These are the books I wish to finish reading this month. Maybe I will get to read more as well if possible. My reading list for this month.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a horror novella. The story is about a young woman who gets a job as a governess for two mysterious kids on an estate which seems to be haunted. I just started reading it and it has a gothic feel to it because of the descriptions. The young girl who is the narrator of the story is unnamed so far. It is an intriguing read.
2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a book that details the social experiment Thoreau carried by living in a secluded cabin for two years. I am only a couple of chapters in but, it has a philosophical undertone to it. It talks about the author’s experience with nature and living simply, being self-reliant. It is a little difficult to read because there is a lot of symbolism and depth to the writing.
3. My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin.
My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin is a story about an American Heiress, Cora Cash, who travels to England with her mother to find an aristocratic match. The world in England is different than what she is accustomed to and when she marries Ivo, an eligible but secretive bachelor, her life changes. I enjoyed reading this book so far though I have trouble relating to Cora’s character which I hope will happen eventually. It seems like a fun read.
4. Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts.
Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts is the first book of the Circle Trilogy. A sorcerer named Hoyt loses his brother in 12th century Ireland to evil forces. He is chosen for a mission by the goddess Morrigan and is told he will be joined by five others to form a team to destroy Lillith. Nora Roberts has a way of blending fantasy elements with the reality that it seems grounded. The story and the characters are interesting. I finished almost seventy pages at one go when I started reading.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Gaŕcia Marquez.
I have read Of Love and Other Demons and short stories written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez before I finally picked up this book. One Hundred Years of Solitude was on my to-be-read list for a long time but I was a little hesitant to actually start reading it. I read some 50 odd pages of the book last year and kept it aside and didn’t touch it again till last month. I had to skim through the previously read pages as a refresher and I am glad I did that otherwise I might have been utterly lost going ahead.
The story of One Hundred Years of Solitude spans for more than a century with seven generations of the Buendia family. It is tricky to explain all the characters in this books as they are many of them and they have same names; I don’t think its possible to explain the plot of the story in brief but I will try to give an overview. It begins when Jose Arcadio and his wife Ursula leave their hometowns to look for a new place to settle. They are the original settlers and founders of Maconda; Jose Arcadio dreams about this place and they build the town. Jose Arcadio is curious by nature and he is obsessed with scientific pursuits and immerses himself completely in his work. Jose Arcadio and Ursula are cousins and Ursula has been warned that incest will eventually lead to a baby being born with a pig’s tail.
The novel is wonderfully written. The magical realism of the writing and the story is what kept me intrigued as I read. The descriptions of the atmosphere and the landscape of Maconda paints a picture in your head as you are reading. You can imagine the town vividly which helped me stick to the story because I could see it play out properly in my head. The element of magical realism shines through the story and the way it progresses seems completely organic. The political and social upheaval in the story is mirrors the reality of our society. I have never read any books before which have the element of magical realism the way it is present in this novel.
The characters, the character traits and their names are repetitive in the story. At first, I had trouble keeping up with all the names and it didn’t exactly get easier as I progressed. Jose Arcadio, Amaranta, Aureliano specifically are names repeatedly used by new generations. It seemed confusing but then I realized that it is on purpose. The Buendia family is stuck in the same old circle of mistakes and decisions through generations. For example – the incestuous tendencies in the family are also present in generations and they end up in incest relationships no matter how hard they resist they can’t break the cycle. The personality traits are also similar in different generations like Aureliano’s are shy and self-reflective, they like being in their own company.
All the secrets that are kept by the family about parentage due to incestuous history end up being the reason that sixth generation Aureliano and his aunt Amaranta Ursula end up marrying when they are unaware of their familial ties and their son in born with a pig’s tail. Its very difficult to explain the themes and story of the book because it is vast and complicated. The family which keeps going in circles and interpretations of time and space in the story are some aspects are understood as I was reading. I might need more time to completely understand the story and all that it encompasses.
There were time where I really had trouble reading this book and I wondered if I should finish it or not. I am glad I stuck it out in those patches because in the end the story comes to full circle and it is intriguing. There are so many elements of the story that I feel went slightly over my head and I’ll have to read about it later. I enjoyed reading the book in parts as sometimes it was slow and I lost patience. I liked the book and the story and the writing but I don’t think it’s a book I’ll pick up again at least not anytime soon. Reading this book is a completely different experience but in a good way.
I bought this book years back and now I have finally read it. I started reading this book last month and was hoping that I can finish it by the month-end; that did not happen. Jane Eyre is set in the England countryside in the 19th century. It is a story of an orphan girl Jane Eyre and it chronicles her life from childhood to an adult. It is a gothic romance.
The plot of Jane Eyre begins at Gateshead Hall with the Reeds, the family of her maternal uncle. Mr.Reed has always shown kindness to Jane but he is unwell and makes his wife Mrs. Reed promise him that will take care of Jane after he passes away. The other Reeds are not fond of her and treat her badly. John Reed bullies Jane constantly, he throws books at her and hits her all the while her aunt remains indifferent towards Jane and her son’s behavior. The treatment of Jane in this part is particularly is difficult to read. She is 10 years old and feels so isolated, unhappy because the only family she knows doesn’t care about her.
Jane is constantly called ill-mannered and bad-tempered because she asks questions and stands up for herself. When her aunt decides to send her to a boarding school Lowood, Jane is happy to leave the Reeds. In a way, it gets better for her when she’s at Lowood, she finds herself but the system of the school is horrible. The punishments, living conditions, rationing of food and the disregard for the girls there by the trustees is disturbing. Helen and Jane become good friends at Lowood and Jane looks to her for support and companionship. When Helen dies you really feel its impact as a reader and for Jane’s character as well.
Jane is quiet but observant; this comes through numerous times once she starts working at Thornfield Hall as a tutor for Adele. This is where I felt like the story picked up its pace. The element of suspense and a sense of something coming is an underlying theme here that pays off later. Mr. Rochester and Jane have chemistry straight away I thought and it was cute. I liked the relationship that develops between them; it happens naturally and their relationship doesn’t seem forced. Jane can be herself with him; otherwise, she is very controlled about her actions and behavior. Jane likes working and living at Thornfield Hall with or without Mr. Rochester being around. She loves spending time with Adele and looks out for her.
Jane and Mr. Rochester accept their feelings for one another. Jane is hesitant to act on her feeling for Mr. Rochester even before and that stays with her a little bit even after Mr. Rochester asks her to marry him and she agrees. On her wedding day, she finds out what Mr. Rochester has been hiding from her and she is heartbroken. He asks her to stay with him despite of her now knowing the truth but she doesn’t agree to it; she knows its morally wrong and runs away. All the suspense and build-up of the thrill of mysterious events at Thornfield is revealed and it is an unexpected twist.
The narration of the novel is in the first person which gives a complete sense of Jane’s character, her emotions and how she reacts to her circumstances. As it is Jane’s story, her being the narrator is the right way. I could find relatable qualities in Jane’s character which made me like her more. It is hard not to feel the same emotions as Jane while reading. She is a unique character with her inquisitiveness, witty humor, morals and principles, opinions and she sees the world as it is and doesn’t harbor utopian concepts about her life. The setting and landscape of the story are rural England and it is a minor character of the novel.
The novel is gothic so the setting and atmosphere play an important role. I loved Jane and Mr. Rochester’s relationship; their love story is an integral part of the plot and is not unexpected but the way it happens is surprising. There is a slow and simmering build-up to their relationship and that’s interesting to read. The twist in their relationship is described in a way that lets us feel the emotions of Jane as well as Mr. Rochester.
It took me a while to finish reading this book because it is lengthy and my version has a fine print which made it impossible to read for hours. But I enjoyed reading this novel. I liked the development of Jane’s character through her decisions, experiences, and relationships. My favorite part of the book is Mr. Rochester and Jane’s love story. The story of this book seems simple but it has so many layers to the plot and characters. It is an intriguing and delightful read.
This book is inspired by a tale writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez heard from his grandmother about a 12-year-old girl who died of rabies. It is a pretty short novel in its length with elements of almost magical realism running throughout the story. The story takes place in the 18th century in South America.
The story Of Love and Other Demons is of a 12-year-old girl from decaying marquis family is bitten by a rabid dog. She shows no signs of being affected by it and thus, is declared to be possessed and sent to a convent for an exorcism. Sierva Maria is the only child of her parents. She is raised by the West Indian slaves hence, well acquainted with their customs and languages. Her demeanor and behavior are considered to be unsophisticated which leads to the belief that she might be possessed. Father Cayetano Delaura meets Sievra Maria at the convent and he is intrigued by her. Both of them develop an unlikely and forbidden affection for each other.
The novel starts off slow with lots of descriptions and back-story which makes the events that followed even more surprising for me. Sievra Maria has some sort of aura about her which is magical or supernatural but it does have some explanation which is ignored by other characters. Believing she is possessed by a demon, she is taken unwillingly to a convent. The treatment of her at the convent is horrible and can be difficult to read at times. She is traumatized and ill-treated because she is different than what she is supposed to be. Father Cayetano Delaura, is a diocese librarian who is the only one that gentle with Sierva Maria. He doesn’t believe she needs an exorcism and develops a passion for her.
