Tag: book-blogger

Book Review: The Princes (Manohar Malgonkar).

The Princes

– Manohar Malgonkar.

The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar is an Indian fiction novel. The story is set in India during the times of British Colonialism, pre and post-independence era. It is about the survival of the Indian Royals during a time of change in the country.

The protagonist of the story is Abhayraj, the prince of Begwad, who is the only heir of his father. The story begins in the post-independent India but the narration shifts to the past, as Abhay reflects on his life. Abhay is an intelligent kid, and for the most part, he is not prejudiced against anyone or anything. He is taught to be a gentleman from a young age and carry himself a certain way. His father is very demanding of him, and at times it takes a toll on him.

Abhay is the narrator of the story. The story focuses on all aspects of his life. His childhood days, the first girlfriend, joining the army during World War II, his father’s struggle, and his mother’s wish to escape her life. Abhay grows up with all the treasures fit for a prince and is never wanting for anything. It is interesting to read about the character at different points in his life and how the social landscape around him affects his conduct.

The story discusses a lot of problematic aspects prevalent in society then. The inferior treatment of individuals based on caste is seen through the treatment of Kanakchand’s character, who later becomes an activist and politician. The treatment of Abhay’s mother by his father is appalling, and in general, the system of having concubines is considered the norm. Throughout the story, Abhay fights not to turn into his father, but on one occasion he does something cruel and accepts the fact that he is his father’s son after all.

The transition from British Raj to becoming an independent state is not exactly smooth. Especially for the royals, their treasures were taken and their power. Many of them tried to save as much as they could by any means possible. Abhay’s father says that he refuses to be the last king of Begwad and see this chapter of history close. I didn’t know much about dissolving the princely states and making them a part of India as a whole. The transition of this wasn’t easy, and there was resistance, but with a wave of democracy, they had to give in.

The writing paints a picture of the life during those times and I realized how much history I was unaware of regarding this period. Abhay, as the narrator, is pretty reliable though he tries to be objective; it doesn’t work all the time, which might be on purpose. This is the only book by Manohar Malgonkar I have read, and his writing style is intriguing and easy; he doesn’t digress too much. The story set a good pace from the beginning, and it continued throughout the novel.

The Princes is different than I expected it to be. It has a good story with the right amount of historical context to keep you interested. Surprisingly for me, it was also emotional in parts, and you can’t help feeling empathetic towards Abhay. I enjoyed reading this book.

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Book Review: Walden (Henry David Thoreau).

Walden

– Henry David Thoreau.


Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a non-fiction novel. The book is an account of Thoreau’s stay in isolation at a secluded cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The author chose to live alone away from society as an experiment. This book delves into many philosophical ideas yet somehow remains grounded in the world we know today.

I am not sure how to explain the story of this book; it is tricky. Thoreau chose to live near Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts for two years, writing this book. It was a social experiment that would help him explore nature and society from an objective point of view. Thoreau talks about how hard people work to fulfill their needs but they don’t need to work so hard if they choose a simpler life. The obsession of materials things, needing to have certain luxuries just for the sake of it ends up taking a toll on us. In the end, all of the materialistic or extra luxuries leave people drained and empty.

Thoreau works in the field himself to grow food produce, cooks it himself too; he builds a small cabin for himself. He lives a self-sustaining lifestyle at the cabin. He earns some money by working a bean field and maintains a record of finances diligently to show how little humans need to survive. He often has visitors but he specifically mentions a woodcutter who is rough around the edges but Thoreau enjoyed his company. When he finds himself isolated from people, he often went to the village where he was once arrested for not paying taxes.

The book talks a lot about existence, the choices we make, our needs and the part society plays in our life. The one idea that you come across in the book prominently from start to finish is Self- Reliance. This idea to trust oneself and your instincts completely to survive; to be yourself and not try to fit in with societal conformities. Thoreau enjoys his solitude; it gives him time to think and enjoy nature but communication with people is appealing too. Often he finds himself needing company and socialize with other people. We need solitude and space for ourselves but we also need other people so it is not an either-or kind of situation.

Thoreau was a transcendentalist writer. This is the reason Walden emphasizes self-reliance, independence, nature, and individuality An individual doesn’t need to conform to society; conforming leads to loss of individuality and society and its institutions have ruined the idea of an ‘individual’. The ideas of the books and the way it is written has a philosophical tone to it. Thoreau’s ideas and concepts make sense, it is interesting no doubt but at times it got too slow. The content of the book with its themes can become heavy to read, as there is much to absorb.

It took me time to get immersed in the book especially in the beginning. I read this book slowly because it’s difficult to read for a long time. The ideas in the book resound even in today’s society and it is still a relevant work of literature. After reading this book, I understand why it is considered to be one of the best works of American literature.

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Book Review: Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Never Let Me Go

– Kazuo Ishiguro.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. It’s the dystopian element of the novel that intrigued me as well as worried me; I need to be in a certain mindset for them. Finally, I read it this month and I was taken by surprise. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction/dystopian novel which focuses on three friends Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth.

