Saturday, 31 March 2012

ആല്‍കെമിസ്റ്റ്

കഥാകൃത്ത്‌: പൌലോ  കൊയ്‌ലോ 
വായിച്ച തിയതി : 13 /08 /2006 
വിവര്‍ത്തക: രമാ മേനോന്‍
പബ്ലിഷര്‍: ഡി . സി . ബുക്സ്
വര്ഷം: 2000 

കഥാസംഗ്രഹം :
          ഒരു സ്വപ്ന ദര്സനതിന്ടെ പ്രേരണയില്‍ സാന്റിയാഗോ എന്ന ഇടയബാലന്‍ നടത്തുന്ന യാത്രയാണ്‌ ആല്കെമിസ്ടിന്റെ പ്രതിപാദ്യം. അതിനാല്‍ ഇതിനെ യാത്രയുടെ പുസ്തകമെന്നു വിളിക്കാം. എന്നാല്‍ സാധാരണ യാത്രയല്ല, ജീവിതത്തിലൂടെ  സന്ദേഹിയായ മനുഷ്യന്‍ നടത്തുന്ന യാത്രയാണിത് . 
          പുരോഹിതനകാന്‍ പഠിച്ചിരുന്ന സാന്റിയാഗോ തന്റെ ലക്‌ഷ്യം അതല്ലെന്ന് മനസിലാക്കുകയും ഇടയനായി ലോകം കാണാന്‍ പുറപ്പെടുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. സ്വപ്നത്തില്‍ കണ്ട പിരമിടുകല്‍ക്കടുത്തുള്ള നിധിയാണ്‌ അവന്റെ ലക്‌ഷ്യം. സലെമിലെ രാജാവായ മേല്ഷിടെക് യുരിം, തുംമിം എന്നി കല്ലുകള്‍ അവനു  സമ്മാനിക്കുന്നു.
          പ്രകൃതിയുടെ ഭാഷ അവന്‍ വശമാക്കുന്നു. മരുപ്പച്ചയില്‍ വച്ച് കണ്ടുമുട്ടുന്ന ആല്‍കെമിസ്റ്റ് അവനെ അതിന് സഹായിച്ചു. അവസാനം ഉപേക്ഷിക്കപ്പെട്ട നിലയില്‍ ജീര്‍ണ്ണിച്ചു കിടക്കുന്ന പള്ളിയില്‍ നിന്ന്‍ അവന്‍ നിധി കണ്ടെടുക്കുകയും, അതുമായി തന്റെ പ്രിയതമയായ ഫാത്തിമയുടെ അടുത്തേക്ക് തിരിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നിടത്ത് നോവല്‍ അവസാനിക്കുന്നു.

എനിക്കിഷ്ടമായ വരികള്‍:

"മനുഷ്യന്‍ ജീവിതാരംഭത്തില്‍ തന്ടെ ലക്ഷ്യതെക്കുരിച് ബോധവാനാണ്. പക്ഷെ എന്തുകൊണ്ടോ വളര്‍ന്നു വലുതാകുമ്പോള്‍ ആ ബോധം അവനു നഷ്ടപ്പെടുന്നു."

"എല്ലാത്തിനും അതിന്റെതായ ഒരു വിലയുണ്ട്. ആര്‍ക്കും ഒന്നും വെറുതെ കിട്ടുന്നില്ല."

"ഓരോ ദിവസവും ജീവിക്കനുല്ലതാണ്. അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ മരിക്കാനുള്ളതാണ്. ഏതാണെന്നു തീരുമാനിക്കുന്നത് അവനവന്റെ തലയിലെഴുതാണ്."

യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ വേദനയെക്കാള്‍ ഭയങ്കരമാണ് വേദനിക്കേണ്ടി വരുമല്ലോ എന്ന് പേടിച്ചു കൊണ്ടുള്ള വേദന."

"ഈ പ്രപഞ്ചത്തില്‍ ഒരു വസ്തുവും ഒറ്റപ്പെട്ടതായിട്ടില്ല." 

Friday, 30 March 2012

Little Women

Date of Reading: 24/08/2006
Author: Louisa M. Alcott
Simplified by: Michael West & E.P.Hart
Illustrations by: Robert Broomfield
Year of Publication: 1724
Publisher: Longmans

Brief Summary:
          Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are the daughters of Mr.&Mrs. March. Though Mr. March works in the army, theirs is a poor middle class family with only one dress to wear in the parties. But the four girls are beautiful and forms a very amiable group which is later joined by Laurie, their neighbour.
          The elder one, Meg, marries Mr. John Brooke and becomes the mother of a boy and a girl. Laurie is in love with Jo, but for her he is only a friend (the usual tragedy!). So he marries Amy, the youngest. Beth dies of scarlet feaver. Jo finds her soul mate in Mr. Friederich Bhaer, a German Professor.

