Tag Archives: literature

The Great Godden, by Meg Rosoff: A Magnificent Tale

Today I am sharing my thoughts on THE GREAT GODDEN, by Meg Rosoff, a stunning story of family, love, and betrayal, set during one long summer.

A definite must-read for fans of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, and SWIMMING IN THE DARK!

The Great Godden, by Meg Rosoff

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

Everyone talks about falling in love like it’s the most miraculous, life-changing thing in the world. Something happens, they say, and you know.

That’s what happened when I met Kit Godden. I looked into his eyes and I knew. Only everyone else knew too. Everyone else felt exactly the same way.

This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer – the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers – irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

From Meg Rosoff, bestselling author of the iconic novel How I Live Now, comes a lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale – a summer book that’s as heady, timeless and irresistible as Bonjour Tristesse and The Greengage Summer.

my review

One of the best new literary fiction of contemporary times, THE GREAT GODDEN is a beautiful story of a summer set by the sea, a summer that leaves devastating scars on the people of this family.

The Great Godden and The Great Gatsby

I loved how reminiscent it was of THE GREAT GATSBY. The title even, for that matter, felt like wordplay on this modern tale. Very much like how Jay Gatsby has put Daisy Buchanan on a pedestal and made this huge illusion of her, so much about the charming and enigmatic Kit Godden is all about illusions, all smokes and mirrors.

The characters

I loved the way the author let us know about the characters, all these players in the play, bit by bit. The relationships that bind them all are also explored in nuances. I believe that THE GREAT GODDEN is as much a study in human psychology as it was a tale of a family in the throes of summer before school starts again. While it wasn’t that strong on the psychology point, there were certain shades of it and I often wondered about why the characters did what they did. In the end, you are left to wonder, who is the ‘Great Godden’ – Kit or Hugo.

Verdict!

Overall, I loved this book and I definitely will be going back to it again! I recommend all to pick it up again and again! A definite 5/5 stars!

Check it out on:

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DEATH BY SHAKESPEARE: A stunning dive into Shakespeare’s methods!

Today I am sharing my thoughts on DEATH BY SHAKESPEARE, an amazing analysis of Shakespeare’s unique methods of killing off his characters!

Death by Shakespeare, by Kathryn Harkup
Death by Shakespeare, by Kathryn Harkup

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

An in-depth look at the science behind the creative methods Shakespeare used to kill off his characters.

In Death By Shakespeare, Kathryn Harkup, best-selling author of A is for Arsenic and expert on the more gruesome side of science, turns her expertise to Shakespeare and the creative methods he used to kill off his characters. Is death by snakebite really as serene as Cleopatra made it seem? How did Juliet appear dead for 72 hours only to be revived in perfect health? Can you really kill someone by pouring poison in their ear? How long would it take before Lady Macbeth died from lack of sleep? Readers will find out exactly how all the iconic death scenes that have thrilled audiences for centuries would play out in real life.

In the Bard’s day death was a part of everyday life. Plague, pestilence and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theater was a fairly likely scenario. Death is one of the major themes that reoccurs constantly throughout Shakespeare’s canon, and he certainly didn’t shy away from portraying the bloody reality of death on the stage. He didn’t have to invent gruesome or novel ways to kill off his characters when everyday experience provided plenty of inspiration.

Shakespeare’s era was also a time of huge scientific advance. The human body, its construction and how it was affected by disease came under scrutiny, overturning more than a thousand years of received Greek wisdom, and Shakespeare himself hinted at these new scientific discoveries and medical advances in his writing, such as circulation of the blood and treatments for syphilis.

Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up?

my review

Death by Shakespeare was such an intriguing read! From the name itself, I knew that it had to obviously do with the deaths that occurred in Shakespeare’s plays – the hows mostly. And being a literature major with fair dabbling in the Shakespearean arts, I was of course very intrigued and my interest was piqued.

What was better though, was how the author built it up. England in those days was full of pestilence, and personal hygiene was an almost non-existent thing. So it was inevitable that various diseases flourished. Now all of these are facts. However, I have to applaud the author for the amazing fiction-like way in which she has given us a glimpse of this England. And it was a great build-up to the actual 74 ways Shakespeare used to kill if the famous (well, mostly infamous) characters from his various plays.

