Saturday, October 18, 2008

Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca

The previous post briefly touching my undergrad years brought on a precious memory that is well suited for these pages. In those years when we stayed in the hostel, friendships were never confined to the one particular class you were in. My good friend who was from another class always made sure that I got to read all the books she got too before returning it. Since her class sources had better books I was rather grateful for this habit of hers.

One time I took a fancy to Daphne Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' after reading a glowing review on it. I went crazy through the streets and shops of the college town I was in, looking to actually buy this book and there was no end to my disappointment when I couldn't. Guess what my dearest friend got me as a parting gift at the end of the undergrad years? Yup. 'Rebecca', with a little note for me written in her familiar script. I don't know how much trouble she had to go through to buy the book but the fact that she cared enough to remember my affliction was what mattered. Of course I couldn't wait to read all of it and is a special treasure among all my books.

As for the book itself, what can I say. If you are a fan of Du Maurier's unique style I don't need to elaborate. If not I'd say without doubt that you have to actually read one of her books before passing up. Rebecca is a personal best of hers I'd think. Du Maurier stories tinge on the mysterious and she makes it effortlessly palpable. . "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again". This is how Rebecca starts and I was hooked from this first line. I won't spoil the story for you, but read here , here and here for more on the author and the book.

Living To Tell The Tale - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Today I am setting out to write about a well known author that people usually can't wait to read. Yes, it indeed is the Nobel Prize winning author of 'One Hundred Years Of Solitude'. I have developed an affection for this author's books that I hadn't when I first read him sometime during my undergrad years.

One of my brothers was home for the holidays and I saw him sitting quite engrossed in this book. Being a book magnet I passed up close enough and found that it was 'One Hundred...". Marquez had just won the Nobel Prize and I hadn't read any of his books before. His name and book's name were all rather intimidating unlike for example 'Ayn Rand' and her 'Fountainhead' which I had no difficulty gobbling up with no second thoughts when it made its rounds in the girls' hostel. Anyway I don't think I read the book right then but I did get to it not too late. A saga full of lively characters, it will not fail to raise your interest in Marquez. I have yet to read his 'Love In The Time of Cholera' but when I came across 'Living To Tell The Tale' at a sidewalk sale, it intrigued me as I hadn't heard of it. It turned out to be one of the best buys yet.

This is an autobiography and is as entertaining as any of his books or more. Reading it enlightens us as to how he came to be a writer through sheer love and persistence. Guess he just couldn't become anything else as he was born to be a writer. The prolific amount of characters, the beloved town of his stories all begin to beautifully fall in place with this book. He credits his Grandfather Marquez on his Mother's side as a pivotal figure in his life. He grew up in his Grandparents' house, you see. When you put the book down you will have developed an affection for young Gabriel who spent his early years in politically troubled Colombia's Caribbean coast so fertile with characters. The cover picture shows Marquez when he was 2 years old. He lives in Mexico City now according to the book. Please don't miss the eventful life of this most beloved writer. I hope he will come up with a sequel to fill in the latter years as indicated. Even if they are better recorded than the early years, I know it will be a treat to hear it all in Marquez's own mesmerizing words.

As always: click away here, here and here for more on the author and his books.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thalamurakal - O. V Vijayan

A book that I bought on one of my visits to Kerala just because it was written by the much revered OV Vijayan. I believe Vijayan's style of writing revolutionized or at least opened up a whole new set of possibilities for Malayalam writers. You never read one of his books without feeling that you have come across something great. The wonderful part is, this happens with every single book of his I have read so far. 'Madhuram Gayathi', 'Gurusagaram' etc stand out and of course the much famous 'Khasakhinte Ithihasam' (Legends Of Khasak) . I'd even go as far as to say his writing is the Malayalam prose equivalent of Kahlil Gibran's poetry. I confess I have not read Gibran as much as I have read Vijayan and that could be why. The Gibran poems that I have read and the Vijayan books leave me with the same feeling of awe about the writer.

In 'Thalamurakal' (Generations) Vijayan tells the story of the ancient family of 'Ponmudi'. It is written as told by one of its last generations through the numerous family legends he was told and heard and witnessed. Vijayan's use of rarely used words are stitched seamless into the narrative and never stands apart. It looks at the different casts and religions of Kerala over the years with a discerning and leveled eye.

It almost feels like a biography where the narrator is Vijayan himself. 'Ponmudi Tharavad' has found a special place in my memory shelf. Click here to read an excerpt in Malayalam.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Anya Seton's The Winthrop Woman

I have passed by Anya Seton's books many times. I have this unreasonable liking for her name but was afraid the she is a romance novelist. Not that I have anything against novels being romantic but when I spend my precious time on a book, I'd like to have more than just only that.

The other day I stopped once again in front of Seton's books and bravely took this book out from the lot. The author's note in the beginning was quite reassuring as to the contents and for a history buff like me this was the perfect book to bring home. At first I imagined the title talked of many women from the Winthrop family but it was about one in particular. This one's life ran rather like that in a movie with stories and sub stories strewn all over.

Elizabeth Winthrop was a cousin as well as married to one of the Winthrops. Winthrops being among the first of many puritan families to arrive from England on ships in the hopes of making a puritan community thrive away from the persecutions at home. The most famous among the ships being The Mayflower I guess. The first thirteen colonies of the US appear all over this book based mostly on documented facts. It also attests to Elizabeth's courage and iconoclastic nature even in those times and her steadfastness to the family she had. A very satisfying read filled with geographical history and of the many kinds of people who sawed the seeds to the making of this nation with open tributes to the original inhabitants. Elizabeth's first marriage to Harry Winthrop, her deep friendship with his brother Jack who was the early Governor of of the state of Connecticut, her uncle and their father John Winthrop who was the first puritan Governor, her second marriage to the prosperous goldsmith Robert with a touch of madness in him and her last and peaceful marriage to Will Hallet and her many children and her relationship to the Native American woman 'Talaka' all form a wonderful kaleidoscope of real stories and real revelations. I didn't know that New York was once a Dutch territory and was called New Amsterdam for instance. Go here , here , here and here for more on the book, the author and the heroine.