Atonement: An Exquisite Panorama

The title ‘Atonement‘ and the back cover of the 2001 Ian McEwan book suggests an emotional journey, a wrenching coming-of-age tale, that starts from an incident and extends well beyond it in real life ramifications and in memory.

Widely regarded as one of Ian McEwan’s best works, it was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for fiction. In 2007, the book was adapted into a BAFTA and Academy Award-winning film of the same title.

A few pages into the book and I knew this was not going to be an ordinary, swift read. The language is lyrical so that to roll over the words quickly was to let go of mini impressions that make up the larger picture. There are tiny flickers of emotions that fit the pieces of the puzzle of how our minds perceive things.

Ian McEwan’s exquisite book starts in pre war England, when war is still far from public imagination. In an idyllic country house, the lives of the people living therein and visiting are about to change irrevocably through a short, nearly invisible incident; invisible and unnoticed by everyone except the budding 13 year old writer whose verdurous imagination leads her to think of things beyond her understanding.

Briony, the youngest in the household or nearly so, if we discount her cousins, the twins, and yet the pivotal figure whose (mis) understanding of the events that unfold before her lead her to act in ways that has a lasting impact on the people she loves. Years later, she comes to a complete realisation of her actions and her suppositions and sets out to put things right.

In Briony’s atonement, fate plays a part and the journey that begins in a country house pans across the second world war, bringing the horrors of the war to the reader, in stark contrast with the placid gardens of her house.

The story begins in England, in 1935. The events of one day in summer are set out. The cast comprises of Briony, the precocious 13 year old, who is on the threshold of adulthood and literary revelation, or so she feels. Her elder sister, Cecilia is home after graduation, soaking in the glorious summer heat and wondering what to do with her life. On the same estate is Robbie, recently graduated, like Cecilia and on the cusp of an exciting life ahead that is full of possibilities. Leon, the eldest son of the household is awaited eagerly by all that evening. He is to be accompanied by the business tycoon, Paul Marshall. To the household are added the unfortunate and confused nine year old twins and their scheming, attention-seeking older sister, Lola; escaping a broken home and sent to the country to find love and care. The father, Leon’s, Cecilia’s and Briony’s, is large in his absence and we come to know of him through his wife, Emily, who nurses her migraine and her thoughts in private; in darkened rooms, with a heightened sense of understanding and prescience.

The country house sees talent, love, passion, intrigue, resignation in equal measures in the span of a day. The day unfolds through different eyes. Every character is wrapped in his/her world, musing, wondering and the stream of consciousness narrative reminds me of ‘The Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf. Briony, who till now has been penning down tales of love reunited, of valour and of an ideal world, stumbles upon the Stream of Consciousness way of narrative through her partial witnessing of the pivotal incidents of the day. The writer in her muses on this with a new set of eyes.

There is an undercurrent of joy in writing that Briony is aware of; she knows what stories do to her.

” ...writing stories not only involved secrecy, it also gave her all the pleasures of miniaturization. A world could be made in five pages and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiler prince could be framed within half a page, a moonlit dash through sleepy villages was one rhythmically emphatic sentence, falling in love could be achieved in a single word-a glance. The pages of a recently finished story seemed to vibrate in her hand with all the life they contained.”

Briony is intense, with a depth of feeling that clarifies itself in her writings. She wonders,

Was everyone really as alive as she was?… everyones’s thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone’s claim in life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance.

This thought process then is in some measure a portent of what is to come. Everyone is at the center of his/her universe, and yet on the whole they are like anyone else, everyone else and their lives, the entire arc of their struggle and redemption pale into insignificance or irrelevance in the bigger picture; when a measure of a life well lived is taken; when Briony in her old age is surrounded by family and the entire lifetimes are rattled off in a matter of sentences.

