Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Duchess by Danielle Steel | Book Review

The Duchess by Danielle Steele is the first book that I have read of the author. It was recommended to me by a colleague. She said if I enjoyed any feminist work, I’d like this book.

The truth is, I am ambivalent towards feminism. But once in a while it makes sense to read books referred by others, if only to expose yourself to different types of writing. And I haven’t been reading a lot lately.

The Duchess is a coming-of-age tale of a teenaged girl. Set in an era in England where women did not inherit their parents’ money or properties, even if they were duchesses, this is a story of Angelique, who gets thrown out of her house when her step-brother Tristan steps in as the new duke, after the death of her father. It is the story of how she gets forced into a life of service, and eventually, due to the cruel turn of events, ends up running a high-end brothel in Paris. She does find the love of her life and her happy ending, but none of them come easy.

What I liked best about this book is how Danielle keeps the story real. At no point does it feel that Angelique has it easy. Her life is hard. She has no family, and no one to take care of. She finds herself in difficult situations but she tries to make the best of what life deals at her. She does not give in, and she never pities herself. She accepts her fate and tries to deal with it in a manner which she finds befitting herself. The writing is easy to read and relatable, and it becomes easier for the reader to sink into the story.

The only thing that I don’t like about this story is how it keeps repeating itself – especially in the first hundred odd pages where the author keeps reiterating Angelique’s pain in losing her father and her brother’s cruelty. It becomes unbearable after a point. Also, for a book which is about a woman, it is surprising how it paints many of the other women characters in a shallow manner, and never tries to give a voice to women who choose to love their parties and their frivolities over caring for their children. Even with a protagonist who ends up running a brothel and fighting to give a better life to the prostitutes, this book in many places just end up reiterating what’s traditionally acceptable for a woman, and shows little tolerance for women who don’t care to have a blazing mission in life.

Be it as it may, it’s been a while since I read a work of fiction and this one made me want to get back to my reading. Maybe, we’ll see more book reviews on the blog in future.

Until later!

Review | The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Hello and welcome to the brand new year 2019! I hope the new year is treating you well so far. One of my 2019 resolutions is to read more books, so I thought why not start the year with a book review? Y’all ready? Let’s start!

If you are reading this post, it means you have access to internet. If so, chances are you have purchased something online at least once. And if you have, there is no way that you have not heard about the internet behemoth, Amazon. Built from scratch by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is the superstar of online marketplace, and The Everything Store is a lovely narrative that captures that journey.

Personally, I have been a huge Amazon fan, and I almost exclusively buy things on Amazon, even though Flipkart in India is not doing too bad. Why do I choose Amazon? Because most often than not, Amazon has the thing that I need, and it has a competitive prices. Plus, I can’t remember even one scenario since I started shopping online when I have received a product from Amazon late or not in the shape that I expected it to. Customer service is prompt and polite, and you feel like you are dealing with people who care for your concerns. So, I was more than a little excited to understand Amazon’s journey through this book.

The name of the book is depiction of Jeff Bezos’s vision for Amazon: to be that store where you can get anything that you want, so much so that, there was a time that he wanted at least one copy of every book that has been printed on Earth in Amazon’s catalog. That, coupled with the conviction of being a customer-centric company, is what makes Amazon what it is. And this book depicts Jeff Bezos’ never-ending dream of doing what is best for the customer: giving him what he needs at the least price that’s practically possible. To do that, he has not only gone to the extent of upsetting his board of directors, but also the Wall Street and more often than not, Amazon employees themselves.

Amazon’s journey can probably be divided into two parts: The Journey of a Fledgling Internet Company and The Journey of a Behemoth. The journeys may definitely have differently evolved, but at the core of it, Amazon’s guiding principles have remained the same throughout the years.

The Journey of a Fledgling Internet Company

Jeff Bezos, as depicted in the book, was nothing short of a child prodigy. He was focused and determined, and ended up working a good job at the hedge fund, DE Shaw. He also saw an early opportunity in the internet and bet on it, and like a lot of Silicon Valley startups. started Amazon in his garage. The challenges he faced were similar to an early start up, but he also managed to entice investors and raise initial capital for it. There were two stories from this period which helped me understand the fundamentals of Amazon.

