Tag Archives: review

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!

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!

Review of To Kill a Mockingbird – A Guest Post

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Today’s guest post in Re-living the Classics is a review of To Kill a Mockingbird by the wonderful Belinda. I love reading her beautiful personal anecdotes! Be sure to check out her site!

Would you like to have your review of your favourite classic featured on this blog? To do that, contact me through the form given after today’s post. Be sure to mention your name, email and the name of the book you wish to review. Thank you!

Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

Guest Post by Belinda

First, thanks to Arpita for this opportunity to review one of my all-time favorite books. While I originally had planned to take a look at Madame Bovary, current events and the imminent release of Harper Lee’s second book (Go Set a Watchman, July 14, 2015) compelled me to change my mind.

to-kill-a-mockingbird2To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) is a story of a small town in the southern U.S., where things move slowly but certainly, and a small spark of hope for the future exists. It’s a tale of friendships, family and the forgotten, and how in the end they all fight for each other.

It’s also a story of vast racial injustice and a man not willing to be resigned to it until he’s forced to be. Mostly, it’s the tale of girl growing up and learning about all that happens and all who live in this small town she calls home.

Jean Louise Finch, who goes by Scout, lives with her brother, Jem, and father, Atticus, in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.  Scout and Jem befriend a boy named Dill, who visits his aunt each year during the summer months.

Scout, Jem and Dill are fascinated by their reclusive and ostensibly frightening neighboring, Boo Radley. For two summers they watch and wait for him to appear. The third year, they’re bewildered to find small gestures of friendship seemingly from the shy man, yet still don’t catch sight of him.

That same year Atticus is appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. The entire town becomes captivated by the trial, and the consequences of the outcome shape events for months to come in a dramatic and poignant way.

The children’s fascination with Boo and the unfolding of events that follow the trial come together in the final pages in a way true to the rest of the story, the town and its characters.  This type of ending to such a complex story is rare. So often the plot line becomes convoluted or melodramatic.  Not the case here.

 The books narrative style is fluid, with bits of irony used to communicate the complex issues it covers. It’s a story you can read time and again, always with a different perspective: once with a look at racial injustice, another with an eye to class and culture in the American South of the early 20th century. It addresses human nature on a broader scale in the character of Boo Radley and how the town dealt with him in their words and actions.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It captivates me from the first sentence every time I read it, which is about once every three or four years. I couldn’t wait to read it again for this review, and look forward already to the next time.

Would you like to have your review of your favourite classic featured on this blog? To do that contact me through the form given below. Be sure to mention your name, email and the name of the book you wish to review. Thank you!

Thoughts on ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ – Guest post by Shreedeep Gangopadhyay

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Today’s guest post, as part of the Saturday Specials feature in July, is contributed by Mr. Shreedeep Gangopadhyay. He has previously contributed a few pieces of flash fiction for his earlier guest post in May. This month in Re-living the Classics, Mr. Gangopadhyay deconstructs the classic American novella, The Old man and the Sea.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, this month I am looking for volunteers to review the classics. I still have two spots open, so please feel free to contact me to contribute your piece. To do this, use the contact form given below today’s post, clearly mentioning your name, email and the name of the book that you wish to review.

For next week’s guest post we’ll have Belinda share her thoughts on Madame Bovary. Stay tuned, folks and keep blogging!

Thoughts on The Old Man and the Sea

Guest post by Shreedeep Gangopadhyay


Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”: Never accept defeat in life, we can be spifflicated but not defeated. 

The novella The Old Man and The Sea’ is the last major work of fiction to be written by Hemingway in 1952 which ultimately helped to regenerate the author’s wilting career and prompted a reexamination of his entire body of work. Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in 1954 for this book. The book was featured in Life magazine on September 1, 1952, and five million copies of the magazine were sold in two days!

It depicts an epic struggle between an old, doyen fisherman and his biggest achievement as a fisherman.  The story begins with the aged Cuban fisherman playing the central character named Santiago who goes on fishing in Gulf Stream with his skiff alone. For the last 84 days, he set out to sea to catch fish only to return empty handed. A boy named Manolin was with him in the first forty days to learn the tricks of fishing. But when the parents of that boy observed the utter failure of the old man in catching fish then they refused him to let fish with the old man as they believed the old man became impoverished and salao (which means the extreme form of unlucky) facing his mortality. So the boy was constrained to fish in another more productive boat which caught three good fishes in the very first week.

