Book Review – “Sacred Games” by Vikram Chandra

I had been wanting to read “Sacred Games” for a while when I heard that the book had been picked up by Netflix to be serialized. The release date was early July so I eagerly picked up the book, wanting to finish it before the show’s release so that I could be one of those irritating people who say, “The book is different.”

Now that I have finished reading this 900-odd page book, I sincerely wish that the serial is different. Don’t get me wrong; this is a very good book, with excellent characterization and gets the tone of the city of Mumbai almost perfect. However, I feel the book needed to be edited better and entire portions could have either been chopped off or greatly compacted. In trying to capture the motives and minds behind the actions, the author delves into too many details, most of which are not central to the plot. This could have easily been a tightly scripted 700 page book and would have been much more taut with tension.

Having put out the negative, let me now say what I really liked about this book. The author captures the city, the people and the language of Mumbai brilliantly. What impressed me the most was how well the characters “spoke”: Sartaj Singh sounds precisely like a Mumbai inspector whose mother escaped the riots of partition in 1947 and whose father was a duty-bound cop, and who is himself trying to lead the least harmful life in times when you cannot escape corruption. Similarly, Gaitonde is a tragic, yet evil character, whose ambitions and self-teaching nature comes across clearly. He sounds very much like a criminal warlord who is misguided and is made a pawn out of. One almost understands why he thinks the world works the way it does.

And then there are other wonderful characters: Sartaj’s mother, Mary, Jojo, Anjali Mathur, Kamble and Parulkar to name a few.

Still, the more I think about the book, the more frustrated I get at the many unnecessary diversions the book takes to tell us the story. I can only wish it was more concise. Hopefully, the TV series will be able to improve upon the book.

Snippets:

  • “Most men want to be led, and there are only a very few who can lead.”
  • “Food was the greatest and most reliable of pleasures, and to sit on Chowpatty and eat it with wife and family, with the sea heaving gently, was as close to contentment as Katekar had ever been.”
  • “Writers are pathetically susceptible to praise. I have worked with politicians, and gangsters, and holy men, and let me tell you, none of these can compete with a writer for mountainous inflations of ego and mouse-like insecurities of soul.”

 

Read more about ‘Sacred Games’ on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Sacred Games

Author: Vikram Chandra

First Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 912

Price: (Hardcover) Rs. 650 / (Paperback) Rs. 446 / (Kindle) Rs. 279.30 – Amazon.in

My Rating: 7 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

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Short Story Review – “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood

Margaret_Atwood_2015

Margaret Atwood (image source)

 

“At the outset Verna had not intended to kill anyone.” That first line had me hooked right away. Not that I needed much prodding to read a story by the prolific Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood. I had heard so much praise about her works that I had been planning to read her novels for a while. However, when this short story came up instead, I pounced at the opportunity to get introduced to her work.

And what an introduction it has been! The story is about an elderly lady who goes on a cruise and happens to meet someone who brings back dark memories from her earlier life. She wonders if she should let things pass or not and after some deliberation, decides to take action.

The tale has its fair share of suspense and the reader empathises with Verna. The tale does have a definite end, but Verna and her motivations does make one pause and reflect on her actions of the present and the past. We are also left wondering whether justice was served and what the nature of justice is.

Not to say that the story isn’t funny. I found myself chuckling and grinning at more than one point. Perhaps this dark, macabre humour also contributes to why Atwood later clarified that she would like to categorise “Stone Mattress” not as a story but as a tale, in that it has a touch of the magical.

Although written back in December 2011, this story is absolutely relevant today in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Atwood shows the world not just the violence involved in sexual assault but also the emotions and challenges that survivors of sexual violence have to live with.

Read more about ‘Stone Mattress’ on Goodreads. Buy the book of short stories here.

Title: Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales

Authors: Margaret Atwood

First published: 2014

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 460 / (Kindle) Rs. 346.92 (Amazon.in)

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

 

Short Story Review – “City Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer

https://frisbeebookjournal.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/gordimer.jpg?w=300&h=300

Nadine Gordimer (image source)

 

A few months ago, I read “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah. The autobiographical book is about his experiences growing up in the apartheid regime in South Africa. What makes the story even more compelling is that Trevor was considered “a person of colour”, since his mother was African and his father was white. The book discusses not only the racism that was practiced, but also quite a few funny anecdotes of people not knowing how to treat him because he belonged to neither group.

