Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rohinton Mistry - Family Matters


Amazon.com Review

Set during the 1990s in an overcrowded and politically corrupt Bombay, Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters depicts a family being torn apart by lies, love, and its unresolved demons of the past. Nariman Vakeel is an aging patriarch whose advancing Parkinson's disease and its related complications threaten to destroy his large Parsi family. When Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his two stepchildren turn his care over to their half-sister, Roxanne, who lives in a two-room flat with her husband and two sons. What follows is each character's reaction to this situation, from Roxanne's husband's struggle to provide for his family without neglecting his conscience to their sons' coming of age in an era of uncertainty. Expertly interspersed between these dilemmas are Nariman's tortured remembrances of a forbidden love and its inescapable consequences ("no matter where you go in the world, there is only one story: of youth, and loss, and yearning for redemption. So we tell the same story, over and over. Just the details are different"). Family Matters is a compelling, emotional, and persuasive testimony to the importance of memories in every family's history. In a poetic style rich with detail, Mistry creates a world where fate dances with free will, and the results are often more familiar than anyone would ever care to admit. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

Warm, humane, tender and bittersweet are not the words one would expect to describe a novel that portrays a society where the government is corrupt, the standard of living is barely above poverty level and religious, ethnic and class divisions poison the community. Yet Mistrys compassionate eye and his ability to focus on the small decencies that maintain civilization, preserve the family unit and even lead to happiness attest to his masterly skill as a writer who makes sense of the world by using laughter, as one of his characters observes. Bombay in the mid-1990s, a once-elegant city in the process of deterioration, is mirrored in the physical situation of elderly retired professor Nariman Vakeel, whose body is succumbing to the progressive debilitation of Parkinsons disease. Narimans apartment, which he shares with his two resentful, middle-aged stepchildren, is also in terrible disrepair. But when an accident forces him to recuperate in the tortuously crowded apartment that barely accommodates his daughter Roxana, her husband and two young boys, family tensions are exacerbated and the limits of responsibility and obligation are explored with a full measure of anguish. In the ensuing situation, everyones behavior deteriorates, and the affecting secret of Narimans thwarted lifetime love affair provides a haunting leitmotif. Light moments of domestic interaction, a series of ridiculous comic situations, ironic juxtapositions and tenderly observed human eccentricities provide humorous relief, as the author of A Fine Balance again explores the tightrope act that constitutes life on this planet. Mistry is not just a fiction writer; he's a philosopher who finds meaning-indeed, perhaps a divine plan in small human interactions. This beautifully paced, elegantly expressed novel is notable for the breadth of its vision as well as its immensely appealing characters and enticing plot.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kazuo Ishiguro - Never let me go



From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly re-imagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance–and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro's finest work.



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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

J.M. Coetzee - Slow Man



Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy—the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth—both push Coetzee—on to the bittersweet conclusion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

John Banville - The Sea

The Sea is where Max Morden, a middle-aged art historian, retreats after his wife dies of cancer. Max goes to the Irish seaside village of Ballyless where he once spent a holiday as a boy. While there, he alternately remembers his life with his wife and that summer holiday where he became infatuated with the wealthy and sophisticated Grace family, first with the mother, and then with the daughter. These relationships with these three women were the uneasy mess of life that helped define who he has come to be. Even now in retrospect, Max must remember even the most difficult truths if he is to find solace in them. John Banville's novel has received mostly positive reviews with The Scotsman saying, "This is a novel in which all Banville's remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, disturbing, beautiful, intelligent, and in the end, surprisingly, offering consolation." 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore



 From the Reviews:

  • "(T)hough it will leave his long-term fans feeling slightly disappointed, there's no reason to suspect that the dauntingly prolific Murakami is in danger of going permanently off the boil. (...) Philip Gabriel's English-language text is also pretty clunky in places" - Christopher Tayler, Daily Telegraph

  • "Kafka on the Shore is undoubtedly a very readable book. Although the resolution is weak, Murakami builds suspense skilfully and draws you inexorably into a convoluted, fantastical storyline. (...) It may seem idiotic to complain about lack of plausibility in a meandering narrative featuring talking cats and ghostly spirits, especially one featuring a running commentary about metaphor and allegory -- but that is Kafka on the Shore’s main flaw, and one that makes it a more insubstantial experience than its weighty appearance suggests." - Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times

