Saturday, 8 December 2012

An Irish Country Doctor - Patrick Taylor

Date of Reading: 29/04/2008
Author: Patrick Taylor
Publisher: Reader's Digest (Select Editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2007

          Ever since I fell in love with 'Gone with the Wind' and 'Scarlett' (its sequel), Ireland held an irrevocable romantic charm. The land of the O'Haras is my Wordsworthian England; may be I should have used 'was', the recent events concerning the abortion laws and the death of  the Indian born Savita Halappanavar has put me back to the skeptical position of Seamus Heaney.
         Story is based on Taylor's own experiences as a doctor in Ireland. Well, I won't put it in the same place of 'The Story of San Michele' (Axel Munthe), but no doubt, it retains some of the fragrance of that rewarding memoir. There are some rough edges for sure, the story is predictable for one, and the ending is also not that satisfying. But there permeates the serene atmosphere of all Irish novels, you will love this for sure.
         On completing his medical degree, Dr. Barry Laverty joins as an assistant to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly in the Irish countryside of Ballybucklebo which is not even visible in his tourist map. Novel is about his life here and his interactions with the local people with Dr. O'Reilly as the supervisor forms the major chunk. The unconventional doctor proves a little difficult at first, but soon they form a deep friendship. Adding flavour to this is his relationship with Patricia, an engineering student; this life in the green country puts him into different perspectives and he decides to stay there. Ireland has entangled one more with her charm.
         Dr. Laverty's story is continued in the four sequels and Taylor wrote a prequel to the novel too in 2011.
Series in order:
Patrick Taylor
An Irish Country Doctor (2007)
An Irish Country Village (2008)
An Irish Country Christmas (October 2008)
An Irish Country Girl (2009)
An Irish Country Courtship (2010)
A Dublin Student Doctor (2011)  (prequel)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Boy Next Door - Meg Cabot

Date of Reading: 02/09/2012
Source: Internet (e-pub version)
Year: 2002
Rating: 3.5/5

           One of my friends who is studying to become a nurse, once sent me a letter. Oh, not a mail, but a handwritten original letter. Needless to say, I am surprised. Glad to know that the post office still exists, thanks to the convent mode hostels which still scrutinises our letters and allows us to make a call to home only on Sundays.
            With this almost extinction of letters, gone are the days of epistolary novels. Or so I thought, until I have come by this one. Samuel Richardson has written the first novel in English, 'Pamela', in  a series of letters and it seems the tradition is not forgotten. Well, except for 'Colour Purple' of Alice Walker and 'Dracula' (though it is in the form of a diary), I don't have much favourites in this mode.
          This one is the modern form; story is all in e-mails and rest is left to the imagination of the reader. Its all about a romance which blooms in a crime scene; too bad, its all predictable. At least Cabot has made an attempt with an ordinary story. What should we expect next? A novel made out of SMS! (As for that matter Sophie Kinsella's 'I've Got Your Number' is a partial attempt in this field)
          Melissa Fuller, a gossip columnist of the New York Journal has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Aaron Spender. When the novel opens, Mel is late for work and her friend Nadine Wilcock, the managing editor George Sanchez and the style editor Dolly Vargas all send anxious, threatening e-mails to her, all for different reasons. 
        Her next door neighbour Mrs. Helen Friedlander is found facedown on the carpet of her apartment and Mel is with her in the hospital. The victim hasn't yet recovered her consciousness and so Mel is forced to walk the lady's Great Dane, Paco everyday and as a result is late always. She informs Mrs. Friedlander's super model nephew, Max, about the incident and the need to take care of the pets.
         Max is in vacation with her girl friend, Vivica and so obviously not in a nursing mood. He asks his millionaire friend John Trent to take his place in the apartment in return for a former favour. John is a crime reporter in the New York Chronicle, the main rival of Journal. He moves to Mrs. Friedlander's apartment and soon a relationship is underway between him and Mel.
          In the end Vivica spoils this identity secret to have her revenge on Max. Mel lashes out at John and they split up. Max occupies his aunt's apartment but Mel begins to doubt his intentions. By making a frienship with Vivica she finds out that Max has visited his aunt on the day of the attack.
Meg Cabot
          John's relatives are in a move together to join the lovers; his grandmother Genevieve forwords her grandson's e-mails which explains his attachment to Mel. The couple makes up the differences and brings Max to the justice. Story ends with Mel accepting the proposal of John.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

