Tag: Writing

Book Review: My Last Duchess (Daisy Goodwin).

My Last Duchess

-Daisy Goodwin.


I bought My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin randomly at a book sale last year. The book is a historical fiction/romance which intrigued me. The book is the story of an American heiress Cora Cash who travels to Europe to find a suitable titled match.

Cora Cash is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cash. There are the wealthiest family in America and live in Newport. Cora is romantically interested in a guy named Teddy who is not as rich as her but, Cora doesn’t care. Mrs. Cash is very controlling about Cora’s life which often leads to her questioning all of Cora’s decisions including Teddy. Cora is rejected by him the day before she is supposed to set for Europe. It is actually
Mrs. Cash who wants her daughter to marry someone with a title, hence, she is taking Cora to Europe.

In England, Cora has an accident where she falls from her horse. This is when she meets Ivo; he takes her to his home Lulworth. Ivo is a Duke that fascinates Mrs. Cash and she sees this as an opportunity. A few days later Ivo proposes to Cora soon they get married. After the honeymoon period is over things start going sideways for Cora.

In the beginning, I couldn’t find anything relatable or sympathetic about Cora. She is vain and spoiled, she thinks very highly of herself. The way Ivo and Cora’s love story starts is a little underwhelming. Maybe it was on purpose for the story to progress but when Cora starts questioning whether she knows her husband or not; it is not surprising. Cora has trouble adjusting at Lulworth even after marriage but she tries to take it in stride.

Ivo Maltevers is the Duke of Lulworth. He is often aloof and moody. There is not a lot you find out about him when he is introduced. Ivo inherited Lulworth after his brother’s death and refuses to talk about his past, even if Cora questions him. There is no doubt that he is secretive and feels burdened with the duties that come with the title of Duke of Wareham. Cora’s money is definitely something that he needed which he accepts but his affection for her seems genuine.

The story is a slow burner for the first half of the book but the pace picks up for the second half. This is where my interest peaked and I was interested to know what’s going to happen next. Cora’s character goes through a transformation and she becomes much more likable and real. Ivo leaves for Africa leaving Cora when she is pregnant. She is forced to take control and stand for herself among people who are cold towards her. Ivo has his reasons for his secretive behavior and later, he feels guilty about treating Cora the way he did. The explanation about his past especially about his brother was something I didn’t anticipate.

Daisy Goodwin gives beautiful descriptions of details regarding the decadency of the dresses and houses of the century. I felt that the details, at times, sort of broke the flow of the story. Overall, Cora and Ivo are round characters. Both of them change as the story progresses. The narration of the book is mostly from Cora’s point of view which helped understand her journey properly. The minor characters are colorful and play a part in the overall story.

The start was a little slow but once I got into the story I enjoyed it. The difference between the New World (America) and the Old World is portrayed in a unique and sometimes, funny way. It is an enjoyable and fun read.

*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: A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams).

A Streetcar Named Desire.

–   Tennessee Williams.

A Streetcar Named Desire has been on my reading wishlist since I studied American Literature for my Masters. Finally, I started reading it and it was worth it. This play was written by Tennessee Williams after World War II.

The story begins when Blanche DuBois decides to stay with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley in New Orleans. From the beginning, as a reader, you can tell that Blanche is hiding something that she is not okay. The signs that she has anxiety are seen from the get-go especially reading now when there is awareness about mental health issues. Stella is careful around Blanche and she knows her sister sensitive. Stanley Kowalski is Stella’s husband. The first impression of his character for me was that he is practical but that changed later.

Blanche and Stella come from an aristocratic Southern family and lived in a big house called the Belle Reve. Stella leaves the house after she falls in love with Stanley and this leaves Blanche responsible for the estate. Blanche is upset when Stella asks about Belle Reve and admits that the house is lost to creditors and now she has nothing. It does seem like she blames Stella a little bit for leaving everything behind for Stanley. When she finds out that Stella is pregnant, she is overjoyed for her sister.