The old man wakes before sunrise and does what fishermen do—get in his boat and head out to fish. Every evening, under any pretext, Manolin rushes to the old man when he returns from another unsuccessful fish hunting and helps carry home the old man’s harpoon, sail, accompanies him and brings him food. The old man looks sick and very thin, especially from hunger. The torn sail of his skiff is patched with flour sacks bearing the evidence of the permanent defeat of him. Both of his hands are full of old lacerates and scars created while dragging the heavy fish over the harpoon. ‘But these scars are as old as erosions in a fishless desert’. Everything of Santiago reflects the infirmity and impoverishment lacking the real zeal to live his life to the fullest.

Only his eyes are the exception reflecting the deep blue sea – glittering and invincible too. Just few of these lines can clearly illustrate us a picture of a society. This minute but subtle shade of the lives of the fishermen makes the egoistical interests and inclination clearly visible as motives of their actions and omissions. The central character of the story, battling with the time, has reached to the age of frailty. Yes he struggles for survival, sets out to the Gulf Stream to catch fish. It deftly portrays how the people become isolated from each other when they don’t benefit from someone while struggling to live every day’s life in this capitalist world. At the same time the deep affection and compassion of the boy to the old man establishes firmly that the infinitude of profit and greed never severs immortal bond of humanity among the people.  And as the humanity still refuses to elude, may be people would remain steadfast in fulfilling their dream even in scorching heat and torrential rain. Maybe we keep dreaming of our unfinished dream-even in the feeble hope of reaching the pantheon of the success.  We all can relive the joy of achieving our goal as it is only the humanity and fellow-feeling that serves to play the most crucial role in building up the character, neither profit and neither greed nor the prolonged reign of capitalism does that. The story tells us about a true friendship evolved between two persons having a vast generation gap. We see the boy trying to help the old man regain his confidence and finally, after couple of failed attempts make him agree to hunt for the big Marlin fish. On the morning of the 85th day, Santiago does as promised, sailing his skiff far before dawn on a three-day odyssey that takes him far out to sea.

The story captures the true pictures of the fishermen colony in Kohima which is at 12 mile north from Havana, the capital of Cuba. The fishermen are determining the relations among them according to the financial status. It becomes evident when Manolin is forced to leave Santiago’s boat for his relentless failure.  However what we have witnessed the social and marital life of fishermen and that of the others in Bengali writer Manik Bandyopadhyay’s, Padma Nadir Majhi, is not seen here. In this novella, the character of the society is not nearly as important as the character of the person.  As I’ve already mentioned, this classic is about the story of a person and his indomitable optimism and can-do-spirit. He struggles and dreams of his youth—of lions on an African beach. Literally, Hemingway himself reached his last days when he wrote this novel, last of his four novels in 1952. But that doesn’t make us believe that his age (he was 53 then) stirred up to pen such a globally accepted novel. It was the immense experience that he earned for a long duration helped him illustrate this novel. And finally the story transforms into a metaphorical piece. We have reached near, very near the supreme truth of life sailing aboard Santiago’s skiff.

Finally all his hard work pays off when he snags the ridiculously big fish, bearing tremendous hardship to hook and land that great fish. The story mostly deals with all this struggles of Santiago that lasted for three days. He took the fish as his brother but it didn’t waver his determination to kill the fish after an earth-shattering battle of strength and of will power. Unfortunately the story ends without a happy ending. On the way home, the old man lashes the fish to one side of the boat which is attacked by a Mako shark followed by a group of sharks tearing away lumps of the fish’s flesh. But he fought tooth and nail with his harpoon, club and finally nothing but a simple knife beating them off. However by the time he anchors the boat at the shore, sharks have almost devoured the marlin’s entire carcass, leaving a skeleton. However the old man has regained his lost pride of being a doyen among the fishermen.

