And the Mountains Echoed

Image

And the Mountains Echoed takes you on a journey both  metaphorical and literal. A journey embarked by a hopeless father with a belief that the end of it would rescue at least one of his children from the claws of misery that a deprived childhood brings with it. What it does, however, is tear a family apart leaves them with a void that takes shelter within the life of everyone involved. The story travels back and forth in time and with it travel we, the reader, as it explores the intricacy of human relationships, the maneuver of the powerful, the feebleness of poor, the darkness that resides in hearts, and most of all a hope which make everything seem trivial.

It always pains me to read novels written by Khaled Hosseini. The intense portrayal of the unjust and insensitive world. There is so much agony and sorrow that exists and when you come across it in words that are so powerfully woven it leaves  you with a heart ache by the end of it, which lingers on days on end.  The kite runner and the thousand splendid sun had the same effect on me.

And the Mountains echoed is about  separation which shatters a culminating bond between a brother and her sister. The novel starts with a folklore consisting of divs  and jinns  narrated by a man who is going to make a life changing decision for those involved. In this story we see the reflection of the man’s(narrator) dilemma, who is just a few days away from taking an imperative decision . The little story well portrays the plight of the helpless father who has to do away with one of his child.

The novel covers a span of 58 years from the fall of 1952 to the winter of 2010, it takes us to Afghanistan, to Paris, and to USA. Apart from the brother and sister, Pari and Abdullah, the novel revolves around characters who lie within the same realms as them. The author has done justice to every character and thus the novel has many heart touching stories to tell.

A woman, Parwana, bound by duties and mostly guilt to her crippled sister, Massoma, like she was “… joined at the torso with a thick band of flesh. Two creature inextricably bound, blood formed in the marrow of one running in the veins of the other, their union permanent.”

An unconventional bond between a master, Suleiman and his servant, Nabi,  which regardless of their social differences, become so strong that none wants to break free of it.

“Suleiman said I should marry. but the fact is, I looked at my life and realized I already had what people sought in marriage. I had comfort, and companionship, and a home where I was always welcomed, loved, and needed.”

A son who idolizes his father, and wished he had got a chance to  be a war hero just as he thinks his father is. But his fantastical world comes down like a pack of cards when he realizes that he has been living a life full of delusions.

The novel bring together life of different people in different world and sometimes at different time and yet with such close resemblance. Where people are bound to each other sometimes out of will, sometimes by blood and other times because they have fallen into a pattern that they are afraid from breaking away. Sometimes there is  fear, the fear of life itself and what will it bring along, that death seems an easy and less painful option as compared to living. Yes there are Separations. There are deaths. There is misery. There is sorrow and helplessness but above all there is hope.

What turned me on : The narrative technique and the style as well. Travelling back and forth in time and flashbacks make the narration effective.

What put me off : okay, now, like I said that other than the main theme of separation it is a novel about many different characters and their life accounts . There are a couple of these narrative which are mighty good if we read them on their own but I am not sure if they were really needed in relation with the novel.

Verdict :

Image

Advertisements

Serious Men

Image

Author: Manu Joseph

Genre : Adult fiction

Narrative style : Omnipresent narrator

I will not support people who presume that somewhere, far away in space, there could be beings so human that they will build machines that will send us a radio signal. Man is not searching for aliens. Man is searching for man. it’s called loneliness. Not science. – Arvind Acharya

Ayyan was tempted to write another invented quote. that would be risky. He usually inserted only one phoney quote every week or so. That way his subversive abuse of the Brahmins would not attract too much attention. But that morning he could not resist the temptation. He pretended to look into a piece of paper and wrote a fresh thought:

  Reservation for the low-caste is a very unfair system. To compensate, let us offer the Brahmins the right to be treated as animals for 3,000 years and at the end of it lets give them a 15 per cent reservation

– Vallumpuri John.

Serious Men is a novel about revolting ideas and what happens when these ideas co-exist in close proximity with one another. There is disagreement among scientists regarding their belief on the existence of aliens, a growing displeasure between social classes, a tale of insatiable love and unchecked ambitions.

Ayyan, a Dalit, works among upper caste Brahmin scientists and loathes the fact that he is from a social system where he is regarded as beneath them. He is the lowly personal assistant of the top-notch scientist Acharya working for the  Institute of Theory and Research. His secret pleasures involves  gawking at “modern young mothers” and young high caste girls well beyond his reach, inventing and writing thoughts for the day offensive to Brahmins, opening and reading mails meant for Acharya, making other scientists wait for their appointment and keeping phone off hooks so he can listen to every possible conversation in the Scientist room.

Arvind Acharaya, a peerless scientist in the institute who would go to great lengths to show his displeasure including hurling a shoe at the wedding altar and whispering abuses into pope’s ears. He belittles the research plans of other scientists. He blames them of making the whole process(of finding Alien signals)an effort to make it appear glamorous and media and layman friendly. Irked by the power Acharya holds and the fear of having to put down their own stature the other scientists try to dethrone him by sabotaging his image and career.

