Miss India America, Simhan and Kapoor 2015
Miss India America, Simhan and Kapoor 2015
Captain Kadian takes a large swig from his glass tumbler, closes his eyes for a moment, smacks his lips and says, ‘The job’s not that hard, you see, you just go down once a week or fifteen days, and the money, the money is not bad at all.’
I really wanted to like this. Looking back a few days later, I appreciate the story and the story telling, but while reading it, it couldn’t hold my focus.
The story is about the nineties war in Kashmir, and the young man left behind to take care of the remains. Literally. Where others have left to fight (for India/against India), the headman’s son has the job of taking identity cards from dead bodies. He feels left behind, he feels like a failure, he lives in less than a ghost town.
So what was it that didn’t click with me? Maybe the endless dreariness, the weight of everything going on. It’s not like the prose is dull, uninspired or repetitive, but it does push you into the tightening corner of the main character’s despair.
Maybe I simply read it after the wrong book, maybe I just couldn’t handle the story.
The Collaborator, Mirza Waheed, Viking 2011
“Hello,” it said.
It took a while, but this story comes with a punch. It’s about the family you choose and build, the place in society you can create and can be created for you. It’s about a love for education, knowledge and science, sometimes overruling familial love. It’s also about tragedies. Yes, I know this might not sound like the most appealing story.
Adding to that, the characters are all flawed in different kind of ways. The father figure chooses work and science over traditional parenting (and family) life, the neighbour falls regularly short in her attempts to add normalcy, the daughter is a stubborn yet passive creature. It takes a while to root for those that are all so awkwardly flawed.
David – the father – is losing the control over his mind, and Ada – his daughter – is only twelve. With his mind deteriorating, so does the world he built around her, the story he created for himself. Ada has to adjust to puberty, traditional life and saying goodbye to the father she knew, in different ways.
Science may just be the only that is left standing.
The Unseen World, Liz Moore, Windmill Books 2016
In a single year, my father left us twice.
This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.
Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.
These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?
It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016
I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.
He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind.
Sometimes you are simply (already) invested in a novel because you struggled to get it. Or like ‘struggle’; it’s not like I had to climb trees and survive the Sahara to get to it. It was just a tough-to-acquire eBook with a picky view of in which app to work. Anyway.
This was an experience, opposed to just another novel. Maybe I’m simply not used to Asian actors and their certain style yet, maybe it was simply because the jumps through time got me bewildered a few times.
There’s over a century of stories within the family, from second(/third/fourth?) cousins to daughters-in-law, first sons and grumpy (great-)grandmothers. A Chinese family in Canada, Chinese-Canadians and the Chinese family members left behind in the other country.
It’s a family tree book with immigration, racism and sexism mixed in. The not-western point of view doesn’t alienate, because everything that happens is simply too familiar. Everyone’s got a family, some roots just grow further and wither slower.
Disappearing Moon Cafe, Sky Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1990
It was a dark and stormy night.
This was a cooler experience than expected. I expected a children’s book from another age, not a mix of Abarat, Narnia and love of science. There’s discussions of religion, space travel and personal development.
And it all starts with a missing father and strange creatures asking Meg, her weird brother, and a popular boy for help. All three of them are essential – for different reasons – in the fight against the scary dark. It’s all very visual and vibrant, and I’m quite curious about how and how much it will be shown in the movie that’s made based on it.
It’s a children’s book like one of those that are mentioned in fiction, and reading it as an ebook somehow felt like I was missing part of the experience. Yes, there are some questions raised, but they are the kind you accept as unanswered because they don’t sabotage the story and/or we know an answer might follow (there’s a lot more books in the series).
I read this for a Book club, and I didn’t even feel like it was a waste of time. Which sounds like little, but means that I feel like it added to my Books Read, instead of subtracted.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, Farrar Straus Giroux 1962