Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kazuo Ishiguro - When We Were Orphans

I had the luck of a book lover the other day in the local Library.
Had a short time to select a book because I had started earlier
from work and my husband called to say he is picking up the kids.
Browsing fast I couldn't really latch onto a book that tells me that it is
worth my time on it. I so wanted to try a new author that I didn't want
to resort to my tried and trusted authors this time.

Finally I picked a book which only sort of spoke to me and was on my way to checkout a little disappointed when I noticed it. A hardback with that look! In a flash the books were switched and during a respite from home activities read the first few chapters. The book read like an Arthur Conan Doyle/Daphne Du Maurier style that I enjoy much. I was congratulating myself on this find as I had spotted many more books by the same author in the shelf which now I can borrow with no second thoughts. It was then I noted the less noticed caption under the book title. 'From the Author of the Remains Of The Day'. But of course!! I had watched the Merchant-Ivory movie and liked it and knew right away that now I am totally at peace with my "new" author. Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan but grew up in Britain where his family emigrated. He won the Booker Prize for 'Remains of the Day'.

Here is the dish on the book:
Christopher is a Shanghai born British boy whose parents mysteriously disappeared in the orient. He also left behind his boyhood Japanese friend Akira whose memories never faded for him. After returning to London he became a famous detective and all the while he had the inkling to one day go back to find his parents. It happened during the opium wars and his father used to work for a British Company that also dealt in opium. Enough said. When he managed to go back the Japanese were invading China and the book goes on to describe how he partially succeeded in the search for his parents and the revelations that came on its heels.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Two Books. Again!

Yes, I seem to be reading in pairs these days:-)

Midnight At The Dragon Cafe

Judy Fong Bates is an author I chanced upon in the Library. I had not heard of her before.

The story is about the life of a Chinese family from the Mainland that immigrated to small town Canada in Ontario. It is interesting in that it gives a glimpse into how the family and probably many others like theirs adapted to life in a foreign land fleeing from the communist regime of the time.

What The Body Remembers

Sahuna Singh Baldwin was born abroad but brought up in India and settled abroad. The story is written from a women's perspective. Provides enough insights into a strong woman's mind who had no freedom to express it. It is also entwined with India's Independence and the partition which can evoke familiar emotions of forgotten sorrows.

I am not sure I will be looking for works from these authors diligently but I won't run away if one chances upon me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Malayalam Books – non fiction

My in-laws came this week and Dad brought me some books as a gift. He probably didn’t know he got the ideal gift! All were Malayalam non-fiction. Something I hadn’t been exposed to in a long while. Was pleasantly surprised to find that every single one of the books were good and gave me something to think about. Dad mentioned that they were selected by a priest friend of his who is also an avid reader. I am laying two of these books out here so if any of you wanted to get a Malayalam fix of quality you can go for these.

I had heard a lot about Balachandran Chullikkadu. Mostly that he is a poet and remember pictures of him with medusa like hair and stuff. Had read some of his poems when I was probably too young for them as I didn’t understand much. So I had ignored him as a most modern poet. Reading his book now I can’t imagine why I would give him such a label. Even in prose his poetic nature comes through. Although his memoirs – at least quite a few of them – are not what I would want to dwell on much, the beauty of the language cannot be ignored. Because Malayalam is infused with commonly used English words whose native equivalents are not easy to digest, it is difficult for writers to use pure Malayalam without having these ‘outstanding’ English words in them. Chullikkadu has no such problems. Language flows effortlessly for him even when describing the crudest parts. I didn’t catch it at first as I started the book with a prejudged mind. But over time I was so engrossed in the beautiful usage of words that I was floored. He even has some poetic lines of his in there. The one that affected me the most was the description of his thoughts that came out during the death of his estranged father. One simply cannot ignore the force of his language that slowly gets you…I used to love OV Vijayan who is my favorite prolific Malayalam writer that I believe has an extraordinary talent with Malayalam word flow. This one comes pretty close.

Neermathalam Poothakalam
Written by the world renowned poetess and writer Madhavikkutti/Kamala Das. Her English poems are known around the world. She has written a book in English with Andrew Arkin that has her prose as well as poems and is available from Dad was saying that she is known to be a little off in the head these days and my answer to that was “but that does not matter because if you read her books you will feel like respectfully prostrating before her”J This book is a classic example. It is her childhood memories and comes out haphazardly. But you hardly notice. It mostly touches the people in her childhood connected to the many Nair ancestral families that are networked with her own famous Nalappatt family. She also reminisces about her uncle the famous poet Nalappatt Narayana Menon. It does not go too much into detail about her equally famous Mother and poetess Balamaniamma most likely because they did not spend much time together. A blessed writer of both Malayalam and English whose calibre stands up well with any other good writer in the world.