One Night @ the Call Centre - Chetan Bhagat

Date of Reading: 08/04/2008
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Reader's Digest Selected Editions
Place: Australia
Year: 2007

          I have never seen a single Chetan Bhagat fan who loves this particular book. As I am not an admirer ( and also this is an edited version of Reader's Digest), that might be the reason I find this his best work. Other day I attended a pre-Ph.D synopsis presentation on anti-globalisation in Indian literature and this was one of the selected works. It seems I am not alone.
          What is special about this one? All his other works are quite evidently autobiographical in which IIT and its entrance examinations play a major part and so this is a fresh breeze. More over,   there is the added element of supernatural; call me old fashioned, but I like a little bit of deu ex machina. Sometimes an outer help is relieving in this fast paced world. Like in 'Canterbury Tales' Chetan has succeeded in bringing together a section of Indian society in a simple setting. There is the weeping lover, sighing money maker, victimized daughter and daughter-in-law and the estranged father. On running after the much desired fame, money and reputation, they have forgotten something -- conscience and inner peace. This is their story of  finding what is needed most; simple with no adornments but truthful. 
    The author is travelling alone in the Kanpur-Delhi night train. Soon he is joined by a beautiful girl who has read his first book. She offers to tell a story on the condition that he must write on it. Chetan, though at first reluctant, agrees to hear her.
           Story revolves around a single night in a Call Centre. Six people work there on night shift at that chosen time -- Syam, Vroom (for Victor), Military Uncle, Priyanka, Radhika and Esha. Author takes the part of Syam and writes this story.
          Each has their own unique problems to suffer. Syam has just broken up with Priyanka after a long relationship and is not yet recovered. Seeing her everyday at work is not at all helping. Besides, their boss Bakshi is behaving rudely after taking credit for what Syam and Vroom has done together.
          Priyanka is compelled by her nagging mother to drop her relationship with Syam and now she is engaged to Ganesh, a man chose by her mother. Marriage is fixed for next month and that makes her worried as she does not know this would-be-husband guy that well.
          Radhika has passed over these jumping the broom troubles, but the married life is nothing as expected. For her husband's traditional family she has changed to sari, still that won't help with the mother-in-law problem. The old woman pours her husband's ear with her faults; in this particular night she finds out that her much beloved husband keeps a girl friend.
           Esha is in modelling too, and she has slept with a man in order to go forward in this career. Instead, the man sends some money as compensation and now she is haunted by guilt. She cannot meet Vroom who has an earnest interest in her.
          Vroom's parents have quarrelled today also, and that affects his mood. He has taken this job only for his money interest and is consequently can't find any satisfaction. Military Uncle, the quiet man, has a different woe to tell. He did not approve her daughter-in-law's modern ways and this conservatism has separated him from the family. Now he misses his grandchild.
          On the heap of this the news comes that they may lose their jobs too. To relax they go out together in the car which meets with an accident due to Vroom's uncontrolled, angry driving. The Qualis is struck in metal rodes and underneath is a deep pit. 
           Mobile does not have any signals, but Syam's  mobile suddenly beeps and the caller is identified as God. He makes them promise to live by listening to their inner voice and indirectly help them to escape. That makes a change.
Chetan Bhagat
          Their plan succeeds in saving the company and Vroom and Syam decide to start a web designing company together. Syam is joined with Priyanka, Radhika divorces her husband, Esha gives up modelling and devotes wholly to the Call Centre and the Military Uncle is rejoined with his son's family.
            Chetan guesses that the one who is sitting beside him is Esha. Soon the girl disappears, it was GOD.
--- the Bollywood movie 'Hello', directed by Atul Agnihotri, is based on this story, but produced an average response in Indian box office. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

Date of Reading: 16/10/2012
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Edited with an introduction by Angus Easson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Place: Oxford
Year: 1982
Rating: 4/5

