Poetry Review: Stupid Flowers

Stupid Flowers

Author: Brice Maiurro

Genre: Poetry

Stupid Flowers is a wonderful collection of poetry; unconventional, irreverent and with plenty of brilliant surprises.

About the Author

Photo by Jason Greashaber

Brice Maiurro is a poet and writer currently residing in Denver, Colorado. He hosts a monthly poetry series called ‘Punch Drunk Poetry’. His writing has been featured locally in Suspect Press, Birdy Magazine and The Denver Post.

Review

I had expected this poetry collection to be flippant, going by the title. But, flippant is one thing the poems are not. At various places, the poems have a depth that reflects the struggle of an intelligent mind with life choices. At other places, the poems create a psychedelic world of myriad impressions and thoughts careening around in the poet’s mind.

There are many poems that seared me deeply.

Color Test‘ talks of personality types, the ways people are reduced to and are judged by mere behavioral characteristics.

I liked ‘Mouseketeer‘, which succumbs to dark places in ones’ heart and yet it ends on a realistic note.

I am not a bottle of pills‘, is about love, friends, relationships, about life’s despairs and how to handle them.

“i am not a bottle of pills
but i love you
and if you need someone to listen
never don’t ask”

Sometimes, poems start with ‘and’ so that they feel like a continuation of a conversation.

Reckless‘ made me laugh at the futility of our rebellion just for the sake of it.

Moving Day‘ describes a physical movement and an emotional moving on, side by side.

“i packed up hope
and when there was room at the top of the box
i tossed in some doubt
to use the box to its full advantage
and i labeled the box
“brice. assorted nonsense.””

‘Whatif’ struck a chord, talking of the poet’s love for writing poetry.

There is Something Sad about Today and That is Ok‘, brings a feeling that there is someone out there, God or some presence that oversees us all.

Aquarium‘ bombards you with words, thoughts and images, bringing them together for a psychedelic experience of seeing a boy walking on water.

In ‘I blink and‘, there are infinite worlds and alternate realities that we are aware of.

‘i channel surf
the million lives I want to
live’

In the poem, ‘Doing the dishes‘, at one moment, the poet is talking of the very ordinary act of doing dishes in the kitchen, being involved in the here and now and the next he is out of his skin, expanding and being like God, moving across space and then back to the ordinary.

In the surreal poem, ‘Date with a beautiful woman‘, I loved the juxtaposition of the emotional side of love with the bestial emotions of a werewolf of violence. That is how minds are, we realise, they turn from one to the other at the speed of thought.

In ‘3015 kalmia‘, we look for beauty in unexpected places.

“i’ve been taught to look at the mountains
the sky the trees the murals on the sides of buildings
but you reminded me how god hides
in the places you’d least expect to see her”

‘Waiting Room‘ is like a punch. It is just a little description of two men in a waiting room but the mention of death is a shock.

The poems have so many themes and the collection has a very contemporary feeling.

The style is free verse and sometimes the poems feel like prose or like conversations running around in the poet’s head. But the poems touch on many universal ideas like love, the conundrum of daily life and death.

Some of the imagery is drawn from daily life, from things as mundane as a housefly or the dresser in a room but the confusion and the anxiety are real and the insights, profound.

The cover art is different, not something you would associate with poems but then the entire collection brings in a new experience to the reader.

Verdict

Read this poetry collection for a deep look into your own thoughts. Humourous, poignant and quirky, Stupid Flowers is captivating.

I rate this poetry book 4 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the ebook from the author for an honest review.

Buy Stupid Flowers here.

Find it on Goodreads.

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.

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. 

Follow Me Home: A Book Review 

Book title : Follow Me Home 

Author : Jen Benjamin

Genre : Romance, Chick Lit

Synopsis 

When writer Katie Kendall moves to LA to turn her best-selling novel into a film, she is pretty sure it should be the happiest time of her life. But, with an unsupportive husband who suddenly files for divorce, the paparazzi assuming she is having a fling with the leading actor, and her friends left miles away in her old hometown, she begins to think she’s made a big mistake. 

Can her new crowd of friends help her through these times? And could those paparazzi snappers have a point about that leading actor…? 

The author, Jen Benjamin is a newspaper writer and her debut novel, Follow Me Home, is charming. 

The Story 

Katie, the best selling writer moves to California to produce a movie based on her book. Things look good and then they just fall apart. 

Her unsupportive husband files for divorce and Katie is perplexed. Before she can fall into despair, her new found friends in town rally to her support and Katie waltzs effortlessly into the making of the movie. 

She feels an attraction for the male lead, who is a rock sensation and a very unlikely person for her to fall in love with. 

And yet, the love story moves smoothly to its logical conclusion with a few twists thrown in for some hiccups. 

What Is Lovable 

The characters are lovable. The protagonist Katie, is intelligent and sensitive yet socially inept, liable to get nervous, goof up, feel awkward and has the most self deprecating wit that you would like. Jesse, the male lead is wonderful. A singing sensation with millions of swooning fans, he falls in love with the unpretentious Kate. To top it, he is caring, mature, level headed and generous. If that is not adorable, what is? And yes, he has a very loving and caring family as well. 

Julia and Ashley are the perfect girlfriends for Katie, lending an ear, encouraging Katie, supporting Katie and asking her to get to the root of her feelings for Jesse. 

There’s Ivan, the rich lawyer, who is, yes, another understanding character. So, the love interest does not lead to a love triangle. 

Nor does Jesse have an ex – girlfriend so there are no real obstacles to the love between the lead pair. 

Using the pithy journal entries by Katie in the book is something I liked very much. It summarized and tantalised as to what was coming next. It also made the first person narrative interesting and funny. 

The book is set in California, with all the trappings of Hollywood and yet, what I loved best was the music they make for the movie. There is more emotional investment and even passion in the creation of a song than in the making of the movie based on Katie’s best seller. 

What It’s Not

The characters are lovable but all of them are too good and picture perfect. There are just a couple of characters that are supposed to be negative and their character flaws are sort of glossed over. There is no meanness here and it adds to the feel good factor that reading this book generates. 

in the book, plenty of things happen in the span of a few months. But it is a bird’s eye view of the events. We get the highlights ; the important bits that move the story forward. This adds to the breezy feeling that the reader gets. 

There is no over analysis of emotions. There is a lot going on. There is love, first and foremost and friendship, at its cutest level. There is bonding and concern and detachment and indifference and difficult situations but at no point does the book delve deep into the motivations or the angst of the past experiences or the losses. That is why it feels light and not like an emotional drama. 

Verdict 

All in all, a lovable, feel good, light read that can be categorized into romance and chic lit. 

There is no smut, no overt sexual encounters and no objectionable language. 

I liked reading this debut novel so much that I am looking forward to the writer’s next book. 

I rate this book 4 stars. 🌠🌠🌠🌠 

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

Snowdrops by A. D. Miller: Book Review

Snowdrops by A. D. Miller


Genre
:  Noir, crime fiction, psychological fiction. 

This debut novel by A D Miller was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Set in the early 2000s Russia, it is a study of decadence and moral depravity of a society and its effect on individuals. 

Nick Platt, a British lawyer working in Moscow finds the limitless indulgence of the East a good change from the smooth and uneventful life of his native England. He manages to convince himself that he is in love with the stunning Russian beauty Masha and agrees to help her aunt in her search for an apartment. The illicit affair juxtaposed with shady dealings at his workplace and the uncertainity of life of an average person in Russia forms the backdrop of the novel. 

The book takes its name from the flower snowdrop, which is one of the first flowers to appear in the spring, as it works its way through the snow to bloom. For many cultures the snowdrop symbolizes purity but in some Victorian customs the flower is considered to bring bad luck and represents death. 

