The Sunflower Forest

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Author: Torey Haden

Page count: 461

Genre: (Fiction) Tragedy

Book Synopsis:  Seventeen-year-old Lesley is a typical teenage girl: her worries revolve around boys, choosing the right college and bickering with her younger sister Megan. She adores her beautiful, captivating mother Mara, who tells evocative stories of her childhood in Hungary and Germany before the war. However, Mara has one memory of the past that she can never share…

As Lesley begins to uncover the horror of her mother’s secret, their idyllic family life shatters around them, and Lesley realizes that her mother is not the person she thought she knew.

 

Don’t let the synopsis deceive you because it’s not entirely a Coming-Of-Age novel!

Hayden, a usually non-fiction writer has gloriously attempted writing fiction stories into 3 novels, this being one of them, and it is absolutely lovely!

Based on a true story (Hayden has let on that she found inspiration to write this one after coming across an newspaper article on the case of a local woman who had been a part of a Holocaust ), it’s heart-breaking!

The story, well combined with bursts of comedy, tragedy and your daily dose of teenage problems, all to form a devastatingly disturbing novel, especially when you’re halfway through it. It’s sad,really!

The mother-daughter tie has been well captured, ever so smoothly, and every so normally, devoid of melodrama save for the mother’s bouts of eccentricity and eventually mania. It’s painful seeing a daughter hold on to those sane parts of her mother, of her to pretend that everything’s just fine, her mother will come back to her, like she always does!

Here’s how it starts:

In that year what I wanted the most was a boyfriend. I was seventeen and had never had a date. I had the rest:breasts, hair under my arms, my period, the desire. I certainly had the desire.

Once, when I was little and not too informed about the mechanics, my best friend and I had pretended to make love, our legs spread apart scissor-fashion, until we were crotch to crotch, one person’s sneaker under the other person’s nose.My grandmother had caught us at it. She sent Cecily home and spanked me with a wooden mixing spoon and made me sit in the pantry to say Hail Mary. There was no doubt in her mind, she said:  i got such interests from my mother. Perhaps I did. However, even at that tender age, I decided they weren’t such bad interests to have.

 

The writing has already grabbed your interest, hasn’t it? Don’t lie.

Again, it’s not entirely a Coming-Of-Age Novel!

Anyways, I found the book a bit of a difficult read; I mean, its not brain-whacking or anything, I just found it tough to read atleast as I was approaching midway, but then the journey found it’s pace.

I somehow like how Hayden ended the novel (most readers might beg to differ!) because somethings in life need not have a proper stated justification, a reason, a plausible cause for why it happened, or a happy/hopeful conclusion … some things are just inevitable.

 

Ratings:

Critics: 3.5/5

I’d rate it: 3.4/5

 

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 Shock of the Fall

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Author: Nathan Filer

Page Count: 307

Genre: (Fiction) Mental Health, Tragi-Comedy.

Book Synopis: I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

If you thought it’s impossible to make a funny book about mental illness, I’d shove this book at you! Filer has managed to write this dark comedy about an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake: Schizophrenia.

It is a compelling narrative of a lad shadowed by a mental illness and the lingering grief and guilt over his brother’s death.

Although the main event of the story is signposted at the very start, the suspense lingers. Flier succeeds to give some and hold some back!

The writing is incredibly inconsistent and dynamic which makes it beautiful! The central character actually physically writes this book so it’s like an episodic diary, with tremendous amounts of gaps. His life continues to move forwards as he writes about it. He gets distracted sometimes, dawdles off topic, finds his words back, rewinds, gives real-time updates, flashbacks and rewinds again.  Since Matt is physically writing it, it is not ordered, it has flaws, it has sloppy handwriting and sloppy thoughts and typewriter pages with their smudged ink, and tiny sketches and doodles.

Here’s how it starts:

the girl and her doll

I should say that I am not a nice person. Sometimes I try to be, but often I’m not. So when it was my turn to cover my eyes and count to a hundred- I cheated.

Through this bittersweet novel whose lead, although unreliable, captivates you even though his world is falling apart, Flier give an insight to the illness through this book, and helps the reader if not understand, but feel what the illness is like partially at least!

It is painful,

it is poignant,

it is haunting,

it is funny,

it is tragic

and I could just go on!

 

And it is definitely worth a read!

the shock of the fall and the blood on my knee

 

Ratings:

Critics: 4/5

I’d rate it: 4/5

The Great Gatsby

                                        TheGreatGatsby_1925jacket

  • Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Genre: (Fiction) Romance, Tragedy, Social Commentary 
  • No. of pages: 180                                                                             
  • Book synopsisHere is a novel, glamorous, ironical, compassionate -a marvelous fusion into unity of the curious incongruities of the life of the period which reveals a hero like no other- one who could live in no other time and in no other place. But he will live as a character, we surmise, as long as the memory of any reader lasts. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life….it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.” It’s the story of this Jay Gatsby who came so mysteriously to West Egg, of his sumptuous entertainments, and his love for Daisy Buchanan-a story that ranges from pure lyrical beauty to sheer brutal realism, and is infused with the strangeness of human circumstance in a heedless universe. It is a magical, living book, blended of irony, romance and mysticism.                                                                      
  • Movie Adaptations: The Great Gatsby (1974); The Great Gatsby (2000); The Great Gatsby (2013)    

 

Take a bow, Fitzgerald! If there was ever a man with a way with words, he it was. With a writing so intense, The Great Gatsby is nothing short of a ballad.

Set in the early 1920s (commonly referred to as the ‘Jazz Age’), the story depicts the lavish but meaningless lives the “well-to-do”s lived in the pursuit of money and pleasure. So lost were they in their chase for all things materialistic, that they’d lose track of reality. Very much like our poor Jay Gatsby; very much like our poor 21st century world.

Timelessly relevant, The Great Gatsby makes one realise that one must know when to quit. One must know what goals are unattainable. One must, at some point or the other, accept the changes. If all this makes the book sound like a moral-story, then yes it is but..well..it has to be the best moral-story ever written (no I’m not exaggerating).

The New York Herald Tribune referred to The Great Gatsby saying “…it contains some of the nicest little touches of contemporary observation you could imagine-so light, so delicate, so sharp…a literary lemon meringue.”

What works best for The Great Gatsby is its impeccable characterisation. A very convincing description of Gatsby sang:

 He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.

A sense of melancholy is what the book ultimately leaves us with. The ending, howsoever tragic, was foreboded by one and all but was yet unavoidable. But also does it give us the hope that despite of all that happens to us and to all around us, life DOES go on.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

 

Ratings:

Critics-  ♥♥♥♥                                                                      I’d  rate it- Four green stars at the end of the dock ♥♥♥♥