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Book Review: The Turn of the Screw (Henry James).

The Turn of the Screw

-Henry James.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a novella. The story is about a young lady who gets an opportunity to work as a governess at a beautiful but mysterious estate. This book has gothic, horror, and mystery elements to the story. It is slightly difficult to explain the story because of the way it is structured but I’ll try to cover major points.

The story begins at a party held on Christmas Eve where one of the attendees Douglas says he has access to a governess’s account of a ghost story when she worked for a wealthy family. He starts reading the written account of the governess and at that point the narration of the story shifts to the governess’s point of view. The Governess who is also the narrator remains unnamed throughout the story. She is responsible for the well mannered young girl Flora and a 10-year old boy Miles at their uncle’s estate the Bly. The uncle is their guardian. Miles has been suspended from his school due to his troublesome behavior just days prior to the governess arrival.

One day while taking a walk, the governess notices a man looking at her from one of the towers. She spots him staring at her again through the window the next time and that is when she enquires about him. Mrs. Grose works at the Bly and becomes kind of like a confidant for the governess. The governess tells Mrs. Grose about the strange man looking at her twice. Mrs. Grose tells her about the previous governess Miss Jessel and her relationship with Peter Quint a valet both of whom are now deceased. She also finds out that Miles and Quint shared a good bond but Miles tried to lie about his relationship with Peter to Mrs. Grose. Miles’s behavior is slightly creepy at times which made you think he is up to something.

The governess sees a stranger, a woman by the lake when she is there with Flora. She believes that Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are a threat to the kids. Once Flora goes out of the house alone and she is seen talking to Miss Jessel near the lake by the governess but Flora claims to have not seen Miss Jessel at all; Flora falls ill after that is taken to London to her uncle’s place. The governess is suspicious that Miles distracted her by playing the piano so that Flora could leave. Quint is seen outside the window by the governess and she tries to protect Miles from it but then his heart stops.

The horror element is the main theme of the story. The possibility of the supernatural is left up to the readers I felt. No one sees the ghosts except the governess or at least doesn’t admit to it, so it depends on the reader to choose whether to believe her or not. The atmosphere of the story has an air of mystery and eeriness which reminded me of the gothic tradition. The governess finds the Bly and children extremely beautiful to look at but as the story progresses you can tell that the exterior doesn’t match what is going on inside. There is a lot of secretive behavior by the characters. The lying and concealing of relationships is something that happens regularly in the book. The need to repress information for whatever reasons leads to a lack of open communication which causes more problems than it solves.

The way the story ends is surprising and sad. I did not predict that the story will end abruptly in such a way. It came out of nowhere. The plot itself is interesting, starts as a haunted house type of a story but changes along the way. The story feels a little dragged in some places but when it picks up pace, it goes up a notch. Overall, I liked reading this book. It has a lot of elements to it that keep you invested in the story.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly).

Lilac Girls

– Martha Hall Kelly.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t easy to find. Finally, I read it and it was worth the wait. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is set in the time before, during, and after World War II. The story of this novel is based on a true account of Caroline Ferriday, a socialite in New York who helped the Polish women of Ravensbruck camp. The story of Lilac Girls focuses on three main characters – Kasia, Caroline, and Herta who come from different backgrounds and countries but their lives intersect. Caroline helps the medical experiment survivors from Ravensbruck by bringing them for treatment to America almost a decade after the war is over.

Caroline is an ex-actress who comes from a wealthy family and volunteers at the French Consulate in New York City before the war. Caroline and her family have a strong sense of their French roots and enjoy many traditions of their culture. It is also the reason Caroline works dedicatedly at the consulate. Kasia is an 18-year-old girl living happily with her family and friends in Lublin, Poland until Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1st September in 1939 and her life is turned upside down. Herta is studying medicine in Nazi Germany and dreams of being a surgeon but there are restrictions for women in the medical field under the Reich. She is ambitious and determined from the very beginning and has complete faith in Hitler’s vision for her country.