“City Lovers” instantly reminded me of Trevor Noah. This short story, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1975, is by the Booker Prize (1974) and Nobel Prize in Literature (1991) winning author, Nadine Gordimer. It tells the story of a European geologist working in South Africa who grows close to and gets intimate with a coloured woman whom he first happens to meet at the supermarket. Their relationships is considered illegal according to the laws present at the time, and they must hide their affair. The story traces their affair and the legal and social consequences.

I usually do not like stories that go nowhere. This was a wonderful exception. The story is truly thought-provoking, as it makes you wonder about not only the intentions but also the motivations of the various characters for acting the way they do. This is also true of the minor characters in the story, for example the doctor and the policeman. They’re not evil, just doing their job within a grossly racist system. The story doesn’t come across as a moralising tale, rather makes you focus on the personal relationship of the couple.

This is a beautiful little story which made me sit back and think awhile after I finished reading it. It’s a touching tale that I definitely recommend you to read.

You can hear a narration of the story here.

Read more about ‘City Lovers’ on Goodreads.

While I couldn’t find a book which had the story “City Lovers” in it’s collection, I did come across the following book which was edited by Nadine Gordimer and includes a short story by her as well. None of the authors contributing to the book took a fee or take any royalty from the sale of this book; all money goes to the treatment and prevention of HIV/Aids.

Title: Telling Tales

Authors: Various; Editor: Nadine Gordimer

First published: 2004

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 350 (Amazon.in)

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “The Secret Adversary” by Agatha Christie

At Blossom’s Book House in Bangalore last year, I was a little wary of picking up this book because up until then, of all the Agatha Christie novels, I had mostly just read the Poirot and the Miss Marple stories. Little did I know that I would enjoy this book just as much as the others, given that it read like the taut story-line of a Hitchcock thriller.

But before we begin, a short history lesson. The year is 1915, right in the middle of the First World War. The USA hasn’t joined the War yet, but tremors have been felt and there is a general state of anxiety and intrigue. In the midst of this, the RMS Lusitania is sailing from America towards England, when it is torpedoed by a German submarine. The ship sinks, killing 1198 civilians on board. The sinking of the Lusitania causes outrage not only in England but also in America, as she was also carrying 198 Americans who do not survive the attack.

Right, back to the novel. The prologue starts on board the Lusitania, minutes after it has been torpedoed. A quiet, confidential looking American man, acknowledging that women and children are being asked to get on to lifeboats first and that he himself might not make it to shore, approaches a young girl. He asks her to safeguard a document which he assures her would be very harmful to American and British interests if it were to fall into the wrong hands. He does warn her to be very careful as he might have been followed. The girl nervously looks around her as the man disappears into the crowd.

Fast forward to a few years later: the war has ended and we meet two happy-go-lucky friends, Tommy and Tuppence, on the streets of London. They’ve been friends since childhood and had reconnected a few years earlier. Since then, they have hit upon hard times. Over a cup of tea, the duo decide to form “The Young Adventurer’s Ltd.” as a means to look for employment from people who might want Tommy & Tuppence to undertake dangerous activities on their behalf. This is when a man approaches and engages them to try and find the girl from the Lusitania, who we learn has gone missing since.

The pair use their wits to try and track down the girl, all the while trying to stay ahead and clear of an organisation which is also trying to find the girl and the document. The organisation is headed by the mythical Mr. Brown whom no one has seen, but whose sinister presence is felt everywhere. Do Tommy and Tuppence find the girl and the documents? Or is Mr. Brown, who looms like a shadow over his organisation, able to use his cunning to get the papers and thereby attempt to destabilise various European governments?

For someone who was sceptical when starting this book, I was thoroughly enjoying myself towards the end of this old school spy suspense. Sure, the dialogue of the characters is a little dated (the book was first published in 1922, almost a century ago now), but that adds its own charm. Also, the early style of writing also confirmed my notion that this was one of the first few detective novels that Agatha Christie had written.

