Thursday, February 09, 2017

100 book pact - 81 to 90

81/100 Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

A first-person account of a butler from a distinguished household, during a time when there aren't many left like him. The butler is out on a very rare road trip alone, and the story is told in a series of memories and flashbacks. I enjoyed this one.

82/100 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg

A middle-grade novel. An unusually narrated story of a brother and sister who run away from home for an unusual reason, and hide in an unusual place - the museum. Quite liked it.

83/100 The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

A story told through in the POV of a 9 yo boy called Bruno, who becomes friends with a boy in Auschwitz, on the other side of the fence.
I had to wait for nearly 6 months to get this book at the library, since there were that many people in line before me to read this book. I can't quite decide how to rate it. On one hand, it gripped me and chilled me, so I do understand why the book is so popular. On the other hand, there was an underlying sense of dissatisfaction that the events are unrealistic, and Bruno and his sister don't act their age at all in any way. I am all for an author taking some license with events and facts, but this, I felt, stretched it a little too much, and I kept saying, "Aw, come on, this can't possibly happen." (And I'm not talking about the finale.) It diluted the enjoyment for me.

84/100 The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Set in the 1960s in Mississippi, this is a book told in the voices of three women - two black, one white. The black women are maids who work in the house of white women. It is a book about race and relationships.
One of those books that I just couldn't put down. I kept finding reasons not to sleep/work/exercise so that I could get back to this book. I think I'm more in awe at the writer's storytelling skills than anything else. She's done the three voices so well. She's got those characters fleshed-out beautifully.

85/100 The Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World by Ethel Johnston Phelps.

You know how it is with fairy tales being full of damsels in distress whose only destiny is to get married? This book seeks to place before us stories from different cultures that satisfy everything that fairy tales need to - the magic, the fantasy, the adventure -- but the women here are smart, clever, and courageous. And if they happen to be beautiful, it is only because it is an essential part of the story. They are also independent, know their minds, and take charge of their own lives, not waiting for men to help, and sometime assist men too. And even men are more well-rounded here, without being limited to being "handsome" and "prince".

An interesting side-note: Puttachi had no idea that these were supposed to be women-centric and feminist stories -- she hadn't observed the title. Halfway through the book, when one of the female characters in a story was in trouble and there was a man who was worried about her, Puttachi said, "Ha, why is he worried? She can look after herself. Doesn't he realize that?" I am not sure if it is Puttachi's general opinion about the independence of women that made her say this, or whether, already conditioned by the tone of the stories that went before this, she had already accepted and internalized that the women in this book were capable of looking after themselves. If it is the latter, then that is why we need more books where women play strong roles. Women being strong and capable must not be looked upon as something to marvel about and comment upon -- just like a brave, strong hero is not considered an anamoly -- that is where we should be headed as a society.

The book is great to read aloud - it has a lyrical beauty, and it is simple. Also, it is complex enough to keep adults engaged, but not so dark as to make kids uncomfortable.

#100bookpact #100bookspact

86/100 Kunti's Confessions by Women's Web

Inspired by words from books by India's best women's authors, this bunch of 15 stories are funny, pensive, heart-warming and philosophical. They are stories of hope, strength and feminism in its various hues.
Most of them are well-written, especially if you consider that the writers are amateurs (Are they really? A short bio of each writer would have been nice! It would've inspired other aspiring writers!)
I agree with what Aparna, the editor of Women's Web writes in the introduction, "Reading these (stories) was a revelation as to how many talented writers exist today in India, and how many of them are unafraid to draw deeply upon the stories often hidden under the surface of women’s lives."
A big thumbs up to both Aparna and Sandhya Renukamba for putting these stories together. I hope there are more collections to come, and I hope that they get better and better.

87/100 Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

A pageturner. Even though I had to make a list of all those dozens of Japanese names to keep track of all the characters, it didn't slacken my pace. I loved how the author creates all these inter-connected characters and reveals the pieces of the puzzle to us piece by delicious piece. And another thing I admired in the storytelling is how the author narrates the developing story of the main characters over the years, through the eyes of minor characters. Some of these minor characters fall by the wayside (sometimes, literally) and some go on till the end of the book, but that's a clever writing trick, and difficult to do well, I would think.

88/100 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A true graphic memoir of a girl in Iran who lived through the Islamic revolution, through persecution, and through the Iraq war. Hard-hitting, informative. Witty, funny. Heart-breaking. Amazing.

89/100 Devi, Diva or She-Devil by Sudha Menon

My book review for Women's Web

90/100 How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Useful, practical, and generally common-sense advice on parenting. A good guide for interacting with others with kindness and understanding. Actually I think it will do us all a world of good if we read it and practice these suggestions with each other (as well as with children).
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