The story is pretty straightforward in terms of timelines and events. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part gives an insight into the background of the characters and this really helped me understand the motivations and personalities of these women. The second part was difficult to read because the main focus of this is the course of their lives during the war. It is not outwardly described in a gory or violent way but it is more about the emotional reactions which get to you. The third part of the story is Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s life after the war ends.

The characters in the book are what make this novel unique. Caroline does everything in her power to help French children during the war. She does so at a personal cost at times and even when things turn hopeless she keeps doing what she does because she knows this is the least she can do to help. Kasia is a rebellious girl but she wants to help change the situation in Poland. She starts helping the Polish underground in Lublin with the help of her friend and her crush Pietrik. One day she is followed by a German officer after doing an assignment she begs Pietrik for and is arrested. Kasia’s mother and sister Zuzzana, Pietrik, and his sister Luiza who have come to collect the envelope from Kasia are all arrested along with her.

Ravensbruck is where Kasia ends up with her sister and mother, a labor camp in Germany for women. I didn’t know much about this camp and the medical experiments conducted there until I read this book. These women stick together, helping each other stay safe that too at a personal cost. It’s heartwarming to see them help each other this way in a situation where one wrong move meant your death. The experiments were inhumane and the way is written makes us understand the gravity of it. It is at the camp that Kasia’s mother, Halina, is taken under Herta’s wing as a nurse and where Halina dies. This is the only time Herta shows some emotion. Herta is not a fictional character and is based on a camp doctor in Ravensbruck. She believes in what she is doing and it seems like she doesn’t care but somewhere deep down she feels a little remorse for her actions. Most of the time though she is detached and cold focusing only on her medical research with no thought of the human cost.

Caroline has a personal connection to France during the war, a married actor she falls in love with named Paul who is also taken to a camp when France is invaded but survives. Kasia comes back with her sister to Lublin where their father still lives and has trouble adjusting to normal life. She finds Pietrik and he is having a hard time too but Kasia is trying to forget but her guilt about her mother makes her angrier and angrier. Pietrik and Kasia get married and have a daughter who is named Halina after her mother but Kasia doesn’t want her to be named Halina. She snaps at everyone about the tiniest things but slowly realizes she needs to let go. With Caroline’s insistence, Kasia goes to Germany to confront Herta who was released early from prison. Once she confronts Herta and finds out what happened to her mother at the camp that she is finally able to move on with her life and leave all the darkness behind.

Martha Hall Kelly has been able to give a lot of heart to the story through her characters. Kasia and her family are the fictional characters but the story revolves around them in a way and, they are instrumental in telling the story of those Polish women who suffered at Ravensbruck during the war and treated unjustly after the war. It is a beautiful and inspiring story yet it is so sad and heartbreaking.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: Almost Heaven (Judith McNaught).

Almost Heaven

– Judith McNaught.


Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught is a historical romance set in the aristocratic world of the 19th Century in Britain. The story of the novel focuses on Elizabeth Cameron and Ian Thornton’s love story which is adventurous, passionate, and dramatic.


Elizabeth Cameron is introduced to the London society and immediately is a hit among her peers. Ian Thornton is considered an outcast because he doesn’t have any title to his name. From the first time Elizabeth and Ian meet, there is chemistry straight away. Elizabeth doesn’t need to play dumb or hide her opinions and concerns in front of him like she has been taught to do. They are drawn to each other and Elizabeth especially is scared of her pull towards Ian. She is discovered in Ian’s arms and her reputation is blown to pieces and she has been hiding from the world at her home in Havenhurst ever since then.


The history between Elizabeth and Ian is unraveled after the first couple of chapters and it gives you a complete sense of Elizabeth’s side of the story. The story sets a good pace right from the start and keeps you hooked. Elizabeth’s father left her and her half brother Robert is huge debt and after Robert disappears, the burden falls on her. It is revealed in the flashback how the Camerons’ have been struggling financially which is why it was important for Elizabeth to get marriage proposals in the first place. Things have become harder for her since the entire Ian chapter and now she is left at her uncle’s mercy, her guardian, who just wants her to get married to anyone if he can help financially.