          Wow! At last Gaskell has succeeded where Dickens failed in 'Hard Times'. A romance novel set in the background of early industrial England is surely a daring achievement. Everything that matters to a superb story is at hand: the void between workers and masters, their lack of mutual trust which leads to strikes and proves fatal to both the parties and above all the presence of a saintly maiden who makes some change with the purity of her heart adds to the emotional appeal (it sounds Utopian, I know, but we need to think only of the reading pleasure).
          All in all the story is much similar to 'Pride and Prejudice'; situation is reversed though -- lady here is with pride and her man is prejudiced. Gaskell makes a striking contrast between the calm, beautiful countryside and the fast-moving, polluted city life. But she is not blind to the evils of the country or the much luxurious life of the workers in Milton. What they lack is a little bit understanding and consideration and that is where   Margaret Hale bridges the gap with her earnest spirit.
          After spending years of life with her aunt Mrs. Shaw and young cousin Edith, Margaret Hale comes back to live with her parents in the village of   Helstone. Her father is a clergyman there and they are quite at home with nature. But soon the position changes when her father turns into a dissenter and resigns his job. They move to the industrial town of Milton where Mr. Hale takes the vocation of a tutor. Margaret is averse to industrial settings but that does not prevent her from making a deep rooted friendship with Higgins family while her father finds a suitable companion in the rich mill owner, Mr. Thornton.        
           Once when Margaret tries to save Mr. Thornton from the mad strikers, he mistakes her gesture as a form of affection and proposes. Margaret, horrified at the idea, immediately rejects him. But Thornton can never stop loving her.            
               Frederick, her brother was in the Navy but as he led a mutiny against the ungenerous captain, he is an outcaste now. When Mrs. Hale lays dying he comes to visit in secret according to her wish but his abrupt leaving is noticed by Mr. Thornton and some others. He sees Margaret in the company of Frederick but mistakes them as lovers. Yet his intervention saves her from the awkward questioning of police on the death of Leonards who was struck by Frederick when the drunken man tries to capture him.
Elizabeth Gaskell
          Mr. Hale soon follows his wife and Margaret is financially protected by her godfather, Mr. Bell who owns almost all of Milton. After his death, as a heiress she resides with Aunt Shaw and cousin Edith.
          Meanwhile Mr. Thornton's position has sunk low as a result of the previous strike. His friendship with Higgins has improved his relationship with the workers, but a downfall cannot be helped. He comes to Margaret to give up his lease and she surprises him by accepting his hand.
--- Story is adapted by BBC as a serial in 2004, with Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret and Richard Armitage as Thornton.

Friday, 5 October 2012

My Name is Red - Orhan Pamuk

Date of Reading: 18/03/2008
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Publisher: Vintage
Place: USA
Year: 2002
           Excepting 'Snow' , this is my favourite novel of Pamuk. The style is unique as expected of Pamuk, giving us the views of each character (even that of the murderer which contains the clues of guessing him) and  without knowing we are transported to the splendour and religious intrigue of sixteenth century Istanbul.
          Throughout the book the narration is in first person with chapter headings like 'I am a Corpse', 'I am Called Black', 'I am a Dog' etc. The beginning chapters could be a bit confusing, but once you get the hang of it, nothing will stop you from reading this splendid work. An author is in a sense a preserver, and Pamuk does pickle up Istanbul's treasured past and memories.
         Story begins with the speech of a corpse who introduces himself as Elegant Effendi, a miniaturist whose body decays at the bottom of a well. He requests to find his  murderer and bury his body.
         Black Effendi, the protagonist, returns to Istanbul after twelve years on the request of his uncle Enishte Effendi, to complete the book of pictures he is working on. Black has fallen in love with his uncle's beautiful daughter Shekure and in a way this has caused his exile at the age of 24. Shekure later marries a soldier but nothing is heard of him these four years. Her brother-in-law has an eye on Shekure and so she is living in her father's house along with her two sons -- Shevket and Orhan.
         On this return Black is determined to marry Shekure, but his uncle has other concerns. Sultan had commissioned him to prepare a great book of pictures celebrating the glories of his realm, in Frank (European) style. As figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this is a delicate task; Islam allows to portray a picture as Allah sees it to be.
          Murder of Elegant has increased the complications. Enishte is confident that one of the master miniaturists -- Butterfly, Stork, Olive -- is the real culprit. Task is now handed over to Black. Later Enishte also gets murdered. As it may force Shekure to return to her husband's family, they conceal the death until she procures a divorce and marry Black. After that the death is announced as a normal one. Black confesses everything to Sultan's treasurer and Sultan allows him three days to find the murderer.
         Master Osman, the head miniaturist identifies the picture of a horse found from the body of Elegant as Olive's. Olive tries to escape to Hindustan but on the way Hasan mistakes him as a friend of Black's and kills him. After 24 years of contented married life, Black passes away and his widow hands over the details to Orhan for his book.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Date of Reading: 25/09/2012
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Peacock Books
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2010

