A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)

This is a remarkable book, and big, so big in fact, that I am taking up a second post for all my remaining remarks. Starting with a quote that I really love:

“She paused by the science shelves, not because she understood much science, but, rather because she did not. Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her – the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world.”

There are a whole slew of characters to meet in A Suitable Boy, yet I didn’t feel confused with them at any point.  Partly this is due to my reading a little each day, retaining the thread of who is who, but the four family trees provided, and side characters who are easily associated with certain characters or places helped, and I was rarely troubled placing a character  who was returning after 200 pages in the wilderness.

Seth is a big fan of poetry and his playful rhyming couplets are seen throughout, most noticably describing each chapter, and then through the incessant creations of the Chatterji family.  There are also myriad references to various Indian mythological works which encourages a deeper reading into Indian mythology.  Sprinkled throughout are bits of the local language which was a nice touch, especially when I started to recognise what was being referred to, or which familial names were used to denote relationships.

The plot is unhurried and slowly expands to include all of life and society, it really allows the world to be shown in richness and depth.  Whether the reader thinks this much detail is relevant or not, it is certainly worth the exploration and gives the book a much more authentic feel.

There is plenty of conflict, whether it be class, religious and political divides, or generational.  Everybody has a prejudice of some sort, whether conscious of it or not.  Seth explores all sides of these, offering plenty of insight which has the capacity to bring out both sympathy or revulsion at various times. Continue reading “A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)”

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A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part One)

Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.

When faced with a wall of paper such as this (1474 pages), a choice inevitably presents itself.  Will it be worth the time and effort taken to read this, or would it be more productive to read a few shorter books in the same time span? Luckily choosing this Indian epic was the right option, and the time spent savouring this novel was well worth it.

When reading, I loved how it harked back in style to works of earlier ages. It was easy to draw comparisons with the Russian epics, and War and Peace in particular, as well as Moby Dick for the sheer level of detail that the reader never realised they wanted to know.

Although the story takes place in less than two years, and with its vast array of characters, it is very much in the spirit of those classics, treating the reader to a glimpse of life in post independence India. With the upheaval of the partition with Pakistan as a backdrop, social and religious tensions are explored but at the heart of the story its the family spirit, and myriad connections that gives the book its flow. An India, and a young generation trying to find its own way. Continue reading “A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part One)”

WP 10th Anniversary

Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011.  Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.

Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade.  My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years.  I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.

My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform.  Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene,  and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post.  And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”

Bringing Book the Good Times

I’m finally back from a wonderful Christmas and New Year in England, and after fighting through the obligatory jet lag, as well as other demands, I finally find time to catch you up on things.

The most important being the books I managed to haul back over with me, which is a veritable, eclectic feast of words, split nicely between books to reread and new tomes to explore…

Continue reading “Bringing Book the Good Times”

South of the South Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Thorgil is an adventurer, a young boy whose heart is out at sea. When his father tells him of his plan to set sail to return to Norway, Thorgil is determined to follow his dreams. This is a story about adventure and never returning home.Schoolboy Thomas loves his geography teacher – with tales of the Bounty Ship and inspiring paintings by Gauguin, his imagination is set free and he gets curious. However, one day in class, the teacher is taken away from school and Thomas is curious to find out where he is.Jorgen is a bright boy but due to financial difficulties, can’t get the education he wants. The fisherman life it is for him and later settles down with a family. One day the winds cause havoc in the sky and change things for him; this is a tale of loss and greed. The finale in the short stories brings to you the tale of Toby, the cheeky dog, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face…

I really tried to make this book last, honest!  Having adored the other three Wind books, and greedily devoured them, this one should have been one to savour. One sitting later and I was once again closing a book utterly enchanted with the stories, and also a little sad that I couldn’t experience them again for the first time.

The initial story, Grapes of Love was, I futilely promised myself, the one story I would limit myself to that day. It tells of the many types of passing; of ideas, and of time, passing into maturity, and of the people whom we meet through life. The mysteries of the heart and the world are explored and all of this is wrapped up in a good dollop of Norse history, which always conjures up dramatic imagery.

Continue to read and think

After that story the ‘just one more, and then I will leave the others’ excuse came into play.  Windward was my absolute favourite tale of the book. It’s another delve into history but is this time much more international.  The reader gets to explore not only the globe but also the themes of escape, freedom and consequences, and how choice – or lack of it – can have major repercussions on life. Continue reading “South of the South Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

When Will You Visit?

I spent ages looking for a good video with which to entice you over to this part of the world  in the near future – one that didn’t include people needlessly showing off – after a good twenty-five minutes of searching, finally this one was settled on.

I did want a shorter, snappier video but  – although quite long at seven and a half minutes – it does a very good job of capturing the beauty of both the country and people, whilst, towards the end, balancing that out with the poverty that is so often glossed over in such videos.

The Lyons Legacy – Charlie King

Last year I reviewed The Lyons Orphanage, of which this is the follow-up so it is best to start with that book, if you haven’t already.  If the odd minor spoiler doesn’t bother you though,  then read on for the review of book two.

Ten years on from the events that took place inside The Lyons Orphanage, Sam is still no closer to finding his parents.
Sam takes a job at the Crown Prosecution Service to find clues about the identity of his parents by investigating the case against Howard Lyons, who was sectioned as a result of his actions.
Nicholas Lyons, stricken with illness, pleads with Sam to visit his brother and have him transferred to a prison for his crimes, to save Howard from the indignity of life in a psychiatric hospital.
This sets Sam on a path to learn all he can about the case but clean-cut Sam knows he’ll have to break a few rules to get to the bottom of it.

 Despite my physical copy of the earlier book being a couple oceans away, I found myself falling back in with the story, and the returning characters easily.  With ten years of back story and circumstances to catch up on, both are quickly and succinctly dealt with straight away.

I really enjoyed the first book, and was very much looking forward to this second instalment. The cover is themed similarly to the first but feels like a sexy, modern upgrade which fits very well with the placing of the book, being set a decade after the original.

I didn’t have as much fun with this entry into the series. The Lyons Orphanage was propelled along by mysteries and it was that which drove the reader onward in the quest to seek answers, as well as to be joyfully misdirected as to where the plot was going (at least this intrepid reader was). As such, with most of the key plot points having been revealed already, there is noticeable dissipation of tensions, and questions needing an answer. Continue reading “The Lyons Legacy – Charlie King”