One was the story of Toys ‘R’ Us and how Amazon embraced the very seasonal toy business. The toy industry runs on trends. What is in fashion on Christmas becomes useless once the new year starts. Knowing that, Bezos confidently got his executives to channel millions of dollars into the the toy inventory, saying that he would personally drive the remainders away in his truck if they did not sell. And Amazon did end up losing millions in that deal that year (probably 1999 or 2000), upwards of ~$30M if my memory serves me right. But in that effort, Bezos showed that he was willing to take chances that could mean huge financial losses, but he was all in. This is a key lesson for entrepreneurs: the stomach to take risks.

Similarly, during the period when analysts predicted fall of Amazon in the early 2000s, at the heart of the dot com bubble burst, and the stocks kept falling like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Bezos stood his ground and told his employees that when the stock rises by x times you don’t feel x times smarter, so there is no reason why you should feel dumber when the stock plunges. Here was a man who was thinking long term, and was able to steer his company through tough times to favorable grounds.

In this period, you cannot but admire the man behind the driving wheel, in spite of all the stories of his temper tantrums and poor treatment of his senior execs.

The Journey of a Behemoth

As Amazon grew from a toddler to a giant, it started doing business in a ruthless manner: cutting down prices that manufacturers and sellers could not sustain, forcing them to negotiation by removing their stock from Amazon and digging a hole in their balance sheet, and practically driving smaller startups to buyout. Meanwhile, Amazon bots constantly hunt for the lowest price on the internet, and provides the same or lower to customers, even if it means losing millions.

One story from this period is of, a startup selling diapers and other baby products. As started doing good business, they were on Amazon’s radar, and Amazon started wooing them for a buyout. When they would not agree, Amazon priced the diapers 30% less than, and after a while, during which they put up a great fight, the young startup had to give in. Similar was the story of From that book, we learn that there is a dedicated team in Amazon which looks out for rising stars like Zappos or, and goes mercenary style in its acquisitions.

This is the period when you fear Amazon. This is the period when you question the ethics which guides the company. This is the period which reminds us that business in itself is a jungle, and that the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest definitely holds true. Yet, to a large extent, as readers of the book or Amazon customers, we tend to forgive the giant because at the heart of it, they believe that customer is king, and that all inefficiencies from the supply chain must be eliminated so that the best prices can be delivered to customers. In that way, Amazon is almost a saint.

I believe the true assessment of this giant will happen in the years to come. I believe Amazon has a long way to go, especially in developing nations when internet penetration is increasingly gradually. And in the process, it will evolve too as a company, hopefully in the right direction. And while today it seems strange that some other company may overpower Amazon, history has taught us it is possible. So, I’ll be on the lookout to see how someone takes on this giant and emerges on the other side, victorious.

The Everything Store is definitely a well-researched book. The best part is, it is impartial in its approach: while this book makes you cringe at the prospect of working at Amazon, you also learn that there are some amazing things happening, and you can’t but be in awe of that. To keep a balance between that is not easy, and the depth of the research is simply commendable.

If any of you is interested in biographies of people and companies, you should definitely give this book a try!

That’s it for today! Watch this space for more updates, as we proceed into the new year. See you guys very soon!



Train To Pakistan by Khuswant Singh | A Review

I just finished reading the Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh. I have read very little of fiction on India’s partition. Most of my knowledge about it is through the history books that I had read till tenth standard. Of course, I remember the partition being bloody, but the chilling extent of it has never been truly exposed to my mind. Until I picked up this book, that is.

Khuswant Singh’s prose is straightforward, within the expanse of 190 pages, he talks about a lot of things, and that too in exact amount of detail as required. Set in the backdrop of 1947 India-Pakistan partition, this novel sheds light on the religious massacre that happened during the time, where Muslims and Hindus on either sides of the borders killed each other and sent trainloads of corpses across. The writing is graphic. Singh sets his stage in the silent village of Mano Majra, a quaint one whose life is dictated by the comings and goings of the train at the railway station. Muslims and Hindus here live harmoniously, though through the course of the story it will change.