Blanche and Stanley tolerate each other because of Stella but are constantly at odds with each other. Blanche is rude in the beginning about Stanley’s origins being different than theirs and later simply starts thinking of him as a brute. Stanley goes out of his way to poke at her and make her lose her fragile mental balance, he provokes her. Blanche is constantly on edge and slowly is starts unraveling the things that she has been through. She thinks highly of herself that’s evident but she is also vulnerable and scared most of the time. Mitch is Stanley’s friend who Blanche looks at as a potential suitor because she has always sought the protection of men. Mitch leaves her when he finds out things about her past and even tries to force her.

The characters of Blanche, Stella, Stanley, and Mitch all have their unique characterizations that add to the story. Blanche has a tragic past with her husband Trevor who killed himself after she found out about his homosexuality. It definitely indicates that Blanche feels responsible for his death because it follows the confrontation she has with Trevor. She is considered promiscuous by people in the town of Laurel because she seeks men’s company and that’s the reason she comes to New Orleans. Stanley defines the typical masculinity of the age with his behavior. He gets violent when he drinks and even hits Stella but at times she is the only one he is tender to and it is disturbing to read and understand.

The story of the play, the characters, and the setting come together really well. Even the musical cues while reading play a part in the plot though it might be more effective on stage. She is worried about her age and later she stops going out in daylight so people won’t realize her true age. Blanche is taken to a mental institution in the end but the decline of her mental health is evident as the story progresses; when Stanley rapes her it is in a way the last straw for her. Her understanding of reality and her fantasies blend together and she can’t tell the difference anymore. Stella is distraught when Blanche is taken away and regrets agreeing to it. The end is heartbreaking.

I loved reading this play and it is classic for a reason. The symbolism and the themes are subtly interwoven throughout the play which enhances the reading experience. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this play but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a must-read.

*Get you own copy from Amazon by clicking on the cover image above.

Life (Poem)

    

Life goes on,

Never stopping for anyone.

Once in a while,

You can’t help but wonder,

If things hadn’t changed.

A deep-seated need to reconnect,

An emotion you cannot comprehend.

You can only wish for another chance,

Make things right but you can’t.

This is a part of the journey,

Even if you don’t like it.

                                                       

Currently Reading (Feb 2020)

I re-read quite a few books last month mixed with a couple of new ones. This month I plan to read only new novels.

1) 1984 by George Orwell.

I have been meaning to read this book for a while. I didn’t feel like reading dystopian fiction so the book has sat on my shelf for a while. The book is published in 1949 and is set in the future year of 1984. I am already a couple of chapters in and I am completely intrigued. The first chapter is eerily similar to our reality, dealing with the privacy concerns of citizens. Once I pick up the pace a little, I feel like I am going to finish this book quickly.

2) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One hundred years of Solitude is a multi-generational story of the Buendia family. I have restarted this book. Last time I read around 20 pages but then there was such a gap before I started reading it again that I lost interest in it. I am reading this book from the beginning so that it will help me get into the story. The start of the book is a little slow but it is very interesting. Keeping track of all the characters was difficult for me especially remembering who was who and who is related to whom. Once I get past that problem, I think my reading speed will increase.


3) Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie.


Bet Me is a contemporary love story that I stumbled upon while browsing. I have read four chapters so far and it has been very interesting. The main characters are unusual but in a good way. Their quirkiness and witty humor are endearing as a reader. Though the book was published in 2004, it doesn’t seem outdated. It is actually fresh in its writing and characterization. I can’t wait to finish this one.

* Get your own copy from Amazon by clicking on the images of the books. 😊

Book Review: Inside the Haveli (Rama Mehta).

Inside the Haveli

 – Rama Mehta.

I read this book a while back when it was part of my syllabus at college. Inside the Haveli is a story of an urban girl Geeta, who gets married to the son of a former prince. She struggles to fit into a traditional and conservative family of her in-laws in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The novel is set in the1970s.