My favourite character in the book is the girl Tuppence. She is spunky, sharp and trying to break the shackles of the good Victorian behaviour prescribed for the girls of her time. She doesn’t let Tommy treat her as if she is the gentler sex and has a retort ready for all his verbal jabs.

Although I could guess the identity of the villain mid way through the novel, the whodunit nature of the book kept the suspense building right till the last chapter. If you like thrillers which evoke the sense of the black-and-white Hitchcock spy films, definitely give this a read.

Snippets:

  • “(Father) has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral.” I would be amused to see what Tuppence’s father thought of the world today.
  • Every revolution has had its honest men. They are soon disposed off afterwards.”
  • I’m guessing Agatha Christie wanted to make it really clear that she felt Americans are full of vim and vigour; more than once she uses the word ‘hustle’ in reference to an American gentleman, and a few pages later, this happens: “Julius,” said Tuppence firmly, “stop walking up and down. It makes me giddy. Sit down in that arm-chair, and tell me the whole story with as few fancy turns of speech as possible.”

 

Read more about “The Secret Adversary” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: The Secret Adversary

Author: Agatha Christie

First Published: 1922

Number of Pages: 220

Price: Paperback – Rs. 265 / Kindle – Rs. 49 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 9 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

I recently saw a cartoon strip where one character is describing a book he just read to his friend. He tells his friend how the book crushed his heart and made him cry. And yet the guy enthusiastically tells his friend that he must read the book.

That’s how I feel about Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief”. The book had been highly recommended by some of my friends and for some inexplicable reason, I’d thought this would be a light, breezy read. Boy was I wrong!

The book is set in a little German town in the grips of World War II. Not only do the eclectic townspeople have to contend with the implications of living in Nazi Germany, but also have to come to grips that their town isn’t immune to bombings and that they must take shelter in basements.

Throw into this mix a rich array of characters: a little girl whose world has been turned upside down, an oddly loving couple, a yellow-haired boy who dreams of being an athlete like Jesse Owens, a Jewish man trying to hide from the Nazis, the mysteriously quiet wife of the Mayor. You can see why “The Book Thief” reminded me a lot of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The tale is beautiful and funny, although it does meander every now and then. But as the book nears its end, you cannot but hold back the tears. This, in spite of the narrator giving you spoilers well in advance.

Oh! Do be prepared for a surprise when you find out who the narrator is!

Read more about “The Book Thief” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

First Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 552

Price: Paperback – Rs. 465/ Kindle – Rs. 284.05 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4 out of 5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “The Guide” by R. K. Narayan

 

And so once again, I return to Malgudi, only this time, it is a very different story than the naughty adventures of Swami and his friends.

The Guide tells us the story of Raju, a skilful liar who uses his guile to become a tourist guide in the little town of Malgudi, and Rosie, a lady who happens to meet him when she visits the town with her husband.

How this relationship changes their lives, not just once but twice, forms the rest of the story. You might feel that I’m handing out spoilers by the dozen here, but let me assure you that the book is more than just about the plot.

First published in India in 1958, ‘The Guide’ is also a social commentary, a feeling that I get might be a continuing strain in Narayan’s books.

Also, right throughout, one keeps on reminiscing the songs from the hit Bollywood adaptation of the book, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman.

If you were to ask me about the broad themes of this book, I would say ‘hubris’ and ‘irony’. The fact that R. K. Narayan manages to express these subtly and with the use of simple words is a hat-tip to his skill with words.

Read more about “The Guide” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: The Guide

Author: R. K. Narayan

First Published: 1958

Number of Pages: 247

Price: (Paperback) INR 100 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4 out of 5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “Swami and Friends” by R. K. Narayan

 

What a wonderful little gem this book is. Set in 1930’s south-India, the book tells us about the adventures of 10-year old Swaminathan and his group of friends. The book transports us back in time on two levels: one is to a semi-rural setting almost a century ago; and two, to the simpler times of one’s childhood.

Not only is life simple in the little town of Malgudi, but there is also the additional charm of the little things which look big and complex to a 10 year old. And yet, the magic of the book lies in the fact that it doesn’t seem dated at all.

