Some stories are written in such a way that their words penetrate your skin to go straight through to your bones and into the very marrow of your being. As soon as I read the first two pages of thi…
Some stories are written in such a way that their words penetrate your skin to go straight through to your bones and into the very marrow of your being. As soon as I read the first two pages of this book, I knew that Tsukuru Tazaki’s years of pilgrimage was going to be such a story.
If I had to describe what the book is about in two lines, I would call it a tale of rejection, a tale in which Tsukuru Tazaki is cut off by his really close high school friends without any explanation and how years later he goes in search for the reason behind this brutal rejection.
But describing this book in two lines would be grossly unfair because the true essence of the story is in the details. In the way it enumerates what it feels like to be rejected, especially by people who you have loved with all your heart and soul. If you have ever had your heart broken, Tsukuru’s journey to the brink of death and back will resonate deeply.
The sense of helplessness and powerlessness that he feels, the dreamlike quality of his days when he is in the throes of pain, the deep wound within his soul that affects his relationships even in later years and the utter loneliness of his existence enveloped me to create an aura of pain all around as I read the book.
Interestingly, despite the fantastical bend of his feelings, what I loved about Tsukuru is that eventually, he is firmly grounded in reality. Also, his story, even though extremely sad and desolate, had this weird sense of strength and hope. He takes charge and goes in search of answers and it is really brave the way he does it.
At the end of the book, I felt at peace. I was able to allow myself to feel the absolute dejection and desolation of heart-break and rejection. Not only that, I was also able to accept the many incomplete answers that I have received for my zillion questions. Tsukuru’s journey had a cathartic effect on me and I made my own mental journey through the deserted landscape of my life as I read his story.
The book is over but the words will remain with me and I will keep going back to the sensations and feelings that the various scenes of Tsukuru’s life evoked and derive either comfort, strength or hope from them.
Often expectations get set even before the first page of the book is opened. Usually the attempt to give an idea of what the book is about using marketing blurbs, the genre of the book, the cover o…
Often expectations get set even before the first page of the book is opened. Usually the attempt to give an idea of what the book is about using marketing blurbs, the genre of the book, the cover of the book, the synopsis in the back, all create a notion in the reader’s mind of what to expect from the story within. This can go either way especially if the story does not live up to the image in the reader’s head. Is the book then automatically disliked?
I asked myself this question many times as I read “Evading the shadows”. I had my set of expectations which were mostly a result of most of the things I have mentioned above. They were raised as I read the prologue which was indeed very intriguing. I was looking forward to delving into the part of the Mahabharata where the Pandavas spend the last year of their exile incognito as per the bet which is what the book is about. But the pace of this story in my head would be that of spy thriller rather than a mythological account. I was looking forward to a story that would be a brilliant blend of a classic Indian myth and the suspense and intrigue of a Jason Bourne novel.
Alas, as I read it began to down on me that this tale was nothing like what I expected. There were moments of excitement but they failed to engage me or arouse any emotional reaction for the characters. A lot of the book turned out to be a mere re-telling of the Mahabharata story prior to the epic battle. I kept waiting for the pace to pick up, for something out of the ordinary to happen that would justify the prologue but in vain, as I turned the last page of the book.
As I think back to the story, I am still wondering if I would have liked it had it not been for the huge build up in my head. But I do have to admit that the book writing failed to build a larger than life aura that the telling of any epoch demands. Also, I cannot deny the strong sense I felt while reading that the author was unable to make the story his own. There seemed to be a reluctance to take this story to the next level by adding unexpected twists that would deviate from the original storyline. The characters too seemed to be inadequately developed almost as if the author was relying on their well-established personalities to fill in the gaps.
In short, the idea behind the story was great but it lacked the finesse and clever writing that would have made for a superlative read.
Some books are meant to be devoured like a delicious home cooked meal. And then there are books which have to be savoured like a painstakingly created dinner.
Desert by J.M.G. Le Clezio is like that dinner which has to be savoured; its every sentence is crafted to such perfection. Its lyrical, poetic prose brings the desert alive. I could feel every grain of sand, each ray of the scorching sun. The heat & dryness made me thirst for water, I felt my throat parch with every word and I was transported to the desert in all its glory and stark reality.
I took my time reading this book. I carried it around with me everywhere I went. The minute I would open it, no matter where I was, I would be back in that desert. Back in the two interwoven stories – the time around 1910 which follows Nour during the desert tribes’ uprisings against the French and an indefinite time set in a shanty desert town where Lalla; who is probably a descendant of one of those desert tribes; lives with her aunt and cousins.
Both these stories are about searching; searching for freedom, for a place to belong; searching for a home; when the one you’ve always known is made uninhabitable. Nour and his tribe along with the entire clan wander the desert to find a promised land away from the invaders whereas Lalla who is forced to marry, chooses to elope with the Hartani – her closest friend. Nour, Lalla & the Hartani are all searching for a way of life that may be lost forever.
There is a subliminal cry throughout the book to preserve the arid lands of the African desert. Every sentence in the book screamed at me to recognize the beauty and magic in that life – that life of running barefoot across the sands, that life of listening to stories by the fire, that life of having a secret hiding place amongst the rocks where you feel safe from everything, that life where you feel connected to the birds & the wind, the waves & the clouds and every grain of sand & falling leaf. The power of this simple life is evident in Lalla’s unhappiness & horror in the city. Compared to the mystical desert, the city seems robotic & mundane, almost like a prison.
In addition to being an ode in praise of everything nature has to offer and a simple way of life, there are many other themes explored in the book. To me this book also advocates the sanctity of a person’s right to live the way they choose. For Nour and his tribe, this choice is destroyed by the power that money is able to exert, but there is hope for Lalla as she is able to return to the life she loves. Another theme is the insidious power of money that destroys our ability to see that which is truly important; this is visible everywhere in the city that Lalla elopes to and also in the greed of the chieftains which ruins every chance of the desert tribes to keep their land safe.
In conclusion, this book is for the thrill seeker of a different kind. If you go weak in knees at breath-taking descriptions and sentences formed choosing just the right words, like a jeweller would choose diamonds for a necklace fit for the queen, then this is a must read for you. If not, feel free to skip it for the next murder mystery.
This book was recommended to me by a friend just after my visit to Italy. As half of me was still wandering in that enchanting country; this book which is mostly based in Capri, the place I travelled to on my last day in Italy against all odds; it instantly made a special place in my heart. But that is not the only reason for raving about it.
“A ghost at noon” is the story of the disintegration of a marriage. Moravia has weaved an intricate web of the misunderstandings, assumptions, expectations and miscommunications that slowly suffocate a strong and loving relationship.
Moravia’s prose pulled me into this marriage; I was right there with the husband trying to figure out the workings of his wife’s mind. It took me back to the time when my relationship had ended, and I would spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong, what could I have done differently. The protagonist endlessly analyzes every word, every action of every encounter with his wife in the hope of grasping the elusive answer to the question that rules supreme in all our minds when something doesn’t work out – WHY? And it is Moravia’s expertise as a writer that not even for one second was I bored and that just the way I could never satisfactorily explain the end of any of my relationships, neither could Moravia’s protagonist. Yes, he had many theories, just like me, but which one of them was the right theory? We never found out, we would never find out. And right there in the climax, I found my peace with ambiguity.
This book took me on a voyage, not just to my favourite country but into my past. I related to the confusion and misgivings of the main character. To his need for closure and his desire to be able to read his wife’s innermost thoughts. It made me feel less weird and lonely. I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship, which did not work out, should read this book. It has the added advantage of being beautifully written and set in the most mesmerizing place in the world.