The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald #BookReview

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald #BookReview

September 24th is the birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It’s a fact I came to know because of Twitter and I wanted to write about him.  Of course,  I do not know much about him personally.  I have also just read one book written by him.  In fact, I saw the movie first and loved it.  I was not sure if I should read the book.  But,  it is really a short read.  And so I read ‘The Great Gatsby’.  For once,  the movie matched up to the book.  It was so well done.  The movie very well captures the small nuances and the layers of narration in the book.

The Great Gatsby is also a criticism about the American Dream.  It paints the era of the 20s as a garish era, and divides people into those having old money and new money.  It  shows the lives of people like Tom and Daisy Buchanan who live a life of luxury and do not care about others.  On the other hand,  it shows the aspirations of the new moneyed people like The Great Gatsby and everyone in between like Nick and Daisy’s friend Jordan.  It shows the new moneyed people flaunting their riches, leading extravagant lives, and indulging in lavish parties.  It is more famously known as the ‘Jazz age’.

Strangely, when this book was released,  it was not a success.  But over time it has acquired a cult following and has been successful.  It has been made into an Oscar award winning movie.

The Plot

Mr. Gatsby lives alone in a mansion and throws spectacular parties every weekend.  Everyone is invited.  Practically the whole city comes over to have free booze and food.  It is like a circus.  They all claim to be Mr. Gatsby’s friends but surprisingly no one seems to know him,  or oddly even see him.  Gatsby sends out a personal invitation to his neighbour Nick Carraway.  Nick lives in a small, cozy cottage and is not really impressed by Gatsby’s riches.  He listens to speculations about him as to where he could have made his millions from.  When Nick attends one of the parties and actually meets Gatsby,  he comes across as a bit odd.  Because,  Mr. Gatsby is trying too hard to impress Nick.  Much of what he says seem to be lies to Nick, but he surely has the money.  Soon Nick realises that Gatsby is trying to impress him so that Nick gets him to meet his cousin Daisy.  Gatsby and Daisy had an affair in their younger days but practicality made her marry Tom Buchanan instead of Gatsby, the soldier who had no background.  So, Gatsby has risen to be rich now and all he wants is Daisy to be back with him to make his world perfect.

Describing Gatsby’s love for Daisy, her friend Jordan says that ‘The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and because it seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since.  His name was Jay Gatsy.’   This is how simply the author describes how Daisy fell in love with Gatsby or vice-versa.  Gatsby looked at Daisy as if she is a princess in another world,  a world which is so much different from his.

So Daisy is fine with having an affair with Gatsby since she knows she doesn’t love her husband Tom and also as Tom is having his own set of ‘other women’.  But,  it is a marriage which is safe, dependable, rich and beautiful.  She has no reason to complain.  She is almost on the verge of leaving her husband considering that Gatsby can now offer her everything.  Gatsby gleefully tells her husband Tom, ‘Your wife doesn’t love you. She’s never loved you.  She loves me.’  This angers Tom but just gets Gatsby more excited.  He loves it and rubs it in by saying, ‘She never loved you,  do you hear? She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.  It was a terrible mistake,  but in her heart she never loved any one except me!’

But his happiness is short-lived as everything goes wrong since this moment.  The ending is unhappy.  Because by then you are rooting for Gatsby and want to knock some sense into Daisy’s head so that she decides fast whom she loves but all the while you are hoping that Daisy loves Gatsby as much as Gatsby loves her.

My take

If you are an aspiring writer,  The Great Gatsby is an education in writing.  It is beautifully written.  Gatsby’s neighbour and Daisy’s cousin Nick is the narrator here.  This gives insights into the personality and lives of Daisy and Gatsby, both.  The story goes a bit to and fro with pasts woven in with the present.  It shows us why Gatsby behaves in certain ways.  It is really a quick read and can be done in less than two hours.  But the story packs in so much emotion.  At the end of it,  I have fallen hopelessly in love with The Great Gatsby and hate everyone in the book who doesn’t.

If you do not want to read the book,  watch the movie with Leonardo Di Caprio as the lead.  It brings the whole story to life, in exactly the same way imagined by the author.  Even the dialogues are the same.

The Prince’s Special Bride by Devika Fernando

The Prince’s Special Bride by Devika Fernando

The Prince’s Special Bride is a sweet love story between Prince Christian of Taragonia and Marie Kemei,  an Anglo-African hotel manager working in the Maldives.