Rating: Nice

Comment:
          Little Women has much in common with Jane Austen novels where also the only means for a woman to go farther in society is a rich marriage. Jo is the central character here - brave, intelligent, and different in some sense.
          Illustrations of Mr. Broomfield are really cute as they are still in my memory after all these years. Vocabulary is poetic in this children's version, but that cant be said for the unabridged version. I hv tried that sometime before . . . didn't even finish it. May be I am too old for children's classics now!
          Story is loosely based on the childhood experiences of Alcott herself, with her three sisters. Book is published in two volumes, the first being this one and the second is titled as Good Wives. Both are published as a single vol in 1880. She has also produced two sequels, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. There are four film versions, the last one in 1994 starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst and Christian Bale (remember the Batman hero?). Also the book is been the subject of two T.V. series, one musical and an opera.

Related Readings:
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility
Alcott's Good Wives, Little Men, Jo's Boys

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Tornado Alley

Date of Reading: 28/08/2006
Author: Carolyn Keene
Publisher: Pocket Books
Place: New York

Summary:
          When Hannah Gruetn, the maid of Drew family, inherits a farm from a distant cousin, Nancy Drew and her father with Bess and George drive off for a scenic Oklahoma vacation. The plan is to sell off the property and pack up whatever momentos Hannah wants to keep. But a terrifying encounter with a tornado is just the beginning of the trouble.
          In a duffel bag Nancy discovers what looks like a ransom note and a man named Jimmy Boyd appears insisting that the bag is his. Nancy suspects him as the kidnapper. She contacts the local police but they laughs it off as a prank. When charming Derek Owens, a tornado chaser at the local university, offers to help Nancy accepts faster than a lighting flash. But later he turns out to be the real villain and he tries to kill her by putting her in the midst of a terrible tornado. Nancy escapes and Derek gets killed in it.
          Hannah gives the farm to Jimmy and he marries Mary, his lover. Drew family wished them a happy life and returned home.

Rating: Not bad

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Child of Miracles

Date of Reading: 20/08/2006
Author: Rev. Frederic P. Gehring, C.M. with Martin Abramson
Publisher: Echo Books
Place: New York

Summary:
          Book narrates the true story of Patsy Li. She is the daughter of Ms. Ruth Li who lives in Singapore. During World War II they left their country in a ship which got bombed by the Japanese. Her little sister drowned and her parents had a narrow escape. Patsy was left in a suitcase, she floated over water and later found by Japanese. They tried to kill her but some natives found her in a terrible state and brought her to Fr. Gehring who was in the American Army in China. Patsy recovered and he put her in an orphanage after giving her the name Patsy Li which later turned out to be her true name. Fr. Gehring's Chinese name was Li.
          Her mother found her after several efforts but they didn't get along well. So Patsy was sent to America with Fr. Gehring and began her studies there. After acquiring a graduation in Nursing, she joined her mother again. Later she got engaged with Joe who had a narrow escape from death in the attack of thieves. But after that their marriage proceeded peacefully. Joe's last name was Lee (Li in Chinese) and she became Patsy Li forever. She is indeed a child of miracles.

Rating: Good

Comment:
          Nothing could be added to a real story; so allow me to say truth is stranger than fiction.
--- an article about Patsy Li has once appeared in Readers Digest.
--- thanks to Jiji Brother who gave me this book.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Vanity Fair

Date of Reading: 12/08/2006 & 17/07/2009
Author: William Makepeace Thackeray
Publisher: UBSPD
Place: New Delhi
Reprint: 2007

Subtitle: A Novel without a Hero
Major Characters: Becky Sharp, Amelia Sedley, George Osborne, William Dobbin, Rawdon Crawley, Lord Steyne.

Summary:
          The title comes from John Bunyan's allegorical story The Pilgrims Progress ,where it refers to a stop along the pilgrim's way: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man's sinful attachment to worldy things.
          Here in this novel it indicates the world of social climbing and search for wealth and fame.Through the two characters, Rebecca and Amelia, author unravels the British society during the reign of King George.
          Amelia is rich, shy and does not have any advantage in vanity fair. Becky has desired the high society always, but lacks the means and she has no one to arrange a marriage for her. A rich husband is her only solution which she finds in Rawdon Crawley who gets disinherited after their marriage. She gives birth to a son and Crawley leaves her after being treated as a puppet.
          Meanwhile Amelia also suffers some setbacks. The ruin of the family fortune troubles her relation with George but he marries with the support of Dobbin who secretly loves Amelia. In reality George was only a rogue and was unfaithful. But after his death in Waterloo, Amelia leads the life of a widow with their son and Dobbin provides for both of them. In the end Becky opens her eyes and she marries Dobbin. Becky gets enough money to live respectably when she inherits the wealth of Joseph Sedley.