          At last I found something enjoyable in Hardy. Oh! That he is a great author is indisputable, yet no one wants to be reminded of the wretchedness of human life or fate's play in all the books. He can be humorous, if he wants it seems.
          I won't put Bathsheba in the same pedestal with Tess; Hardy's prejudice against women is evident in her character creation also. Though brave, her mood shifts too much and so the lack of firmness of  character, much important to a woman, leads her to all these troubles. At times we suspect that the fate of Isabel Archer ('Portrait of a Lady') awaits her too, but it is lucky that Hardy was determined to make a happy ending. He tries to make some amends in the end saying that "she was of the stuff that great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises". But here also she is just a great man's mother, not a great woman.
          No wonder the villain is named Troy. Like the Paris of Troy, he only knows how to woo women and create trouble. The war he and his Helen makes here almost destroys the life of poor Boldwood. Its pity that his fate is not much improved at the end too. Hardy is not without pessimism after all.
         All in all, I will recommend this to anyone who is interested in a different reading of Hardy. The music and beauty of rustic life, their idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies makes this the most humorous of Hardy's novels.
          The story revolves around young and amorous but capricious Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. At the beginning of the story she is but a poor maid and Gabriel Oak, then a farmer, proposes to her. Alas! she holds herself a little more worthy and rejects our hero. Later Oak is financially ruined when his sheepdog drives his folk over a cliff and on seeking the job of a shepherd, he finds it under the now wealthy Bathsheba.
          When she unwisely sends an anonymous valentine to her neighbour farmer Boldwood, he takes it seriously as to fall in love with her, though until then he was immune to the charms of the fair sex. Ashamed of her conduct, Bathsheba almost agrees to marry him, but then the dashing Sergeant Troy enters the scene. He was in love with Bathsheba's maid Fanny Robin but they fail to marry when she enters the wrong church for the ceremony. With a sudden impulse our heroine marries Troy.
          After several months Troy meets the pregnant, tired Fanny on wayside. She dies later on giving birth to a dead child. Bathsheba comes to know of her husband's former relation and she properly buries Fanny. Troy erects an elegant tomb for his beloved and wanders away. A rumour spreads that he is drowned.
         Boldwood uses the opportunity to renew his suits, but when he organises a Christmas party in honour of her, the supposed-to-be-dead husband reappears. He forces Bathsheba to return and she screams; Boldwood on losing his mind at this, shoots Troy dead. He is convicted to gallows but later Queen's mercy changes it to confinement. Bathsheba buries her husband with Fanny on the same place.
Thomas Hardy
         All through her troubles the hand that supported her was Oak's. When he resigns his job and tries to go away to work in his own farm, she realises that her friendship to him has turned to love. Novel ends with their quiet marriage.

Something to think about:

"He had passed the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet arrived at the stage wherein they become united again, in the character of prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family. In short, he was twenty-eight, and a bachelor".

"It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail".

"We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms,whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all."

"Women are never tired of bewailing man's fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy".        

Friday, 21 September 2012

Into Deep Waters - Kaje Harper

Date of Reading:25/07/2012
Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: M/M Romance Group
Rating: 4/5

          This book is a product of the 'Love is Always Write' promotion sponsored by the Goodreads M/M Romance group. You can download it as a free e-book from goodreads website. The group invited the members to choose a photo and pen a letter for a short M/M romance story inspired by the image. Authors in the group is encouraged to select a letter and write an original tale. Kaje Harper's is one of those.

          A word of caution before proceeding; if you are in anyway prejudiced against gays don't even think about reading this book. Book is an excellent choice for gays and neutral ones. Prose is beautifully written and it feels like a romance like any other. The two lovers do everything a man and woman do together and the author hasn't censored anything also. So those who believe this is something unnatural, beware!, you might actually vomit.
          Daniel Acardi and Jacob Segal meets in 1942 
during World War II as officers of Navy and soon finds mutually attracted. Their relationship flourishes secretly behind empty locker rooms and rented secluded hotels. When their ship comes under attack, Jacob is hurt but timely saved by Daniel. Jacob is sent home to heal, while his lover's fate is to fight some more.
          War ends at last and they move in together. Jacob's family pretends that Daniel does not exist and Danny is not welcome to his own home either. Jacob works in his father's medical shop and as a commercial artist Daniel also finds a life. Like any other normal family they also has little fights -- once Jacob even doubts his lover spends time with other gays. 
         Years pass by and the gays begin to come to the public unafraid, voices are raised for the right to marriage. Attitudes of the younger generation is also changing. Jacob's sister is tolerant and his nieces enjoy the luxury of two uncles.
         At last on July 25, 2011 at the age of eighty-seven they marry with the permission of New York state in the presence of family and friends.
"As their hands parted, the ring fell. For a moment it floated on the surface of the water, catching little glints of sun in the interwoven silver and copper strands. Daniel reached for Jacob's hand again, and laced their fingers together, watching it. . . Slowly the ring of their entwined hair slipped below the surface. Another moment and it was gone from sight, heading downwards, carrying his love and Jacob's down safely this time, into deep waters."

