Tag: bookblog

Book review: A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf).

A Room of One’s Own.

–    Virginia Woolf.

I came across this essay pretty randomly and seeing it was written by Virginia Woolf I started reading it. As a student of literary criticism I was immediately fascinated about the essay. I have been a fan of her work since I read Mrs. Dalloway. In the time that she wrote, it was brave of her to break away from the traditional molds of writing. Woolf’s works played an influential role in the reemergence of feminism in the 1970’s. Her characters, lectures, essays kept the women at the forefront.

A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay. This essay explores a fictional character and narrative; but it is rooted in reality. Woolf through this essay discusses the various disadvantages in education, society, and finance faced by women throughout the history. The fictional character of this essay is Mary, who visits the British Museum to find out everything that has been written about women so far. Through the character and narrative Woolf showcases how in society, literature and history are male constructs or male-centric while the women have been marginalized.

A Room of One’s Own is a daring essay especially considering the time it was written in. The essay discusses at length the problems women have faced in the past to now. It showcases the male-centric attitude of the society in literature and history. Woolf gives an example of Judith, Shakespeare’s sister in the essay to put forth her point. The point of the essay is to explain that there are no stories or characters which are trivial and which shouldn’t be told. Woolf also talks about gendered values of the society. The prevalence of masculine values in society shouldn’t stop one from creating stories or characters the way they want. Not giving into stereotypes is important.

A Room of One’s Own written by Virginia Woolf is a feminist text which talks about creating space for women in literature and figuratively in a traditionally patriarchal society. This is a very interesting read and it makes points which are relatable but it is something which has been expected as a norm.

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Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway).

The Old Man and the Sea.

-Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite authors. I have read a couple of books written by him now including this one and really liked it. The Old Man and the Sea is more of a novella than a full-length novel but still just as good.

The novella is a story of an old struggling Cuban fisherman Santiago. As the story begins, Santiago hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days and he is seen as the worst form of unluckiness. A young boy is his apprentice Manolin, whom he encourages to work on successful fishing vessels instead of him. What follows is an epic tale of an old fisherman going head to head with a huge marlin fish. Santiago is so determined to catch this fish and he puts all of his strength to make sure the fish doesn’t slip away from him.

The story has classic elements when it comes to its themes and symbolism. The theme of perseverance, man versus nature, isolation, strength, and skill, past and pride all come into play in this story. Some are more explicit while the others are a bit more subtle but constantly undercurrent to the story. Santiago refuses to give up even when faced with unwinnable odds and is determined to restore his pride and reputation by catching the fish.

The narration of the story is from a third person point of view which I think enabled me to get a complete feel of the overall plot and the characters. Hemingway’s writing style is powerful and descriptive. There are no big words used, the language is fairly simple. It is one of the reasons I personally like his writing style. The descriptions in the novel really give the complete feel of the physical aspects present in the novel. For example- the smells, the rough sea descriptions actually help visualize the scenario.

An unusual tale about a man and a fish resurrected Hemingway’s career and won him awards, praises, and accolades. Hemingway through his powerful writing and timeless thematic aspects make this short story unforgettable.

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Book Review: The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold).

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold.

I picked this book on a whim in the library the other day because I found the title and the blurb on the back very interesting. I didn’t know anything about the book prior to reading it except having heard the title of the book. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two nights over the weekend.

The Lovely Bones is a story of a 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon who is raped and murdered walking home from school in December 1973. Susie is the narrator of the story as she watches over her family and friends from ‘her’ heaven. The first couple of chapters of the book are difficult to get through because of the descriptions of rape and murder but the descriptions play a part in the overall plot of the book. Susie’s heaven is what she wants it to be but she still she is stuck there. She watches the effect her death has on her family and feels helpless to do anything about it.

The reaction to her death is different for each family member. Her father wants the murderer to be found yet as hope that maybe Susie is alive since no dead body was found; her mother closes off and revaluates her life. Lindsey and Buckley, Susie’s siblings have to grow up way too fast and deal with whispers of people around them. The story gets a lot sadder before it gets better.

The part where Susie watches her murderer getting away with his crime is frustrating as there is solid evidence against him. Somehow, Susie makes contact with her family and friends; they see her in mirrors, a fleeting shadow and unknowingly Susie has been talking to her little brother Buckley, who is 6 at the time of her death.

In a way, Susie tries to live her life through her sister Lindsey. The things Lindsey experiences growing up which Susie will never get to live, it is heartbreaking. I think one of the main draw points of the book is maybe after death there is someplace better you go. Everyone has lost someone in their life; the notion of an afterlife in the book is in a way a comforting sentiment. The reaction of individuals during a tragedy especially in the family unit pulls at the reader’s heartstrings.