Rating: Excellent


Comment:
          I hv read this book for the first time in an abridged version published by Longmans. But if u need a real feeling of Thackeray, go for the unabridged version though it is 795 pages long.
          The plot appears complex becoz of the multitude of characters, but if u r interested in classics, there will be no problem of losing the thread. The idea behind the novel is very modern -- the struggle to establish oneself in society [the usual theme of modern Sophie Kinsella novels]. The author doesn't make any judgement with regards to this struggle. Money will not bring any peace or happiness, if it is won through deceitful ways, but its a necessary evil after all.
          Novel has been the subject of numerous television and film adaptations. Latest one is the 2004 British-American costume drama film of the same name, directed by Mira Nair, starring Reese Witherspoon. The film was nominated for "Golden Lion" Award in 2004 Venice Film Festival.

--- the character of Joseph Sedley adds a post-colonial element in the novel as he works in India for English East India Company. 


Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Da Vinci Code

Date of Reading: 03/08/2006
Publisher: Doubleday
Place: New York
Year: 2004

Brief Summary:

          Curator Jacques Sauniere, Sophie Nevue's grandfather, is shot dead by an albino named Silas. Before his death he leaves some codes to his grand daughter which she pursues with the help of Robert Langton, an acclaimed historian, who is somehow trapped in the situation. Signs indicate to the position of Holy Grail protected by the Priory of Sion, which was led by the Curator. They seek the help of Leigh Teabing, another historian, who at the end turns out to be the real villain responsible for the murder.

          Holy Grail, the book says, is the tomb of Mary Magdelene whom the Priory considered as the wife of Jesus. According to the legend she gave birth to Sarah, after the crucifixion, in France. Priory protects this royal blood line which also include Da Vincci whose pictures give the clues. Sophie is the last in line and her search leads to her grand mother and brother who are supposed to be dead in the car accident that killed her parents.

Rating: Good

Comment:
          I should hv started with something else but this is the first entry in my diary and I dont want to change that. As I am a Catholic, you can expect that my opinion is clouded.

          Dan Brown comes under the line of writers who are involved in the humanisation process of Jesus. He might be the only God who is not married, which is so to say, unnatural. Gods are the projection of humanity's desire for perfection and the worshipping of a God who is not married, gives out the impression that marriage and sex are evil. But to some this gives a relief as it can also be concluded that God does not have a gender even though He has taken the shape of a man. It cannot be denied that priests and nuns enjoy a higher position in Church than the married laymen. Dan Brown's work, in this sense, is an attempt to raise the sanctity of marriage. The age old story of Holy Grail legend is given a new treatment here.

          Book gives an easy reading taking the format of a detective novel, but it would not hv gained such fame without the contraversy involved. His other novels like The Lost Symbol, Angels and Demons are much much better. 

--- Book is better than the movie

Connected Reading:

Jose Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation
T.H. White's The Once and Future King [for the Holy Grail legend]   

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Introduction

           I am a hard pessimist. I believe no one is going to read this blog. So imaginary, non-existing reader. . .
WELCOME!
          This blog concerns itself with book reviews. If you are a good reader, no need to pursue further. . . close the window and read a book. This is a place for non-readers or selective readers who are busy doing important stuff but also want to impress others with their literary knowledge.
          It would be better to tell a little about this writer. I have begun my serious reading at 8th standard when there came a rumour that soon a provision is going to be included in the syllabus insisting a student to read at least ten books. I used the opportunity to get an admission in our parish library and though the rumour proved false, it didn't prevent me from travelling to the amazing world of books. At that time my usual books were in Malayalam (my mother tongue) consisting mostly of children's literature, biographies and autobiographies.
          I have started keeping notes on books only at my graduate level. By that time and until now my chief interest is novels. Over the last five years my diary notes have reached a quantity of 252. And as I am jobless and penniless, with the prospect of an everlasting vacation, if I don't find some work soon . . . it wont be bad to share my notes.
          These are not standard reviews as you find in newspapers. I am a Post Graduate in English Literature with no respect whatsoever for literary theories and criticisms and for those who practise them.They think a book great if a common reader can't make the head or tail of it.
          Well, here I am making a new criteria. If the particular book can make some pleasant vibrations in the brain during the process of reading and can make an imprint, then it is a good work. Here I will give ratings of my own and will also burden you with the date of my reading, publisher's name, year of publication, place of publication etc. [A habit I got from C.V. sir, who you have noticed is known by his initials].
          These little notes consists of a small summary of the plot with my own impressions on the work. I am just copying from my diary with some modifications as I am certain my mind has improved over the years. I hope this will never end, and I wish the same for my reading habit. . .



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