Friday, 14 September 2012

Movie Review: Thor

Title : Thor
Directed by : Kenneth Branagh
Starring : Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman
Year : 2011
          In my English class it is taught that intonation does matter. So if you ask me whether I like this film, I will say 'yes'. Ask again, 'Do you like this?', the answer will be 'Hmm... it's OK'. The thing is nothing here is completely developed; this is not a full fledged love story, no great actions to talk as a superhero movie, and Thor hasn't got a chance to show his worth (nothing to make the spectator love him, well... other than good looks).
           On the other hand, look at his villain brother, poor chap! I wouldn't mind if he is made the hero. Another pathetic example of a hybrid figure (same condition of the colonised people).He is lead to believe that Frost Giants, his own people, are bad but he won't be accepted as an Asgardian (Asgardian in manners and clothing seems to be not enough). The condition of being neither here nor there, is enough to make anyone a villain.
           Another irritating fact is the canonisation of the father, Odin. 'Father won't do anything without a reason', chimes his wife every day. Then why did the all knowing Odin All Father brought up a child ignorant of his identity! It didn't turn out well too.
          May be we have to blame the script. But on the whole film is entertaining. Nice setting and costume for sure. Now to the story.
           Frost Giants of Jotunheim is about to conquer the whole world, beginning with earth and Asgardians led by their king Odin comes for the timely rescue. The evil is defeated and their source of power, The Casket of Ancient Winters is taken.
         Odin's elder son Thor is about to take the throne, but the ceremony is interrupted when some of the Frost Giants attempt a break through. Against his father's orders, Thor with his brother Loki and his friends attacks Jotunheim, and as a result Odin expels his son to earth as a mortal. Only on proving worthy he can wield his hammer again. Jane Foster, an astrophysicist takes him in and they fall in love.
         Meanwhile Loki realises that he is a Frost Giant, therefore the adopted son of Odin. When his father falls into some sort of hibernation, he takes power and tries to destroy the Frost Giants himself to prove his worth. He tries to kill Thor too, but when Thor sacrifices his life to save his friends, his power returns.
          The new Thor who has learned tolerance at last, prevents Loki and he falls to an abyss. Thor can never return to his mortal love. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

Date of Reading: 31/08/2012
Author: Umberto Eco
Translated by: William Weaver (from Italian)
Publisher: Warner Books
Place: San Diego
Year: 1980

          Once I had to face an exam which they said the most important in my life, and consequently the serious faces around made me panic. So now when I read this book I know what Jorge (the villain here) says about the second book of Aristotle which is said to be dealing with comedy is true. Laughter can dispel fear, it may change everything (possibly the outcome of my exam too, which was by the way, disastrous).
         Detective novels are usually considered by the so-called scholars as not worth reading and so not in anyone's academic curriculum. But here Umberto Eco has succeeded in producing a scholarly work within the frame work of crime fiction. All these facts about the Dark Ages of the Catholic Church is pretended to be non-existent, so a common reader will have to struggle hard to make some sense of this religious dilemma. So what keeps the pace is the frame story, the seven murders and the mystery pursued by William, the follower of Roger Bacon (a monk who upholds scientific belief is a strange combination indeed!), who reminds us often of Sherlock Holmes.
          The year is 1327. Adso a young novice of the Benedictine order is placed under William of Baskerville as a scribe and disciple by his parents. Church is going through what we now call the dark ages; Pope John XXII presides over Avignon and is in conflict with Emperor Louis. Factions are arising, condemning the Pope and is consequently burned as heretics by inquisition committees.
        Pope is now turned against the Franciscan order too, as they proclaim their faith in the doctrine of poverty of Christ. So William, an English man and Franciscan is to find a suitable place for the meeting between the leaders of the Franciscan order and the envoys of the Pope. As per this intention they travel to this distant abbey where terrible events are to take place in seven days.
         Adso's memoir is divided into seven days describing everything in detail. By the time they reach the abbey the death of the first man - Adelmo - has already taken place and William as a former Inquisitor is charged with the enquiry by the abbot. Secret seems to lie within the library which functions as a labirynth and is forbidden to the free roaming of others. Two more deaths follow - Venatius and Berengar - and the meeting of the envoys convene under the shadow of these recent events. Soon the herbalist, Severinus is also killed and the cellarer and his companion is mistaken for the crime. The meeting ends in vain.
         The death of Malachi, the librarian clears the mist and William succeeds in finding the clue to enter the secret place in the library, named finis Africae. Abbot becomes the sixth victim and William and Adso finds Jorge, the old blind monk, in the finis Africae. The brain behind the murders is discovered at last. He was preventing the second book of Aristotle which deals with comedy to come to the public eye.
          The book enhances the virtues of laughter, its power to quench fear and consequently Jorge feared that it could ruin the power of Church as it governs on fear. So he hides it all these years, but when the young people with their lust for knowledge, begin to search for finis Africae, he smears the book in poison and all who read it got killed. Only Adelmo's death was a suicide as a result of his sinning with Berengar.
         When he fails to convince (or kill) William, Jorge tears the pages and gulps it down. In the fight that ensued, a lamp is toppled over, the library catches fire and soon it spread to the whole abbey. All the deaths that occurred had corresponded to the signs warning the arrival of Antichrist which was only a coincidence. But as William says towards the end, we see the Antichrist in Jorge, "the Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth, as the heretic is born from the saint and the possessed from the seer".