The book has multiple perspectives as Susie follow the life on earth of the people she cares about. There is almost an innocence in the narration of Susie which kept reminding me that even if it’s been years since her murder, she is still 14 because she never got to grow up.

The book doesn’t weave moral complexities but it draws out feelings of sadness, hope, disturbing images yet a comfort throughout the story. Susie watches over her loved ones for a long time almost ten years before she finally moves on. It starts with disturbing cruelty and by the end, in its own way it can be called a happy ending. 

I really liked reading the book, it makes you think about the world and pulls emotions out of you but I don’t think I’ll reread this one.

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Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne).

The boy in the striped pyjamas

By John Boyne

I have been on a historical novel reading spree for a while now. This book has been on my radar because of its World War II setting. I wanted to read this book for so long, years actually. I finally read it and I am still reeling from it a little bit.

The boy in striped pyjamas is a Holocaust novel set during World War II. The two main characters of the story are Bruno and Shmuel who share the same birthday are 9 years old. The story is narrated from Bruno’s point of view. Bruno’s family is well off, his father is in the army in Nazi Germany and they live in Berlin. Bruno’s father is promoted to Commandant and they have to move from Berlin to concentration camp Bruno calls ‘Out-With’.

The narration of the story through Bruno is a great idea. He is 9-year-old and he doesn’t understand what is going around him. There is an innocence and purity in the narration because Bruno is an innocent child. He is distraught about leaving his life, friends and grandparents in Berlin and like any child would especially when he doesn’t understand the circumstances. He doesn’t like the new house, there are no kids around except his sister and he wonders about the camp he can see his from his window. His character is relatable as he is always seeking adventure and likes exploring. It is this curiosity that leads to Bruno meeting Shmuel.

Bruno and Shmuel become friends almost instantly. There is a sharp contrast in the life of Bruno and Shmuel and it is depicted in a heartbreaking way. Bruno is living in a big house with his family and has access to all necessities. While Shmuel lives in the concentration camp in terrible conditions. It was difficult for me to read the dialogues for Shmuel. This little boy has been through so much and seen things no 9-year-old should see. Bruno doesn’t understand Shmuel’s world but he feels bad for him. Their friendship is so innocent, Bruno sneaks food out of his house because he realizes Shmuel is very thin and sickly.

The end of the book was devastating, it was hard to control the tears after that ending. I know the book has some inaccuracies especially with the way the boys meet but it doesn’t take anything away from the story as a whole. It is a very good book and it is different in a way as the protagonists’ characters are kids, their point of view is completely different. The horrors of the Holocaust during World War II are depicted in a sensitive manner in this book and gives a sense of that horrible time in history. The pace of the plot is fairly quick and doesn’t drag on at any point.

Even though the book is targeted for younger audiences, it is recommended for readers of all ages. I might not read the book again because I don’t think I’ll be able to but it is a must read. Now that I have read the book, I am going to see the movie based on it.

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Book Review: The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah).

The Nightingale

–    Kristin Hannah

A historical fiction, The Nightingale is set in France during the Nazi occupation of World War II. I picked up this book on a whim due to its historical setting. It is a book about the survival of two sisters Vianne and Isabelle during the war times. Its one of the first books I have read which is about women in war times.

The Nightingale has two main protagonists Vianne, the older sister and Isabelle the younger one. They had a troubled childhood after their mother’s death when their father sends them away. Isabelle’s personality and her personality has been shaped by the rejection she felt as a child that is constantly implied through her thinking. Vianne finds love at 14 and marries Antoine; she knows she neglected Isabelle for her own happiness and feels guilty about it.

 The characters are the winning grace of the story for me. Vianne and Isabelle are very different people but yet they are similar in more ways than they know. Both have a completely different approach to situations; Isabelle is impulsive and emotional while Vianne is more cautious about her decisions.

Isabelle meets Gaetan very early in the story and their meeting changes the course of Isabelle’s decision is joining the French resistance. The relationships between Isabelle and Gaetan and Vianne and Isabelle play an important part in the story but the book is so much more than a love story. Isabelle is codenamed ‘the Nightingale’ as she helps Allied pilots to get to safety from France. The story starts in the year 1995 and then it is told through the memories of an elderly woman.

 The literary device of frame story works really well for the book; as the first-person narration alternates between Vianne and Isabelle. Life starts getting more difficult for the sisters as Vianne loses her best friend, her job and she lives in a state of fear. The relationship between Vianne and Sophie, her daughter also changes as the story progresses. The loss of innocence is shown through Sophie’s character as she learns things far beyond her young age.

