books, REVIEWS

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

Chapter 7: Argentina. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

A few months ago I approached Carolina to write an article for this series. And I was really happy when she messaged me about my piece on representation It was an interesting discussion which led me to revisit my stand on representation. After all, we are all a product of a number of variables viz. culture, family background etc. Because of this I was even more happy that I had included her to write a post for Argentine representation. I knew she wont just randomly recommend a book and will stand with full force behind her choice, I’m sure you’re going to love her recommendation!

Carolina can be found at the following links:

Instagram Twitter and she writes for Book Riot under Carolina Ciucci

Over to Carolina now!

It is said that every country has a body of literature that is so distinctive, it captures the spirit of its people. I don’t believe that’s true.  A country’s “people” is such a vague notion, after all. What people are we talking about? Gender, racial and class differences, among others, all come together to shape multiple communities within a nation’s borders.  So when Faroukh asked me to recommend one Argentine book for his blog, I immediately asked him if I had to choose only one. Unfortunately, he said yes. But he gave me the leeway to add some extra books as a footnote, so that’ll have to do.

To many people, us included, Argentine literature immediately brings to mind the Gauchesque genre. And the one work from this genre known to everyone, even those who don’t know or care about it, is El gaucho Martín Fierro. Published in 1872, it became a smashing success, to the point where author José Hernández included a second part, La vuelta del Martín Fierro (The Return of Martín Fierro), in 1879.

1534264445881-02.jpeg“El Martín Fierro”, as it’s typically known here, is an epic poem composed in the tradition of folkloric literature. Hernández was not a gaucho himself: as an educated man from the city, his story of Martín Fierro, a man belonging to an oppressed class who after much hardship becomes an oppressor himself, is told from imagination and research, not experience. Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Lugones (do yourself a favor, read their work but steer clear of their politics) later deemed it the ultimate Argentine work of literature. Borges himself wrote some excellent short stories inspired by it.

What makes this poem so beloved in this country? A big part of its appeal lies in thesearch for a national identity. Argentina had only become an independent country in 1816, and was still struggling to distance itself from its colonizer’s culture. Add the 1880s immigrational wave, and the need for a national canon became imperative. The gaucho was a purely Argentine figure: he didn’t exist in Spain, Italy, or in any of the countries whose people were currently settling down here. That consideration contributed to its importance, to the point where Tradition Day was set on November 10, Hernández’s birthday.

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Ironically (or maybe not), Hernández became the spokesperson for gauchos despite being a moderately wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. It opens the door for discussions about cultural appropriation, the absurdity inherent to the concept of a single narrative, and the way that immigration is seen, depending on the ethnic and national identity of the immigrant – both back in the 19th century and today.

Other authors and books you might like to read:

Jorge Luis Borges: basically everything, but my favorite is his short story collection El Aleph.

Julio Cortázar: again, everything. But Rayuela (or Hopscotch) remains my favorite.

Victoria Ocampo: founder of iconic literary magazine, Sur, Ocampo wrote poetry and short stories in the same vein of Borges and Cortázar.

Silvina Ocampo: See above.

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Alejandra Pizarnik: Poet and translator, Pizarnik’s writing is among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I’ve tackled a good chunk of her poetry, but as a friend recently reminded me, I have yet to read her journals. I can’t wait.

Rodolfo Walsh: the true founder of the non-fiction novel (sorry, Capote. Walsh got there first), he was a complicated, controversial figure that remains in the collective mind decades after his forced disappearance and execution at the hands of our last military government.

Ernesto Sábato: another controversial figure, albeit for more mundane reasons, his novel El túnel (The Tunnel) is a masterpiece of literary realism. The rest of his work isn’t too shabby, either.

María Elena Walsh: a children’s writer, she played a big role in little Caro’s love of reading. I can’t remember much of her work anymore, but there is one poem I can recite from memory, twenty years later.

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That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy digging into some of these authors’ backlog. Let me know if you’d like any more recommendations – this is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy reading!

Thanks a lot Carolina for the recommendations!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order El Gaucho Martin Fierro via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 7 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Carolina Ciucci!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

Check out Chapter 6: Pakistan here

 

books, REVIEWS

WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve been sitting with my laptop open since half an hour trying to figure out how to start talking about this book. I recently heard a literature critic share that one of the things we need to figure out while reviewing a book is the intention of the author with the letters bound into words strung up together to tell the story. And that’s exactly what confuses me about this book. What was the point? WAS there even a point?

