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.

Advertisements
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Historical fiction, Classic
Imprint: Puffin Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-32554-5

Charles Dickens. The name itself brings tirade of literary works to the reader’s mind. Out of such works, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carols and David Copperfield are few.

A Tale of Two Cities is about a civil revolution, one that takes the good and the bad alike; for personal vengeance leaving rationality, and for benefit of the public without rationality. Though it is supposed to be about two cities, the story takes place in London, Paris and Saint Antoine. There are people moving between these places to bring out the story that is so magnificent and greater than life that one cannot help but sit back and revel in it.

Doctor Alexnadre Manette is brought to civilized life back by his good old friend Jarvis Lorry and daughter Lucie Manette, and brought to London from Saint Antoine. She also aids in saving life of Charles Darnay whom she marries later. Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton, a lawyer and a family friend, are lookalikes. Due to circumstances that were unanticipated, Charles is imprisoned in Paris during the French revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Defarge, the couple who once helped Manette family, now are hell-bent on prosecuting Charles Darnay due to his aristocratic connections in France. How the doctor, his friend and Sidney Carton help in getting Darnay out of prison and escaping from France is the story of this masterpiece.

The outstanding characters of this story are Sidney Carton and Madame Defarge also known as Therese Defarge. The reader will pity Carton for being a loyal person who is in love with Lucie Manette, but little can be guessed about the role he plays in her life. Madame Defarge is a sinister figure who will give you chills even on a summer noon. All other characters are important in their place. There are too many characters in the story, but they are all justified. None of them is unnecessarily stuffed to make the story grow.

A Tale of Two Cities is an astounding book that never lets the reader down and never lets the reader put it down. So captivating is this story that you will regret for not having read it sooner in your life. Love, vengeance and loyalty are personified in the form of characters created by Charles Dickens. It might even turn to be an overwhelming read.

One should never judge a book by its cover, and one should never judge a book by its title too. I thought this must be another story of how two cities tried to be better than one another, but I was proven wrong. This is much more.

If you have not already read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as a part of your school curriculum, then this moment, right now is the best time to start reading it.

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Poetry

The Mind has Mountains has many poems by Elizabeth Jennings about mental illness and mental health. In A Mental Hospital Sitting-Room is about how it feels to wait there and what goes on in a patient’s mind. Diagnosis and Protest gives a glimpse of the poetess’ mind. Madness is little confusing because it leaves the reader wondering who is actually mentally ill. Reflections on A Mental Hospital tells about how a patient who is getting better feels and what it feels like for a third person to watch them. The Interrogator gives the reader an idea of what a psychiatrist does. The poetess has a thing for paintings. The stanzas of poems are abruptly broken and started anew. In Van Gogh, the poetess muses over the perks of being mad. The Jump shows how people with mental illness die. Attempted Suicide tells about how mentally ill people feel after their failed suicide attempts. Lisa is truly enlightening. Questions gives a glimpse into what goes on inside the head of a mentally ill person. Night Sister is about what hardships do to us. The Illusion talks about horrors of how and why people cope with fear. Hysteria is about hysteria in a mental hospital. There are many more poems in this collection and all are about mental health. Read this book only if you really like poems of all kinds.

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.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Autobiography, Nonfiction, Graphic Novel
Imprint: Vintage, UK
ISBN: 978-0-099-52399-4

Marjane Satrapi is also the author of Embroideries and Chicken with Plums. I have not read any of her other novels, therefore I won’t be comparing Persepolis with other works of the author.

