April 9, 2019

Book Review - Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

As always, I was wary of an autobiography, and moreover of a writer, who is known for her comedy. She had also done stand up comedy... now I was so unsure whether this is my kind of book! This was the book club pick, and I always try to read all the picks just so that I am exposed to different genres and I am not stuck in my own rut of Literary fiction, historic fiction etc.

Source: Lindywest.net
Shrill by Lindy West. I had never heard of the author, or read any of her columns, but I googled and read up about her and what she writes about. Her writing style was very direct, conversational and moreover like how you would hold a dialogue with a friend. I decided to pick the Audible version as I was still not convinced that I will get myself to read the complete book if it was on Kindle. Looking back, it was a good decision; I was listening very intently to Lindy speaking to me and somehow the reading was so much better than how I would have read to myself. Her speaking style and personality reflected in the reading which added great depth to the words.

Women, fat, rape, abortion, marriage, love - So many topics and I am sure every woman would have gone through  some of these comments and unnecessary interference in their life. Hell, men even have an opinion on whether you should wear a bra or not! Whether you should cover up your arms or not! They seem to have an opinion on all things women, and take it upon them to comment, suggest, solve our problems and show us the path which is the best! The best path which suits them.

As I listened to the book, I was nodding along on many instances when I recalled how life always hands out those typical misogynist views to everyone and it doesn't really matter whether you are petite or fat, rich or poor, educated or not, in fact nothing really matters. And when it came to the numerous rape jokes and how Lindy tried explaining to the men around, from the producers to viewers why it was important to not trivialize serious issues such as rape... I was still nodding alone, as this is what you see everyday across media, news sites or Twitter/Facebook. The world keeps saying that these things are just being made a big deal about. The world says that this has always been the case, always been what has been happening, just that social media has made a platform to bring all this to the forefront. But, does that make it right or fine or not to be bothered with? The question about intrinsic right or wring was not the question here, it was more of why bother about it, since everyone is aware.

This was a book which I was not sure whether I would like, but it proved me completely wrong. It has all the right elements to make us sit up and see what is happening around, and to think that this woman has been fighting it for so long. She says there have been small changes, but when is a true big change coming?

When will that happen? Or will it take a lifetime to see that change?

Rating: 5/5

February 18, 2019

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less by Andrew Sean Greer, as everyone would have heard of it by now, a satirical comedy which has won the Pulitzer prize. Coincidentally, it was picked by the book club I am a member of, as the first book for 2019. I am not the usual Pulitzer reader, and in fact i stay away from them from fear of not understanding the essence of a story without repeated back and forth! And, in this regard, I must add, this was a pleasant surprise. I could pick it up, read and get back to it on the go making it a perfect weekday read.

A not so great author, being pushed to take up many engagements, all against his will. But, a path he must walk down because his love is walking down another path with another man. It seems that there is so much going on in his head, so much to complain about and look back upon. As I look back it is one my first books where the protagonist is a homosexual, but that is not one of the highlights of the book. There is very little which is specifically around his orientation, it is more of his mind and the thoughts that run through. His continuous urge to get away from and keep no contact with anyone who can possibly give him information of the fated marriage of his love is the primary focus.

As I read the book, there were many instances when I related strongly with the protagonist. He questions the very essence of relationships, much like how I wonder how marriage functions as a practice. How is it feasible that two every evolving pieces stick around together for years. 10 years seem to a good enough time, but beyond that seems very questionable. This has been my vice with marriages also, but sadly this isn't something I thought through before. This 10 year ideology made perfect sense for me and helped me see how human beings change through time. And changing people mean they need not change in an ever aligned manner, but as different beings, completely moving away from each other. Very pertinent questions!

The writing style was one which I did find difficult to follow, not very frequently though. At times with the quick period jumps, it left the reader scrambling to get the pieces connected. One minute you are in a house party somewhere in Paris, and the next minute you are far back in your house trying to figure out why your current marriage is not going to work. We move through a marriage, cheating, spending time by oneself, not speaking of feelings and then regretting all that not expressing.

But at the end of the book, a happy ending was not what I was looking for. It felt too perfect and one which I was not too happy about. And that alone would be the reason why I would not rate it a perfect five!

Rating: 4 /5

August 26, 2018

Book Review: Liberation of Sita by Volga

Liberation of Sita was a title which I had never heard of. It came to me via the Bangalore Book Club, which I am a member of. It is a translated work from Telugu, written originally by C. Vijayasree, who goes by the pen name Volga.

This book picks on the smaller unknown women in Ramayana and highlight their interaction with Sita, and each of these interactions changes her perspective about the meaning of her life, and what society has made her believe, and all that she has to unlearn. The story starts off when Sita has been abandoned by Rama and she lives in Valmiki's ashram with her two sons. She meets Surpanakha, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila through her years on being married to Rama and each of them impart their learnings to her, helping her shape herself and be ready for the time when her sons will leave the forest to head back to their kingdom.

Surpanakha helps her see how beauty and the importance given to women's beauty by the society need not be a shackle on the woman itself. She explains to Sita how she found peace and solace in growing beauty in her garden and growing beyond physical beauty.

Ahalya questions the importance attributed to chastity when it comes to women only. She tells Sita much ahead in time they she should never prove her chastity, and at Lanka, that is exactly what she is compelled to do. Sita assuages her broken heart by trying to explain Rama's plight, but fails to look at the alternative, how Rama could have stood by her, being the king of the land they were headed to, Ayodhya.

Renuka and Urmila similarly opens Sita's eyes to the injustsice to women and how society has set rules which are unfair. They show Sita how breaking out of these bonds is essential to find your true self, and how each one of them has achieved peace and happiness on their own, with no husband, no societal rules and no bonds.

The interweaving of mythology and fiction is beautiful. and it did leave me in a state where I was believing each of the stories to be true. A very short read, and being a translated work, I am unsure how the language would have flowed originally in Telegu, but this book felt a little too simplistic, for a writer who is so acclaimed in Telegu. I believe, there is always some bits which are lost in translation.

Rating: 4/5

August 16, 2018

Book Review: Mandodari, the Queen of Lanka by Manini J Anandani

A book which will give every reader a completely different perspective on Ravana and it might even help in appreciating his decisions. The view on Lanka, the ruling of Lanka and how the kingdom came to stand at its zenith before its downfall at the hands of Rama.

We see a woman, thrown into the hands of fate, married to a powerful man, a determined and shrewd man, who she can only follow. She tries many times to advice, but Lanka seems to be ruled by a man who believes strongly in his beliefs alone. A man set to prove the world wrong in their expectations from him, and in the process, lose sense of how and where life is taking him.

Although the book is named, Mandodari, Queen of Lanka, I felt at the end of the book, that I knew so much about Ravana, his life, his achievements and his deeds. I can not say I know the same about the Queen though. The life at Lanka through the eyes of the Queen is what the book portrays, but if you are looking to understand the Queen more, that is something you would be left craving for, as I was. The only bit where I saw Mandodari, and her views and thoughts clearly, was when she decides to go away and deliver her baby, who she wants to bring into the world without anyone's knowledge. Her conviction, her belief and decisions are seen only here.

But, I have to add I enjoyed the story, the narrative was simple and engaging, at times a little too detailed though. I can very confidently say I learnt so much about Ravana and Lanka. This seems to fit the missing link, more like the alter story when we think of the Ramayana.