Sierva Maria is almost three decades younger Fathe Delaura so their romance is today’s day and age can seem inappropriate even with a setting so rooted in magical realism. As I read further, that kind of passed but not completely. Their emotions and feelings towards each other are innocent and pure; a sense of true affection between them can be felt. The clash of cultures is a prominent theme in the story; the traditions and beliefs of the slaves versus those of the Spanish and Christians. Sierva Maria has an understanding of the culture of the slaves as she is raised by them but this is constantly questioned and believed to be unsophisticated by those around her.
The love story between Sierva Maria and Fathe Cayetano Delaura doesn’t start well into the story. Leaving the age difference thing aside, it is actually well developed. The way the characters of Sierva Maria and Father Cayetano Delaura are written, make them seem genuine and sincere which makes you root for them. The setting of the novel is so unique yet real. It seems to be a style of Marquez’s writing. As I said before, the element of magical realism is woven throughout with the use of symbols, dreams and the setting.
I really liked this book. The narration and even the setting I found it to be similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude in a way. The book is emotional, tragic and at times surreal. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing transports you to a completely new world yet it resembles to the world one we live in.
I have read literary critical essays written by George Orwell before but Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work of the author I have read. His works reflect his ideologies. Down and Out in Paris and London is a first full-length novel written by George Orwell. This book is a memoir and it is divided into two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities of Paris and London.
This novel is an interesting fictional account with touches autobiographical elements to the work. It narrates the story of a poor English writer and his adventures in Paris and London in a surprisingly humorous way. The book is divided into two parts – The first part talks about Parisian life and the second of life in London. At first, I thought that the division into two parts may be meant a time gap or something but it is actually a completely coherent story that happens to be divided into two parts.
In the Parisian part, the writer gives unique descriptions of working in fancy restaurants all over the city. Experience of working in posh kitchens as a dishwasher is described; in short life as a casual laborer in Paris. The first part ties into the second one as he leaves the job in Paris due to its long hours. As the narration begins in London, he expects to have a job waiting but doesn’t. He lives the life of a tramp in London. Staying in different hotels, hostels, and shelters; he lives in the world of tramps.
The stories of Paris and London though are two different parts of the book; the story is a continuation of each other so, it doesn’t feel discarded at any point. The book gives a glimpse into the life of these two major cities of Paris and London in the period of 1900 to 1930. Both of the stories hit home the ‘reality check’ aspect of poverty in society and its struggles. The events described in the book are terrible and depressing but it is written in such a humorous way, without an ounce of self-pity. The characters the narrator meets are colorful and quirky personalities. The main theme of Down and Out in Paris and London is heavy; the book is lighthearted enough to be read at a stretch.
The fact that Orwell experienced the situations taking place in the book at least to some extent makes it more realistic and gritty. A book which is insightful and witty, it is an interesting and different memoir.
When I started reading it, I had no idea it was part of a series and I simply picked it up because I thought it was interesting. So, I read this book as a standalone novel and now I will probably read the first one. The Boy Most Likely To is the first book I have read by the author.
The main protagonists of the book are Tim Mason and Alice Garrett. Tim has a lot of emotional baggage and has made questionable decisions in the past but is trying really hard to change his life and it’s actually working. As you are reading, you know Tim has made mistakes in the past but his genuine efforts to change his life makes him such a sympathetic character. He believes the worst about himself because people around him, especially his family, have always pointed out his mistakes. They constantly think he is going to screw everything up even when he hasn’t done anything.
Alice has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. She is taking care of her younger siblings, worrying about her parents and finances and studying to be a nurse. I liked Alice’s character a lot. She is headstrong, confident and self-aware yet vulnerable; she doesn’t let anyway get away with anything and it is such a cool trait to possess. She is unsure about her feelings for Tim, who is younger than and her brother’s best friend. Even the secondary characters of the rest of the Garrets including Jase who is Tim’s best friend and his girlfriend Samantha are well-rounded characters.
The best part of the story for me was the characters. The development of the characters throughout the story seems natural and realistic. They don’t grow overnight and just trying their hardest to better themselves and that makes them incredibly relatable. All the characters seem genuine; their thoughts or emotions do not seem fabricated. I teared up a couple of times while reading. I liked the portrayal of the inner struggle these characters go through and both Tim and Alice have a different yet parallel approach to things. The list of The Boy Most Likely To which Tim keeps pinned on his fridge hits his struggle home.
The relationships in the book are my second favorite part. The relationship between Tim has with his twin Nan is the only somewhat healthy relationship he has with his family. He thinks more of Garretts as him, family, then his parents which is a little sad but the way his father treats him that is understandable. Tim and Jase are more like brothers than a best friend and the rapport between them is completely organic. Even the central romance of Tim and Alice takes a while to get off the road but it keeps you intrigued and they develop a good understanding between them as time passes.