This book is a deep meditation of different kinds of people. It almost feels like the author wrote the book as a contemplative thesis of the human mind, shaped by love, hatred, political and moral education, politics and other elements. There are the religious heads of the Muslims and the Sikhs, who are predominantly peace-loving people and try their best to maintain peace. Then there is a morally-unstable District Magistrate and his counterpart in the police department, a Sub-Inspector, who want to do the right thing but do not really have the guts to do it. The other striking character is that of Iqbal Singh, the foreign-returned political activist who wants to make a name for himself by going to jail, but when the time comes for him to truly do something of value, he drowns his conscience in whisky and tells himself that in moments of chaos, the best course to take is of self-preservation. I do not completely hate the person. Maybe in his shoes, I would have behaved in the same manner. The more learned we become, the more we see the futility of our actions, which in turn drives us to become more apathetic towards life, more like a passive audience in a theater. On the other hand, there is the village badmash, Juggut Singh, a man who often gets in trouble with the police, who seems to tower above everyone else, both literally and figuratively, and do something that no one else is able to do. Somehow it feels like the remainder of Mano Majra, apart from Juggut, are like puppets in a show and cannot really control their destinies.

I have not read anything else by Khuswant Singh, but with just this one, I am a fan. His writing is very plain, his English far from superfluous, but it has a deep contemplative tone to it. He builds his characters well, lets us get into their head and understand their actions and see life from their lens. Which is why, you don’t really end up hating anyone in Majo Majra – you just feel sad for the lot of them.

This book opened my eyes to the extent of horror of Partition. Sometimes, given the current political scenario of India, I wonder if we are at any better stage compared to 1947. If we took a lesson from the pages of history, maybe we would stop playing the divisive game of the politics of religion, and begin to truly celebrate the diversity of India. This soils of this country has been reddened by blood time and again. Hopefully, we will leave it a better place for our children.

Have you read Train to Pakistan? How did the book make you feel? Do let me know in the Comments below.

Taste in books – Short review of Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

This Monday, I was travelling back to Bangalore from a week-long vacation at home. I had about half an hour to kill at Kolkata airport before boarding, so I decided to check out the book-store.

I picked up two books: Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon and A Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh. I had not bought a book for myself in the longest time – thanks to the online library facility, Kwench, that my company provides. Besides – I had not read something really interesting that would make me want to invest financially and space-wise. But this time I wanted a good way to spend the two and a half hours flight (too used to having internet, and flight mode basically sucks), so ended up purchasing these two books.

I can’t remember if I have read other Sheldon books, but needless to say, he’s a popular author. Even if I have not read his works, I remember reading such fast paced, mystery thriller books growing up – I was quite a fan of the genre at the time. I loved Gone Girl when I read it in 2016. However, when I revisited the genre through Memories of Midnight, I can’t say I was quite excited. Some of the key traits that jumped out for me are:

  • The fast pace of the writing, which is characterized by more telling than showing
  • While the character development is not poor, it does not feel like a priority, but more like a secondary requirement
  • The primary focus is on mind-boggling actions, bringing people back from the dead, showing larger-than-life (and in my mind, sometimes quite impossible) victories in business deals or courtrooms
  • Lastly, there are multiple scenes which leave nothing to the imagination on the reader’s part – with too many obvious paragraphs which can easily be dropped to make the narrative stronger

While I have nothing against the writer or people who enjoy such writing (thrill is always exciting), from a writer’s perspective, a lot of the book felt like poor, lazy writing. I realize that over the years my taste has changed towards more muted, and closer-to-life narratives. I am interested in the story of the common man, the trials of regular life that s/he faces. Which is why I avoid most of Bollywood flicks, unless I am really in the mood for some drama.

However, I must credit the writer for his research on how different professions work: from information on oil fields to courtroom dealings to a psychiatrist’s clinic – this book covers a lot of ground.