The foreword of the book mentions the usage of the word snowdrop in Moscow slang. It is a corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw. 

So, the allusion to the Moscow slang and the mention of the discovery of a corpse at the onset is expected to set the pace of this crime thriller. 

Yet the book starts with a woman and the hint of a lustful relationship, the engaging mention of Moscow/ Russian landscape, the talk of the soon fading summer and the book turns into a memoir of the author’s time in Russia. Russia is reviled, exclaimed at, wondered about and at the same time loved to distraction. 

Snowdrops is full of ‘soft focus anecdotes’, groping for time and places, putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle into place for the writer to understand his own role and susceptibility to deception as he addresses and confesses to his soon-to-be wife. 

Till the middle of this short novel, the reader is left wondering as to what genre the book really belongs to or what really would the climactic revelation be. Is it going to be a story of love lost and regained or of a wasteful lust or a meandering through the stunningly beautiful and extremely harsh Russian winter and its subsequent comparison with England. Is it a delving into relationships… of love, of familial ties, of expectations and a lingering sense of failure? 

The pace is languid and the scenes are right out of the writers’ head so that the characters are not delineated very well. We know of Masha’s coldness only through the eyes of Nick’s mother and of a hint of her being dangerous through the Cossack’s warning. This reinforces how blind love can be and how self limiting can a person’s beliefs be. 

Nick, the protagonist and the narrator is unbelievably naive or he just chooses to go with the flow. He could sit up and take notice of the irregularities and the suspicious loopholes in his dealings with people ; the Cossack, Masha and Katya who are not sisters, the real estate dealer but he chooses to ignore it all till the corpse looks him in the face. He does nothing to speed up his evacuation from Moscow; he is the narrator and a chance pawn and an accomplice by way of non interference.

The plot and the storyline is a little too predictable because of the hints to the immoral and corrupt fabric of the society at that point of time. The reader fears that a certain thing might happen and it does. The reader is always ahead of the narrator in understanding and predicting. 

Tatiana Vladimirovna, the aunt to the girls Masha and Katya is lovable and it is through her that the winter thaw seems to set in the reader’s heart and in the book’s pace. So the single thread narrative becomes a tapestry of people and events as the book moves on the delightful streets of St. Petersberg, Odessa and the famous promenade of Nevsky Prospekt. 

This is the protagonist’s ode to Russia -the place that he misses even though it was where he was betrayed by the decadent system and his own slide into a moral decay, by virtue of being there for too long and becoming a part of the deception leading to criminal participation. 

All in all, a good enough read and one that keeps the reader looking for more from A. D. Miller. 

Special thanks to Bloggeray for recommending and for reading the book at the same time. Skip over to his blog for his excellent review

Journey is My Path – A Book Review

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“The Universe is made of stories….”
Muriel Rukeyser

A book is as much a tapestry of words, as it is a narrative. And when a narrative takes the reader on a journey in search of answers that he can relate to, it becomes a hard-to-put-down story. ‘Journey is my Path’ is that story at the very least and at its best, it waxes eloquent as a tale of the modern times, the struggle of an individual trying to seek meaning in life.

The story talks only of ‘he’, the unnamed protagonist. He is born in a typical Indian middle class family, and from here the story of a person, trapped in the societal norms and expectations begins. The child turns to boy and thus he finds career and life choices waiting to be made. Things get complex as his life progresses and the reader moves with him from confusion to decision, apprehension to confidence. Along the way, he starts exploring his passion and finds himself through pushing his boundaries.

The telling of the tale is lyrical in its simplicity but at times I almost wished it to be a memoir; for a hide and seek of events and characters. The places the protagonist travels to are very interesting, yet I wanted it not to be in a chronological order so that as a reader, I could move from place to place without really knowing which gem he would stumble on.

I also wished that the book was peopled with diverse characters. There are many who cross his path and one almost longs to have a conversation with those who influenced his life.

