like fire. Oh, Dorian, Dorian, you understand now what it all means? Even if I could do it, it would be profanation for me to play at being in love.”
 
I thought that I’d put in every line that I liked from beginning till end, but I’ve realized how highly impractical that is; since I’m reading from an actual copy of the book, rather than an eBook. (Fun fact: I hate eBooks, and avoid them like the plague unless it is absolutely necessary)
The chapter of Sibyl Vane’s death is very significant, I feel. We see Dorian finally morph into someone else- the change in his portrait is proof of that as his innate humanity has lessened, no doubt from Harry’s (Lord Henry Wotton) influence and his own choices as well. Then we see his realization regarding this change when he refuses to let Basil remove the screen he had placed in front of the portrait to prevent anyone else from seeing it. We see him growing suspicious of everyone around him- from his valet, the loyal Victor- to even the frame-maker Mr Hubbard.
I got the word I was searching for- for Harry. His words are charming and clever- but they are cynical. He sends over The Yellow Book to Dorian which is similar to the poisonous influence he has on the younger man. The book is almost like an experiment he performs on Dorian, which turns out exceedingly to his liking. It fascinates Dorian as he sees aspects of his own life in the protagonist in this “novel without a plot, and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian”.
15th April
I watched the 2009 version of Dorian Gray, starring Ben Barnes (Oh, how I love him!). The guy who plays Basil in the movie very eloquently said to Dorian, about Harry- “You’ll never meet a more eloquent philosopher of pure folly”. And I totally agree.
Things have really turned for the worst when Dorian stoops to murder and blackmail (to hide the fact that he has murdered a man). He has finally become an image of Harry, but much more dangerous and immoral in nature. He almost does not have a heart! He is so dedicated to his pursuit of pleasure that he no longer knows what happiness is. The irony of it all is that he knows what happiness and pleasure are, in terms of their lexical meanings, and that there is a huge difference between them.
Another lines of Harry I came across towards the end are:

  1. The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.
  2. As for omens, there is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
  3. The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty.
  4. Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms me. A mist makes things wonderful.

 
Anyway, I finished this book today. It was most possibly one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is a wonderful novel, hence an obvious classic and I am so glad that I have read this masterpiece of the ages. Dorian as a character who repents too late towards the end, teaches us that the pursuit of pleasure is no doubt an aphrodisiac to the senses but this pursuit must be done only within the moral limits set by society and not be obsessed over. Likewise, the fact that youth and beauty are transient and will fade away one day is a fact that we all need to accept.
Lord Henry is a cynic of the purest waters. He is charming with his words, delightful in his speeches. He is a bad influence, but I love him more for it. Basil on the other hand, is a very good friend who ultimately dies due to the madness of the person he was trying to help.
The plot in itself was an awesome journey over the years in Victorian Era England and we see a bleak picture of London of the times, with its unbridgeable gap between the rich and the poor. It was this London of vices that unfortunately trapped the young and impressionable Dorian with Lord Henry’s help.
Oscar Wilde has created a sensational masterpiece in this philosophical novel and makes us explore the interrelationships between art, life and the consequences of our actions. It beautifully plays with elements of sin, desire and personal growth in a period when this was an outrage to the Victorian establishment.
I rate it a solid 5/5 stars.