All that said, I guess each author has a specific audience. In fact, even though the writing was poor, I did end up finishing the book, because I wanted to see it through to the end. Moreover, even though I had another book to choose from in the flight, I started with this one, coz, well, I was looking for a popcorn style book, made for light read! 🙂

How do you feel about these popcorn-style books? Should publishing houses continue to publish such books? Which are your favorite authors in this genre?

Book Review | Mahashweta

Last week, I was going through Kwench library. I happened across a book by Sudha Murty, the name of which I do not remember now. The blurb interested me. However, the book was in circulation at the time and I had to opt for a different book.

I chose Mahashweta by the author, which is the story of Anupama, who contracts vitiligo (a skin condition in which the skin becomes white in color). The book narrates how she is abandoned by her husband because of the condition and how, after a lot of struggle, she finds a place of her own in life.

The book was potent for me. Having had vitiligo for close to ten years now, I know the ordeal. While reading the book, I remembered the horror of the initial days when I contracted it. I would go to sleep every night, scared that when I woke up in the morning, some other portion of my body would be white. As a ninth grader, it was not easy to accept this about myself. I was in my teenage years, when boys and girls start to become conscious of their looks. In just one day, life had changed for me. Concerned elders spoke about how things would get difficult for me during marriage, because who would want to marry a girl with white patches?

Public knowledge about vitiligo is quite vast these days. People (at least the ones I have come across) understand that it is a cosmetic disease. The disease is not contagious, not has it been proved that it is hereditary (no one in my family had it). Many people have more serious diseases and get married off easily because these diseases do not happen to leave external proof.

However, understanding the mechanics of the disease is something and to emotionally accept it is another. In reality, like Anand in the book, we all look for perfection. We want our wives and our husbands to look beautiful. Lot of us want to show off our spouses as symbol of perfection – it just strokes our ego.

Every time a relationship that could have worked out for me but did not, I have wondered if somewhere, the white patches on the skin contributed in any manner to the decision taken. Throughout my teenage years, and even today, I am still conscious of them. I still prefer wearing dresses with high collar.

However, unlike my teenage years, now it is easy to accept this fact about myself. Now, I can go about my day doing multiple other things, without even thinking once that I have vitiligo. But I am at a juncture of life when marriage does not look too distant. I do wonder, from time to time, how my skin condition affects my marital prospects in 21st century. I guess I will find out!

Mahashweta, at mere 150 pages, is a wonderful story. It realistically narrates the sentiments of myriad sections of people: a mother-in-law who is willing to overlook lapses in moral conduct of her own daughter, but treats her daughter-in-law like a piece of shit because she has white patches on her skin. A doctor, who in spite of knowing the medical implications of vitiligo, ignores the social implications of the same for his wife and chooses to abandon her when she needs him the most. But the best part about the book was the epilogue by the author where she describes how her book made a man change his decision to not marry the bride who had just contracted vitiligo. It moved me to tears.



Review of Sister of My Heart and Reminder of Bound by Life Free Promotion

Hello everyone! Hope you are doing well. Today I want to share with you all some thoughts about the latest book I have been reading – Sister of my Heart – by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

I discovered Divakaruni when I was looking for authors like Jhumpa Lahiri. Before I came to Bangalore in October, 2015, I bought her Palace of Illusions. I meant to read it in the long train journey that I was to undertake. But life had different things in store for me in that train journey (just a few hours before I were to board the train, my maternal grandfather passed away, and I pretty my cried during the entire duration of my first inter-state train journey).

After I reached Bangalore and found Kwench, I had access to a lot of books. Somehow, Palace of Illusions shifted to a corner in my wardrobe. A few days ago I gave it to my roommate for reading.

This March, they featured Divakaruni for Women’s Day Special books in Kwench. Almost all her books are available there.

SISTER+BRITISHThis Thursday, after I returned Game of Thrones (less than half-read, but my borrow period was over), I ordered Sister of My Heart. Apparently, Divakaruni is a popular author in Kwench. Almost all her books except two were in circulation when I ordered this book. It arrived Thursday at lunch. I started reading it right away.