Part of the reason for Briony’s confusion on the fateful day is the inability to reconcile her feelings. She struggles with a ‘chaotic swarm of impressions’, the complexity of which convinces her that she is entering an ‘arena of adult emotion.’ Briony is a writer, first and foremost and she longs to set down the emotions on paper.

What she wanted was to be lost to the unfolding of an irresistible idea, to see the black thread spooling out from the end of her scratchy silver nib and coiling into words.”

We understand, then, as to what prompted Briony to act the way she did. Emily, Briony’s mother, has a depth of understanding in the workings of the human mind. Her stoicism and acceptance of her husband’s absence, literally and figuratively and her knowledge of old age, when he would return to her for a companionable life is striking. All the more striking is her very real weakness when it comes to Lola and her vulnerability. Emily is shrewd enough to see her sister Hermione in Lola and that prevents her from complete love and attention towards her sister’s children. Emily as a mother, for that is what she is now, is wondrous. She thinks of Leon’s ‘diminishing prospects’ with a sense of clarity. Of Cecilia, Emily is dismayed that she is disappointed with her academic performance. Emily muses that Cecilia

had no job or skill and still had a husband to find and motherhood to confront.”

Thinking about Briony, Emily regrets the

passing of an age of eloquence.

Already, Emily knows that her youngest is at the threshold of adulthood, struggling out of the mould of innocent, garrulous childhood. And yet, for all her understanding, Emily bows down to her prejudices when she is at the helm of decisions regarding the indictment of someone she has known for long years.

The fateful day full of unexpected events is spent, and for everyone involved, their lives change forever. The lull, the idyllic gives way to the ugly and the unexpected and soon the story moves to the battlefields of the second world war and to the weary trudge of the retreating British army through the French countryside. The horrors of the war as seen from a soldier’s eyes are presented; the disillusionment and the weariness that hides the vestiges of strength and courage. Death and terror, through Stuka attacks are so minutely described that I can visualise them to the last detail and feel the terror.

Superimposed on the war is love. War seems all encompassing; with wide swathes it takes in everything, destroying all in its wake. Love, private, ‘a lonely preoccupation’, flickers tentatively, feeding on memories and little stolen encounters, on words and on simple phrases that were uttered, on the dreams of a future and the urgency of love to uphold itself, high above the mundane. There is a tender pain of reunions, of things that might be and the wonder if the ideals of love would supercede the bleak realism of war and of life itself.

In the next part of the book, we come back to Briony’s viewpoint and her life choices. She has enrolled to be a nurse, to contribute to the war effort and to atone for her actions that fateful day when everything changed as per her thoughts and understanding. Her experiences with the sick and the dying are visceral and it shows another side of the war.

The book ends in present day England. The past is seen through Briony’s eyes, her relatives making up the carousel; the here-and-now described in delicate detail-the ordinary detail that makes up our lives; the near future, the projected and the expected turn of events described with a sense of resignation and stoicism to the wheel of existence. What captures us here are the stories within the story, the long awaited screening of Arabella, an allusion to other works of Briony and her masterpiece that has been written but that needs an opportune time for publication.

Atonement is a brilliant narrative of love, war, life. It is characterized by different hues and imagery that is both abstract and stark.

Snap, Cackle and Pop: A Book Review

Title: Snap, Cackle and Pop 

Author: Carol Kearney


Publishers
: Wallace Publishing


Genre
: Fiction, Romance, Comedy, Chicklit

Synopsis

Carol Kearney’s book packs in a lot of cackle through the story of a fifty-something woman, recently cheated on and dumped by her husband. The readers follow Cathy, from her denial to heartbreak to a breakdown, pulling herself from the dumps to rebuild her life. Inspite of dealing with a serious subject like a breakup, it is a laugh riot from the beginning to end with funny situations and fantastically wierd characters populating Cathy’s life.

Review

Cathy, a fifty- four year old woman, used to the good life and wallowing in perceived domestic bliss gets a rude jolt when her husband leaves her without any warning.