The historical context in regards to the wholeness of death was the most intriguing factor to me. England then was not like today – many people today go on for years without witnessing a death happen in front of their eyes (I haven’t, touchwood) but then, it was pretty much an everyday happening. Public executions were common, plagues often plagued the people (wordplay there), and wars, battles, uprisings were common, sudden street fights (as one sees in Romeo and Juliet) were also common happenings. As such, death was one of the threads that weaved the everydays of the people. And so, Shakespeare did not have to look far for inspiration.

There is also a lot of conjecture in this book, too. And in a way, it again only imbibed in me the scientific temperament and I would think and think if it was possible, coming up with ways in which it was, and counter-ways in which it was not possible. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun reading this book and I hope you all read it too and moreover, take your time with it!

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Check it out on:

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Intertextual retelling: The Sleeper and The Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle is an intertextual retelling comprising both the tales of Sleeping Beauty as well as Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

An Intertextual Retelling

This is a new retelling, combining the fairytales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I did not really know that going into it; I just thought that it was a Sleeping beauty retelling. However, the author has given an entirely new spin to it!

Female empowerment in intertextual reads

However, sleeping beauty, as it turns out, is not actually who we think she is. This is where the author brings in a delicious and dark new twist and it is quite interesting to see the turn that this story takes. This story however, does establish the two women as independent women with their own rights, pursuing what they want to, whether good or bad. They do not depend or long for a prince to save them and are neither pawns at the hands of others. They are makers of their own destiny and that was a good point added to the story.

Illustrations

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

I think that this is a good fairytale on its own rights, to introduce kids to – not everything is as it appears and not everyone is as helpless as they might seem to be. The artwork was quite different from the one I am generally used to but I loved it. I came across Chris Riddell’s illustrations once before in Summer With Monica by Roger McGough.

What I did not like

However, I would have liked the book to be a bit longer than it was. Because of this reason also, I think that it was a bit overhyped. It could have definitely provided more and I just think like there was something missing.

Verdict:

Overall, a really interesting read and I rate it 4/5 stars.

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Recommended reads: The Near Witch, Crown of Oblivion, The Raven’s Tale, After the Flood, etc.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing, by Anuradha Roy, 2008

AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING
AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING

Title: An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Author: Anuradha Roy

Publisher: Picador USA

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Recommended for:  

Synopsis:

On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden.

As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return.

My review:

Thanks to my professor for lending me this book.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

An Atlas of Impossible Longings is a story of loss, love, hope, longings and desires. This tapestry of human natures is so vivid and full of imagery that it takes one to the places and the people as the author describes them. The story is undoubtedly sad at times, but I personally applaud the author’s ability to write it without making the reader really depressed. There is a thread of old-world, pre-independence era nostalgia threading throughout the entire narrative.

It was only when the novel ended that I understood why the author started it as she had. She does not fail to give us a backstory to the major characters, across the various generations – Amulya, Kananbala, Manjula, Nirmal, Mukunda, Bakul, Suleiman Chacha, Bikash Babu etc.

One could say, that there are three stories – that of Amulya who had created his new home away from the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, in Songarh, with his wife who is very much resentful of this; then we see Suleiman Chacha’s house in Calcutta, in the midst of the chaotic Partition years, where Mukunda also stays; and lastly, we see the house of Bikash Babu, built on the banks of a river gone wild, which is very much related to Bakul, the female protagonist, also named after a tree that had been growing on a side of the mansion. Tying all three of these, is the undeniable bond of Mukunda and Bakul, as well as both of them independently.

Mukunda as a character is the only one who we see is undergoing social mobility. He is a casteless orphan firstly, in a time when caste consciousness reigned supreme. Then he is taken up by Nirmal and encouraged to study and move forward in life – in this we again see him as the gentleman’s son. But then, in Calcutta, he is like every other individual trying to make something for himself. He never fails to remember, however, his Bakul whom he has left behind in Songarh. Even after being married, we see that unbreakable thread of thought and emotion binding him to her.  It is this aspect that really makes me relate him to Heathcliff, from Emily Bronte’s classic – Wuthering Heights. I really do think of this story as a somewhat loosely written Indian version of Wuthering Heights. Mukunda and Bakul’s story is just as tumultuous and wrought with various troubles.