Persepolis is the autobiographical graphic novel that tells us the story of Marjane Satrapi’s life in and out of Iran. It is one of those rare books that swallow the reader into its world as soon as they read the first line. The Satrapis are Iranians with a modern outlook towards life. They suffocate during the revolution and suffer immensely when the war begins in Iran. Though they belong to the family of the last emperor of Iran, who was ousted by rebels with the help of English, they live like normal public. Satrapis have seen it all in Iran. The young one of the family is Marjane Satrapi, the author of this book. As a child, she is brought up by liberal parents and grandmother, and tried to suppress by fundamental Islamist. War is etched in her life. Relatives, friends and neighbours disappear in weird circumstances. Those who survive, they leave the country as soon as possible. Those who can’t, they send their children abroad. The same happens with Satrapis too. Marjane’s parents send their only child to Austria because they don’t want her to grown up in regressive environment after living in a progressive environment since birth. A teenage Marjane finds it difficult to adjust in Austria where people treat foreigners, especially refugees, badly. The Western culture daunts her, but she manages to survive. Only after a bad breakup with a cheating boyfriend, Marjane returns to Iran after four years. Iran has worsened further. Marjane readjusts to Iran. Her parents have aged and so has her grandmother. Her friends have changed beyond recognition. Leftover relatives give her free unwanted advice. How does she cope with the changes in her country during her childhood and teenage? In what way does the country affect her life? What does she do in Austria? What does she do after coming back to Iran? Read Persepolis to know.

This book has two parts because it is a combination of book one that is about childhood and book that is about teenage and early adulthood. Though there are no quote-worthy lines, each line by every character teaches you something about life irrespective of whether you are in Iran or not. All the illustrations in the book are in black and white, pretty much as in life. It is a hard-hitting fact that you realise while reading this book that not everybody has all the privileges, and this is conveyed through simple narration and illustrations. There is no negative point of this book. You can’t find one even if you try to.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is for everyone irrespective of your favourite genre. If you are a parent who wants to teach your child about life or just want to keep them grounded, or keep yourself grounded, then this humble book is especially for you. Stay humble.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Nonfiction, Humour, Autobiography
Imprint: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0-09-195717-9

Mindy Kaling, the comedian and screen writer best known for the shows The Office and The Mindy Project, is the author of this book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).

In this book, the author talks about her non-athletic, book nerdish childhood, her family and about being a Hindu, how she made friends, moving to New York, staying with best friends in a house, trying to find a show biz job, the crazy drama called Matt & Ben done along with her best friend Brenda, how The Office changed her life, concepts that she doesn’t understand and she loves, the way she looks and about how her funeral needs to be. There are few segments like Somewhere in Hollywood Someone Is Pitching This Movie and Revenge Fantasies While Jogging which are not that great. But there are also few segments that are exceptional like Men and Boys, and Married People Need to Step It Up, and everyone should read them. I give her points for writing as it is and without hesitating about anything, even about her lack of knowledge about certain things. An uninhibited account of her “concerns” in her world.

This book is totally hilarious and completely relatable. One-time read that won’t disappoint you.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Political Memoir
Imprint: Crown Publishers, New York
ISBN: 978-0-307-38209-2

Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. He was a Senator at the time of this book’s release. He has penned few other books apart from this.

The Audacity of Hope is about Obama’s hope to make America great again, the same line which is used as slogan in this time’s presidential elections. In this book, he tries to convey all his dreams for a better USA than it is now.

To read this book, you need to be aware of the current scenario as well as history of politics of the USA. Otherwise, you have to hold this book in one hand and use the other hand to constantly search on Google for the historical figures that are named often. Not just historical, even the recent ones. Each chapter starts with a positive note about President Obama’s experience before and after he was elected as the President of the USA. But soon the whole chapter turns into a comparison between Democrats and Republicans, a comparison between Obama and Bush. Irrespective of what the chapter is about, it all boils down to comparison. I agree this is a political memoir, but it is not necessary to compare and make it a Democrat campaign. He could have written more about his experiences than comparing with Republicans.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is a disappointment. If you pick this book, then be prepared to be bored. It is okay if you are a political buff.

If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient Greece by Carole P Roman (Illustrations by Mateya Arkova)

If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient Greece by Carole P Roman (Illustrations by Mateya Arkova)

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children Nonfiction
ISBN: 9781523234295
Imprint: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, North Charleston, SC

Carole P Roman is children book author and is known for her series of books “If You Were Me and Lived In…” showcasing life in different countries and also different eras. Illustrations are by Mateya Arkova and her illustrations are cute and splendid at the same time.