This triggers something in her and she goes on a rampage, burning her husband’s belongings. Cathy turns rude, snappy, vengeful as she tracks down what made Tom leave her.

Losing her house and car and left with no money, Cathy has no option but to take refuge in her parents’ house, the home she grew up in. The fact that her family is wierd, dysfunctional, eye popping ridiculous and hilarious seems to push Cathy more and more into despair.

Jane, her bestie, steps in to help Cathy salvage her life. Cathy goes on a dating spree with disastrous results. Cathy  stumbles through a number of boyfriends, takes shots at numerous lowly jobs and embarassing alcoholic scenes before she decides that she needs to take charge and get her life back on track. 

Back on track it does get, with a redemption for all the unexpectedly bad things that happen to her. Cathy rises: shining, avenged and loved through a series of exaggerated misadventures that had me in fits of laughter.

The situations that Cathy finds herself in are laughable. I cannot forget Cathy’s supermarket trip with a huge magnet in her underclothes that leads to some very magnetizing and funny attractions. Louise and her doctor friend’s Christmas visit was so very socially embarassing and outrageous.

Even more lovable are the characters who are etched very well and sound so real because of their flaws.

My favourite would be Joan, Cathy’s mother who comes a close second to the other silly literary mother, Mrs. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Joan is foolish, loud, irreverent and yet immensely wise in bits and starts.

Pop is wonderful and his conversations with his wife are very funny. He mixes up the dog’s name so frequently that I looked forward to what he would come up next. 

I might be supposed to condone Cathy’s incarcerated brother Steven, but all I felt was glee whenever he came on the scene. 

Jane is the hot, independent, smart, loyal friend who acts as a sounding board to Cathy’s moanings and helps bring out some of the absurdities of Cathy’s life.

The dialogue is very good. It flows smoothly, complimenting the characters. The language is contemporary, sharp, witty. I was on my toes, looking up the words that turned out to exaggerate the already comical events.

Cathy lets go of everything, including her manners and sometimes sanity when duped by life and that is what makes the book so real and endearing.

In the beginning of the book, I had a few issues with Cathy’s judgement of the situation that she finds herself in. Cheated on and abandoned by her husband of many years, Cathy thinks herself to be a bad wife, one who has let herself go. She also has a body image issue which I felt reinforced stereotypes.

There is this bemoaning of the fact that her husband left her after 38 years of marriage. At the time of the events of the story, Cathy is 53 going on 54… Which makes them marry when she is 15!! Later we find out that they married when she turned 26.

Till the middle of the book and a little beyond, Cathy is complaining and unable to come to grips with her new found situation. She lurches from one disaster to another and this feels like it goes on for too long. 

I wish the cover of the book were designed a little more thoughtfully. The colours and the graphics are jarring.

The author of the book, Carol Kearney died tragically of medical complications. Even with precarious health, she was determined to fulfil her life dream of writing a book and she completed and published her debut book. Through my book review, I pay a tribute to her undying spirit and her ability to see humour in every situation.


Verdict

Hilarious. Feel good. Must read. I burst into laughter every now and then while reading.

I rate it 4 stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠


Disclaimer
: I received an ebook from the book publicist in exchange of an honest review.

After Life by Matthew O’Neil: A Book Review

Title: After Life

Author: Matthew O’Neil

Genre: Theology, Philosophy

Publishers: Ockham Publishing

Summary

The author of the book faced clinical death at age 14 because of an unusual medical condition. Resuscitated and limited in his physical capabilities, he yearned to understand his own near death experience. Thus began his quest to understand what happens when we die.

Through this excellently researched and well presented book, he aims to uncover the difference of opinion between the explanation that science offers and the beliefs that religion follows.

The book explores the various beliefs held in the Christian world about the concepts of Heaven, Hell, Resurrection and the Soul. The author then moves on to expostulate on the philosophical arguments for life after death and the scientific take on what happens when a person dies. 