It would be wrong to assume this is just a book about a little boy’s school adventures. Even if that were all that this book described, it would still make you smile at the naughtiness and curious thoughts that rush about the minds of a little schoolboy. This book, however, also appeals to us because it gives us a glimpse of the slow rumblings at the start of the Indian independence movement as felt in a little town. There are pages in the book when I winced at the action, but that is attributable to how well those scenes were written.

The bigger picture, however, will always be about Swami and the world of imagination that he builds in his head. It is amazing how well Narayan captures the demons that shout warnings in the ears of a little child, magnifying all his troubles to an almost insurmountable challenge. But then, where there are challenges, there are friends. And Swami has a faithful group of friends (some of whom are top notch rascals) whose mischiefs will endear them to you.

Read this book to remind yourself of the simpler times that you once knew so well.

P. S. For all you cricket lovers out there, look out for when Swami and his friends ambitiously form the MCC, the Malgudi Cricket Club.

Read more about “Swami and Friends” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Swami and Friends

Author: R. K. Narayan

First Published: 1935

Number of Pages: 212

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 108 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4 out of 5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “My Salinger Year” by Joanna Rakoff

My Salinger Year - Joanna Rakoff

 

This book was recommended to me and a friend (the same one who very sweetly sent me a copy of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) by another very dear friend. The latter had highly praised this book, and I was even more intrigued when the former finished reading the book in one sitting and couldn’t stop praising it.

And no wonder. This is easily one of the more lucidly written books that I’ve read this year.

The book journals a year in the author’s life when, in 1996, she takes up an assistant’s job in a New York literary agency which, as she later realises, represents J. D. Salinger. As the year progresses, she gets to know her colleagues better, answers Salinger’s fan mail, helps her manager who is going through a tough time personally, has second thoughts about her current boyfriend and gets involved in a book that Salinger wants to publish.

The time-period and the setting of the book gave me a very post-Mad Men era feel. This is helped not only by the fact that it is set in New York in the late nineties but also by the somewhat puzzling insistence of the agency to not embrace technology: it’s 1996 and yet, they use faxes and Dictaphones instead of computers and e-mail.

Right from the very beginning, there are beautiful descriptions of the city of New York. Be it the fairy tale like day when deserted streets greet our heroine as she determinedly goes to her first day at work, in spite of the entire city being snowed in, or when she occasionally treats herself to walks inside the landmark Waldorf hotel where she breathes in the opulence; this is a very keen observer who is able to transport the reader to a different place and time.

There are also geeky insights into the world of publishing. For instance, how books usually have their names written vertically down the length of their spine. You know, how you need to tilt your head to the right to be able to read the name of the book and the author when books are arranged on a shelf? Yeah. Salinger hated that. He insisted that all his books have their names written horizontally. Which created a curious problem if the book, as is the case of the one which is under discussion to be published, is not voluminous enough to accommodate the length of the title and the author. What does one do? Do you widen the margins? Increase the fonts? (It was while reading this that I realised that I had always sub-consciously preferred book titles to be printed horizontally on the spines.)

And then, there are the Salinger mails. From young and the old, from the frustrated to the angry; they all write in to Salinger. The recluse that he is, he has specifically requested none of it to reach him. And it falls upon the author to write a standard letter back to each mail which comes. But going through the contents of the letter, she can’t help but be moved to write a little personal note to these people who are trying to get through to a great author. The letters and her responses take a life of their own and, I suspect, makes the author see things in a different light by the end of the year.

This is a beautifully written book which completely moved me. Like the author, I too haven’t read any books by J. D. Salinger (she does read his works by the end of the book, though) and this perhaps made me connect with her in a strange way. Her struggles of trying to survive in expensive NYC felt like a reality check on the beauty that she described in other pages. The voice of a young woman, living a tough life in New York City and yet having access to the great American literary scene in the late 90s. Perfect weekend read.

Lingering thoughts:

  • “Oh. That Jerry!”
  • “He was also just afraid. Afraid the way most people become when they get what they’ve long wanted.”
  • Next time I’m in a spot of bother, I too am going to stand in a doorway like Joanna’s boss and shout “HUGH!!”
  • “You can’t go about revealing your goddamn emotions to the world.”

Image courtesy: www.goodreads.com

Read more about ‘My Salinger Year’ on Goodreads. Buy it on Amazon.in or on Flipkart.

