Book Reviews

What I’ve been Reading

I haven’t been reading much. There, I said it. I’m ashamed to have said it but it’s the truth, especially coming from me – a person who used to finish 2-3 books per week with consummate ease. 

To clarify, I haven’t read too many novels this year. But to compensate, and because I’m writing 1 short story every month as part of the Short Story Challenge, I’ve been gobbling up fiction and essays from literary magazines everywhere, mostly online. 

At the rate of 1 short story a day, I might have easily read as much as 2-3 books a week! 

Despite that, I craved my novel fixes. So I got back in the game with two of the most talked about books that have recently been made or are going to be made into films. 

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I came to the Divergent party a little late, because I didn’t know how much I could stomach. I was also worried that it would end on a cliffhanger and I’d be forced to read the sequels just to know what happens next. 

Luckily I’m pleased to report this was not the case. I enjoyed reading the book. It ended on a note that surely promised a sequel, but it is no loss if you choose not to. 

Though I found it very exciting, the premise felt a little too derivative to me. The sorting of people into factions reminded me of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, and the violence between adolescents brought to mind The Hunger Games. I understand the appeal, of course, but I’m happy to see the sequels solely on screen, with my niece serving as my guide to plot lines that I may not follow. 

Here’s the trailer for Divergent:

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If you haven’t read the book already, then there’s nothing I can tell you about it. I knew that there was a halfway plot twist but I didn’t know what the twist was. Briefly, all that I can tell you about the book is this: 

On Nick and Amy’s 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. Nick is the prime suspect – because, almost always, it’s the husband that did it. The book is narrated alternately by Nick, and Amy’s diary entries. 

Now that I know the twists and the endings, I can safely say – please read the book if you haven’t already!

The film is out in October. The trailer is brilliant, as is the casting for the movie:

 

Right now I’ve started on The Silkworm, written by Robert Gilbraith aka JK Rowling. So far, all I can say is, JKR is JKR. She hasn’t lost her touch, or her sense of humour, or her writing skills, one teeny bit.

 

What have you been reading lately?

Book Reviews

Book Review – The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I’d read loads about The Help ever since it became a huge bestseller. Especially this article raised my curiosity about it. The author’s persistence and devotion to the book and her craft really inspired me. 

About a week back I trudged into the library, weary of finding a good book to read because the best ones are usually out. But lo and behold! The Help was just sitting right in front waiting for me to pick it up! The ignorance of the other members helped me snatch it instantly and check it out. For the next four days I read the book in every free moment. The only snag – it was a paperback book printed in font smaller than an ant’s footprints. 

I loved the book and can totally get why it has become such a big seller. The seemingly ordinary story is narrated in three viewpoints, Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. All of them narrate their stories in first person present-tense. 

In the year 1960, Aibileen and Minny are two black maids working in white households to earn their living. Aibileen works for Miss Leefolt and raises her two-year-old daughter Mae Mobley, while Miss Leefolt does little to look after her child.

I like how the dialogue of the black maids have been written out, with ‘a’ instead of ‘of’. Their narratives are full of sentences like ‘ taking care a white babies’ and ‘I seen plenty a womens’ etc. Their particular brand of colloquialism peppers the entire narrative, including phrases like ‘I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime’ ‘taking care of your own chilluns’. 

The story starts when Miss Leefolt commissions the installation of a new bathroom in the garage for the maid, so that friends who drop in at her home are not compelled to use the guest bathroom which is used by the maid.

Minny is a fiery maid, with an acidic mouth who utters the first words that spring to her lips. Among all the maids featured, Aibileen is the quiet sensible one.

Into the maids’ life comes Miss Skeeter, a young white woman determined to write a book from the maids’ point of view and impress a publisher. By mere virtue of persistence, she contacts and gets in touch with a publisher who likes the idea.

But getting the maids to open up about their lives to a white woman is easier said than done. The whole enterprise is fraught with risk, but they plough on resolutely.

Do things change? With time they do, because we all know about Martin Luther King’s speech and its consequences.

Characters on the periphery do suffer losses but one expected more harm to befall the principal characters. She is no JK Rowling, and only the most minor of characters suffer. Minny devises a clever plan to protect the maids who share their stories with Miss Skeeter, but that would be a spoiler so I won’t reveal it here.

The end, though not unexpected, left me a little teary-eyed. But don’t mind me, because I cry easily!

Get your hands on the book and read it. I wholly recommend it. Here’s the NYT review.