Review

Early in his exploration of what happens when we die, the author discovered that there were many fanciful accounts of near death experiences narrated by people. But they only reflected the person’s awareness of contemporary and popular ideas of afterlife. 
This led him to study the various concepts of Hell, Heaven, Resurrection and the Soul in the Scriptures. 

There is extensive research in the book into how each concept has been shaped by various influences over time. The author dives into Scriptures that span centuries such as the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and traces the evolution of concepts beyond the Bible and through the philosophical arguments of the Thinkers.

The author concludes that our modern understanding makes assumptions that is at variance with what the Scriptures have said.
The book is well researched and in spite of the complexity of the subject, the material and the arguments are presented very well. The arrangement of the book into different subjects that relate to the after life are dealt in detail in separate chapters. The chapters themselves are laid out well, with studies from different texts dealt with separately. Each chapter ends with a conclusion, recapping the salient points which makes the understanding much easier.
In many ways, the book is an eye opener because the author makes clear that the events in the scriptures may not be the historical retelling of the events as some of the stories have been incorporated later in the Christian canon.

For a non fiction book, dealing with a serious topic and in a scholarly fashion, the book is written well enough to be very engaging. Personally, I do not know much about the Christian Scriptures but I was drawn in the retelling of events and the beliefs as they changed over time.
In the book, the author wants nothing but to present ’empirical, testable evidence’ and not merely beliefs based on biblical accounts or philosophical discussions on whether or not there is life after death has occured.
He tries to provide an answer to the question of whether we can come back to life after an untimely death? Is it possible to come back to life with our personalities, minds, experiences and all else intact?
Many eminent thinkers and contemporary philosophers are quoted, such as Dr. Brian Weiss, Deepak Chopra and Ian Stevenson among others. I have read the former two and have been impressed by their philosophy and works. Matthew O’Neil has managed to put their studies into perspective without belittling anyone. He deftly separates anecdotes from hard, conclusive evidence.

Verdict 

The book explains one of the most enduring questions regarding life and death. It is a unique blend of philosophy, scripture study and scientific arguments.

Extremely well researched, cogent and excellently presented, it guides the reader through drawing his own conclusions.
I rate this book 4 stars  🌠🌠🌠🌠

Disclaimer: A copy of the ebook was provided by the book publicist for an honest review.

Deceived : A Book Review 



Title : Deceived 

Author : Heena Rathore P. 

Genre : Crime Thriller, Psychological Thriller 

Publisher : Citrus Publishers 
Disclaimer : I got an ARC of the book from the publishers. 

Summary 

Allison Stone, a young writer, wants to carve out an independent life for herself that has a semblance of normalcy. She is trying to recover from the trauma of a murdered mother and brother in her teen years. With her loyal German Shepherd by her side and a doting boyfriend she is moving in with, Allison wants to start over again and put the past behind her. 

Danny, the ambitious journalist, moves to the town of Dewar to investigate the killings of Allison’s family members and many other murders spanning over decades, that disturbingly seem to be falling into a pattern of serial killings. 

And all the while, Allison is trying to settle into a normal life, a psychopath has Allison in his sight, stalking her for a fate more horrendous than she has gone through. 

Review 

This suspenseful thriller explores the darkest of human emotions, the unpredictability of people and the depths that they can stoop to, propelled by their dark motivations. It underlines the fact that sometimes we don’t completely know the people we are close to. 

The characters in the book are diverse. There is a girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and her young brother. There is a journalist trying to chase a potential serial killer. These people have strong unforeseeable ties with a 13 year old girl who slaughtered her parents and a psychopath out to take revenge. The details of the lives of the protagonists and the the supporting characters adds flavour to the broth that is being stewed. 

I read this excellent crime thriller on a long train journey. As the landscape flew past, so did I turn the pages; so thrilling is the book. I had a wonderful time reading this debut novel even though at no point did it read like a first book. Heena is a master storyteller, narrating an arresting story spanning decades and families. 