The story is about a traditional Brahmin Bengali family living in Kolkata. It captures the story of two cousin sisters, Anju and Sudha, who love each other very much. One is headstrong, practical while the other makes wishes upon the fallen stars and believes in prince and princess fairy-tale stories. The book touches on variety of issues: the ideals of proper upbringing in a high-class Bengali family, which is not longer as wealthy as it once was; the tremors of young love, the dowry system, stigma against female girl child, some mystery, some fairy-tale storytelling and above all, how love surpasses all.

The leading characters are women and are complexly constructed. Nalini, Sudha’s mother is a typical gossiping woman, who frets and complains about everything in life. Yet, when the author explains the past that led Nalini to be wed and be part of the Chatterjee family, we cannot but feel a little sorry and sympathy for the poor woman. Gouri Ma, Anju’s mother, who had promised her husband when he went on an adventure that would be the end of him, that she would bring up her daughter as a girl from Chatterjee family must be brought up, kept her promise by manning a bookstore single-handedly, breaking social stigma of women not being the sole breadwinner in the family. Then there is Pishima, who first tells Sudha the dreaded secret of her existence – a secret that is to cast a shadow on all the characters’ lives forever since it has been uttered.

I loved how each character is different and has a different story to tell. I love the way the story develops, said through the alternating, contrasting points of view of Anju and Sudha. I love how strong the emotions are portrayed, that moved me to tears more than once.

I loved the book so much that I stayed up till 5.00 AM in the morning today to finish it. I can’t remember any other book that I finished in less than 24 hours in the recent past.

If you have a liking towards Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, you must definitely give Divakaruni a try. I can assure you you’ll love it!

On a different  note, my ebook, Bound by Life is available for free now on Amazon. If you have a Kindle, don’t forget to download it.

bbl1 (3) - Copy

Also, if possible do share about the free promotion on your blog/social media platforms. I aim to sell at least 100 free copies of the book between today and coming Tuesday. I’d love if you can help me achieve my goal!

Happy weekend!

In Other Words – Tale of a writer’s renewed journey across languages and continents

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri is essentially non-fiction, with just two short stories. It is an autobiographical sketch, the story of a writer’s quest to learn a language that she neither got from her ancestors, nor the country she spent most part of her life in.

Why should an author, a renowned one at that, attempt a literary exile and choose to write in another language? Lahiri explores that throughout this small book. The product is a brilliant sketch of how difficult attaining true mastery in any language is, especially if you have not growing up speaking/reading/writing it.

Lahiri speaks about consulting dictionaries, maintaining notebooks, writing down words but forgetting them eventually and the mental exhaustion that arises out of that. Her words reminded me of the time when I was younger and was learning English. Lahiri’s mother tongue is also mine, and growing up I was surrounded by Bengali. I wished I could have the opportunity to watch English movies, be with people who only spoke English. For me, English was what Italian is for Lahiri. I remember doing the exact same things – underlining unknown words that I’d read in books, and consulting the dictionary to find out the meanings and jot them down in a notebook. Then I’d try to use the newly learned words as many times as I could. As Lahiri points out correctly, language is an ocean and even an experienced author like her feels childlike in front of it.

In this book, Lahiri also talks about her congenital struggle between Bengali and English, of her parents continuously striving to keep their Bengali roots alive in America, while Lahiri facing a cultural, emotional crisis to appease both her parents who want Lahiri to know Bengali and the outside world where no one cares that she speaks another language at home. The pain of not belonging, not being rooted to any place is a recurring feature in Lahiri’s works. In this book, the reader gets a first-hand take on this theme.

This book is also a great book for aspiring authors like me. Growing up I had always been told I wrote well. After a point of time, I took it for granted. I wrote because I was in love with the way words formed themselves into sentences to express the thought or emotion I was experiencing. I never tried to become better than I was as a writer, like I do in my other full-time profession. Reading In Other Words inspired me to put in more work, and I have decided to read more classics in the days to come. If I have to be a good writer in any language, I must read the work of the great masters of that language. Else, I would never know what I was lacking.