It became very difficult for me to read the book as it got closer to the end. It is heartbreaking and scary and sad and brave all at the same time. The ending of the book really threw me off; the author has never revealed who the elderly woman is but it was an expectation subversion for me. Isabelle is so brave and bold throughout the novel sometimes too quick to react but she is aware of the dangers she is inviting with her work. The relationship dynamics shift throughout the book. Vianne and Isabelle’s father finds a way to make up for his past neglect so does Vianne and Isabelle through all her tough exterior cares so much about her family. The ending of the story brought me to tears and I actually kept thinking about the book long after I finished reading it.

The Nightingale is an amazing book. The characters are so relatable and unique, you can’t help but root for them. The book is about the role women played during World War II but it is also about survival, family, relationships, and love. It is a must read.

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Book review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

-Mark Twain.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a sequel to the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s in Tom Sawyer that Huck first appears but this book definitely can be read as a standalone. I read this book as standalone since I am yet to read Tom Sawyer completely. A story about a boy from a Mississippi River Town recounts his adventures when he travels down the river with a runaway slave named Jim. The setting of the book is rustic and it takes place in the nineteenth century before the Civil War in America.

The novel is about friendship, identity, racism, freedom, and war. The gradual change in the character of Huck Finn is so interesting. This novel by Mark Twain is considered to be The Great American Novel. I had studied about Mark Twain in my American Literature class in college and I always wanted to read it because it’s one of a kind. It’s the first novel of American literature which is actually written in an American vernacular. The language of the descriptions and dialogues is the way Americans actually speak. Before this novel American writers imitated the European style of writing and language. It was a revolutionary novel of the time.

The novel sheds light on the topic of identity and race. The novel since its publication has been controversial. The novel though is anti-racism; it is believed by many to be racially insensitive and stereotyping towards the African American community. The use of the word ‘nigger’ is offending and vulgar and there are editions where that word has been replaced. While reading the book it does seem too much, a little crude maybe but you have to consider the time it was written in as well. It has a pretty good pace and managed to keep me intrigued by the unfolding of the story.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is such an important novel because of its content. The book has managed to be lighthearted and witty even while dealing with the heavy theme of racism. The characters are intriguing and the plot moves ahead at a good pace and it never gets dull. Honestly, it took some time for me to finish the novel even when I liked it like it is the case when I am reading any classic but it is definitely a good read.

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Book Review: The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton).

The Age of Innocence.

–    Edith Wharton.

I picked up this book with few expectations because honestly, I didn’t know much about the writer or the novel itself. Once I started reading it though, I was delightfully surprised. I had to read a little about the age and times in America when the novel is set to make it easier for myself to understand the story in context.

The book begins with the impending marriage of Newland Archer and May Welland, enters May’s cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska who returns to New York City after many years living abroad. Newland is fascinated with the independent and worldly Ellen whose personality is in a way opposite of May’s personality. A sort of love triangle is formed in the story as the plot progresses with Newland, May, and Ellen. Newland is torn by his conscience to keep his promise to May while a part of him longs for freedom he could have with Ellen; the inner conflict of his character is relatable and human. The Age of Innocence is a social commentary about the society in the 1870s and their concerns with at times trivial things but the hypocrisy that persisted makes you cringe.

The novel is set in 1870’s New York City in the “Gilded Age” which I had to read about a little beforehand; it focuses on upper-class characters living in New York City. The main focus is on an upper-class couple who are due to get married when the bride’s cousin who is plagued by scandals arrives and suddenly the couple’s future becomes uncertain. The novel effectively comments about the society at that time in New York City; about their moral misgivings, hypocrisies and cruelties in the period before World War I and during it as well. The society shown in the novel has no proper sense left of cultural sensibilities and it is in a way of losing its cultural identity.

A tale about love, passion, society, irony, acceptance, and struggle; this book captures perfectly what the society was like at the time where their morals and ethics were questionable and they had drifted away from culture. This classic is definitely among the best and shouldn’t be missed out on.

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Book Review: Veronika Decides to Die (Paulo Coelho).

Veronika Decides to Die.
– Paulo Coelho.

I bought this book on a whim after reading its synopsis and Veronika Decides to Die doesn’t disappoint. I finished the book fairly quickly and it constantly kept me engaged as a reader. Now, I might watch the movie adaptation as well.

The novel is a story about a 24-year-old girl Veronika who lives in Slovenia. Veronika seems to have everything going on for her, she herself admits this but still decides to kill herself. After Veronika’s suicide attempt she is admitted to a mental institution for treatment. She develops a heart condition because of overdosing on the pills and has only a few days left to live. In the institution, Veronika meets a number of people who have different mental issues like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

At Villete, she finally feels liberated from everything that bothered her before and slowly she feels like living again. The way Veronika describes the numbness that’s a part of her life is something many of us can relate to. There is a story that Zedka tells Veronika at the institution about a mad king; that story is so applicable and in a way makes lots of sense and it was one of my favorite parts of the story. The point of views keep changing throughout the novels and it gave a lot of insight into the characters minds.