She uses the contrasting PoVs to move the action forward. It is not a chronological telling of the horror that unfolds ; rather the story jumps back and forth and the pieces fall into place, as the action builds up. 

The book talks of the deviants of the society, the sociopaths and the psychopaths, here in the book, living in the woods or on the edge of the town. 

The killer is profiled rather well and his motivations are well researched and credible. 

The book is open ended and a few things are left unanswered although most of the threads are tied up neatly. 

What’s Good 

This is one book which is complete in the horror it induces and yet it has all the makings of a series. 

I do wish that the author decides to pick up the few threads that have been left dangling tantalizingly and write the next part. 

The book starts with a talk about psychopaths and sociopaths. This introduces the reader to what is to come. Michael’s journal entries take these forward by quoting notorious psychopaths and sociopaths. It adds an interesting angle to the story. 

The story unfolds through the Points of View of the characters and through a bunch of journal entries of the mysterious Michael. The quotes of various psychopaths lends a sinister feeling to the initial, normal, happy-in-love scenario. The characters seem to be having ordinary lives, but the horror is just beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. 

Most characters are well developed, a few with much clarity. Allison and Elizabeth are way different from the watch man at the law firm and yet they are all divested with an equal amount of detail. 

Heena’s writing style is very good. It has a great flow. The dialogues are pithy and move the story forward very well. The pacing of the story is excellent and the action builds up to the crescendo of the climax very well. 

The thrill factor of the book is good. Apart from the gruesome murders, there is an element of stalking and mysterious incidents around the protagonist, Allison that build up the suspense and the horror to a well thought out climax. 

What’s Not 

The book is well researched and the story is told extremely well but some characters and situations are a little fuzzy, like the mysterious voodoo practitioner or even Allison’s father, who otherwise is a pivotal character in the story. 

There is Phil, who is mentioned briefly but whom no one seems to want to trace after the double murders, in spite of the fact that he could hold the key to the mystery. 

There is a philandering wife and mother who seems to be having an affair just so that her murder can be explained away till the real murderer is unmasked and that too literally. 

In an attempt to leave a trail of false clues for the reader, a few situations and incidents are hatched that are not explained clearly through. 

Again, I feel these situations and characters can be well developed if there is a sequel. 

The setting of the book is the quiet town of Dewar, an unassuming place with an inefficient police force that has been unable to resolve or even follow the leads in the murders that happen with surprising regularity. This seems a little incredulous. 

Also, the introduction of Steve coming from outside to investigate the murders sounds a little far fetched. His attempts at investigative journalism look a little juvenile. He reaches conclusions without much reasoning and he naively assumes that confronting people who could be prime suspects would help him solve the murders. 

The book has a very contemporary feel. The characters are smart, going through the motions of their routines. There is just too much detail on who eats what and what meetings are lined up for the day. All this does not give a feel of the place, only of the lives of the characters. Though, to be fair, the woods at the edge of the town and the placid lake behind the mansion are excellent settings in their own right. 

There is something about the names of the characters that make the story slightly confusing. Although the characters are fleshed out well, there are pairs of names that are very similar sounding. There are Steve and Stephen, Ellie and Allie for Elizabeth and Allison, Danny and Donny, because of whom I sometimes stumbled a little in the story. 

Verdict 

A perfect psychological thriller, a compulsive page turner, a goose bump inducing racy read, Deceived is deservingly bone chilling. 

I rate this book four stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

Scaredy Cat : A Book Review 

Title : Scaredy Cat 

Author : Mark Billingham 

Genre : Mystery, Crime Thriller 

Series : Second book in the Tom Thorne series. 

Summary 

Two women are murdered within hours of one another near the station, but in quite different ways. When a connection is made with two other murders which occurred months before, DI Thorne realizes two serial killers may be at work in a macabre partnership.

