After I’d completed A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, I put the book down in my lap, leaned back, and stared somewhere into the middle distance while my mind went through the events in […]
It is oft said that even the best of novelists hone their skills on short stories since they contain more or less the same elements as novels yet on a smaller scale. Kazuo Ishiguro’s charming […]
Ernest Cline’s highly popular novel, Ready Player One, has been widely acclaimed for its originality and deep immersion into the 1980s, the decade when the video-gaming as we know it today set root in the […]
Jessie Burton again turns to the past to harness inspiration for her second book, The Muse. This time the plot moves back and forth between the 1930s civil-war-ravaged Spain and the 1960s London, yet the […]
This is one of the very few books that has managed to leave me in tears (of joy and uncontrolled laughter) after every few pages. Good Omens, written by the unsurpassable Neil Gaiman and Terry […]
Jessie Burton’s debut, The Miniaturist, derives inspiration from a 17th-century hobby for young wives, an ostentatious curiosity cabinet on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, that was built in the late 17th century, commissioned by Petronella Oortman, who wanted a replica of the luxurious townhouse in which she lived in the centre of Amsterdam. Burton’s Petronella Oortman is an 18-year-old country girl, from an impoverished aristocratic family, married off to a wealthy merchant, who, instead of his affection, presents her with the minute replica of the house that she was brought to. The purpose of the gift is to distract curious Nella from focusing on her rather distant husband, but she sees it as ‘no more than an insult to her fragile status.’ It all begins like a naive child’s play, but it eventually turns into something rather ominous with disastrous consequences. The Miniaturist is a true reading delight, well-structured, well-worded, with intriguing characters who go through a major metamorphosis by the time the novel reaches its thrilling denouement.
I enjoy carnivals, circuses, harlequins, masks, mystery, and the complete overturning and subversion of social norms, rules, and conventions that goes with them. One of my favourite books is Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus […]
The word feminist has been ladened with a load of negative baggage: you hate men, you burn bras, you hate your own tradition, you think women are better than men, you don’t wear make-up, you don’t shave, you’re always angry, you don’t have a sense of humour, you don’t use deodorant, etc. In her 2012 TEDx talk and later on, in her essay titled We Should All Be Feminists, award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seeks to rectify the injustice done to the definition of feminism and show how necessary and significant it is today.
Most people swoon at the very mention of Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian novelist who rose to prominence in the late 1980s with The Alchemist, regarding his every word as a droplet from some source of pristine knowledge and positive energy, leaving me (and most probably a handful of other skeptics) feeling like an utter villain for daring to cast even the palest shadow of doubt and critique upon any of his works. I read The Alchemist for the first time in high-school because a bunch of my amulets-wearing, guitar-in-the-park-playing, on-the-floor-sitting friends were drooling all over it, and then I read it again quite recently, and even though more than a decade ago I pretended to ‘totally get it’ and called it ‘deep’, now I realised that, essentially, my feelings have not changed – it is still a bunch of metaphysical mumbo jumbo, a pop-philosophical self-help book neatly wrapped in fiction. I tried giving Coelho some more chances after the initial debacle, but I never seemed to manage to get over the humdrum spirituality and constant attempts by the writer to give me plenty of unsolicited advice about love and life, and love. Then, a couple of weeks ago a friend came all moon-eyed and shoved a copy of Coelho’s newest, The Spy, into my chest saying that I had to read it because it was ‘great’ and ‘totally different than anything he wrote so far.’
Neil Gaiman’s mild horror novella Coraline (2002) is a book I keep returning to whenever I find myself missing my own mother, and that is definitely the case today, during the Mother’s Day weekend. The story of Coraline is one where numerous contemporary parents and children could recognize themselves: the desperately bored little girl looking for adventure and companionship, loads of time on her hands, the constantly busy, mildly disinterested parents, the geriatric part-senile neighbours, the appeal of the unknown. The straightforward third-person-narrative limited to Coraline’s perspective and matter-of-fact retelling of the events and conclusions drawn by the child-protagonist provides for a riveting story with a powerful message. As a masterful stylist that he is, Gaiman effortlessly pulls his readers into the story transporting them among the reality, the dream, and the dreamlike reality of Coraline’s world while leaving enough of murky space in-between to allow them to either embrace the button-eyed fantasy or hold tightly onto the clear-cut reality.