IMG_5357.jpgAt the center of everything we have Nathaniel who seems to be around 30 years of age when he is recalling what he went through since he was a teen with his sister. Nathaniel and Rachel’s parents leave them in the care of a very shady individual who the siblings nick name The Moth. Their parents are off to Singapore from London. But things get slightly confusing when they find their mothers packed suitcase at home a few months after she’s apparently left.

The book is set in the years following Worldwar II and it does add to the overall mood, but it doesn’t seem as effective as you’d expect, the effects linger in the subconscious but its not what the book is about so the war-like rustic feeling fades quite early (Just an observation, neither a good or bad thing, I guess)

Ondaatje has worked a lot on the character development and you can tell he has been meticulous with the editing of his early drafts, you do not get any information which doesn’t play a part in developing the narrative. Every character has a part to play in the overall narrative and they all come together by the end, except one, the shadow, the father.

I feel that Ondaatje wanted to keep a secretive and out of reach narrative when it came to the father but it frustrated me because the way each character is brought to a closure by the end you expect/almost want him to do the same with the father. Doesn’t happen and its very disappointing.

Another tool used with the characters is he’s given them nicknames (The Moth and TheIMG_5070.jpg Darter) which make them seem more than ordinary, its a smart thing to do and it definitely is effective in giving them an added dimension.

Nathaniel doesn’t have a regular childhood obviously but some of his reactions are very unusual. When they find their mothers suitcase, you’d expect them to have a million questions but they seem to just accept the fact and go on with their lives. Rose on the other hand does have a lot of issues making her seem more human than him. His character fueled sometimes by his quiet and nonreactive nature seems very bland and inhuman (Although he definitely is not). I think if there were more one to one conversations between the siblings, it might have changed the feeling of Nathaniel’s impersonal and robotic aura.

By the second half of the book we do find a change in narrative and its more focused on the mother and her relationship with Nathaniel. There are some passages where you just want them to connect more and feel some emotion towards him. But in the end its just not effective, and leaves a pretty hollow feeling.

One thing which I was absolutely stunned by in some places was Ondaatje’s writing IMG_5255.jpgmasterclass! There were several passages I read and reread and read again! Absolute genius!

I’d recommend this book to people who like character focused books with a hint of mystery or basically just love great writing! As for the book critics suggestion to understand why an author has written a book, I guess while writing this review I seem to have figured its a story Ondaatje wanted to tell, a story which has no fancy objective, a book where you sympathize with someone who has had a broken childhood. I’ll be honest in saying that when I finished this book, I barely gave it a 3 star but now I’m leaning towards a 4.

If you’d like to buy this book, please use this Affiliate link, it helps me too!

books, REVIEWS

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

IMG_4884Since the past year or so I’ve been hearing a lot about Own Voices and their importance. So I was really interested in reading So Lucky by Nicola Griffith sent to me by @mcdbooks
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It’s a book about Mara Targelli who you might call the ideally empowered woman in today’s world. Head of a huge company, a martial artist and fierce and straight forward in her dealings. Mara finds out she’s suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and things start to go south for her.
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You can read the summary for broad details of the book, I usually don’t get into those in the review so I don’t take away much from your experience.
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This book is not just about MS and what people go through when they suffer from it. It’s more of a social and political commentary on what happens with the disabled in society IMG_4934.jpgat large.
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Mara doesn’t want to be called the victim of her circumstances and wants to take hold of her life without the help of anyone, she readjusts her home to be self sufficient for her and starts an online campaign to help other people like her. Nicola Griffith gives a really good insight on how everyday life is affected by MS and it’s really helpful in educating us about it. I personally had no clue about how MS affects someone and this book made me research a lot about MS and I can say I do have a general understanding about it now.
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It’s also an interesting reflection on Social Media and how it can be empowering and can sometimes even a negative effect.
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Mara’s character is what holds the book together as the rest of the characters aren’t as involved and could be thought of as props to tell Mara’s story. The writing is very IMG_5191.JPGcomforting and not too complex. There is a certain hint of suspense in the second half of the book but it’s never the focal point.
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Overall a very good experience and maybe an important one at that. I’d urge you to pick it up, I think we could all benefit from reading about such topics. I’ve added HILD by Nicola Griffith on my TBR as well, its a memoir focussed on her experiences with MS.

What do you think? Would you read this book? If you have any good recommendations for books dealing with MS, I’d love you to comment below!

For a link to buy the book from Book depository, click here

 

 

books

Chapter 6: Pakistan. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

Chapter 6 is being taken over by Sarah Wazir from Pakistan.