Book: My Salinger Year

Author: Joanna Rakoff

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Year: 2008

Number of pages: 252

Price: Rs. 247 (Paperback on Amazon) and Rs. 125.30 (Kindle) on Amazon.in / Rs. 221 on Flipkart.

My rating: 5/5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “The Penguin Book of Indian Railway Stories” edited by Ruskin Bond

Book: The Penguin Book of Indian Railway Stories

Edited by: Ruskin Bond

Publisher: Penguin Books India

Publication Year: 1994

Number of pages: 184

Price: Rs. 200 (Amazon.in) / Rs. 175 (Flipkart) / Rs. 166.25 (Kindle)

My rating: 3/5

I picked this book up at the bookstore near my house in Calcutta, a couple of days before I left for the Cherra Marathon. I read a few of these stories in Shillong, a couple of them on my way back on the flight (I see the irony here), and then finished the book back here in Calcutta.

And once again, the reason why it took me so long to finish this book is because, like it happened with Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman“,  the stories, at least in the first half of the book, didn’t impress me much.

The book is split into two halves: stories from before and after India’s independence. And although I’d expected the stories in the first half to fascinate me more, this is where disappointment lay. In place of stories which I expected to make me travel back in time, to a place where railway stations were little hubs of activity and filled with interesting stories, I was peddled with stories with weak plots which rather felt like I was sipping tepid and tasteless chai at a railway station.

The only story worth mentioning from the first half is the excerpt from Jules Verne’s Around the World In Eighty Days. The story is able to capture some of the romance of early railroad travel made especially challenging in Indian conditions. In it is a description of the opulent city of Bombay, forests to be crossed and unexpected interruptions as Phileas Fogg and Passepartout make their way across the Indian sub-continent.

The rest of the stories in the first half, even though a couple of them are by Kipling, can be skipped over. They did little to catch my attention and much to test my patience.

What impressed me really, was the second half of the book. With stories from writers such as Khushwant Singh, Satyajit Ray and Ruskin Bond himself, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t.

The following is a brief review of each of the stories that appear in the Stories After Independence section:

Loyalty by Jim Corbett – One of the two disappointments in this second half, Loyalty is an autobiographical narration by Corbett about his challenges from the time when he was employed in the Indian Railways. The only aspect of this story that caught my eye was how much responsibility a twenty-one year old was entrusted with back then. My rating: 2/5

Mano Majra Station by Khushwant Singh – An extract from Singh’s Train To Pakistan. The tale, which begins amusingly, is a story set in the Punjab during the time of Partition. It captures the character of a village caught up in forces beyond its reckoning, as the story comes to a chilling end. My rating: 4/5

The Woman on Platform 8 by Ruskin Bond – A vintage Ruskin Bond story. A schoolboy, travelling alone, is waiting at a station for his train. A woman befriends him and offers him a meal. But are things really what they seem or is she a crook? My rating: 4/5

The Intimate Demon by Manoj Das – A beautifully worded little story about a father and daughter’s railway journey. My rating: 4/5

A Stranded Railroad Car by Intizar Husain – A group of men in a village gather round for their evening hookah and narrate tales of this new fangled beast called the railroad car. My rating: 3/5

Barin Bhowmik’s Ailment by Satyajit Ray – The master story-teller that he is, Ray whips up the suspense pretty early in the story and the surprise ending will certainly make you smile. My rating: 4/5

Balbir Arora goes Metric by Bill Aitken – The second and final weak story in the second half. Too long-winded. Might be of some interest to a railway geek. My rating: 3/5

Railway Reverie by R. K. Laxman – An extract from Laxman’s book The Messenger. An ill-chosen extract perhaps, because it was surprisingly short and had a very abrupt ending. My rating: 3/5

The Cherry Choo-Choo by Victor Banerjee – A heartwarming little tale which made me laugh at a number of places. My rating: 4/5

99 UP by Manojit Mitra – “This is the kind of story about railways that I wanted to read,” I told myself when I finished 99 UP. The story captures how a little town on the outskirts of Calcutta gets caught up in a frenzy when a movie star is expected to drop by for a film’s release. The story describes the various people of the village and how the visit captures each one’s imagination. My rating: 5/5

