Review: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

fine-balanceHow does one even attempt to review such a scopious novel? Seriously…I think I need to weep, but there’s just nothing left inside of me at the moment. Perhaps a bit of happiness, hope, faith restored…but only a tiny bit…and perhaps there is some despair, hatred, anger, even dubiosity….or maybe they all just cancel one another out and that is why I feel so much…nothingness…I want to be all of these things…I want to have all of these emotions…and I want to make sense of it all…but I just can’t…

Who can make sense of destiny? Who can think they know better than fate?

“..my life would have been so different today. But our destinies are engraved on our foreheads at birth.”

I think this novel has left me in shock…it gives so much hope in so many places, but just as real life often does, it snatches it all away in a blink of an eye. You want to be angry, but how can you? What gives you that right when the characters themselves handle their fate with so much grace and acceptance. How can you even attempt to place blame, when they themselves do not…How can you weep for them, when they do not weep for themselves?

As I sit here writing this review, I am not ashamed to say that as I sit here, trying to make sense of it all, that my numbness has turned to me openly weeping at this book’s ending…Nor am I ashamed to admit I do not know who I weep for the most…it could be any single one of these characters..they have all touched me in some way….or maybe I weep for myself…or all of humanity together…

Read this book…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

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Review: Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

underOh dear…where to start? When I first started this book I feel in love on the first page. I was so intrigued. It was a mystery that I wanted to solve page by page. I wasn’t in a rush, it was one of those warm glows that feels oh so very lovely that you just want to savor it bit by delightful bit! I still felt this way at 30%. If anything, I was even more smitten with this novel. I loved Sophie, the main character, despite her naivety. I loved Jag. I loved India and all of the settings….The Palace. The romance. The women’s quarters. I even loved the mother’s cruelness. Not that I liked her personally, I just liked the elements she brought into this story. The layers she brought forth were yet another mystery for me to be intrigued by and a mystery to solve….

At about 40%…..well…..I realised that all of my love was based on appearances. Oh come on now….don’t act like that….you know we’ve all done this…..don’t lie! Who hasn’t fallen in love from the first moment and imagined it to be all of these wonderful things….and you dig and you dig…and then you realise….well, hell’s bells….this isn’t as mysterious as I had hoped. This isn’t as complex as I had hoped…..sigh….

Now don’t get me wrong….this isn’t a short novel….It’s a nice 400 pages….you should be able to fit a lot into 400 pages! Right? Yet, I felt that this was just a rough draft. It was missing bits I needed. There just was too much missing. Why didn’t Sophie fight? How did she end up where she was? Why did she leave India when she didn’t really have to?

I still loved this book. I am just a bit disappointed in Alison McQueen. I mean, she had everything here before me. She dangled this beautiful setting….these star crossed lovers….this wonderful story right in front of me face! She had me salivating! I mean, I had to wipe the drool off of my face. I had to try to control me glee. I bragged to everyone I could once I reached 30%…….and then….alas…..she broke my heart. It’s like being promised a homemade cheesecake after having a sunday roast……Looking forward to it all week with promises of how lush it will be…then the weekend comes….things get hectic…..and on Sunday you’re handed an instant turkey roast meal with special offer cheesecake flavoured biscuits! Yes, it has enough flavour for you to appreciate it. Yes, you are thankful for it…..yes, it did fill you up…..however….all you can think of is just how much more wonderful it could have been…..

so yea, I’m mad at you Alison McQueen. I KNOW you can do better than this….this was a 800 page novel that you chopped down to 400…..and yes, the shell is there….and yes it’s beautiful….but damnit….I want me meaty bits…..I not only want your words to feed my body…I wanted them to feed my soul as well….

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it from the start…..and I didn’t mind the ending…..I just missed the middle….

Sigh……Maybe next time…..

Until next time….

Urania xx

Review Copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Buy it now Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

thelowlandWhen I first read “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I was amazed at her ability to tell a story. It was a collection of short stories and I felt as if I was there in every story. The characters came to life for me. I was amazed at her ability to make me feel as if was right there….I not only clearly heard the characters voices, I also felt what they were feeling, I touched what they touched….as someone that doesn’t really enjoy shorts that much, it was a totally new experience for me. I couldn’t believe the depth that she gave to the characters….This is my first novel by Lahiri for me. I have a much different reaction.

I loved this story. I thought the novel was made up of great characters as well. Here we have two very close brothers that grow up in Calcutta. One stays. One moves to America. They both get married. They both have a daughter. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. This is a complicated story. It is filled with revolutionary ideas. With rebellion. With lies. With resentment. With misplaced loyalties. With guilt. With desertion. With helplessness. With secrets. However, it also has deep love. It has redemption. It has acceptance. It has hope. It has new beginnings.

This is the type of story I absolutely love. Rooted deep in culture. Blending of new cultures. Complicated family dynamics. Self sacrifice. However…it just fell flat for me.

I can’t explain how frustrated I am with this novel. I mean, Lahiri has this amazing ability to make me feel so much in the collection of short stories, and yet, here, we have a full length novel and a chance for me to really connect with a great group of characters and….well….it just doesn’t happen.