The novel is about how  the world of two characters so dissimilar to one another merge into one. How one’s ambitions come to rest upon the shoulders of the other. The novel portrays the varied human emotions beautifully or should I say ruthlessly? The characters are crafted adequately and they do manage to hold their power on readers. The novel was a pleasure to read. Pleasurable not because it is one of those novels which will revive your trust in humanity , on the contrary the novel has more to do with the darker aspects of human nature. But because the novel does reflect the efforts put in by the author you fall in love with the imperfectly carved characters.

So now lets come to the part of the novel that I didn’t like.The lack of a strong woman character. Now you might overlook it like it is no big deal. But somehow it struck me odd. The novel throws in a couple of incidences which I as an Indian woman relate to. You know the ones where women breasts are elbowed and butts pinched in public by man for his pleasure. There is a highly learned woman, Oparna, in the all man institute, who of course is made aware of the same,  by her male fellows. But she too is somehow at the disposal of men. The author might have started off well by giving us a small picture of woman survival in a society dominated by man by introducing Oparna to the institute. But by the end of it all the purpose was lost.

At the end of the novel the exits and re-entry of women are abrupt and convenient. I felt that just as the woman characters are at the disposal of male characters within the novel, they have been treated the same way by the author. Isn’t author mirroring the male characters of the novel by disposing off the female characters conveniently.

Favorite Quote

I really loved what you could call a comeback one liner by Acharya in the Novel

‘Don’t look at me like that son. When I was your age I was so smart that if you wanted to kiss my arse you would’ve had to take an entrance exam.’

What turned me on: Everything. The multi dimensional characters, the humor, the way the story develops,.

What put me off: Like I said there was lesser justice done to the Female characters. But then it might be just me and the story could have intended wholly for the two men.

Verdict:

 Image

One came home.

 Image

Author: Amy Timberlake.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Narrative style: First person narrative by Georgie Burkhardt.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake is primarily about two sisters. One(Agatha) gone missing only to be returned as a battered, crippled, lifeless body and the other(Georgie), the crusader, who refuses to accept the body as her sister’s and thus sets out on a quest to find and bring her back. The novel is set in 1871 in Wisconsin when the now extinct wild pigeons were in abundance. Why I suddenly talk of pigeons is because they are part of the story as much as the other characters. The novel opens with Agatha’s funeral and Georgie’s reflections and recollection of some of the times before Agatha ran off. We come across Agatha as  strong-willed, ambitious and intelligent and industrious.

“… It was no surprise that Agatha wanted to study the natural sciences, but I’d never thought that meant more than reading books and rambling through the  woods  to observe and sketch. I’d never considered that she’d want to learn from a teacher, or to formalize it with an official piece of paper. It was a lot of efforts and for what? I t would lead to work. Grandfather Bolte was right.

  That she has enough money to go to university for one year was another thing altogether. Agatha was good at making money. She gave tours to ladies wanting to explore the river and its caves, and she sold seed and seedling in our store.

 But as the novel progresses she becomes a mere antecedent for revelation of Georgie’s tamed strengths.

The cougar and I eyed one another for a long moment. I gave that animal my meanest stare.

And then – I swear-  that cat lay down. Right there in the middle of the road, it lay down like it may take a nap. Like a big old barn tomcat. A moment later it got up and walked off the road.

That made me mad. After all that – after it crouched down and made my heart rattle against the ribs-the cougar walks? I found a spoon and hurled it at that cat. I said things loudly that  I don’t care to repeat.

Mind you the above encounter is between a cougar and a 13-year-old.

Georgie takes off  on an adventurous trip to seek her sister equipped with a Mule Long ears, a book The prairie Traveler: Handbook for Overland Expedition, a springfield, and five Bechtler gold coins. The journey itself is quite a sight, sight because the author has made use of some magnificent imagery. Georgie’s  encounter with cougar and scenes with wild pigeons are a few of them. Mysteries unravel with her progressing journey. It doesn’t matter if the mystery isn’t stimulating enough, the writing style will surely keep you hooked.

Even though the novel belongs to Georgie, hands down, the other characters are strong enough so you don’t lose their presence. The authoritative Grandfather Bolte, a heavy-hearted mother, a peppery Billy McCabe, a mellow Mr Benjamin Olmstead, an iron-jawed Mrs Garrow and many such.

Writing any further might increase my chances of divulging too much information therefore I would just wind up the review with the obvious.

What turned me on: The novel’s successful weaving together  adventure and mystery without losing the basic plot.

What turned me off: Yes there were a few things that put me off, but they are insignificant and I can let them be.

VERDICT: If you want a Young Adult fiction with an unique set up and with strong  independent women characters then this is the book to read.