  • "Die Mysterien und die rätselhaften Beziehungen nehmen kein Ende. Murakami spielt mit dem Mythos-Material, und man spürt, welche Freude er daran hat. Er ist ein freundlicher Erzähler. Selbst die Toten sind glückliche Tote. Das Böse ist eine dunkle Macht, die besiegt werden kann, und wir, die Leser, sind auch dann auf der Seite des Guten, wenn wir nicht verstehen, was vor sich geht." - Jörg Magenau, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Unless I am being particularly dim-witted, loose ends remain far looser than in any Murakami novel to date. (...) The mythic motifs also remain frustratingly shady. (...) Murakami's style is rarely less than seductive and I read Kafka on the Shore in one non-stop feeding frenzy. (A second reading, with more reviewerly table-manners, was necessary.) For sheer love of a thumping narrative, the novel delivers gloriously." - David Mitchell, The Guardian

  • "Kafka on the Shore contains more than enough mystery to delight fans, and will also entrance newcomers. Murakami has suggested it is a book that needs more than one reading to comprehend fully, and it may also be true that some scenes that will seem baffling to a Western audience make more sense to Japanese readers. If you return to the beginning of the book after completing it, the prologue actually works best as an epilogue." - Matt Thorne, The Independent

  • "Brilliantly conceived, bold in its surreal scope, sexy, and driven by a snappy and often comical plot, Murakami's new work delves into the congested inner workings of our selves with characteristic brio. I would recommend it to anyone, but with a word of caution for the uninitiated. If you have not read Murakami before, you will enjoy this doorstop of a novel a whole lot more if you start, like this novel's protagonist, with a bit of circuit training from this author's earlier work." - James Urquhart, Independent on Sunday 
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Friday, November 12, 2010

W.G. Sebald - Austerlitz


From Publishers Weekly

The ghost of what historian Peter Gay calls "the bourgeois experience," molded in the liberalism and neurasthenia of the 19th century and destroyed in the wars and concentration camps of the 20th century, haunts W.G. Sebald's unique novels. His latest concerns the melancholic life of Jacques Austerlitz who, justifiably, exclaims, "At some point in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life." The unnamed narrator met Austerlitz, an architectural historian, in Belgium in the '60s, then lost track of his friend in the '70s. When they accidentally run into each other in 1996, Austerlitz tells the story that occupies the rest of the book the story of Austerlitz's life. For a long time, Austerlitz did not know his real mother and father were Prague Jews his first memories were of his foster parents, a joyless Welsh couple. While exploring the Liverpool Street railroad station in London, Austerlitz experiences a flashback of himself as a four-year-old. Gradually, he tracks his history, from his birth in Prague to a cultivated couple through his flight to England, on the eve of WWII, on a train filled with refugee children. His mother, Agata, was deported first to Theresienstadt and then, presumably, to Auschwitz. His father disappeared in Paris. Austerlitz's isolation and depression deepen after learning these facts. As Sebald's readers will expect, the novel is filled with scholarly digressions, ranging from the natural history of moths to the typically overbearing architecture of the Central European spas. In this novel as in previous ones, Sebald writes as if Walter Benjamin's terrible "angel of history" were perched on his shoulder. B&w photos. (Oct.)Forecast: Gambling (safely) on Sebald's progress from cult favorite to major figure, Random House has picked up the author from former publisher New Directions and is sending him on an author tour. Though his latest isn't as startling and exciting as The Emigrants or The Rings of Saturn, it is a significant achievement, and Sebald should continue to attract ever more attention.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.



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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas

 

From Publishers Weekly

At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Mitchell's virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel's themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell's characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to "no more than one drop in a limitless ocean," he asks, "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker


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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Harper Lee "To Kill A Mockingbird" Free Download E-Book


"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."

Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.

Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Lee offers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman to overcome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standing up for what he knows is right; and finally in Scout's hard-won understanding that most people are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations, and deserves to be reread often. --Alix Wilber

Monday, November 8, 2010

Milan Kundera - The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Free Download eBook

"The Book of Laughter and Forgetting calls itself a novel, although it is part fairy tale, part literary criticism, part political tract, part musicology, and part autobiography. It can call itself whatever it wants to, because the whole is genius." -- John Leonard, New York Times

"An absolutely dazzling entertainment....Arousing on every levelpolitical, erotic, intellectual, and above all, humorous." -- Newsweek

"Deeply and impressively subversive, in more ways than one....Kundera's condemnation of modern life is broad, but his sympathy for those who create and suffer it is deep." -- Paul Gray, Time

"This book, as it bluntly calls itself, is brilliant and origin, written with the purity and wit that invite us directly in. " -- John Updike, New York Times Book Review

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway


As Clarissa Dalloway walks through London on a fine June morning, a sky-writing plane captures her attention. Crowds stare upwards to decipher the message while the plane turns and loops, leaving off one letter, picking up another. Like the airplane's swooping path, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa and those whose lives brush hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness.

As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Bruton (who, Clarissa notes anxiously, gives the most amusing luncheons). Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton.