Review 

Scaredy Cat is the most unputdownable, brilliant and engaging crime thriller featuring a series of murders that turn out to be done by a pair of serial killers. My assessment for the book may sound clichéd but the novel is far from it. Everything, from the cast of characters who are doing the chase (Team 3) to the murderer (s) to the use of folie a deux (more on that later) are original, confident and credible. 

Even though Scaredy Cat is second in the Tom Thorne series, it can very well be read as a stand alone book. It being a series is a bonus for the reader, for by the time you reach the climax, you would have resolved to read more of this excellent author. 

The Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, a very capable and rather melancholic officer with a reputation (also of disregarding the Powers That Be) is Part of Team 3. He is partenered by a seeming sidekick, Dave Holland, who, in reality can carry a lot of plot on his shoulders as well as the gay pathologist Hendricks, who is really a very good friend. The quartet is completed by Sarah McEvans, hard faced and competent and acting as a pivot for the climax. The other characters, Norman, the media guy and Brigstocke are quirky and well rounded and unpredictable. 

The team has another ally in carrying the story forward and that is London itself. In the books that I have come to love, the location and the setting is mostly elaborate and it plays a large role in moulding the psyche of the characters. So, it is here, the under belly of the city mirroring the mind of the industry affected by the killings, the perpetrators, the victims and the ones chasing the killers. 

Thames, the lifeline of London is dwelt upon lovingly even though all the protagonists could see was the squalid disrepair. I read of the serene beauty of the river banks in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and reading of the Thames through the eyes of Thorne and another police officer was a jolt, just like the one you get when you match reality with memories. 

The killer or the killers, as Thorne surmises very soon in the current investigation, are untraditional. The department has been sitting on other cases, of women being murdered some months back. As the investigation deepens, there arises a picture of not one but two serial killers, who strike simultaneously and kill similarly even though both are different. Their psychological profiling shows that one is hesitant and the other ruthless. It is the Modus Operandi that is different and intriguing. There are similarities and then there are deviations. 

In explaining the killers’ mindset, the author has excellently used Folie a deux, a condition of a shared psychosis, a psychiatric syndrome, in which symptoms of a delusional nature are transmitted from one person to another. Needless to say, the relationship between the pair of killers is troubled to say the least delving into the meaning of power and fear harnessed to disastrous conclusions. 

The book cover shows a pair of eyes, with a different expression in each eye. The title conveys something of fear, of teasing, of bullying that is the backdrop of the killings. 

The backstory is well developed and the frequent flashbacks keep the story running back and forth, not that the reader loses interest. These flashbacks introduce newer interest and understanding as the story unfolds; as a pair of murders turn into a series, more happening in different locations and more being rediscovered as part of a pattern. 

As for the gore factor of the killings, it is not very high. It is not the actual act that is disgusting but the way it is carried out. There is an emotional angle to the killings in case the reader is not horrified enough that runs through the mind of Tom Thorne. He milks the brutality over and over again, agonising over the inevitability of the crime and the poignance of the last moments of the victims as captured by the CCTV footage. 

What’s to Like 

In case of crime thrillers, I am more interested in the crime and the criminal and not in the characters solving the case. But here the Team 3 is exceptionally interesting, their dynamics riveting and the office politics intriguing. 

The characters are so well fleshed out that inspite of the angst ridden monologues / thoughts of Thorne, he never becomes tiresome. Even though there is no love interest, nothing to contrast the character with but slowly the interaction with his Alzheimer ridden father brings the compassion out in full. 

The book gives the reader every emotion. The thrill of a chase. Mystery, of course. The horror of murder. Angst in the heart of the most hardened police investigator. Emotional trauma and a few tugs at the heart strings. 

The pace never slackens (almost) and the narrative is tight, entertaining, intriguing. When the investigation is slow, there is tension in other ways. It shows up in the form of an illicit or a falling apart relationship or the paranoia of a drug addict. 

Also the book builds up to an excellent climax, which is every bit as exciting as the building up to it. 