Sarah has chosen a book which has influenced her feelings for Pakistan and I’m really happy that she’s taken time off to recommend us this book which I’m pretty sure will intrigue you as a reader. Also, I’d like to thank her for sharing a little of her personal story as well. I’m definitely adding this to my shopping cart!

You can find and connect with Sarah on Instagram @bookgirlingmoments

257B45C8-D0E8-4910-81FB-59CB91CB7302.jpeg“Ever seen a bullet smashed windscreen? The hole at the centre throws a sharp clean web around itself and becomes crowded with tiny crystals. That’s the metaphor for my world, this city: broken, beautiful and born of tremendous violence.”

I’d never heard of this writer, Bilal Tanweer, before or his books. I just got his book, The Scatter Here Is Too Great, on a whim and also because it was on sale at the bookstore.

What I ended up having was an unexpectedly eye opening experience. I’ve always had a fondness for my country Pakistan but I grew up all my life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I had only visited my country a few times and while I loved it, I never embraced it as my home.

Until recently – when I moved here to Pakistan almost 2 years ago. It’s complicated how I 43599BFE-260E-4D32-974E-7340E4F2AEC2.jpegfeel about my country now. It’s a love-hate sort of relationship and if we were a couple, we’d be the on and off type of couple.

There are various reasons and factors that are responsible for how I view Pakistan but Bilal Tanweer’s book is one of those bigger, more influential factors. It was as if everything I’d ever felt regarding my country, he managed to put into words in the most poetic and mesmerising of ways.

In the book, there are several characters that are basically scattered around the city of Karachi. They don’t really have a connection to one another in terms of relationships but they’re connected with the fact that they are a part of the city as much as it is a part of them.

1572E3FF-0B46-4BE9-B79B-7BB396476E1D.jpegThe characters range from an old communist poet, a wealthy middle aged businessman, an ambulance driver, a heartbroken girlfriend, a solitary writer struggling to find words. And all these people and all their struggles and fights connect together to create a striking portrait of a vibrant but violent city.

This book is also often called a love letter written to Karachi, and despite the heartbreak and all that the city might take from you, it also gives something back. So there is value in being broken.

There are moments in this book that have hit me the hardest and it goes without mentioning, that yes, I have shed tears while reading it. And I would recommend this book to everyone, related or not to Pakistan, or even curious about the country. It’s a really deep book with metaphors and quotes that’ll keep you wondering about it, even 8A2F9ED0-E22B-4F70-973A-3276A0C142C5.jpegafter the book is over.

So that’s it for me. I really hope you enjoyed my piece and I hope that I was able to do justice to one of my most profound reads. You can also find me at: @bookgirlingmoments

And I’m so happy to have had the chance to participate in Faroukh’s blog segment, The Traveling Biblio Chronicles. Love the initiative.

 

Thank you Sarah for the beautiful review!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order The scatter here is too great via bookdepository, click here

And here’s another Beautiful picture Sarah shared with us…

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This was Chapter 6 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Sarah Wazir!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

books

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

This is probably my 8th or 9th Murakami and I’ve finally come to realize Murakami doesn’t write to please anyone, sometimes it feels like he doesn’t even write to please himself. He writes because he needs to; he needs to free his mind of these thoughts that’ve made a home in his mind. And I have nothing to complain about that, we’re lucky he’s decided to!

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This is the first time I took notes and wrote bullet points to refer to when writing the review of the book. This is also the first time I’m deleting them since they will make the review seem mechanical. So free flow it is, dare I say, like Eminem, I’m a Kamikaze.

 

It’s been more than 10 days since I finished reading Killing Commendatore, I have two reasons for waiting so long to start writing this review. Number one being that sometimes I tend to get a bit excited as soon as I finish a book and end up mostly thinking about the later parts of the book. Second is for everything to sink in and remove all the little random bits like a brain sieve.

 

This book starts with a very magical Prologue which sets the scene for the book which is followed by a very easy flowing but unique first 200 pages. You can tell things are going to go crazy and can almost sense it, but when it hits, you’re not ready for it. The guiding light for everything is Menshiki, a character inspired by and a homage to Gatsby. Yes, Jay Gatsby! The plot is inspired from The Great Gatsby and Murakami does more than justice to it. The book has multiple references to Gatsby and the uncanny resemblance in the characters of Menshiki to Gatsby and the unnamed protagonists to Nick is beautifully handled. Their relationship is not usual as is with most Murakami characters. What was very interesting to me though, was although based on these evergreen characters, they didn’t over power the plot and they fit perfectly which sometimes isn’t the case. It could IMG_4267feel forced if not balanced properly to the new plot.

