Review – What Was She Thinking? By Zoe Heller.

13258You know you have a talented author when she/he manages to portray two characters, one a seemingly nice, practical and helpful, the other, flighty, a bit naive, and a sex offender, with the former actually coming off in a worse light! Zoe Heller is one of these authors.

Now, I had actually seen the movie adaptation of this book (Notes on a Scandal, starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench) before I read the book, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. This is actually one of those rare occasions when I thought the movie was on equal, if not better, footing with the book! Even though I knew how the story played out, it was still very unsettling to read it.

The basic premise follows Sheba Hart, a new teacher at a tough city school. Sheba meets Barbara, a colleague of hers, and they begin a close friendship. However, Sheba has a secret, and with Barbara desperate for a new close friend, will she manipulate this secret and woman in order to get what she wants? Of course there is way more to this story line, but saying much more will spoil it for some readers.

This book is really a story about human flaws and how easy we can fall into certain traps; the frailty of our desires, be they physical or emotional, is explored extensively throughout the book. What we might judge as immoral, soon gets turned on its head with a different perspective and we are left wondering what is indeed wrong and right. Heller does a brilliant job with these characters – both are believable, multi-faceted and act as a great sound board for each other, and indeed the reader.

If you want to read a book that will question what you feel about people, society, and yourself, then I highly recommend this book. It will engage you, leave you feeling repulsed, fascinated, confused, and frustrated.

Notes on a Scandal: What Was She Thinking?: A Novel

Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

20131016-195916.jpgHow do you define courage? It can be exemplified in many different ways. A firefighter rushing in to a burning building. A shy student standing up in front of the class to give a speech. A child riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time. Malala’s story gives a whole new meaning to the word. If by some chance you haven’t heard of Malala, that’s even more of a reason to read this book.

The prologue takes us back to the day that Malala was shot as we are given a brief overview of that fateful moment. We then get a glimpse into the childhood of Malala’s parents. This backstory provides us with the knowledge of what exactly a woman’s role was and still is in many parts of Pakistan and the Middle East. Having this background knowledge made me even more appreciative of the strength and courage shown by not only Malala but her entire family. I also felt a huge amount of respect for her father for following his heart and not bowing down to traditional roles he disagreed with. As the leader of this family, he truly set the stage for all the good things that followed.

We are next taken through her childhood and witness tragic events such as 9/11 and the Taliban’s invasion of Pakistan through her eyes, those of a young girl. Malala’s story made my heart weep at the tragedy she faced but more importantly at the bravery of this young girl who wanted nothing more than to simply go to school. Such a simple thing but yet one that most children in more industrialized countries take for granted. We are reminded of the harsh lives that children around the world face.

In Malala’s words, looking the other way is not an option when thirty-two million girls around the world are not in school. She’s not asking for anything special, just the right to go to school. Most people would withdraw from the public eye after coming so close to death for simply standing up for their beliefs. Not this young woman. Although her family has not returned to Pakistan, she continues to speak out for all children.

I eagerly anticipated the release of this book and was not disappointed. It was everything I expected and more. I had to keep reminding myself that this horrible tragedy happened to a fifteen-year-old girl. I am simply in awe of this young lady and can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes in her life. My favorite quote from this book also happens to be the last one:

I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.


Buy it now I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban