May 19, 2014

Book Review: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Set in Korea during its occupation by the Japanese. That was a setting, I had never looked at, and knew very little about. Many of my historic fiction reads have put me back in touch with history and in fact I think I retain these stories and those pages in history much more after reading stories weaved around the facts.

The Calligrapher's daughter was lent by a friend, and it fit into my Bingo requirement too! Set in a small village, a calligrapher who believes the Japanese are spoiling his country. He who wants a son so bad, he refuses to name his daughter when she is the healthy born child after numerous child related misfortunes. It gives the reader a peep into the ways of traditional lives, with separate living quarters for male and female members of the family. Rules and regulations are abundant and a small girl who struggles to keep up with them, and yet have some fun. As I progressed through the book, a clear message which I seemed to be receiving was that with the influx of Christianity, there was a women's empowerment movement which was being brought about, with new rules and regulations, some which were in complete opposition to the original Korean way of daily living.

The position royalty holds in this Japanese occupied country, and how they navigate through their traditions while imbibing the new Japanese ones also. A life of boredom and confinement portrayed through the historic narrations by the aunt has a lasting impression on the calligrapher's daughter. The story moves through childhood, marriage, WW II, moving houses and losing people on the way. All through we see how a girl who was not wanted, and always chastised for her open, rebellious attitude bring her family together and leave many things behind to be there for them at the time of need.

There were numerous instances where I felt that the protagonist's mother portrays the typical women of the yester years. How they know what is the right thing to say, and they know what is the unsaid. Myself, I fail at it miserably, so this was interesting to read and in fact see how my MIL usually achieves this quite effortlessly. My mother on the contrary I see as myself, who doesn't bother too much about unsaid things, and look at the words which are spoken and act upon that alone.

Personally, this book was a very simple read, very well written and infused with much regional specifics which was good to learn. Traditional beliefs, doings, rules, however you wish to name them, this book is filled with them, but it was all new to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Rating: 4/5

May 12, 2014

Poovar, Kerala

Kerala is my home state. This means I have been to very limited touristic places in Kerala and I end up being at home or visiting the N number of relatives who are dispersed throughout the state. So, I would have traveled along the entire length and breadth of the state, but I would have seen very limited wonders Kerala has to offer.

This time when I planned to be at home, I thought I should take T out to some real backwaters and show her the small kids splashing about and that should help get her to love the water like I do. We decided to visit Poovar and take a long boat ride through the meandering, narrow waterways. There were very recent rains towards the coastal regions of Kerala, so it was perfect with lots of water and not too hot and humid a weather to enjoy the beauty.

Identify the bird
Floating cottages of Poovar
Meandering backwaters
Poovar, lies about an hours drive from Trivandrum. It is an easily accessible location, and worked for us a great day trip. The motor boat rides through the backwaters can be taken for 1 or 2 hours, and they drive you all the way upto the Golden Sand beach. The beach is beautiful and the waves are soft and not as rough a Kovalam. There are just tender coconut vendors at this beach, which is really the mouth where the sea water enters to form the backwater stretch at Poovar.

Once you finish with the boat ride there are some great restaurants around Poovar, at the innumerable resorts which serve great food. Local cuisine and sea food being the top fare.
Giggling kids splashing in the water

We decided to head to Kovalam to gorge on some sea food, and boy, did  we gorge! Crabs, squids, prawns and fish, we did true justice to being at the coast!

Sea wall

May 10, 2014

A Bingo Update

My last Bingo Update was in March, so its been a while and a little late too. I have got done with just 2 more books, and picking up something from a friend now! This means I am done with 6 squares from the 25 for the year

A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )

Currently Reading:
A book your friend loves: Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim


May 9, 2014

Book Review: River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

When I completed the Sea of Poppies, I was all the more thrilled to go on to the second part, but some travel plans had me taking something which was lighter to carry around. During this time, I ended up reading some reviews on Goodreads and across various blogs. Many of the reviews did bring about a feeling that this is not going to be as good as the first part, something which happens to so many of the books which fall into a series mode.

But when I did start reading it, on completing the first 200 odd pages, I felt the story was wonderful and it was more about the opium than about the people involved in it. The characters who came across every paragraph in the first book were almost sidelined and in fact when I think of it, I do not know how many times they were mentioned through the book itself. But, the book has a different set of people and a life which picks up for them after the ship wreck. A changed scenario, but still bound together by the opium trade.

When I was done with done with 350 pages, I started to pick up pace, and that is when things were not the same again. The turns in history are beautifully woven in and to see how the East India Company and British have had their share of supremacy all through those years.

The book winds down with tragedies and then in a sudden instant you are transferred back to a different era where all the opium details was an old man narrating his life and the past to small eager ears.

I had read very iffy reviews about this book, and those did make me feel a little unsure, but once I started to read with more concentration the story was beautiful. I think it took a while for it to grow on me and capture my full attention, but once that happened, it was a wonderful read.

Rating: 4.5/5