Geeta is the central character of the story and the journey is mostly seen through her eyes. Another important character at the beginning of the story is Laxmi; a maid in the haveli who has lived there since she was a little girl. It is the only home she has known as she was taken in by the family. The story begins with the birth of a girl for Geeta and her husband. Geeta is restless; she hasn’t adjusted to the way things run in the family. She is a well-educated girl from Mumbai and has always lived in an urban and cosmopolitan environment so she doesn’t understand the old customs and practices of her new family.

Laxmi, on the other hand, has grown up in such an environment and doesn’t know anything other than that. Laxmi has a daughter as well. She has been compelled to make certain decisions which she didn’t wholeheartedly agree with and that weighs on her. Laxmi leaves the haveli, her husband and her daughter to see what lies outside the walls of the haveli. She wants to be free.

The plot of the story is pretty straightforward and thus, easy to follow. I liked the flow of the writing. The descriptions of the city of Udaipur, the setting, the workings of the haveli and the atmosphere are apt. As you read, it transports you to that place and time. Before I started reading this book, I was told that it’s a feminist novel with strong women characters. By the end, I realized this was misleading. Geeta is constantly questioning the regressive practices still prevalent in the family. She doesn’t understand the need for such customs in such progressive times but she never argues against it.

Geeta keeps her head down and does what is expected of her even if she doesn’t agree with it. The only time when she questions anyone is when her mother in law plans to get her daughter married before she is even 18 but even that doesn’t lead to anything. That is the precise problem I had with the book, the plot builds up and builds up, whereas a reader you feel something is about to happen but then nothing happens at all.

 As I came close to the end, I started to care less about the story and the characters. Geeta, in the end, conforms to the same traditions and practices wholeheartedly which she had reservations about earlier in the story. How this is a feminist novel I have no idea. It sent a wrong message I think in the end that that one has to conform to the regressive practices of society. Laxmi, who runs away from the haveli, is alluded to; she has suffered because she left. The girl who actually takes a step towards freedom has shown to suffer. Yes, she abandons her daughter which makes her less sympathetic and later she sneaks to her daughter’s school to get glimpses of her. So when you follow the old traditions you are okay but when you leave nothing good comes of it. Geeta being a well-educated person, her choices to start accepting everything as it is was baffling for me.

I was actually interested in the story for a long time. Once I reached the middle, I thought now the plot will advance but all the ideas don’t go anywhere. As a reader, it is very frustrating. It is not a feminist novel, especially not in our times. The end was the most frustrating part of the story and frankly, it pissed me off. Maybe when it was published in the 1970’s it had a different impact then it does now. I liked the setting and the whole atmosphere of the story, the world created in that story has almost disappeared now but overall I liked the book in the beginning but lost interest halfway through.

*Buy a copy by clicking on the image above.

Story on Wattpad: Stole My Heart

This is a story I wrote in 2012 when I was seventeen years old. I had just discovered Wattpad and was completely fascinated with it so I decided to give writing a shot.

I always liked writing but I never went out of way to write anything excpet journal enteries as any teenager would. Its because of this story that today I write; I discovered my passion.

Now, ‘Stole My Heart’ is a love story; set in high school and written by a teenager. I am proud of it so I want to to share it here. Recently, I have started editing it so its not polished yet.

Do give it read and let me know what you think of it. 🙂

https://www.wattpad.com/story/1145452-stole-my-heart-editing

Behind the Walls

Behind the Walls.


Spending every day with walls around my heart,
Now for you, I was ready to knock them off,
With you, everything seems easy even the quiet.
I wanted to let you know how you affect me,
But the walls made me pause,
I wanted you to knock them down for me,
then you would finally see me, the real me.
It was my favorite daydream,
You would be mine and I yours,
No walls, no pretenses, just us,
And happy endings.