Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And then there were none

Author : Agatha Christie

    One of the best Agatha Christie novels that does not feature Hercule Poirot.  One does not expect literary master class from Agatha Christie, and that holds true for this novel too.  Suspense and thrill are her forte and the reader is on the edge till the end. Suspense and thrill lasts till the last page. The story is puzzle with an assortment of characters meeting in an Island. A book that can be read under three hours, perfect book for a rainy day. 

Set in 1950's, Ten people from various walks of life are invited by a mysterious millionaire Mr. U. N Owen to his Island. They arrive at the big house in the small island off the coast of England.The big house is empty except for the exceptional furnishings, and poems  framed in every room. A nursery poem on ten little Indian boys. But the Owens' are no where to be seen. No one else other than the ten guests, and the first murder occurs on the first day. A classic closed box situation.

Spoiler Alert :

  While at dinner on the first day, they hear a voice from the hall listing treacherous crimes committed by the guests. The voice turns out to be from a gramophone. Secrets begin to tumble, every one of them has an unaccounted murky past. They all have something to hide. They exchange stories and realize how they were elaborately duped to come to Mr.Owen's island, and they have no way back as the weather has turned ugly. Mr. U N Owen is an extrapolation of UNKNOWN.

 Little did they know that they are to be killed one by a predetermined order and manner.  There is no one  other than the ten guests in the island, and surely, the murderer must be one among them.

An interesting dialogue from the novel.

    "You could be cold in that thin dress."
    "Cold, I should be colder if I were dead"

In the words of  Vera, one of the ten guests, It is like some horrible child playing a game. And then there were none. A true page turner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012



What do you think about the doomsday conspiracies? Do you feel that unexplainable things are signs by Aliens? Is Bermuda triangle an enterprise run by ghost ships to absolve men and material into the swirling depth of sea? Or is it because of a heavy magnetic current in that region? 

What real? What is more alluring? What will you choose? Do you think fiction is more romantic and therefore more meaningful? Should all things unexplained on earth be on a grander scale? 
Hear this story then! 

Darkness always scared me when I was a child. I put on a brave front before others, but inside the heart of hearts, I was always looking for a monster in the closet!  Especially after 8 PM, I dared not go near our balcony, because I had found a monster's torch! 

A round disjointed ball  of light used to shine at the edge of our compound after dark. It cast an eerie glow when seen from our balcony. I made a careful inspection of compound after school each evening. But there was no light source in the compound; nor any monsters. The fear drew me like a magnet towards our balcony every night, and I scratched my head over the reason. That orange ball of light occupied my thoughts every evening and my nights turned to nightmares. 

Many months later I finally hit upon the reason behind that spectral glow - a glass piece laced on our compound wall reflected light from some faraway source. The mechanism to prevent intrusion was transformed to a monster's torch with my fertile imagination. From then on I realized that the mysteries are not really mysterious once we know the truth behind them. Of course a monster's torch made a more fascinating story, but I'm more glad with the truth! 

What if you got a book which took the most baffling mysteries/superstitions happening around us and cracked the truth behind them? Compiled by John Fairley and Simon Welfare, the book "Arthur C. Clarke's mysteries" analyzes the truth behind some of the dramatic phenomenon happening around us. This book has all the thrilling components of a whodunit novel; each story has a proper build up, and the spookiness added in the narration keeps us on toe till the end of the chapter where facts are explained. 

Building up over the TV series by Arthur C. Clarke, this book contains the probable facts by the master SF writer himself. This book made me believe that though this world is strange, it is still logical! 

So does the end of Mayan Calendar in 2012 mark the end of the world? Or did the Mayans stop counting after that? Food for thought!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Arranged Marriage

Author: Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni

Eleven short stories, each one engrossing and enlightening.  That is Arranged marriage in one sentence. I began to read the book hesitantly, for my first impression was a boring title by an NRI who had no other work . First impressions are not necessarily true, in fact I was blown away by the eleven stories.
Chitra Bannerjee brought alive two places, the suburban America and the crowded Calcutta , two places I have never been to. I can never go there, for the stories are set in the recent past. The characters in the stories are real, be it the helpless heroes, the chauvinistic old world men or the capricious, yet unafraid women; they are very real and vivid.
Magical titles; at least the titles gained a magical touch after reading the story; they gained a different shade at the end of each story.  What did you think the titles were? Philosophical? No, just mundane titles: The bats, the clothes, the door, what does it have to do with arranged marriage? Whatever it is, I cannot think of bats or clothes without thinking about Chitra Bannerjee's Arranged Marriage.
That perfect life is only an illusion; the women who are living in the developed nations have no better conditions than those living in India is the underlying theme apart from the Arranged marriages in each story. How far it is true? How far is it the author’s imagination? I have no answers for that. Times have changed, but the minds may not have.
The book is honest, so honest that it is shocking and pricking at times. It made me wonder if I would have done anything different had I been part of the story. Probably not. So strong is the characterization and attention for details that it is easy to fall into the mood created by the book.

Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Just like an Arranged marriage.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

After Dark

Author: Haruki Murakami

In one of the interviews, Murakami recalls this: "There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.”

"After Dark" is yet another book which made me discover the specialness of Murakami's world. From 11.56PM till 6.40AM, the characters of Murakami come alive in the city of Tokyo, and a special, camera like 'viewpoint' gives us an account of what happens through the midnight hours, when the whole city sleeps.

Mari Asai, a scholarly, but tacit girl, is out of her house to spend the whole night outside. Takahashi, a 'would-be' law student is on the streets for his last 'all night' jazz practice. Kaouru, a retired female wrestler is on her night shift as a manager at a hotel called Alphaville, along with two helpers Komogi and Korugi.
Whereas the 'viewpoint' focuses on Eri Asai, the beautiful elder sister of Mari, who in her deep coma like sleep is transported to another room inside her disconnected bedroom TV.

The characters mingle with each other without any drama, and yet, the experience turns surrealistic. Murakami builds up the story in such a way that would make us forget about the ordinary world around us. Instead the story draws us into its deep vortex, slowly without realizing where it is taking us, till it's end. And not a second of pause to question about it!

Murakami refers to the characters from "After the quake", and also brings in cats in his story. What's his obsession with cats? Do you know that the bar he used to run was also named 'Peter Cats'? The character Takahashi also looked like a sketch of a younger Murakami, the shy Jazz Musician!

"After Dark" gave so many meanings to mundane things happening in the universe around me. I not only enjoyed reading it, but also enjoyed listening to the music quoted all through the book. This book is not just for 'reading', but for 'experiencing'.

Some of the interesting music albums mentioned in the book is listed below. Try to listen to them, they complete the feeling of reading this book!
  1. Go Away Little Girl – Percy Faith and His Orchestra
  2. Five Spot After Dark – Curtis Fuller
  3. The April Fools- Burt Bacharach
  4. More – Martin Denny
  5. My Ideal – Ben Webster
  6. Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
  7. Jealousy – Pet Shop Boys
  8. I Can’t Go for That – Hall and Oates
  9. Theme from Love Story - Francis Lai
  10. Sonnymoon for Two – Sonny Rollins
  11. Bomb Juice - Shikao Suga
Reference: Murakami’s Interview.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The winner stands alone

Author: Paulo Coelho

My friend once boasted that he knew what exactly to expect from a Paulo Coelho novel. Paulo stopped writing anything different after Alchemist, he assured me.

But for me, each story held a promise of fresh characters and unexpected behaviors; they were appealing to my senses. The Winner stands alone, really stands alone in my list; despite the same theme; despite the references to Santiago, and finding about one's destiny; this book lacks a provoking story to support them all.

'The Winner stands alone' is about a Russian business giant Igor, in search of his estranged wife, now married to a fashion couturier. He travels to Cannes, where he knows that his wife and her lover will appear to present their collections in fashion shows, scheduled along with the film festival. Igor is ready to do anything, even kill people, to get her back.

He gets about 'destroying universes', in other words, kill strangers during the film festival, so that his wife gets the message. But half way through the killings, he pauses to think if the killings were actually worthy? Suddenly his angelic wife becomes an ordinary mortal.

Paulo gets sloppy in handling this transition, and instead theorizes a lot of dogmas about super class and the world of glamour. Just like the protagonist, the author too seems to lose his motivation he had in the beginning, and the book spirals down to an unsatisfactory ending, without the reader getting any 'message' out of it.

The almost cynical, yet fresh take on the life of super class is amusing.
The philosophies apart from the main story.
Some beautiful quotes which lingered with me long after I finished the book - which are of course not at all related to the story! :-) 
Too much preaching
No skeleton story to support the author's ideals.
Would have been good as a non-fiction.

Some interesting quotes, which I came across:
  1. People are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they still want more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.
  2. Everything you know comes from experience accumulated over long years of work. If you wanna be creative, forget that you have all that experience.
  3. Talent is a universal gift, but it takes a lot of courage to use it. Don't be afraid to be the best.
It's always good to share the agony of reading through a long book, without actually getting the desired value/expectation, especially if an unwary reader ends up with such a book. But the review is truly a personal opinion, and opinions always vary!