Hemingway, in his illustrious life, engaged with the first and second world war including the military insurgence of Spain in 1936. He had been maimed severely multiple times straddling from being hit with mortar shell to plane accidents but still he survived at the end with his sheer perseverance and will power. And that’s why most of his characters were portrayed with this magical power of keeping hope alive even in the extreme adversity. We can think of Santiago as a character whom Hemingway had built with all those qualities to believe his strength and never say die attitude evoking wondrous feeling to the readers.

The first and last word of this novella is all about not giving up the hope of accomplishing goal. We got to keep our hope alive while struggling for survival and struggling for supremacy. The author makes the old man Santiago tell a very witty but thoughtful quote: ‘Man is not made for defeat. Man can be destroyed, but not defeated!’

Last but not the least, I must thank Arpita for giving me this classic novella.

I hope you have enjoyed this piece by Mr. Gangopadhyay. If you’d like your review featured, don’t forget to contact me!

Subject: [Urgent] Require volunteer bloggers to review my first book, Bound by Life

Dear fellow bloggers (especially those of you who blog about books and books by new authors),

I am most delighted to inform you that I have finally finished my first book, Bound by Life. It contains ten short stories based on themes of unrequited love, social issues, diseases, friendship, love and superstitions. It is going to be published soon (June 20, 2015) on Amazon Kindle. You can still pre-order it here.

The first book is always special. Bound by Life familiarized me with my writing style. It taught me a thing or two about what hooks the reader into a story (I thank my wonderful beta readers for this) and overall, made me a disciplined writer.

I am excited to share my stories with the world and am eager to receive feedback. I am open to honest criticism that helps me better my writing skills. After all, I am an engineer by education and English is only my second language, so I am sure there’s room for a lot of improvement.

Over the next few weeks, I will be giving away free reviewer copies of Bound by Life. I want you, dear blogger, to read my book and review it on your blog, thus spreading a word about it on the blogosphere and beyond.

If my proposal interests you, please leave a comment in the form below mentioning why you’d like to read and review my book and I’ll get the book sent over to you in a jiffy! At present, I am giving away pdf copies only. It you’d like another version, please let me know.

Waiting eagerly to hear from you!

Warmest regards,

Arpita Pramanick

Author, Bound by Life.

P.S.: Do check out my other stories on this blog to get an idea about my writing style.


On novelist J. M. Coetzee and his masterpiece, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’

Today’s guest post is written by Ms. Swagata Mukherjee, with whom I have had the good fortune to share a room for the last five months of my engineering program. Swagata is pursuing her Ph.D. in experimental high energy physics, has travelled widely and shares her travel exploits in her blog, Through My Eyes. The pictures on her blog are also mostly photographed by her. She is also passionate about books. Today, on my request, she shares with us her views on novelist J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’. Thank you so much, Swagata Di, for this guest-post.

Not being a widely-read person, especially in English literature, I would have probably never come across a book written by J. M. Coetzee if a Bengali publishing house didn’t come up with a Bengali translation of some of the masterpieces of the Nobel laureate author. This year, at the Kolkata International Book Fair, when I was roaming around in different book stalls, I came across a book in the stall of “Protibhash”. In Bengali, the name of the book is “Barbarder apekkhay”, meaning, “Waiting for the Barbarians”. Until then, I did not know about the author, but something was attractive about that book and I decided to buy it.


Book cover of Bengali translated version of ‘Waiting for the Barbanians’. Translation by Kabir Chowdhury.

Image Courtesy: Swagata

“Waiting for the Barbarians” is a novel, published in the year 1980, years before I was born. The story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed magistrate of a small town which is a part of a big empire.  The town is situated at the border of the empire and very near to the town there lived some tribal people who are referred to as “barbarians”. The novel describes how the tribal people are tortured by a special force sent from the capital of the empire. The magistrate knew that the tribal people are harmless and innocent, but he could hardly do anything to save them.

The fact that the name of the town is unspecified and most of the characters of this novel have no names makes so much sense – because the state-approved torture on under-privileged and innocent people is a horrifying truth in different places on earth! Also the fact that the magistrate wants to protest but fails to do so points to one of the greatest truths about ourselves that we don’t wish to confront.