Woolf then explores the relationships between women and men, and between women, as Clarissa muses, "It was something central which permeated; something warm which broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together.... Her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?" While Clarissa is transported to past afternoons with Sally, and as she sits mending her green dress, Warren Smith catapults desperately into his delusions. Although his troubles form a tangent to Clarissa's web, they undeniably touch it, and the strands connecting all these characters draw tighter as evening deepens. As she immerses us in each inner life, Virginia Woolf offers exquisite, painful images of the past bleeding into the present, of desire overwhelmed by society's demands. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland

It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century. -- Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Mrs. Dalloway ... contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English ... -- Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours 

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

J.M. Coetzee - Elizabeth Costello


In J. M. Coetzee's novel, Elizabeth Costello is a aging Australian writer, famous for a book she'd written years ago and now traveling the lecture circuit, although she's a poor public speaker. Through her speeches and interactions with her family members, Elizabeth Costello is more of a series of essays contained within a fictional outline. Coetzee examines themes such as animal rights, the Holocaust, humanism, rationalism, as well as how a writer imparts his beliefs through his fiction. Nominated for the Booker Prize, The Telegraph says of this novel, "In the end, as his heroine confronts death, he has been able to raise the deepest questions through some fictional safeguards -- without settling on answers, or defending all the arguments as his. But this is fine, because the attentive reader will have been badly jolted. It is why Coetzee is famous: Elizabeth Costello is no cheap shock. It is a serious one."



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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mark Haddon - The curious incident of the dog in the night time



The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon. It won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. Its title is a quotation of a remark made by the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1894 short story "Silver Blaze".
The story is written in the first-person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy with autism living in Swindon, Wiltshire. Although Christopher's condition within the autism spectrum is not stated explicitly within the novel, the summary on the book's inside cover or back cover (depending on the edition) describes it as Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism, or savant syndrome. In July 2009, Haddon stated on his blog that the book is not specifically about Asperger Syndrome and that he is not an expert on the subject.


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Monday, November 1, 2010

Graham Swift - The Light of Day



Amazon.com Review

In The Light of Day, Booker Prize-winning author Graham Swift takes readers into the mind of an ex-cop turned private investigator, who mulls over his relationship with a former client jailed for murdering her husband. In classic noir fashion, Webb has fallen for his client and anxiously awaits her release. Moreover, Webb had been called in to track the husband's affair, and Webb's role in the crime remains dubious. Swift's novel is somewhat in the vein of stream-of-consciousness style; Webb's thoughts are described, as they take place throughout a single day, in no particular order and without adhering to any strict plot structure. The novel's strength is indeed its structure: it is based not on chronology but as if on a sort of emotional resonance, with Webb's thoughts and preoccupations providing the novel with a depth not normally found in traditional detective novels. As an example, Swift writes of Webb's recollection of tailing the husband, after he had ended the affair and put his ex-lover on a plane:
He headed back towards the car park. In his shoes what would I have done? Found some spot that looked out on the runways? Pressed my nose against cold glass? All those taxiing lights. All those trundling planes, the people inside them like mere possibilities. At night it's hard to follow....
Webb is a fallible gumshoe who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but, thanks to Swift's deft prose, has the range of his emotions revealed as he looks toward the future and contemplates his past actions in The Light of Day. --Michael Ferch

From Publishers Weekly

George Webb, a divorced ex-cop and the narrator of this fine novel, works as a private investigator in London specializing in "matrimonial work": finding evidence of philandering. Some of the tearful women who enter his office become lovers (one, Rita, becomes his heart-of-gold assistant), but Sarah Nash becomes something altogether different. A language teacher and translator, she wants Webb to follow her husband and his lover, Kristina Lazic, a refugee taken in by the Nashes, to the airport "to see if she really goes"-alone-back to Croatia. Sarah knows the truth of the affair already; she's just looking for a sign that her husband can love her again. But the story belongs to Webb, through a masterful interior monologue that links the action of the present with a meditation on the past. Webb's movements on a particular day in November furnish the opportunity to learn about his childhood, his failed marriage, his career as a policeman terminated by a minor scandal and his constrained and lonely life. Sarah becomes Webb's opportunity for a second chance at happiness and redemption. But that reality will have to wait until her release from prison (it's not giving away the plot to note her crime: the murder of her husband). While this story sounds a bit like an American noir thriller from the 1930s (and Swift's title may be a nod to the noir fascination with night and shadow), the Booker Prize-winning author (for Last Orders) is after bigger themes: the weight of history, the role of fate, the inexplicable vagaries of love. Though perhaps not at the level of Last Orders, this beautifully written novel is a worthwhile addition to the Swift canon.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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