In Other Words is a little repetitive when read in a single reading as it deals with essentially the same thing in the entire duration. At times, I was slightly bored and was wondering if this book was better off as a personal notebook and not being published. But the two short stories in the book more than make up for it. At this point, I’d also like to mention what a brilliant translation Ann Goldstein has done. Reading the two stories I felt like I was reading Lahiri in English! I’m sure that even in Italian, Lahiri has preserved her exquisite manner of writing, even though she mentions many times within the book that in the new language she is limited, restricted as an author.

Overall, In Other Words is a great book for Lahiri fans, especially for those who want to know how their favourite author work behind the scene to produce works like Unaccustomed Earth.

Have you read In Other Words yet? Share your thoughts on Lahiri’s latest book with me in the Comments below.

How feminist is Gone Girl?

I remember looking at the picture of the slender Gillian Flynn beside the description of Gone Girl on Kwench and wondering, ‘Wow, how pretty she is!’ To believe something such sinister could be plotted and made into a book by someone so beautiful seemed unlikely, but having seen the movie, I knew what to expect. The sheer wickedness of this book stuns you and makes you wonder if this could really be true, and how insane it would be if it were true. I understand people go through nightmares in their married life – often in the form of abuse – but for someone to be so sinister-ish sends chills across the spine.

I wonder if Flynn is the modern feminist who likes to take a dig at men by making Amy, a girl with a name as cute as Amy, the ultimate anti-hero – someone who’ll make you sick to the stomach, so sick that you dare not be unkind to her. Dare not abuse her.

ggAmy is brilliant, and she seeks validation in everything. I somewhat relate to her, because I have a similar streak – I seek validation and it is something I am working on. So when she wants revenge, I understand her motive. When she wants to punish, I feel her anger. You cannot, like Nick, but be amazed by the sheer brilliance of Amy’s mind. What are you thinking? What have we done to each other?

Flynn, on so many levels, brings out a clear picture of compromised married life. Boy meets girl, or vice versa – things seem great for a year or two and then begins the same old drama of being pissed out, being angry at all times at each other’s annoying habits, tired of the smooth sameness that everyday life brings. I wonder, as I think of a married life ahead, if it is possible to be happy all through life, to promise yourself and someone else that you will not be like the average couple who start picking on each other after a couple of years. When you are young and in love, marriage seems a blissful thing – a new beginning. To have your own home and one person who is really, truly yours. But can you really be content with the same person all through your life? What if some weird habit of his irks you to your toenail and he does not give up on that habit, even after being repeatedly told by you to? Then I think of my parents and the close to quarter century of married life that they have lived together and remember the fights they had while I lived with them, on the simplest of issues -my father not being able to bargain well at the grocer’s, my mother being constantly worried about her aged parents, which pissed my father off at times. And I think, it’s all good. At the end of the day, when your family is gone, your father and mother are dead and siblings, if you had any, are settled somewhere else, you think it is okay to compromise a little and live a okayish married life. Your parents have done that. Your grandparents have done that. And I don’t want broken homes for my kids either.

So, I will never be as sinister as Amy. But as much as you hate her, you cannot but appreciate the nastiness of her scheme and praise her for not giving up. In the end, like Nick, you feel sorry for her, because you wonder how hard it must be to wake up every morning and be Amy.

I enjoyed the biased, parallel two-character narrative that Flynn followed. When the first part gets a little monotonous, Flynn strikes back hard with a completely changed Amy POV, which will shock any first time reader. And I liked it better because unlike in most books, the girl is the real villain. Once in a while, I think it feels good to see others do things that you will be never be able to do. Just to know that there are other possibilities to deal with a situation, as in an Amy way, as opposed to your way. In their own gruesome, scary way, Nick and Amy make a perfect couple.

I also love that Gone Girl is so much more that simply adultery. I like how Flynn captures the effect of joblessness and childlessness on marriage.

Ms. Flynn, respect!


Review of ‘The Nightingale’

imagesI found The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah listed as one of the best books of 2015 in the historical fiction category.

History interests me immensely, even though I did not get much chance to read any since I completed secondary school. So, when I realized this book was about the Nazi occupation of France, my interest doubled.

The Nightingale is the tale of two sisters whose father returned from war a changed man and was never the same man again. Their mother died and soon after, their father gave up on them. The elder, more subdued Vianne, marries off early while the rebel, beautiful Isabelle is thrown out of school after school because she doesn’t quite fit in with the established norms. There are conflicts among the sisters as well.

Then the second world war comes. With it come German soldiers who occupy France. French men go to fight in the war. Vianne’s husband, Antoine, leaves as well. Scared Vianne is left to come with the aftermath of the war with her young daughter Sophie. Kristin also deals with the difficult topic of Jews being tortured and deported through Rachel, Vianne’s best friend, who is a Jew.

The first half of the story seemed a little slow for me. In many places, it felt as if the story had been written keeping in mind the rules told in creative writing classes: engage all the senses, which is nothing wrong, but seems a little forced at times. The story-telling gets stronger towards the end of the book, as the plot thickens. I have never read about a book on war before, so it felt like a first-hand experience as I turned over the pages and saw the cruelty that had been meted out to French people by the Nazis. The last fifty page or so moved me to tears more than once.

“In love we find out who we want to be.

In war we find out who we are.”

  • -The Nightingale

I enjoyed the way the characters are built in the book, the headstrong Isabelle who does before she thinks, the scared Vianne who does not want her husband to go to war – their transformations are what makes this book beautiful. I like that Kristin gave each character his/her flaws. Every character in this book is real, well-fleshed out. You can see the cruelty of the German captain billeted at Vianne’s house after Captain Beck’s murder. You can see the tense sparks of what-can-never-be-named-as-love between Captain Beck and Vianne, who are both separated from their loved ones in those trying times: Beck from his family, but bound by his duty, and the helpless Vianne left alone to protect her daughter Sophie while the world around them crumble.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you must give this book a try. Food is also a recurrent theme in this book, so if you are a foodie or someone who enjoys cooking, you’ll love the smells and colours of the foods described in the book! It’s so real that you can almost see the potatoes frying brown in front of your eyes!

‘I am Malala’

I don’t think I have spoken about this before, but the title one of the stories (I am Mala) in my ebook, Bound by Life, is inspired by I am Malala. At the point of writing that story, I only knew that Malala was a young girl who was fighting for girl’s education and had be hit by a bullet. I had no clue how huge her struggle was. The title that I chose for my story somewhat reflects the huge media coverage that I am Malala received, which made it a everyday name.

Most often, Indians (and if I may say so, the entire non-Muslim world) generalize Muslims to be bad. As Indians, when we think of Pakistanis, we think of people who caused bloodshed and the partition of the country. I, for one, have never imagined what life must be being an ordinary Pakistani. I have never thought about them at an individual level – that their girls face greater problems going to school, that poverty strikes them as hard as any average Indian, that their rivers are as polluted as ours and there are people who are fighting for good causes in Pakistan just as there are in India.

This book, for me, was an eye-opener. Fighters are there in all parts of the world. Some fight with Kalashinokovs. Some fight with their words and their pens and their blogs.

Every time I read a book on a specific cause like Malala’s, I end up wondering how powerful the word (written/spoken) can be. Even a girl as young as Malala was seen as a threat by Talibans because she had been vocal. I am in no position to judge the ideologies guiding the Talibans – they are fighting their own fight. I simply want to appreciate the education that I have that allows me to write on this platform and be read by you all. In this age of social media outrage, we take blogging/tweeting so granted that at times we forget that it is actually possible to change the world with the written word.

I am Malala helped a large part of the world wake up to the fight that the people of Swat had been fighting. Even though this story is Malala’s, in so many levels it is also the story of thousands of individuals spread across the world who are fighting against diseases, natural disasters, poverty and terrorism on a day-to-day level.

Once in a while, when you read a book like this, it makes you realize how lucky you are to have a job that pays your bills, to have your family in a place which is not under a constant threat of natural/man-made disaster. It makes you feel grateful for the things you have in life. It inspires you to believe that yes, you too can make a difference in the world, in your own small way.

This coming year, I pledge to use my blog in some manner to make a difference in the world. I do not know how or when, but hereby I plant a seed of desire in the fabric of the universe to help someone, somewhere. If Mr. Coelho is to be believed, the universe will surely help me!