Fiction

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Play, Fiction, Drama

William Shakespeare doesn’t need any introduction. He has numerous plays, novels and short stories to his name. There is so much of him, yet we cannot have enough of him.

The Winter’s Tale is a play by William Shakespeare telling us the story of the kingdoms, Sicilia and Bohemia through their royalties. Leontes is the king Sicilia and his wife, the queen, is Hermoine. Leontes childhood friend is Polixenes who is the king of Bohemia and is about to go back to his kingdom after a really long vacation in Sicilia. Seeing Leontes desperately trying to make Polixenes stay for more time, the very much pregnant Hermoine succeeds in convincing the king of Bohemia to stay back. This creates suspicion in Leontes regarding illicit affair of his wife with his friend. He believes the child in Hermoine’s womb is Polixenes’ and not his own. He sends his wife to prison and asks his loyal servant Camillo to kill the Bohemian king. But Camillo, who knows that his king is out of sorts, helps Polixenes escape to Bohemia and he himself goes with the Bohemian king to Bohemia. Hermoine gives birth to a baby girl, but Leontes doesn’t accept her as his. Their son, the prince, dies as he is separated from his mother. Hermoine too dies in prison. Paulina, wife of Antigonus, both loyal to Leontes, tries to convince the king, but in vain. Leontes orders Anitgonus to take the baby away and kill it. But Antigonus leaves it in Bohemia and gets killed by a bear in the process. On the other hand, Leontes learns from prophecies from the Apollo oracle that he made a mistake regarding his family and repents. What happens to the two royal families is the rest of the story.

There is no doubt that William Shakespeare has a good story in store with The Winter’s Tale. Most of the Hollywood and Bollywood movies are based on his stories. The only downside of this play is it is an unabridged version. It takes the readers some time to get used to the language and understand what is happening. Do give it a try.

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Blinks in Blackout by Dr. Hari Parameshwar

Blinks in Blackout by Dr. Hari Parameshwar

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Spiritual
ISBN: 938404356-7
Imprint: Good Times Books Pvt. Ltd., India

Dr. Hari Parameshwar is an India author who has written books such as Many Paths Many Answers, Chase of Choices and The Pillar Invisible. He is also a management consultant and an expert in airport infrastructure. Blinks in Blackout is his fourth book.

Vikram Purohith is a corporate bigwig who takes a long leave to go on a vacation since the last time which he doesn’t remember. Due to miscommunications and freak turn of events, he is unable to go on the vacation where he is supposed to meet his estranged wife and daughter one last time before his divorce. Back home, he slips over spilled water, falls down the stairs with nobody, even his household staff, to help him. His conscience is working, but he doesn’t know whether he is dead or just unconscious. What happens next is the story you get in Blinks in Blackout.

Though the theme is of corporate life and how it changes everything, there is a good share of spirituality, morale and ethics too in Blinks in Blackout, just like in other books by Dr. Hari Parameshwar. Narration by the author is good as usual but the book needs a lot of editing to be done. Also what might bother the reader is the elaboration of the concept or theme that could be explained in a few words or pages. All in all, Blinks in Blackout is a good one-time read.

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 0-09-990840-9
Imprint: Arrow Books

Ernest Hemingway is an American novelist, short story writer and journalist. Though he has written many acclaimed works like A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, it is The Old Man and The Sea that truly brought him fame with Pulitzer Award and later Nobel Prize in Literature.

As the name suggests, The Old Man and The Sea is a story of an old fisherman and his love-hate relationship with the sea. Santiago is an old fisherman who has not caught any fish in a long time. Manolin, a young boy who apprenticed with the old man before he went broke, still cares for the old man but works for another fishing boat. One day, Santiago goes fishing early in the morning into the sea after waking up Manolin. The old man catches a huge fish that starts dragging him and his skiff along with it further away from the mainland for days. When the old man finally kills and ties the huge fish to his skiff to take it back home, he is worried about shark attacks and whether he will be able to ward them off without much damage to his catch in his deteriorated physical and mental condition. Will he survive or die saving his catch? Or will he survive and save his catch? Or will he survive and not save his catch?

