Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Date of Reading: 01/09/2015
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Place: New York
Year: 2012

         I was never a fan of romance novels. . . until recently. But when you are stuck with a work which demands undivided attention, this is a sure stop for your addictive brain which screams for some pleasure reading. Plots are predictable, and the tit for tat talks before the falling in love episode is a major attraction combined with the fact that you can finish one story within hours.
        And there are always the cute surprising tales which stick to our hearts even without the happily ever afters. Well, only rarely we get the chance to meet a Segalian love story and 'Fault in Our Stars' is definitely one such fine encounter. Green has taken a challenging scenario with cancer fighting characters whose sardonic and sarcastic comments lifts up the gloom and on passing the last page we may whisper, "surreal, but nice".
         Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster is affected by thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. She breaths with the help of on oxygen tank who is addressed as Philip. Diagnosed at the age of thirteen her cancer is deemed incurable and she faces imminent death everyday.
         To cheer her up her parents forces Hazel to attend a support group where she meets Augustus Waters. One of his legs are amputated due to osteosarcoma but he has managed to outlive the disease. Hazel reminds him of his former girlfriend Caroline Mathers who died of cancer and the two bond immediately.
         Augustus becomes a fan of Hazel's favourite book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Its the story of Anna, a girl struck by cancer and the novel ends without a conclusion frustrating the readers. The author has retreated from public life ever since the novel's publication.
        Augustus manages to track down his assistant, Lidewij and through her manages an appointment with the author who now resides in Amsterdam. Hazel couldn't afford such a journey so Augustus uses his Wish for cancer patients to obtain tickets for both of them. Meanwhile Hazel's condition worsens but after a few days in ICU she is allowed to travel for her dream meeting.
They enjoy a beautiful dinner together at Amsterdam and go to Van Houten's home with high spirits only to realise that he is a mean drunkard who has no answers as to the ending of the novel. But the time together brings Hazel and Augustus close and they make love in the city of sin. Augustus reveals the reappearance of his cancer and his health deteriorates after the trip eventually leading to death.
         Van Houten shows up at the funeral to apologise to Hazel and she finally learns that the novel is about his daughter Anna who died of cancer at the age of eight. From Isaac, Augustus' best friend, Hazel learns that Gus was writing a sequel to the novel. Guessing that he might have sent it to Van Houten she contacts Lidewij for the letter. It was an eulogy to Hazel where Augustus proclaims his love.

Something to ponder. . .

"You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect. " - 76

"Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin". - 104

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Em and the Big Hoom - Jerry Pinto

Date of Reading: 08/08/2015
Author: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Aleph
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2012
Rating: 4/5
From: An owl eyed friend 

          Not the usual kind that I pick from a book store. For one thing its on depression (blimey! clearly in my 'not-to-think-about-it' list) and to make it worse its advertised with the comments of two well known writers who are not my favourites -- Amitav Ghosh and Kiran Desai. But the cover looked appealing and so were the words inside; besides it was a birthday present. Definitely something that I have to give a try.
           And I took an instant liking to Imelda or Em as she is called throughout the story. She has her worst moments but when she regains her socially-detached-I am a critic mode, her words shatters everything, never missing its mark. And that forms the beauty of the text and dispelling our fears of a tragedy it glides smoothly into a story of family and relationships.

           Pinto is endowed with an enchanting style and the images he creates haunt you even after the final page and the sweet-bitter taste it delivers remain for a long time. But the publisher or the layout man deserves a huge deal of applause too. The special fonts, the designs at the beginning of each chapter and the dark purple colour surrounding the borders make the book all the more special. A new take on mental illness and trust me, this won't make you depressed. . .
           Mendes family, consisting Imelda, Augustine and their two children Susan and the narrator, lives in a one-bed room-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay. Imelda or Em as she is called, suffers from frequent maniac depressions and the novel is framed on how her family copes with this situation.
         From her letters and her sometime sensible talks narrator manages to stitch together her story. She was the bread winner of her family and she marries Augustine who is also her co-worker after a long courtship. She refers to him as LOS - Limb of Satan - as according to her he makes her sin. For his children Augustine is the Big Hoom, the pillar of their otherwise crumbling family. Without lamenting on the condition of his family, he takes care of everyone silently permeating hope that makes them survive.
 In spite of her hurting words everyone loves Em and keep vigil on her bad days. Their days go on in this tireless routine with Em sometimes attempting suicide or getting her hospitalized where she feels herself at home. Narrator too often haunted with the fear that he too might eventually end up like his mother. 
         Story comes to a halt when Em dies of a heart attack. Mendes family gradually returns to a quiet routine without her.

Something to ponder. . .

"We confess to men who've never had to worry about a family. Naturally, it's a huge sin to them, this abortion business. What do they know? They probably think it's fun and games. Let them try it." - 5

"We were told that men were dangerous. Unpredictable. Violent. You could never be sure what would happen if you were alone with them. They could not be relied on if they had had something to drink. A girl had to be ready for anything. Then, as soon as you were all ready to get married, the same people told you: close the door and be his wife." - 158

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