If you don’t know, Murakami’s picks for the three most meaningful books to him are The Great Gatsby, The Brothers Karamazov and The Long Goodbye. A few years ago he also translated Gatsby in Japanese. So Killing Commendatore is that much more interesting to fans of Murakami.

The book is set on a hill station in a quiet town in Japan, a silent but very atmospheric setting. The mood is created through numerous references to songs, the silence of the hills, the focus on any sounds of around the characters. Murakami fills up the void created by the silence really well and the characters, though isolated have strong and distinct personalities. Another thing very tactfully done is the inclusion of history (References mainly to the annexation of Austria in Nazi Germany)

Midway through Volume one something happens which we realize in the grand scheme of things isn’t as shocking (Kind of like we get used to characters being killed off in Game of Thrones but when Ned Stark is assassinated, we couldn’t believe it!) What I realized later on in Volume two is that I was underestimating the magical element in this book, a pleasant surprise!

IMG_4897Menshiki and our protagonist is joined by 2 other characters, a girl and her aunt which breath fresh air into the setting, especially the girl who becomes the center of everything that happens in volume 2 and Menshiki takes the back seat. I could go on about all the little things that Murakami does to give life to the characters, like how the narrator always notices paintings wherever he goes since he is a painter but I’d be taking a lot away from your experience of the book.

Overall, this book is to be savored, and before anything I’d recommend reading The Great Gatsby and also Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (which forms an integral part of the book)

There was something lacking about the ending, it wasn’t as dramatic The Great Gatsby but then again there are somethings F Scott Fitzgerald did that you can’t imitate.

If book depository ships to you, here’s a link so you can order right away – KILLING COMMENDATORE

books

Chapter 5: Kenya. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

We’re finally back with Chapter 5 of this series I’m extremely excited to finally cover Kenya which has been on my list since a long time. If some of you don’t know Bill from @Kenyan_library on Instagram, I’d highly recommend his account! His pictures are really imaginative and captions are always engaging. As goes with series Bill is going to recommend us a book based in Kenya and I really hope this is a good entry for you to African literature if you’ve still not read any based in the continent. If yes, I hope its a great pick for you from Kenya! I’m going to hand this over to Bill, take over buddy!

Instagram: @kenyan_library

Blog: kenyanlibrary

Twitter: @kenyan_library

Hello Friends, I’m Bill of (Kenyan_Library on Instagram/Blog) so happy to be part of Faroukh’s amazing project Traveling Bibio, thank you so much for having me. Let’s take a trip to Kenya through a recent favorite book that captures the true Kenyan Spirit.

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In the past, I have struggled to connect with Kenyan Literature and it didn’t help that my English teacher wasn’t as enthusiastic about it either. Majority of the books I came across were predominately politically driven and that just didn’t suit my contemporary taste. So I took upon myself to try out Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo crossing my fingers that this might be the book that finally reignites my interest in Kenyan Lit. I loved it!

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Synopsis

Following The Oganda family after the son (Odidi) gets gun downed in the streets of Nairobi we see the reputation of this vile action through the family’s grief & memories IMG_20180608_111118which opens the door to a dark past pelted with generational secrets that still haunt them in the present. At the same time, a young Englishman arrives at the Ogandas’ house, seeking his missing father; a hardened policeman who has borne witness to unspeakable acts reopens a cold case, and an all-seeing Trader with a murky identity plots an overdue revenge. In scenes stretching from the violent upheaval of contemporary Kenya back through a shocking political assassination in 1969 and the Mau Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the 1950s, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, buried deep within the shared past of the family and of a conflicted nation.

Why You Should Read It

20180429100653_IMG_2049.jpgThe lyrical poetic narrative style is so cinematic & intertwined with so much emotion that you will feel every character’s pain, happiness, without being directly told. The first couple of pages might seem confusing but give yourself time to get used to the flow of the writing then  you won’t stop reading. The politics doesn’t overpower the story but lingers in the background which balances the narrative, putting emphasis on the family saga. Lush description of the beautiful Kenyan Landscapes and the local street life are brought to life through the 20180429100801_IMG_2052characters eyes, as well as the local slang and deep Kenyan proverbs make the experience feel authentic. It has its dark moments, you will weep at the author explores the injustices that take place through the hands of corrupt leaders and the poor state of living but you will also experience the local everyday life of a Kenyan, Using the public transport matatus, cuisine etc. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Thanks a lot Bill for your great recommendation!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order DUST via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 5 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Bill Muganda!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Here’s a picture of a bookstore in Kenya 🙂

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