The whole story is about the confidence the old man exudes and the love and confidence the young boy has on the old man. The author might have other interpretations. Even the reader might find his or her own interpretations. But reading too much between the lines might strain your brain.

The Old Man and The Sea is yet another classic that you can read to tick-off from your list.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 978-0-553-21271-6
Imprint: Bantam Classic

Abraham Stoker, an Irish novelist known to the world as Bram Stoker, wrote short stories too. He is famous for his work Dracula, which was first named as The Undead.

The story is set in and written in 19th century. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England, goes to Transylvania to meet his client Count Dracula regarding new properties bought for the Count. Since the start of the journey until he reaches the castle, Harker is spooked by the strange things that transpire and the driver controlling the wolves. Once in the castle, the strange behaviour and looks of the old Count Dracula make him nervous. What scare him further are the ghosts that try to feed on him and his house arrest by the Count. While Harker is struggling to escape from Transylvania, his fiancée, Wilhelmina Murray also known as Mina, worries of not hearing properly from him in England. She spends her time with her friend Lucy Westenra in Whitby. Lucy starts behaving strangely at night after being found on lonely ground alone with tow marks on her neck. Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood also known as Lord Godalming, and his two friends, Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris who are also in love with Lucy, are worried about continuously failing health of Lucy. Dr. Seward also faces the issue of handling Renfield, a loon. Distraught by this, Dr. Seward invites his professor and friend, Abraham Van Helsing, from Amsterdam to come see Lucy. Van Helsing takes a look at Lucy and understands the reason to be a vampire. He tries to save her and succeeds to even do so, but fails when she throws caution into air. Dead Lucy turns into a vampire, but eventually gets killed. Things take a bad turn when the rescued and married Jonathan Harker sees a young Count Dracula in England. Mina and Jonathan form a team with the other four men to put an end to the haunting in England.

Dracula is written in the diary form. The day-to-day happenings are written in each person’s diary. Each and every minute detail is elaborately explained. Just like other novels written in this format, the story by Bram Stoker too bores the readers every now and then. Skip a few paragraphs and you will still be able to understand what’s going on. The reader will be desperate to finish the book. The only best part, from a movie buff point of view, is you get the origin of Dr. Van Helsing in this book. But we should applaud Bram Stoker for coming up with a vampire story back when people were still not into paranormal fantasy erotica.

Read this classic only if you have nothing better to do.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk

Robert Louis Stevenson is known for his works that are not with the usual stories. He is more famous for Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A new man in the town is being notorious and is instantly disliked by the residents. He is Mr. Edward Hyde. He has no regard for others. But what baffles Mr. Utterson is the link between his friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and this abominable man, Mr. Edward Hyde. Though the whole town hates Hyde, Jekyll likes him and this makes Utterson worry about his friend. Jekyll even writes his will in favour of Hyde. Meanwhile, Hyde murders a prominent person of the town and goes into hiding when everyone starts looking for him. With this turn of events, Jekyll revokes his own will and modifies it. He also detaches himself from his friends and refuses to see anyone. In a span of few days, the household of Dr. Jekyll is scared to the core and come to seek Utterson’s help in solving a mystery that turns out to be the shock of their lives.

As one of the firsts of its kind, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a masterpiece in its own terms. Apart from a good story and the element of surprise, well, shock, the author has depicted diabolical nature of a human as well as his helplessness in the best way possible to cater to a reader’s mind. On the whole, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a good one-time read. Maybe you will read again and that will be only for the diary part of Dr. Jekyll which is towards the end of the story.

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Drama

George Eliot is the penname or pseudonym adopted by Mary Ann Evans, an English novelist of Victorian era. She used the name George Eliot to avoid prejudices of her times against the female novelist, who were expected to write only romances. She wanted everyone to take her works seriously, just like they took male writers’ works seriously. As George Eliot, Mary Ann Evans was, and is still, largely known for her work, Middlemarch.