The story slowly unravels or tries to unravel the reason Veronika felt the way she did and it makes sense for her as a character. The surprise of the story for me was Eduard, a schizophrenic patient at Villete who Veronika falls in love with. Eduard’s past is also heartbreaking and how circumstances led him to Villete and their love story is really cute.

Then there is the doctor at Villete, Dr. Igor. I didn’t understand in the beginning why he had chapters from his point of view but at the end it makes completes sense. All the characters in the book, add something important to the plot and to Veronika’s journey. After a hard couple of days, Veronika’s will to live is actually renewed. In the beginning, her heart condition doesn’t bother her as it was her aim to die. As the story progresses she realizes all the things she will miss out on and all the things she could do now. Finally, she starts to feel again hatred, love, frustration, hope, everything she probably hid away in herself for years.

The story is engaging and in a strange yet relatable way. When I bought the book I thought it will be too heavy and sad given its title but its surprisingly inspiring. It is an amazing book and it keeps you on the edge till the end and that ending; I didn’t see it coming whatsoever. The book just changed my perspective about the world. It is a must read.

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Favorite Quotes from the Harry Potter Books.

My Favorite Quotes from the Harry Potter Series.

Harry Potter is undoubtedly one of my favorite book series. I pick any book from it once in a while to read it again. Re-reading these books is just as enjoyable to me as they were the first time. There are many good quotes in the books but some of them are my favorites.


1)    This first quote is from the Philosopher’s stone or Sorcerer’s stone. The part where Harry starts sitting in front of the mirror over and over again to see his parents, it is sad. I mean he is eleven years old, so when Dumbledore says this to him it makes perfect sense in the story.

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2)    This one again is from Dumbledore but to be fair he does have many inspirational lines throughout the series. This one is from the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is quite early on in the book and it’s a part of Dumbledore’s speech at the start of the New Year. I just like this quote.

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3)    Order of Phoenix is an intense book because Harry is conflicted, sad and angry after the events in Goblet of Fire. This quote is something Sirius Black says to Harry when Harry opens up about his emotions and it’s perfectly apt for the situation. In a way, it makes Harry realize that he might have a choice.


4)  This quote is from the seventh and the last book. Yes, another quote from Dumbledore but he has some the best lines throughout. The situation when it is said its a little of a bittersweet situation as its almost at the end. It’s funny yet thoughtful. It appeals to the dreamer in me.


5) Hermione is such a great character. This is something she says to Harry in the first book when she is 11 years old. It kind of completes a story arc for her character. In the beginning, she is very proud of her intellect, she should be but she accepts she is not perfect during this situation. It shows character growth and that is so satisfying as a reader.


There are many more quotes which I really like from the Harry Potter books, the list could go on and on. These are the ones that are my absolute favorites because they fit the context so well and are inspirational in a way.



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Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer (Book Review)

Kane and Abel

– Jeffery Archer.

The story is about William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski; William the son of a Boston Billionaire banker while Abel is an orphan, penniless immigrant from Poland. The two main protagonists have nothing in common whatsoever except the date of their birth which is 18th April 1906, born in different continents on the same day. The plot follows the lives of these two successful men and the animosity and hatred they share, spanning for almost sixty years. It’s the first book I read written by Jeffery Archer and I have followed his works since reading this one.

The narration of the story alternates between the two characters; one chapter is for Kane than the next one is for Abel. This gives an insight into the characters in detail almost simultaneously and it makes us understand these characters and their journeys. For me, it made me invested in the characters. The chapters are so interesting that you almost wish that point of view wouldn’t shift to the other character in the next chapter.

The element of ‘time’ plays a role in the plot especially the historical context. The book follows the protagonist from their birth into childhood to teenage then to adulthood. Both the World Wars take place during the time period of the book. It plays nicely into the story.  Abel, who grew up in Russia occupied Poland before the Germans captured it during World War I. While William loses his father in the disaster of the Titanic and it changes the course of his life. This setting plays a role in the way the characters are shaped; it can be clearly seen.

The heart of this book is no doubt the two titular characters who hate each other but have never met. They are unaware of the fact that they have met before and their lives have intertwined. Both the characters struggle to get where they are successful and powerful. Abel’s struggle is at times basic survival. He suffers during World War I, his sister dies in front of him and it is really heart-breaking. Kane, on the other hand, struggles with family issues after losing his father yet has some sense of security all the time. Their struggles might be different but the trajectory of their lives is in a way similar. I felt that their personalities too are very similar even if they don’t like each other which is ironic.

The book is slightly on the longer side because it does cover a span of sixty years. It remains interesting and intriguing throughout. Its one of my all-time favorite books. It made me a fan of Jeffery Archer.

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