The chronicle of the journey, literal and symbolic, is inspired by the writer’s own travel experiences and is heartbreakingly candid at places. Without breaking pace, it moves to a revelation that echoes the American mythologist, Joseph Campbell in saying that it is the person who brings meaning to life.
“Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” Joseph Campbell.

A very good read and a riveting tale.

Trablogger is an indie author and the book is available on amazon as an ebook. For paperback lovers, the book can be ordered through the author’s website.

The Catcher in the Rye

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Admittedly, the title of this popular book published first in 1951 by J.D.Salinger sounded a little mysterious. So did the book cover, all in black, the words curving invitingly, and no image to break the monotony or to impress upon the mind any catcher.

But I picked the book because a glance at the words inside opened up a new and different world of adolescents making sense of the world that inextricably belongs to adults. The adults make the rules, they understand things in a way that is incomprehensible to the protagonist, Holden Caufield.

The book uncovers teenage angst, of coming to terms with the world, of trying to understand the motives of people and of following the rules which to the young mind means compromising on authenticity or principals.

There is a strong undercurrent of confusion, of trying to understand the work of adults. At 16, going on to 17, Holden cannot understand old age; he is unable to comprehend how a person is able to live contentedly when he has difficulty bending or even being accurate with throwing things on beds, which are ‘just a few inches’ away. He cannot understand mortality and his brother’s death brings on an outburst of violence that prompts a visit to a psychoanalyst. Holden, then struggles through school, three schools in fact, till that time in the narrative. He is talented, as is evident from his mastery of language in school and composition. He lives a typical life of a teenager in a boarding school but his principals are high; he often muses on the loss of innocence in adults. He is incredibly gentle around little children, in fact, his love for his kid sister Phoebe alters the course of his rash actions. He listens to her and her opinion matters to her. He listens to his favourite professors as well, and very respectfully even though he is unable to grasp their urgency regarding reforming his life. Like a youngster, he is observant when it comes to people and their behaviour.

Holden comes from a prosperous background and it is hard to attribute his confused personality to a disadvantaged background. He has money and he has access to good medical opinion. Holden tries to act cool about his sexuality but he is a virgin. His ideals of love are high and he is very considerate.

Holden is very intelligent but he is almost a misfit in the society. He finds it difficult to get along with people. He is confused about the motive and behaviour of people around him. He is rudderless and direction less. He is moving towards an ‘abyss’ as his professor puts it. Yet, Holden is asked to introspect and to understand that he is not the only one who feels lost in the world.

The language of the book is unconventional. It is from Holden’s perspective that we see his world and meet the people in his life. Much of what he says is slang and he uses his favourite phrases repeatedly.

Coming back to the title, the catcher refers to a person standing in the field of rye, ready to catch any child from the group that is playing, to save him from falling over the cliff. When asked, what he would like to be when he grows, Holden wants to be a catcher, in a way, saving the children from losing their innocence.

An exquisite read about a child turning reluctantly into an adult.

Making a Mango Whistle-A Book Review

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Making a Mango Whistle

Book: Making a Mango Whistle

Genre: Young Adult

Author: Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

Publisher: Penguin – Puffin Classics

Which is a better phase of life than childhood? Don’t we all wish we could go back to being carefree children, knowing nothing but play and exploring the world around us?

“Making a Mango Whistle” by Bibhutibhushan Bandhyopadhyay is for the young adult reader so that they can explore the delights of childhood anew and muse on the minor disappointments that seem like great tragedies to the children themselves.

Apu and Durga are brother and sister, children of Harihar and Sarbhojoya, living on the fringes of the village and prosperity, immersed in joys that only children can summon even in adverse circumstances.

When Bibhutibhushan published his first book ‘Pather Panchali’, it was hailed as a masterpiece in Bengali literature. Soon, ‘Making a Mango Whistle’ was published, which dealt only with the children and their wonder filled lives.