David Faux is a young confectioner with no good luck at anything that he does as business. He learns that his fate might change if he goes to West Indies. But to go there, he doesn’t have enough funds. So he steals from his mother. While stealing, his retard brother, Jacob, walks up on him. David distracts Jacob with candies and lozenges in his pocket, but ends up revealing to his idiot brother that he is stealing. Still, David escapes Jacob. Years later, David Faux starts a new life as Mr. Freely in a small town called Grimsworth. People of the town warm up to him and slowly accept him. But what happens to his mother, retard brother and rest of the family? Will karma strike back at David Faux a.k.a. Mr. Freely?

Brother Jacob by George Eliot is stretched until parched. It is so boring that you can predict what is going to happen in the end just by reading first few pages. It can be put in this way: It is boring for adults, but if given to kids, how David treats his retard brother, Jacob, gives a bad impression. Choose wisely.

A Pelican at Blandings by P G Wodehouse

A Pelican at Blandings by P G Wodehouse

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Humour, Fiction
Imprint: Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-005033-7

English humour with a heavy dose of sarcasm is what makes P G Wodehouse a favourite among readers when they want to stay away from the daily humdrum and escape the reality. Best known as the creator of Jeeves, P G Wodehouse also wrote the Blandings Castle series. He not only makes you laugh and sit back relaxing in your couch, but also makes you sit straight with surprise. P G Wodehouse was, and is, the man who tickles readers, generation after generation.

Clarence Threepwood, the ninth Earl of the Emsworth, who lives in Blandings Castle, is shocked by his sister, Lady Constance’s surprise visit. For an Earl, who prefers to be in his pajamas than uptight in suits all the time, the arrival of his sister, who insists on dressing up even for dinner, is a pain in the neck. But he is afraid of her and goes dumber than he already is whenever she is around. On top of it, Duke of Dunstable invites himself to Blandings Castle and Lady Constance is pleased. To avoid any kind of embarrassments and insults, the Earl seeks company and assistance of their brother, Galahad Threepwood a.k.a Gally. Lady Constance hates Gally. As the story takes turn, or turns, many other characters come into picture. Linda Gilpin, niece of the Duke, is in love with John Halliday, godson of Gally, but the Duke doesn’t approve of this due to selfish reasons. Vanessa Polk, a friend of Lady Constance, meets her ex-boyfriend Wilbur Trout, who is invited to the castle by the Duke. Howard Chesney, a shady young man, lurks among them. Where does the story lead the reader with half of the characters being eccentric?

Duke of Dunstable is more than enough to irk anyone. You will pity his niece, Linda Gilpin. Lady Constance and Clarence Threepwood, the Lord Emsworth are poles apart though they are siblings. Constantly pestered by others characters, Galahad Threepwood is not the man you want, but need on your side. Considering A Pelican at Blandings is the one before last in the Blandings Castle series, the reader might think that he or she might not understand anything of the story. But the genius P G Wodehouse is, he never makes the reader feel lost. There is enough explanation about each character to understand as much as required for the current story. It is difficult to put down the book unless it falls on your face when you have lost sleep trying to finish reading what P G Wodehouse has to offer.

This book is highly recommended for the sheer pleasure of humour. If you want to pick up sarcasm from this book, you have made the right choice.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Short Story

F Scott Fitzgerald is an American author who had his own style of writing in retro times. He did not follow others style and his readers appreciated his ways. F S Fitzgerald is known for many works of the budding modern America, but most famous are The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Roger Button fathers an unusual child. The child is born seventy-years old with hair strands meant to be on his head on his chin. The child is lean and wobbly like an old man, and is able to get along well with his grandfather than new born babies. This bizarre occurrence rattles Roger Button and makes him try hard to show an old man as a baby. As time passes, the baby now named Benjamin Button, starts looking younger and younger. When Benjamin starts appearing like a fifty-year old man, Hildegarde Moncrief falls in love with him and marries him. His phenomenon of reverse aging makes him look younger day-by-day and his wife look like his mother. Later he even starts looking like his own son, Roscoe Button. What Benjamin does with his rare life is the story to be read.