He wanted to tell her that his dreams took him far beyond Songarh, beyond Calcutta, across oceans, towards icebergs. What would she say? “Take me with you! I want to come too!” 

Hand in hand, they stood in the middle of the empty fields under the star-filled sky, their troubles, fear, and the long way they still had to go before reaching home, all forgotten.

The name of this novel is quite relatable to the characters to this book – “impossible longing” implying that the longings that these people might have, are not to be accepted by society, and obviously so – we see Nirmal in love with Meera, a widow, who is, because of her marital state, a figure on the lower rungs of societal hierarchy; Mukunda with his own share and Meera with her desire to be identified as a woman by her own rights and not by her marital state. These people are so real to the reader – we see them giving up on this desires as they let themselves be carried forward by estiny, but still, holding onto a tiny flicker of hope.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

Displacement plays an important underlying theme in this novel- whether it is Amulya as he brings in his family to Songarh, Nirmal in the city, and most importantly with Suleiman Chacha.

Women and their position in society is also another interesting point. Considering the fact that the novel spans roughly 1920s to the 1950s, the expectations and rules set upon them were also very different. We see Kananbala, and as she grows older, the lack of knowledge that people have about speech impediments, leads her to being locked up in her room until her death. Manjula as a wife and daughter-in-law “fails” to do her duty, because she is unable to bear progeny. Then comes the Mrs. Barnum whose half-blood origins make her foreign to both the British as well as the locals. Then again, one rumor (in case of Bakul) is enough to stop a marriage from occuring. The pitiable condition of widows is seen through Meera and one line really touched me.

“Some day, she fantasised, I’ll again wear sunset orange, green the colour of a young mango, and rich semul red. Maybe just in secret, for myself, when nobody’s looking, but I will.
Unknown to her, Nirmal was watching from outside. It had brought him to a standstill, to see her doing something so ordinary, looking at a sari, the kind of sari that a widow could never wear.”

The author has not failed to cover many important aspects of India of those times – caste system, the pitiable condition of widows, the Hindu-Muslins rivalry and riots near the Partition years, social system etc. in her brutally elegant writing style, Roy has woven together a veritable mass of an entity that is relatable to the heart of India, and all things Indian. With brilliant characterization and world building, this is one of the best books I read in 2018!

Verdict:

I rate it a 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Assamese Youth and Assamese Literature


As a person from Assam, a state in Northeast India, my mother-tongue is Assamese. I use it all the time to converse with my family, relatives, friends, and so on. The other languages I use verbally are just Hindi and English. That is it. But when it comes to reading and writing, I admit I am much more comfortable only in English. And that simply is because English was, after all, the first language I was taught to write while in school. I studied Assamese till class 10, and then continued to use it while reading and writing but only for my dance lessons. So that was until a couple years back.
Today, I am really trying to reverse that. I am going to make sure that I read more and more Assamese books this year- it is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I am going to make myself better versed in my mother-tongue. Because to call myself Assamese without knowing how to properly read the language is indeed shameful.

For this initiative, I have taken the help of this blog and my bookstagram account, and come up with the #readyourmothertongue reading challenge through which I will read at least one Assamese novel each month. And why only Assamese? Pick up books written in your language, if it is a different one!
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These books are ones I bought in December so I suppose this is your #decemberbookhaul2018 #part7 and the last too!
1. গল্প আৰু গল্প – দিলীপ বৰা দ্বাৰা সম্পাদিত
2. অসীমত যাৰ হেৰাল সীমা – কাঞ্চন বৰুৱা
3. বুঢ়ী আইৰ সাধু – লক্ষ্মীনাথ বেজবৰুৱা
4. মিৰি জীয়ৰী – ৰজনীকান্ত বৰদলৈ
5. জিগলো – ৰশ্মিৰেখা ভূঞা
6. মৰমৰ দেউতা – ভাবেন্দ্ৰনাথ শইকীয়া
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একেইখনৰ ভিতৰত কোনো এখন পঢ়িছে নেকি আপুন?
Have you read any among these?
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I will be picking up these books- one by one- in the #readyourmothertongue challenge!
Are you participating as well? Do join in! 😊