Umberto Eco
          William and Adso parts ways never to see each other again. Adso returns to the monastery at Melk where he writes down this manuscript as an old man. William, it is informed that, dies in the great plague.

Something to think about:
"The idea is sign of things, and the image is sign of the idea, sign of a sign".

"The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb".

"A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams".

--- the book is made into a film in 1986 starring Sean Connery as William and Christian Slater as Adso
--- the title is said to be neutral, nothing related to the story 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Roots - Alex Haley

Date of Reading: 15/11/07
Author: Alex Haley
Sub title: The Saga of an American Family
Publisher: Picador
Place: London
Year: 1979

          If I hadn't read this book formerly, I would have thought that life of Blacks was much like that of in 'Gone with the Wind' -- peaceful, content and happy. Black Arts Movement of 1960's has repeatedly urged its followers to reclaim their past and warns against their merge with the dominant White culture. It all seems ages ago now but, to have some traditions and beliefs of one's own is always fascinating, this almost makes our identity and washes down the feeling that we are alone.
         So Haley here carefully notes down the story of his family through generations in America, beginning with his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte. Unlike other biographical fiction this one is never boring ( too big perhaps, but things get better and better once the pages turn), and of course, stories of survival are always good to hear. Nothing is better to generate some hope.
         Kunta Kinte was born on the spring of 1750 in the village of Juffure, at the coast of Gambia, West Africa as the first child of Omoro and Binta Kinte. He has three brothers -- Lamin, Suwadu and Madi. When he was about 17 rains (years), Kunta is captured by the toubobs (White men), transported to America and is sold to John Waller. Four times he tries to escape but in vain. On the fourth attempt his foot is chopped off by two white professional slave catchers. This provokes John's brother William so much that he takes Kunta and assigns him in the vegetable garden at Virginia.
         Kunta finds that other Blacks in America are born in their itself and these brownish ones have never known Africa. He keeps his distance at first but later marries Bell, the cook there. A daughter is born called Kizzy. Kunta (or Toby as he is called now) is decided that his family won't be purged in ignorance and so teaches his family history to Kizzy.

Alex Haley

         When Kizzy helps her boy friend to escape she is sold to Tom Lea who owns a plantation in North Carolina. She is brutally raped by her new master and her son George is born. As per the instructions of her father whom she is not to be seen again, Kizzy passes their family story to her son. George becomes an expert in training game cocks which earns him the nick name 'Chicken George'. He marries Matilda and they have eight children. With each new child's birth George would gather his family within their slave cabin telling them afresh about their African great grandfather.
         When George was sent to England as a result of his master's failure in a bet, his family is sold to a Massa Murray. His fourth son Tom was a blacksmith and he marries Irene and they have eight children too. With each new birth Tom continued his father's tradition. Youngest of them was Cynthia, who was two years old when they are set free by President Lincoln. Later she marries Will Palmer and their daughter Bertha weds Simon Haley and our author is born. Alex also hears the story from his grandma which his mother has stopped believing. In his later life he goes to Juffure to confirm the tales and by then six generations has passed after Kunta. This book is dedicated to his country.

Haley's boyhood home and memorial in Henning
Attribution: Thomas R. Machnitzki

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