If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient Greece belongs to the same series of children books by Carole P Roman. As the name suggests, the author tells the readers, children or adults, how their lives would be in ancient Greece. Starting with how Greece would have looked back then, where it is located, which era, what common names, democracy, Mount Olympus, gods and goddesses, cities and states, wars, households and family hierarchy to food and beverages, occupations, education, clothes, jewellery, hair, markets, trade, the Olympics, philosophers and Alexander the Great. The rich heritage of Greece in Western civilization makes this book more interesting and informative to children as well as adults.

This book is a good way to keep your children busy reading as there is no hint of boredom here.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Beat generation, nonfiction, memoir
Imprint: Penguin Modern Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-18267-4

On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s novel that tells you about the road trip that Salvatore Paradise takes along with Dean Moriarty across the country of USA. Jack Kerouac belongs to the beat generation, the generation that prized the life of leaving on one’s own terms rather than by society norms. On the Road is the story of the author himself but the names of the characters in the story are changed. Jack Kerouac becomes Salvatore (Sal) Paradise and Neal Cassady becomes Dean Moriarty.

The book is in five parts. The first part sees Sal meeting Dean, not liking him much at first and later missing him and going off on a cross-country hitchhiking trip from New York to Denver to meet the later. Sal is a writer and Dean is a car thief. Sal sees Dean and Carlo Marx, a common friend, get high and talk their hearts out. Dean is in the process of divorcing his first wife Marylou and marrying Camille. Sal leaves Dean and others, and goes to San Francisco to be with his childhood friend, Remi, and his wife, Lee Ann. Lee married Remi thinking he is a wealthy man, but he is a night watchman at a sailors’ camp. He gets Sal a similar job. Both rob things from others to make a better living, but eventually blow things up. On his way back to New York, Sal meets Terry, a Mexican girl who has left her harassing husband and come out with her child. Sal and Terry fall in love and stay together for some time, but he eventually leaves her and comes back to New York. Part two shows what happened a year later. Dean, Marylou and Ed Dunkel come to pick Sal from his relatives’ place in Virginia, and go off again on a road trip to New Orleans and to San Francisco. Dean has left Camille with his new born daughter and come back to Marylou. Ed Dunkel is a lost soul. On this road trip, Dean comes up with creepy things making Sal uneasy. Once they reach San Francisco, Dean leaves Sal and Marylou stranded without money and food, and goes back to Camille. Disheartened with both Dean and Marylou, Sal leaves them and comes back to New York. Part three sees Sal going in search of Dean again a year after leaving him. Sal misses Dean and the excited life that comes along with the later. By then, Marylou is married to someone else. Seeing Sal with Dean, Camille is assured that the duo will again go away leaving her pregnant with the second child and to look after the first one, and she throws Dean and Sal out of their house. They both decide to go to Italy after reaching New York. On the way, Dean creates havoc and steals many cars for the sake of having fun. Sal and Dean quarrel for the first time. After reaching New York, Dean meets Inez and decides to marry her after he divorces Camille. Fourth part has Sal, Dean and Stan driving to Mexico to start a new life. The usual dope and girl chasing happens. Sal falls sick due to dysentery. Dean leaves him with Stan in that condition because his divorce from Camille came through and he is in a hurry to marry Inez and give her a child. Sal starts to hate Dean. Part five shows Sal falling in love with Laura, and Dean coming into their lives briefly and exiting again.

On the Road is not a story, but is an experience. It is not about bromance but about brotherhood. Sal wants to live an excitement filled life and thinks Dean has and can provide him one. Dean is a car thief who steals cars for fun, but likes to make a living in a decent way. Marylou, Camille and Inez are Dean’s wives. Of all of them, he loved Marylou more and keeps going back to her. Sal knows that Dean is a prick but still loves his company. Since the characters are the real life ones, there is not much of a character development.

This book gives a lot of insight about the beat generation. This generation lived as if there was no tomorrow. Work less, party hard. Dopes, sex, road trips, cars, parties and booze are what made that generation happy. The book is written is simple language using simple narration. It is not quite what I expected, but it did not disappoint me either. The experiences of Sal on the road with four trips are overwhelming and the emotions he goes through are a lesson for life. I might recommend it to the readers who want to read something on the road trips.

In the cover picture of the book, you see Jack Kerouac (Sal Paradise) on the left and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) on the right.

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.