Elizabeth and Ian’s attraction to each other is stronger when they meet again but both have their misgivings about each other. Ian is a hard man. He is arrogant, shrewd, handsome, and very intelligent. In the beginning a lot of times, he comes across a little too harsh but then as you get to know about him more, it gets clearer. He has reasons to behave and think the way he does, it is his defense mechanism. Once he decides to be open and vulnerable with Elizabeth, he is the sweetest and the most supportive person in her life. He is almost perfect, I loved him.


The main draw of the story, for me, was the characters. Elizabeth and Ian’s characters are relatable and compelling. Their love story is dramatic and conflict-ridden but the chemistry between them is established since their first meeting. There are so many cute moments that seem to happen naturally in the plot which makes their love story better. The change in narration from Elizabeth’s point of view to Ian helped me understand both the characters and find them endearing. The setting of the story and descriptions are well written. It paints a vivid picture in your head about life in the 19th century. The only complaint I have is that towards the end it seems a little rushed. I don’t agree with the decision Elizabeth makes about Ian under her brother’s influence. All the conflicts are resolved in the end when Elizabeth and Ian talk things out between them.


Almost Heaven is a love story full of passion, betrayal, conflict, and drama. This is the first historical romance novel that I have completely read. Once I started to read the book, I had to finish it soon because I couldn’t wait to find out or even predict what was going to happen next. Overall, I really enjoyed the story and it was a refreshing read.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Currently Reading (April ’20)

Currently Reading (April ’20).

My reading list for this month.

  1. Black Hills by Nora Roberts.

The story is set in South Dakota with the backdrop of the Black hills range. It is a story about Lil Chance and Cooper Sullivan. I have always enjoyed reading books written by Nora Roberts and I have read many of them over the years. I started this book a couple of days back and it’s keeping me interested. The plot of the story is going different than my assumptions of it but in a good way. I might finish this one pretty quickly.

2. Just For Now by Anny Glines.

The fourth book in the Sea Breeze series by Abbi Glines. I don’t think I have read the books in the correct order but I have read them so I have a bit of context going into this book. Amanda has had a crush on Preston since she was sixteen and he is her brother’s best friend. I am enjoying it so far. The characters are from different worlds and have completely different issues. It’s a feel-good book, perfect for the weekend.

3.French Short Stories of 19th and 20th Century.

This book I have is a collection of short stories by French writers in English. Over the last week, I have read a few of these stories and they are amazing. Some of the writers in there I hadn’t heard of before which was the reason I picked up this book. Unlike a full-length novel, it’s much easier to read a short story a day especially when ten other things are going on. I am glad I bought this book; so far every story I read has been amazing.

4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennesee Williams.

Williams was never a part of my syllabus of Literature in college but my teachers always recommended her plays. I finally got myself a copy of A Streetcar Named Desire and I am excited to read it. I haven’t made much progress because I started it last night. I am intrigued to see how the play unfolds. The writing and characters have already managed to capture my interest.

*Buy a copy on Amazon by clicking on the books covers.

Currently Reading (March 2020)

My reading list for this month so far.

1) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I read this book almost 6 years ago. I loved the book but never re-read it. I saw the Little Women movie recently and I realized how many details from the book I have forgotten. So, I am going to read the book again this month. I loved the characters and their relationships with each other. The story has subtle emotional undertones throughout which I like because it’s not explicit for the reader all the time. I am excited to read it for the second time.

2) Perfect Regret by A. Meredith Walters.

This book is part of the Bad Rep series but I am not planning to read the one before because I don’t think I’ll like it, guessing by the description. So, I’ll read this one as a stand-alone novel. I started reading it last night and I read 5 chapters at once. I like the characters and how natural the flow of the story is so far. Not reading previous book is not an issue; I didn’t feel lost because of it. I am intrigued to see how the story unfolds as the plot moves forward.

3) 1984 by George Orwell.

I wasn’t able to finish this book last month as I had planned. I read it less than I anticipated because it can get heavy at times due to its dystopian elements. It’s very interesting and engaging but I am not being able to read the book at a stretch. I will finish this book before I properly start the other ones. Hopefully, next week I will post a review of this book.

*Buy a copy on Amazon by clicking on the books covers.