Monday, November 11, 2013

Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2013

There's nothing like a challenge with a bunch of friends to get you back on the reading wagon. And there is definitely nothing like a reading challenge to keep you off the blogging wagon :)

Thanks to Amma & Appa visiting us for summer I managed to finish the Orbis Terrarum Challenge much before the year was up. Of course the fact that Amma and Appa felt ignored is but a minor inconvenience.

Here are my snippy reviews since if I decide to wax eloquent, I am going to to be writing this till kingdom come.

Iskender by Elif Shafak
Country : Turkey
Rating: 2.5/5
Elif Shafak took a difficult issue to write about – honor killing. The book opens with the murder already done so we know the victim & the perpetrator. The story is narrated by the victim Pembe’s daughter. However I felt the book didn’t give enough weight to the entire honor killing episode. Everyone accepts and eventually forgives Iskendar (Pembe’s eldest son).
What she fails to do for the cause , Elif does to the Turkey’s Kurdish culture. Her words shine light on a remote section of people and enchants us with their quirks, faults and traditions.
The twins’, Pembe & Jamila, birth and life in the village, the importance of honor in that community is well brought out through flashbacks.  However the story’s focus is only on Pembe’s family and their struggle to assimilate into London and the whole Jamila thread seems to be there only for shock value and to conveniently tie the loopholes. Sadly I liked Jamila’s character (whatever little is shown) and would’ve loved to know more about her.

You can read it once.

Country: Iran
Rating: 3/5
-     Lovely and entertaining story about an Iranian mother and daughter’s journey to self-discovery and coming to terms with loss of home, love and all things dear. Another story about an immigrant family’s struggle in a western world but this one is a lot more humourous. As someone who is best friends with an Iranian-Indian, this was a way of reliving all the stories I had heard from her. Marjan Kamali’s words flow effortlessly across the pages making as sigh and giggle and nod our heads with Darya as she tries hard to connect with her daughter.   And at the end you do agree with Darya, as an immigrant you can never be home… the home you left behind has moved on with the times, it is no longer the sepia-toned one of your childhood and the home you have made still remains alien to you after decades of living there. I have the same feeling everytime I visit Chennai because it is no longer the Madras of my childhood and Nashua can never be Madras.
Pick it up. You will enjoy it immensely.

Country : UK
Rating: 4/5
Don’t pick this book if you are vying for the ‘Most Conscientious Mom’ title because you’re going to fail at it. Miserably. When I sat down with this book on a Sunday after lunch, little did I know I would be stuck with it into the wee hours of the night, weeping and smiling at the same time.  I ignored my family, tricked The Mr into making the evening coffee, bribed the kids with TV and just cuddled on the sofa with the book. When in spite of my best laid plans the kids demanded dinner, I just made a huge pot of Maggi noodles; one hand stirring while the other held onto the book, never letting go.
There are some books that are well written and then there is ‘Me Before You’ that holds you captive with its well-etched characters and heart-wrenching, though-provoking story. Pick it up, Louisa Clark and Will Traynor won’t disappoint.

Country: Vietnam
Rating: 2.5/5
This is a Vietnamese family saga narrated by the different family members. One part of the family immigrates to France under the patriarch while the younger son and his family lands in America. The horror of refugee camps is brought out more in the silences than in graphic details. I liked how some questions weren't really answered and left in shadows. Cherry's paternal Grandpa in France and maternal Grandma in America, both manipulate and lord over their families under the pretext of 'doing the right thing'. The book beautifully captures what happens when such best laid plans go awry. I liked it because I felt the family struggles, the arguments and a person's faults were more believable. There was no band-aid to make the ending like a dramatic happy finale...instead it is more realistic because people don't just change overnight.

Country: Canada
Rating: 1/5
The only saving grace of this book was the cover. The blurb claimed that the heroine Meena, one of six daughters refuses to live by tradition and makes a painful choice that has serious repercussions. But apart from listening to rock songs, falling in love with a white guy and then sleeping with her best friend without her family's knowledge, Meena does nothing outside of tradition. The book is sad, sad and really sad. I felt the author was conjuring up tragedies just for the heck of it. Six daughter and we hear about only 2, maybe a little of the third. Another book that has various characters going through domestic abuse and no one around them says it is wrong. Did not like it one bit. 

Country: Bangladesh
Rating: 1/5
Godawful book. Don't bother picking it up. Even if the story is bad usually the prose is eloquent but this one I regret trudging through for the sake of finishing it. This is like the third book from a South-Asian author I have read that has the lead character having an affair as a sign of asserting themselves blah blah. I am not a prude and I believe couples can fall out of love. But i feel something is very wrong when your character who has been spineless and quiet for 3/4th of the story suddenly chooses to exert her independence by having an affair.And atleast write it with some passion so readers can feel the tension. "She waited under the sheets. she felt she was having a fever". WTF?