Durga is a six year old girl at the beginning of the book. The book talks of Durga and her as yet unborn brother Apu for the next five years. Durga is very attached to her Pishima-her father’s sister. Pishima is a widow, dependent, old and frail. The first few chapters explore the relationship of the old woman and the young girl beautifully. The pathos of old age and its juxtaposition with the childhood innocence of Durga touches hearts.

The birth of Durga’s little brother Apu changes the girl’s life. The tragic and the apathetic end of Indir Thakuran or Pishima is the end of a phase in the little girl’s world and she now turns to her little brother.

We see Durga as a carefree child, bold and always exploring the village and the mangrove forest around. She is never to be found home. As Apu grows older, he becomes her companion and friend in all their misdeeds.

Reading about their escapades and their innocent play and the sibling love made me long for my own childhood. I experienced a range of emotions, from tender love to incredulity at the world’s ways, to deep regret of why things could not be otherwise.

There are endearing descriptions of mango picking, pickling and eating the sour fruit behind their mother’s back. There is make-believe play where the children set up shop and gather sand, pebbles and other things to act as wares. The cookout by Durga in the woods introduces us to Bini, who is ostracized because of her caste.

Durga is very loving and protective towards her brother. She shelters him from the cold wind and a heavy downpour when they run off in the storm to gather mangoes that have fallen from trees. She often gives him money to buy what he wants.

The most evocative incident in the book is when the children walk for miles to see the railroad in the hope of seeing a train. They walk amid thorns, lose their way and stumble back hone only by evening, having failed to find the rail tracks.

Apu, eventually goes on to see the railroad, then a train and after that, even travel in one as the family leaves their ancestral home in the village of Nischindipur for greener pastures and better prospects in Benaras.

Durga watches them or seems to Apu to watch them go, standing by the Jamun tree at the edge of the village. Apu thinks of his elder sister repeatedly over the years, even into his adulthood. Even in the unguarded moments, he always remembers his didi, once weak and fever ridden, asking him to show him a train.

The village life, the community events and the excitement that fairs and jatras evoke in the are beautifully rendered.

The narrative is richly interwoven with the description of the flora and fauna found around the village. The book tells a touching tale of rural Bengal, of innocent joys, of sibling love and of the turns and events in the life of a simple, impoverished family.

Musings on My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.

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In reading this book, I was struck by the cornucopia of images, colours, illustrations.

Orhan Pamuk, the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature has written this amazing historical novel and set in the time of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. It was written in 1998 in Turkish and translated to English in 2001.

The book has miniature painters as the main characters and it talks in detail about the techniques used in painting, the philosophy behind the paintings and the psyche and the lifestyle of the painters themselves. There are innumerable subjects and illustrations that are discussed in vivid detail.

One of the most exciting feature of the book is that each chapter has a different narrator. To change skins and perspectives often, the reader is kept on his toes. The narrators range from the main characters to corpses, horses, Satan and even inanimate objects like coins and trees.

The book starts with the murder of one of the miniaturists. The unraveling of the mystery behind the murder takes up an important part of the book. Interwoven with the intrigue is a delightful romance. It veers towards passion with a thread of practicality running through it. The female characters are fleshed out most wonderfully-all too human. There is love, there is an awareness of worldly responsibilities and finally Shekure, the main female protagonist realises that her love for her children is different and more fulfilling than her love for her husband Black, who has waited to wed her for twelve long years.

The Jewish clothier, Esther is a wonder to understand. Compassionate yet shrewd, she brings colour to the drab, snowy winter days.

Through miniature paintings, Orhan Pamuk brings forth the east west conflict in the nature of panting styles.

As Pamuk’s official website states,the book is about “death, art, love, marriage and happiness as well as a requiem for the forgotten beauties of pictorial art”.

An absolute delight, not to be rushed through, with each image and brush stroke savoured!