The story of Never Let Me Go is divided into three parts as it focuses on different periods of the characters’ lives. Kathy is the narrator of the story and everything that unfolds is from her perspective. The first part begins when Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are young kids’ not even teenagers yet at a boarding school called Hailsham. Apart from the first chapter where it seems something might be off about the school, it is pretty idyllic. There are a lot of secretive things happening at Hailsham which all the kids notice but they don’t know why it is the way it is.


In the second part of the story, the three friends have left the school at 16 and now are living at Cottages where they start to really understand about their lives. It is then revealed that all the kids at Hailsham are actually clones, genetically engineered to be organ donors. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth spend time reminiscing about Hailsham while trying to accept their reality. Tommy and Ruth are in a romantic relationship now. Kathy notices the changes in Ruth’s behavior towards her and Tommy but she doesn’t say anything to her directly. Ruth has befriended an older couple there who tell her that if the clones are truly in love and can prove it, they can defer. By the end of this part, Ruth has successfully driven a wedge between Tommy and Kathy. It is after this Kathy signs up to be a carer.


In the third part, Kathy is now working as a carer, Ruth and Tommy have made their first donations. Kathy meets an old classmate from Hailsham who tells her about Ruth and her failing health after the donation. Kathy decides to become her carer. It is Ruth’s idea to go to the lake and she also insists and Tommy joining them. Ruth regrets keeping Tommy and Kathy apart and urges them to defer together. After Ruth’s death, Kathy and Tommy are romantically involved and she is also Tommy’s carer.


The main part of the story that I really liked were the characters. Kathy is empathetic which makes her a good carer; she is also more accepting of her fate. Even at a young age, she notices slight changes in the behavior of the guardians. Ruth can be superficial and difficult at times. She has fantasies and dreams which don’t match her reality and understandably, she lashes out. In the end, though she accepts she kept Tommy and Kathy away from each other and wants them to try and defer. Tommy is sensitive and introspective. As a kid, he is short-tempered but as he becomes older he is calm and thoughtful.


The book is disturbing in a way because you know they are clones and they have been brought up for a purpose but they are also human. Their emotions and reactions are real. They behave like regular kids and teenagers but deep down they know that they are not ‘normal’. They are human in all the ways that it counts but their life has a purpose and that has to be fulfilled. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth want to see if they can change their fate; Ruth dies without knowing the truth about their existence which Kathy and Tommy learn towards the end.


The novel is heartbreaking and disturbing. The way it is written and narrated just takes the story to another level. The themes of expectation versus reality, friendships and relationships, life and death, and humanity are beautifully explored in this novel. This novel put me in a bit of a daze; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished. It is a must-read.

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Book Review: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott).

Little Women

– Louisa May Alcott

I saw the Little Women movie recently and I realized how many things from the book I have forgotten since I read it years ago. So, I decided that I will re-read Little Women. There were some aspects I remembered and some I didn’t but I enjoyed reading it nevertheless.  Little Women is a story of the March family focusing on the four daughters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The story is set in Concord, Massachusetts in 19th century.

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The story is divided in two parts. Part one begins in the year 1860 when Mr. March volunteers for the Union army and leaves his family behind to join the civil war. This part of the story follows the lives of the March sisters during this year. Jo is assisting her aged aunt March. Meg and Jo go to a part at one of their rich neighbors where Jo meets Laurie and his grandfather along with his tutor John become a part of the March family. Beth contracts scarlet fever and Amy is sent to live with Aunt March as a precaution.

The part two is set three years later. Jo is earning money by getting her stories published in New York and working as a governess at a boarding house where she meets German professor Bhaer. Meg is married to John and they have twins. Amy is in Europe with Aunt March where she is learning art and meets Laurie there. Beth’s health starts declines and Jo comes back home to take care of her sister.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jo. The character of Jo is so relatable. She is considered too bold and outspoken and tomboyish in those times but all that makes her more likable. The difference between the four sisters is clear from the beginning Meg is traditional, Jo is bold, Beth is shy and Amy is vain and can be self-centered. The themes of familial and romantic love run throughout the story and they are touching. Marmee (Mrs. March) is such an amaing role model for her daughters and all of them share a good bond with her; the can talk about everything and anything with her.

The favorite part of the story for me will always be the dynamic between Jo and Laurie. The first time I read it, I had cried and well some things don’t change. They seem so perfect together and I felt so bad for Laurie when Jo rejects him. Her concerns are completely valid but it is still heartbreaking and I never expected it happen. When Jo confesses to Marmee how she is not in love with Laurie in any romantic way, it’s a hard pill to swallow. The whole journey of each of the character is satisfying as you get to the end. The point in the story where Beth dies is so emotional and devastating to her family and the readers.

I was a little shocked by the pairing of Laurie and Amy but it in a way it makes sense. The story ends on a somewhat of a happy note. Beth’s death leaves a huge impact but rest of the family band together. Jo gets married to Professor Bhaer. Mr. March is finally home. Aunt March leaves Jo her mansion where she and Bhaer open a school. In the end, Marmee’s 60th birthday is celebrated with her husband, her three daughters, their husbands and her five grandchildren.

Little Women is one of my favorite books but strangely this is only the second time that I have read it. I love the flow of the writing and the story. All the characters add something to the story and are well rounded and relatable. Jo is my favorite. The story is happy and sad is equal measures I feel.