Some of the scenes stand out very well. There is the place where the dreaded, cold blooded killer finally loses control, slapping his wife. There is the unforgettable scene of a coke snorting police woman. There are Thorne’s counseling sessions to his gay friends that stand out. And sometimes it is chilling going back into the past, in the childhood of the killers. 

Scaredy Cat isn’t just about a few horrible crimes nor is it a straight cat and mouse chase. There is plenty of cheese to nibble at ( stretching the metaphor). The plot is nearly flawless. 

What’s Not to Like 

By the time I turned the last page I had all but forgotten the minor irritants in the book. 

There is a frequent change in the Point of View and in the beginning it took me a few paragraphs to understand that something was amiss. I had to backtrack to understand why the story was not running linearly any more. Once I caught on to the POV trick, I wisened up and rather started enjoying the switch in the voices as the scenes changed. 

Thorne is very angst ridden and very melancholic. His thoughts run in circles. He thinks endlessly of the nature of his profession and the hardening of hearts and emotions as time goes by, encountering the crime and the criminals. After a while, his thoughts become predictable and look like fillers covering up a lull in the plot. 

There are a few minor credibity issues with the book. Thorne is in touch with one of the killers on phone. He is supposed to have escaped from custody and yet, Thorne just picks the phone and talks to him. That simple, even when the prisoner broke his nose while trying to get away. There was too much of bonhomie between them. 

The discovery of Karen McMahon’s grave with remarkable ease was another place where things seemed to be coming together all too easy. 

TV Series 

This 2002 bestseller was also made into a successful TV series in 2010. 

About the Author 

Mark Billingham is an English novelist, actor, television screenwriter and comedian whose series of Tom Thorne – crime novels are best-sellers in that particular genre. This is initiative enough to pick this particular book. 

Tom Thorne, the DI, around whom the story revolves, has been imbued with a lot of Billingham’s personal characteristics. The two share a birthday, a locale (London) and musical interests. 

The inspiration for Scaredy Cat came from Billingham’s own brush with crime. He and his writing partner were kidnapped and held hostage in a hotel room. Billingham used that fear as the basis for Scaredy Cat and the motivation of the killers. The hotel killings also appeared as a sub plot in the book. 

Should you read it? 

Most definitely! 

It is a Must-read for crime thriller lovers and for all the other genre readers who like a well fleshed out story and plenty of intrigue. 

Dublin Calling: A Book Review 

Title: Dublin Calling

Author: Robert Sanasi

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir

Publishers: Wallace Publishers

The Story

Giacomo or Jack, who hails from Italy, travels to Dublin, the capital of Ireland in search of employment. In his early 20s, just stepping out of his hometown where life is stable and predictable, he is a shy young man. Determined to be a success and to be independent financially, he works hard in this new country, which is socially and culturally very different from his own.

Soon, he is thrown in the crazy cauldron of the social life of Dublin, which is populated by young people from all over Europe. Many are there for advanced studies and many like him are there because of the rich employment opportunities in the economically booming area.

Giacomo finds independence and unpredictable experiences. The taste of life is so crazy and good that he feels a strong urge to return to Dublin, whenever he decides to step out.

Review

Dublin Calling explores the author’s years in Dublin where life is unpredictable, exuberant, joyful and crazy, all at the same time. He feels strongly for everything- for life and love and sorrow and joy.

I found the book to be a very easy read. The style is casual and there is ‘no plotline or tricks’ as the author points out in the dedication at the beginning of the book. It is a simple and sincere narration of the events as they unfold over the years in Dublin.

For all its simplicity, the book is an exploration of the complexity of exile for the ones uprooted from their country through necessity. It touches upon the accompanying sense of loneliness even in the midst of loyal friends.

The book is about life, about this and that, the little things that we remember for a long time and the big things that change the course of our lives and shape our perceptions and attitude.