In Maladies, I felt that I was part of the story…that’s how wonderful Lahiri’s story-telling abilities were….In The Lowland I felt as if I was reading this novel through several layers of barbed-wire. That I was forced to remain apart from the characters. As much as I truly desired to be drawn it…well…It just never happened. I was made to keep my distance.

I know what Lahiri is capable of. I know I should have loved this book….ever single thing needed was there….but for some reason it just didn’t happen….I just couldn’t connect with any of them. It’s like that one tiny piece I needed to connect and to see inside the characters was missing…or misplaced….and I just didn’t feel as if the characters were whole….I didn’t just feel this way with one character…I honestly felt that way about every single one of them….

I am so disappointed…..

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Review: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

a“The White Tiger” is a written confession from an Indian driver who murders his employer. It is told with matter-of-fact nonchalance by Balram Halwai. A man who grew up in the slums of India, “overcame” his birth status, became a #1 driver, a murderer, and finally an employer himself.

What can one say about a book such as this? I look at the some of the reviews and I wonder how it can have such a low rating. Is it because people are turned off by the matter-of-fact tone of Halwai? Are they disenchanted with the unsaid social commentary of India? Are they disgusted with the story that Halwai tells? Are they dissatisfied with “justice” in the world Adiga paints? Are they waiting for the author to tell them what to think? Are they waiting for Halwai to justify his actions? To show some redeeming quality, allowing you to forgive him? Are they the type that think every novel should have a beginning, a middle and an end? Do they expect happily ever after?

Here’s the thing….This might be Adiga’s story….it might also belong to Halwai….one can say it even belongs to all of India…but the thing is…this is the reader’s story as well. What you take from this story is what you put in to it. Aravind Adiga is young author…but he’s smart enough to know that sometimes the best novels are the ones left to the reader to decide. Some travesties don’t need pointed out. It might seem that Halwai has no feelings or is two dimensional…but this is his life. He’s not painting a pretty picture…he’s just laying out the facts. Adiga is the one who is leaving it up to you, the reader, to sort through these facts.

So, once you’re born into the social caste system of India, are you ever *really* able to move from one to the other? Should one be resigned to his/her own fate? Do we follow the customs of generations, even if they are the very same customs that bind us to future failures? Must we follow the way it has always been done, even if that way ensures us that no new path can be forged? Do we never question how things are, simply because they are the way things have always been? Does Halwai really have no feelings about right and wrong? Are is it that he is just so bone weary tired of it all? Does he really not care? Or is he just overcome with so much feelings of hopelessness?

What about nature and nurture? How does that play into how we justify our actions? Can one really blame society for that which we become? Is it possible to justify our actions in our own minds by blaming the limits our society puts upon us?

How can one even begin to change the history of the past? How corrupt does a government need to be before a nation lose all hope for any type of change? Can a person who benefits from a broken social system ever really want to be the one who fights to make it right? Will we ever learn to trust one another? Can someone who has nothing ever be satisfied with that? Should they?

Can an outsider ever *really* understand?

Yes, the questions I have after reading this novel are more than I had before. Will I spend countless hours debating this? Will I look at the world a bit differently now? yes. yes. yes…..yet….Adiga did not ask a single one of these questions. Halwai did not point out a single one either. It’s a brilliant writer that can evoke so much from a reader….that can sit back and not try to lead you down the path to self discovery. That doesn’t feel the need to blurt out the answers…..I thank him for his discipline….

How can I not love a book like this? Yes, it’s ugly and it’s dirty. Yes it’s unfair. Yes, it’s true….it has no beginning…nor even a middle…and certainly no ending. It has no one clear victim. It has no single hero. This is life….pure and raw….ugly and bleeding….helpless and innocent….corrupt and hopeless….

So tell me….what are you going to do about it? Turn the other cheek, give it a bad rating, and hope to forget all about it? Go on then….I dare you to….

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now The White Tiger

Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

bestWithout a doubt, this novel is a permanent contender in my top 5 favourite read stories of the past few years. Where to even begin? Well, you can read the blurb to discover the plot, so I shall refrain from repeating it. I picked this book up purely on a boredom impulse one day when I was on a business trip, and I am so glad I did! This story is perhaps one of the best examples, since Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’, of the complex Anglo-Indian relationship, post-independence. Whilst it doesn’t rub it in your face and whack you over the head with a stick, the story does get you thinking about the effect of colonialism, and the aftermath that it brings. Ideals are presented, and turned on their head once reality kicks in, and Deborah Moggach does this in a very stark fashion, without coming off a preachy.
The mix of characters, whilst completely over the top, are a refreshing bunch of fun, quirky, old-school (some being inherently racist/ignorant), Raj-yearning individuals. The reader to form a definite and firm opinion of each character due to Moggach’s expert character presentation and the changing shift in language and style used when writing from each perspective.
Now, the style of the novel is very “British” in regards to some of the things that happens to the characters and how they react, or in fact, how the reader acts when “witnessing” these calamities. It’s not quite as “British” as Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (many readers this side of the pond did not like this novel), but it is definitely not what you might be used to. To say this isn’t your conventional story would be an understatement; Moggach makes you laugh in the wrong places, gasp in shock and then smile, and completely refreshes your pallet for future stories.

~ Pegasus

You can buy this relatively short story, that is bound to leave a lasting impression, here:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A Novel (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)