One day the magistrate meets a barbarian, a young girl, who is one of the victims of the torture.  The magistrate offers her to work in his house. The interaction between the girl and the magistrate reveals the psychological conflicts going on in the magistrate’s mind. Finally, the magistrate makes a difficult journey to the nearby mountain to return the girl to her own people. When he returns back to the town, he discovered that he was longer the magistrate but a prisoner who is subjected to the same torture and oppression. The empire has lost faith on him because he tried to help a barbarian.

At the end of the novel, the dwellers of the town still wait for the barbarians to invade to the town and unleash their barbarism through murders, rapes, destruction of properties. But the gang of barbarians never arrives!

As per expectation, this novel by Coetzee received the CNA Prize, James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. So far, Coetzee has been awarded with numerous prizes, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 and the Booker Prizes in 1983 and 1999. I am looking forward to reading the other masterpieces by this celebrated author like Life & Times of Michael K, Disgrace, Age of Iron, The Master of Petersburg etc.

The End

Today marks the end of the Guest Blogs series in May on Scribbles@Arpita. I would like to extend my heartiest thanks to the bloggers who shared their thoughts through these guest-posts and made this series a success. Until next time, keep blogging and spreading your wonderful ideas!

Thoughts on the short story “So you’re just what, gone?” by Justin Taylor

This week on my Twitter feed I read the story ‘So you’re just what, gone?’ by Justin Taylor. You can read the story here. Now I will be honest, on the first two reads I did not get the story. That’s not to say I did not understand the story. I did, except for the ending. I have read other stories online on The New Yorker that made me go like, “Wow! That was something.” But this story did not inspire any such emotion in me on the first reads.


Image Source

Photograph for The New Yorker by Brian Finke

I spoke over the phone with my professor, Mr. Shreedeep Gangopadhyay (who, by the way, is an occasional author and has shared two of his shorts in his guest post on this blog), about the story at length, going to the extent of narrating the whole story to him without summarizing (and may I mention, caring not two hoots about my grand viva of the final semester of engineering, which was due on Tuesday) and asked him the same question that I put on Twitter: “So, what’s the hitch?” Our discussion ended on a note that there might be something which we were missing, which the editors definitely saw. Perhaps Mr. Gangopadhyay would have a different opinion if he’d read the story himself.

Then I read the author’s interview about this story on The NY. That gave me an insight into the story which the story itself didn’t give.

The author dissected the protagonist, Charity’s character, who is this teenage girl who boards a plane to her Grandma’s place with her mother. They get different seats on the plane, and Charity sits beside a man, who introduces himself as Mark and makes indecent advances towards her.

This isn’t exactly the entire theme of the story, but is an important part. Now, from the author’s interview, I got to know certain patterns about Charity that wasn’t obvious to me from reading the story. For example, Charity is shown using Instagram in this story and the author says this is because:

 …she’s a highly visual person. She’s always alert to color and to light and is interested in composition, in image-making. This is why she prefers Instagram to, say, Twitter or Spring.me.

I hadn’t given her using Instagram much thought until I read the author’s views. I only imagined it to be a random platform she happens to use, just like I use Facebook or this blog. But the fact that the author put some thought before selecting the platform she uses was intricate to me. It made me truly appreciate the thoughts that go into character-building in stories/novels. In fact that explained the ending to me partly as well, the scene where Charity takes a picture of fish guts and a picture of the inside of her mouth and Instragrams it. I made a mental note to plan such things for my characters too (which would be something new for me, for I am more of an organic writer, writing stuff as they come to me).

Another thing which Justin pointed out, that “her thinking is far more nuanced and articulate than what comes out of her mouth,” became apparent to me as I read the story once again. For example when her grandma says some nasty things, she only cries out and calls for her mother. She knows perhaps she should complain about Mark Perv’s (that how she saves Mark’s name on her phone) advances, but she is undecided about it because complaining about him would also mean explaining herself to everyone else, an idea which she isn’t particularly fond of.

I found I enjoyed the story better after I had read the author’s views, but I guess I would have preferred if I saw the nuances myself (then again, I’ll admit I am not much of a trained reader, and am only finding my way through). If not anything else, this story will stand out to me as the piece where the author really does speak successfully through a teenager’s voice. He does the point of view pretty well, for it’s indeed quite difficult to see this world through someone else’s eyes, especially if that someone else happens to be a sixteen year old.