It is also about change, about how people come and go in our lives. It touches upon the reality of an uprooted generation for want of better employment opportunities, about their adventure and how they embrace life and diversity in different places.

The book is about places and how they shape us. It is about the lives we live therein and within.

“We keep so many things within, that one city cannot contain them all.”

The book seems populated with his friends, acquaintances and with people of his age group. It is about their energy, ardour and excitability. It deals with his own life but is expansive enough to talk of everyone in his generation.

“We are a restless generation, but not a failing generation.”

The author explores the existential doubt of the purpose of his life, as is normal for any 20- something. And at the same time, he explores the indomitable spirit of his generation, in search of life experiences, finding their truths and their path, setting their own rules and breaking away from the dogmas.

The search for his truth in a foreign land leads him to a bohemian lifestyle and to sexual freedom. He explores physical intimacy to douse the fire of loneliness in a strange land and in the end that intimacy itself becomes the end rather than the means to an end.

Towards the end of the book, he accepts the world for its paradox and for its impermanence.

Verdict

Dublin Calling is about looking for and finding joy and exhilaration. It is drunk on the elixir of life. It is a fresh, joyful, unpredictable and a ‘beautiful mess’ of a story and life.

I rate this book 4 stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the ebook for an honest review. 

Taboo: A Book Review

Title: Taboo

Author: Thomas Piggott

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir. 

Publishers : Wallace Publishers 

Synopsis 

Set in the Midlands during the 1970s, Taboo tells the harrowing true story of the brutal abuse Thomas Piggott suffered and the childhood that was so heartlessly stolen from him as a result. It also follows him into adulthood, highlighting how the pain and the emotional damage caused by these attacks blighted his relationships, his career and his life in general, long after they had stopped. 

Review

Taboo is a book that delves deep into the mind of a child abuse victim and traces the ramifications of that traumatic experience into other areas of his life. It talks candidly of abuse, depression and mental illness. A true story, it can inspire other sufferers to speak out and seek the justice and the care that they deserve. 

Thomas Piggott wrote the book to share his story. He wanted to exorcise the ghosts of his past and come to terms with the negative influences that nearly destroyed his life. He also wanted to lay to rest his painful memories and to encourage other victims to talk about their abuse and to seek help so that they do not have to spend years feeling guilty and humiliated. 

It is a poignant memoir and the sincerity with which Thomas narrates his life’s events makes the reader sympathise with him. The book and the narration of the events is peppered with aphorisms and the learnings that he has culled from his experiences. 

Beginning right from his childhood and leading on to adulthood, Thomas describes the abuse and how the trauma later on leads to depression and mental illness. His marriage falls apart, as does his sanity.

An Acute Psychotic Experience brings forth fully the demons that he has had to battle. It is an eye opener in that it helps the reader to understand the despair and the helplessness of someone who is suffering from mental illness . 

The book is in a conversational style, which means that sometimes in the middle of the scenes, the writer digresses. It also seems like there are journal entries that have been put in the book, making certain events seem disjointed. 

The author’s time at the mental hospital takes up a large part of the book and in talking of his experiences as well as of the people he encounters, it makes for an interesting read. 

When the story ends where it does, there is plenty of hope that the author hands out, yet I wished there was more about his struggle to come to terms with ‘real life’ after spending time at the hospital for mental illness. 

In the end, there is hope and faith and a belief in the human spirit that can overcome all odds. In spite of being on medication, Thomas keeps his chin up and tries to redeem his life and dignity as best as he can. 

Verdict 

The book is a sincere and sensitive portrayal of child abuse and mental illness and the effects it has on the psyche of an individual. In talking of experiences that are considered Taboo by the society, the book attempts to destigmatise them. It exhorts the victims to come forward, talk about their experiences and to seek help so that they can be healed. 

The grammar in the book is jarring at times and the flow of the narrative is punctured by digressions into the author’s viewpoint. 

I rate this book 3 stars. 🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the ebook for an honest review.