The background –

The book starts with a beautiful sunset in Maldives which Marie loves to watch in solitude.  Her solitude is broken when she finds one of the hotel guests sobbing her heart out.  Marie soon becomes friend and confidante to Olivia.  Christian comes in search of his sister Olivia and finds her staying in the Malaysian hotel.  Marie and Christian are attracted to each other.  But,  Marie comes to know later that Olivia and Christian belong to the Royal kingdom of Taragonia.  It is a fictitious kingdom in Europe.  Olivia’s distress is she is engaged to be married to the Prince of Visteria.  Everything changes when Princess Olivia invites Marie a month in advance to her wedding and asks her to be her special Bridesmaid.  Marie is awed by the grandeur of the palace and the way the royals live.  Her exotic looks with darker skin and Afro hair makes her stand out in the European kingdom of pale skins and pastel gowns.  She feels she is a misfit.  It is only her love for the Prince and the friendship of the Princess that makes her stay pleasant.  During the course of the month, she discovers a lot about the kingdom and also about herself.  So,  what makes Prince Christian fall in love with a commoner like Marie.

What I liked –
  1. I love to read about heroines who are strong and independent.  Marie is a very independent woman content with life.
  2. I have never read a romance where the heroine is of a different skin-color.  I would like to see more of such heroines.
  3. Christian is a dutiful Prince who wants the best for his Kingdom.  He is duty bound as Crown Prince and takes his role seriously.  He is environmentally conscious, grows organic food and is also ready to help out countries in distress.  It actually made me root for monarchy.  He is a true knight in shining armour.
  4. The descriptions are vivid.  The author brings the Palace alive in her descriptions,  you will wish to go have a walk in it.
  5. The dresses are described well and there is some excellent designer wear there.
  6. The language is easy to read and simple.

My only grumble is I wanted to read a little more of their romance in the beautiful palace.  They are two very good people who are in love.  But, I wanted them to have some lover’s tiffs,  some misunderstandings,  some distress.  But, they truly are a match well-made.

This Cinderella meets Prince Darcy tale is a light, breezy read.  It is perfect for an afternoon of good times.

Where the Rain is born  – Anita Nair  #BookReview

Where the Rain is born – Anita Nair #BookReview

Rain is synonymous with Kerala.  As a Malayalee (person from Kerala),  I naturally love the monsoon rains.  The title itself drew me to the book.  This is not just one book.  It has many books within it.  The book is a mixture of 34 fictional stories, poems, non-fiction,  essays,  POVs from writers in Kerala,  or writers writing about Kerala.  Also, all the stories are not about rain.

The book starts off with the first story which tells us about where the rain is born.  This short non-fiction account is taken from the book ‘Chasing the Monsoon’ written by journalist and travel-writer Alexander Frater.   He recounts how he witnessed the rain being born at the southern-most tip of Kerala.  He is at the Kovalam beach with a bunch of weathermen, journalists and other enthusiasts.  The south-western monsoon clouds make it’s first landing here and thus the rain is born.  This place Kovalam is just about 50 km from my hometown Varkala.  Thus we probably see the first monsoon rains in India and never even knew about it.

Next is a short fiction by Shashi Tharoor called ‘Charlis and I’.  I loved the way the author has woven the progress of the different castes through the various policies in Kerala.  But still, it is a simple, heartwarming story about a few boys.  His language is impeccable.  On a similar vein is the story ‘A village before time’ by V K Madhavan Kutty. Continue reading

Son of Shiva by Preetha Rajah Kannan #BookReview

Son of Shiva by Preetha Rajah Kannan #BookReview

This is the second book of Preetha Rajah Kannan I am reading.  I had loved Shiva in the City of Nectar.  The book and a few other blogs had inspired me to travel to Madurai during the summer vacations.  So, when Jaico Publishing asked me to review this book,  I was more than happy to take the offer.

The Hindu religion is full of stories.  In fact,  in today’s terms,  I would call it mythological fantasy.  Each story more fantastic than the other.  There are the numerous re-tellings,  and local village stories pertaining to the Gods.  There is so much of religious literature in local languages that we the English readers are missing it.  So,  I am glad that Preetha has compiled a treasure trove of stories based upon the Tamil writings primarily from the book Sri Kandhapuranam written by Dr. Akila Sivaraman and other sources.  So,  is this a translation?  Not really.   The stories are put together following a sequence of events.  Back stories are highlighted as and when a character is touched upon.   Continue reading

Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan #BookReview

Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan #BookReview

Ponni’s Beloved is the translation of the classic Tamil historical novel called Ponniyin Selvan written at the beginning of the 20th century by Kalki Krishnamurthy.   The original book has 2400 pages split into five volumes.   The book narrates the story of Arulmozhivarman (later crowned as Rajaraja Chola I), one of the kings of the Chola Dynasty  during the 10th and 11th centuries.  (Source : Wikipedia)

Being a translation,  the plot and story is already good.  But,  let me add full marks to the translation.  A translated book is only interesting if it catches the essence and the mood of the original without sounding like a literal translation.  This one is surely well-translated.  The notes and ready pointers to meanings made it easier for reading the book.  In the e-book,  it was easy to navigate to the meanings and get back to the story.

Before reading this book,  I was not aware of its Tamil origins and had never heard about it.  It reinforces my faith that we should have more translations of regional books.  It is not possible to know all languages but why should we not be able to read good literature.  Follow the hashtag #ReadTranslations for more translated works.

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