Saturday, December 20, 2014

Books: Highlights of 2014

These three books were published some time ago but I read them this year hence they are in my 2014's highlights. They are memorable because I feel like I travel to the places in the books just by reading them.

The Death of Mr. Love by Indra Sinha




Set mostly in India and England, the book is inspired by the true story of the Nanavati murder case in India. The story followed the lead character's Bhalu in his journey to learn the truth about his past. Following the death of his mother, Bhalu went back to India to find out the reason for their sudden departure to UK. I enjoyed the parts where the main character, Bhalu described his childhood days in Ambona Hills and later his youth in Dongri, a predominantly Muslim area in Bombay (now Mumbai).

Ambona Hills is a fictional name for the real Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountains in India and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sinha remembered the place fondly and so does Bhalu. When Bhalu recalled his childhood days in the mountains, he described the beautiful landscapes and the monsoon season through the eyes of a child. I also enjoyed the part where Bhalu recalled the starting of his friendship with Jula, a village boy. Years later, the friendship was rekindled in Dongri in Bombay, where they were joined by a new friend, Dost.

Dona Ines vs. Oblivion by Ana Teresa Torres
(Translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa)



A story of a Venezuelan family weaved with the national history of the country. It was based on an actual court case that began in 1663 and was only resolved in the late 1960s.

Dona Ines Villegas y Solorzano was matriach of an aristocracy family searching for a title of a land claimed by the son fathered by her husband with a slave woman. She died in 1780 but continued to narrate the story as a ghost as she followed the life of her descendants until 1985 when the land dispute was settled.

The story of her descendants were told along with historical events of the nation; there were the earthquakes and floods, slaves rebellion, war of independence, and dictatorship with historical figures such as Simon Bolivar and General Joaquin Crespo mentioned. One interesting fact I discovered is that there is a place called Barcelona in Venezuela - I always known Barcelona to be in Spain!

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini



I have not read his successful debut, The Kite Runner prior to reading this book, his second.

The book takes its title from a poem written about Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan by the 17th century poet Saib-e-Tabrizi. It follows the life of two women, Mariam and Laila who were brought together through a series of tragic events. Their day-to-day life offered a glimpse to a war-torn country before and during the Taliban rules. It also tell of the struggle the women face in a society that values men while women are 'to endure', as Mariam's mother, Nana, warned her.

One memorable line from the book is uttered by Nana: 'Like a compass facing north, a man's accusing finger always find a woman,' - I thought this quote is quite apt to describe a male-dominated society.