Lingering thoughts:

  • It is a sad sign of the times that in a book of Indian railway stories, I kept reading POW, which was supposed to stand for Palace on Wheels, as Prisoners of War. Sigh.
  • “The blue-eyed, brown-haired and pale-skinned Anglo-Indian engine driver who had rolled the ‘Choo-Choo’ into town, was whisked away by hordes of admirers, laced with rice wine that had fermented for weeks in diurnal anticipation of the arrival of the train and, in the morning, was discovered dead in the local brothel where, introduced as an Apollo from Calcutta, he succumbed to an endless striving to uphold his standard.”
  • “‘An old buddy?’ ‘No,’ murmured Bridges with a slight smile, ‘Half-devil and half-child, but by the living God that made him, he was a better man than I. A funny story; a wonderful memory.'”
  • Two books added to my to-read list from here: Around The World In Eighty days by Jules Verne and 20 Stories by Satyajit Ray.
  • Must read more stuff by Manojit Mitra.
  • I think I’m done with short stories for now. Need to read a novel which will sustain my interest over a longer period of time.

Image courtesy: www.flipkart.com

Read more about ‘The Penguin Book of Indian Railway Stories’ on Goodreads. Buy it on Amazon.inFlipkart or for your Kindle.

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” by Haruki Murakami

Book: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage Books

Publication Year: 2006

Number of pages: 436

Price: Rs. 303 (Amazon.in) / Rs. 339 (Flipkart) / Rs. 275 (Kindle)

My rating: 3/5

Looking back, I realised I was gifted this book way back in December last year. It has taken me about 7 months to finish reading it.

Why did it take me so long, you ask?

Well, this book was gifted to me by a very good friend. And I have always liked the writings of Haruki Murakami. These two reasons were good enough for me to soldier on and continue reading beyond the point where I usually would’ve given up.

And I was justly rewarded for my efforts. Some of the stories towards the end of the book are vintage Murakami: slightly weird, lots of fun and handsome amount of soul searching.

The first story in the book which made me feel this way was “Firefly”. I had almost told myself “I’m not going to read any more of this book if this story isn’t worth it.” And then, Murakami gave a glimpse of the kind of stories he can tell. At the end of this one, for example, you feel as if you’ve stopped at the finish line but the answer still lies somewhere in the distance: you’ve reached your destination but can only see the solution from afar.

He follows this up with, in my humble opinion, the best story in the book: The Chance Traveller. The serendipitous meeting between a gay piano tuner and an unhappy wife, along with the two curious incidents from the author’s own life, make for a beautiful story of love and connecting with the strange ways of the Universe.

It would be unfair to say that the next story, Hanalei Bay, is any less beautiful. It narrates the grief of a single mother who has lost her only son and what happens when she comes to the part of the world where he died.

The final two stories in the book, The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day and A Shinagawa Monkey, helped me to finish this book with a smile.

I wish I could say that for the rest of the stories. I was left bewildered by most of them and some of them seemed to end abruptly. Not that this isn’t what Murakami usually does. It felt like an artist had gone just that slight bit overboard and indulged himself in his fancies, leaving us who appreciate his art stranded on a different plane.

To summarise, I still love reading Haruki Murakami’s writings. He creates a world which is absurd and yet it brilliantly connects with the reader within me. Unfortunately, I think he overdid the randomness this time.

P.S. Nenette on Goodreads has done a story-by-story review and rating here. I think she has done a splendid job.

Lingering thoughts:

  • “There are only three ways to get along with a girl: one, shut up and listen to what she has to say; two, tell her you like what she’s wearing; and three, treat her to really good food. Easy, eh?”
  • “Your work should be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience.”
  • This chap Murakami has certainly had some weird sexual experiences. Look at all the ways in which he talks about it. Not judging him. Just an observation.

Update on 6 Aug 2015: I have stumbled upon the The Best Way to Read Haruki Murakami. Those who want to get started with Murakami or want to figure out their way through this man’s works must give this post by Book Oblivion/Jessica a look. Happy navigating!

Image courtesy: www.goodreads.com

Read more about ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ on Goodreads. Buy it on Amazon.in, Fipkart or for your Kindle.

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)