As I said before, I read this book as a standalone novel yet I never felt that I missed anything because I didn’t read the first one. I liked this book a lot. The pace is good, it doesn’t slow down in between; its consistent throughout. I pretty much finished it in one sitting. It is genuine, funny, sweet and sad.
After years of this book just sitting on my bookshelf, I finally decided to read The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. This is a story of a man named Erik and his obsession with a young soprano Christine Daae. The story is a Gothic romance set in the 1880s in Paris and is said to loosely based on true events at the Opera House.
The story begins with strange happenings in the Opera house in Paris. The place is believed to be haunted and many performers and organizers have reported sightings of the ‘opera ghost’ over the years. The ghost is revealed to be an actual person who is deformed in appearance and is an engimatic figure in the beginning. Christine Daae is a talented and beautiful young performer at the opera house and has lived there since the death of her parents. Raoul is an old friend of Christine’s who wishes to marry her. Erik, the phantom is considered the angel of music by Christine but he becomes obsessed with her.
The narrator of the story focuses actions of the opera ghost and how these actions affect the other characters around him, especially Christine Daae and Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny. The opera ghost is a man named Erik; he is a horrific and ruthless man, who is capable of doing anything without any remorse if it means him getting his way. The start of the novel was a little slow-paced I thought but it picks up speed pretty quickly.
The characterization of Erik is done mostly through flashbacks which makes it somewhat easier to understand his behavior and where it stems from. Erik’s mother has never loved him because of his deformed appearance which prompted him to run away from home at a young age. It seems his obsession with Christine stems from being unloved by his mother. Later, we find out that Erik isn’t his real name at all. Christine’s closeness to Raoul makes Ereally jealous and he goes as far as kidnapping Christine and tries to blackmail her into loving him.
There is a lot of focus on the love story of Christine and Raoul which is well thought out. The mystery element of the novel never ceased to amuse me while I was reading the novel. The suspense and mystery is a major theme of the novel and it works very well. It is hard not to feel bad for Erik; he is sad and lonely and desperately and Christine to love him. At one point in the book, though Erik is being completely irrational, Christine can’t help but feel pity for him and I felt the same way. The end of the novel is bittersweet. Christine and Raoul elope together but you can’t help feeling a little bad for Erik’s death.
The novel starts off slow so it took me a while to finish reading the book. The novel wasn’t exactly what I had expected it to be like but it was good nonetheless. Once the novel picks up pace, it keeps you hooked. I liked how the author has incorporated the flashbacks which give Erik’s backstory. Overall, I enjoyed the novel and liked it very much except the slow pace in the beginning.
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.
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.
I have been meaning to read Virginia Woolf’s books for years and finally, I read one. Mrs. Dalloway is the first book I read written by Woolf and there is not much to say other than that it is an amazing book.
Mrs. Dalloway is the most well-known novel by Virginia Woolf. The book was published in 1925. This novel details a day in the life of the high-society Clarissa Dalloway, who is the main character in the story. The setting of the story is important; it is set in the post-World War I England. There is just one day described in the novel is the day Clarissa is making preparations for a party. All the events that take place in the book occur during this one day. I thought this set a nice pace for the novel.
Once the story begins and the plot starts to unfold the secrets about Clarissa’s life that didn’t seem probable at the beginning. It was something I didn’t exactly see coming but it was an interesting surprise. The plot has two interwoven stories; one of Clarissa Dalloway and one of war veteran Septimus Warren Smith. The narration is from a third person point of view which gave an accurate description of the emotions these characters are experiencing. The narration definitely digs deep into the thoughts and emotions of the characters and has been described really well.
Clarissa and Septimus Warren are two characters who seem unconnected in the start but their stories actually run parallel to each other. The shifts in the narrative from Warren to Clarissa gave me enough time with both characters and in a way helps to understand them. The story shifts back and forth from the past to the present. This element of time, movement from past to present is used perfectly to hammer home what the characters think about the past while in the present. It is difficult to explain but it is intriguing never the less. It made it easier as a reader to empathize with these characters.
The effects of World War I are clearly depicted through the character of Smith who is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life and is broken by his experiences during the war. Mrs. Dalloway, on the other hand, seems to have everything she could want but in reality, is clearly struggling to cope with her emotions. The themes of love, loss and mental illness are depicted in a unique and powerful way which is somewhat subtle at the time but constantly present at the same time. The end of the novel stays true to the story and in a way seems unresolved. There is no forced happy ending to this novel. I prefer a resolved ending personally but the way the novel unravels it is not that surprising.
I liked the writing; it might be the first time I read a book whose plot takes place over one single day. The pace of the story is good, sometimes it might become too much so it cant be read overnight. The story and writing are so relevant to its themes and makes them relatable. The novel is a must-read.