While reading The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, leave your rationality behind. For the love of logic, you don’t know how a seventy-year old man came out of the vagina of a female human being. Apart from that, this story is a good read and can be read in a single sitting.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction
Imprint: Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-00-735102-2

Jonathan Swift has many published works and out of them, he is known most for Gulliver’s Travels. The real name of this book is Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. This book came to be known as Gulliver’s Travels because back then Jonathan Swift wrote in his pen name Lemuel Gulliver. His reason to use a pseudonym was that he was in politics. And his readers, they started calling his book Gulliver’s Travels, maybe because the actual name was too long.

Gulliver’s Travels is about Gulliver who is mad about travelling, sailing and seeing the world. This book tells his travel stories in first person. This book has four parts and each is about different nations. The first part has the author stranded on an island, Lilliput, which is inhabited by Lilliputians and all other things and living beings proportional to them. In the second part, the author is on Brobdingnag, an island inhabited by giants who are sixty feet tall. In the third part, the author is stranded on a floating and flying island Laputa which is inhabited by very intelligent people with varied interest. In the last and the fourth part, the author is stranded on an island which is inhabited and ruled by horses, Houyhnhnms, which are far intelligent and loyal than humans. Each part of the book is about what the author learns on each island and how he escapes from there.

There are no exceptional individual characters in this book apart from the author himself. Rest others are general characters.

Everything in this book is explained in detail. So much so that the author bores with his often mentioning about how he doesn’t want to bore his readers by giving more details. Gulliver’s Travels is supposed to be a satire but tires the reader before he or she gets to the satire part.

Gulliver’s Travels is recommended only if you are crazy about reading all the classics and for no other reason.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Humour, Drama, Play

William Shakespeare, known as the Bard, came up with original ideas for novels and plays to entertain people. Sometimes with historical real people and sometimes with fictitious characters. Nevertheless, the Bard teaches us a lesson or two while entertaining with the distinct characters that he created.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a humorous play by William Shakespeare. For a play, it has too many characters. You have a duke, Theseus, who is getting married to Hippolyta. Egeus, a noble citizen brings his daughter Hermia to the duke to get a justified judgement about her marriage. Hermia loves Lysander, who is not so well-to-do, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius, yet another nobleman. Hermia doesn’t like Demetrius. She and Lysander elope after telling their plans to her friend Helena, who loves Demetrius. Helena tells their plan to Demetrius, who hates Helena, and they go in search of the eloped lovers. In the jungle, Titania and Oberon, the royal fairy couple spend time with an Indian boy whom Titania has taken under her wing. Oberon asks his wife to give the boy to him and she refuses, and also says she will stay in the jungle of the mortals till the duke’s wedding gets over. Oberon wishes to play a prank on his wife and with the help of Puck, a fairy, casts spells on his wife making her fall in love with whatever she sees first when she wakes up. Meanwhile, he sees Demetrius and Helena quarrelling. When Puck returns, Oberon instructs him to cast the same love spell on the Athenian man Demetrius. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and casts the spell on the former. Lysander opens his eyes to see Helena checking whether Demetrius has killed him or not, and falls in love with her. He leaves the sleeping Hermia and follows Helena. When Oberon learns of Pucks mistake, he asks the fairy to rectify it. So, Demetrius too falls in love with Helena and she starts thinking that both the men, who never even complimented her, are mocking her by saying they love her. On the other side of the jungle, Puck gives Bottom, an actor rehearsing a play for the duke’s wedding, head of a donkey. Titania, upon awakening, sees the donkey-headed man and falls in love with him. There, Hermia finds the men, who were previously head over heels in love with her, following Helena like puppies. What happens with so many mismatched people haphazardly scattered with those they don’t belong?

William Shakespeare is not of our era and did not speak the English language the same way as we do. Or doth. Hast? The usage of English language in its former version makes reading a little difficult. We are all so used to the English we speak and write nowadays that Shakespearean English will slow our reading. Also, the order of the words in sentences make you feel like Yoda. It might also happen that you will not understand a few lines. But, as usual, Shakespeare’s innovative classy abuses are commendable. Altogether, this story of the play makes it funny if you remember who is who and did what.