Punctuated Much? : EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid


My Man Booker meter is broken I think, because I cannot understand the hype around this book. So much hype that I was over the moon to be gifted a print copy and started reading it immediately.  Everything was fine until the doors arrived…. and then I just wanted to EXIT, in any direction – east, WEST, north, south.

One of the most annoying things about this book was the way it was written, in super long never ending sentences, that went on and on, punctuated with endless commas and ‘ands’, which just did not lend well to easy reading and really put me off, and I don’t think it did justice to the dialogue or helped connect with the characters, and I think the only reason the book is so popular is because of the premise of the story about civil war, displacement and migration, about being forced to give up your life and land to make something of a life somewhere else, which is the reality for so many people in the world today, and all of that mixed up with some magical realism, which I would have been fine with if the writing had been easier to read, and not sounded like an unceasing drone, because there were sentences that were longer than a page at times and its such a distracting thing, and this premise had so much potential to draw out the complexities of the main protagonists, and also of all those stray snippets of lives that appear and disappear, and would have just given the book much more depth and clarity.

Consider this paragraph:

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See what I’m saying?

There was also this typical contradictory way of describing things, like saying this book was not good, but it was also not bad or that it wasn’t lengthy, but it was also not short or that the language was simple, but it was also complicated. Cmon! It makes the writing sound quite trite and dull.
An finally, after trudging through all that to finish the book, I took nothing away from the story and feel frustrated for not being even a little persuaded or inspired by it 😦

So all in all, a thumbs down for this Man Booker shortlisted title.
I seem to be making a record now.

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Book Review : Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante


Those Who Leave and Those Who StayThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By the end of this one, I knew I had to take a break and not start the fourth book immediately. That is the effect these books have had on me and I’ve torn through the first three non-stop, as if they were one book and not three.

In this one we see Elena and Lila go through their 20s and 30s. Time passes quickly for Elena from being a young university student to unknowingly a somewhat acclaimed author and then the wife of a professor – all signs of having truly ‘arrived’ in life. Lila on the other hand is going through a disturbingly downward spiral in her life and there is an evident distance between the two friends during these years.

This one brought out the really raw emotions of both women and I wondered many times if their relationship could really be called a friendship anymore. There’s a constant love-hate equation that is frustrating and disturbing to witness. There is a demanded dependence, rough abdication. Jealousy abounds. Its almost claustrophobic – a claustrophobia of the mind.

And yet you keep reading, hoping to understand why, hoping they will relinquish the cold war, or break off completely rather than be mirrors of misery to each other.

Elena’s need for verification is almost tragic – Lila never ceases to be a benchmark, she can never shake her off.

“My becoming was a becoming in her wake.”

“my thoughts were cut off in the middle, absorbing and yet defective, with an urgent need for verification, for development, yet without conviction, without faith in themselves. Then the wish to telephone her returned, to tel her: Listen to what I’m thinking about, please lets talk about it together.”

And Lila, unapologetic and vengeful, violently expresses her independence and disengagement – which displays her need to coverup insecurities, setbacks and failures even more – which are unacceptable to her, and yet her reality.

The story traces how both women deal with their own circumstances and situations in life. Each reassuring herself of having the better one in comparison to the other, and each seemingly unhappy with it. They compete constantly. They are bolder, more reckless, more selfish and yet there are a few tender moments that confuse and conflict how you feel about them.

One cannot help but ‘feel’ – for them and with them.

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Cover Image: Goodreads.com

Book Review : My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante


My Brilliant FriendMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I quite enjoyed this book. The style is very different from what I’ve been reading lately and even though the writing doesn’t allow you to rush through it, there is a “pull” factor that keeps bringing you back into the story, to see how things unfurl, what reactions occur, how minds work and how through all these dynamics the two friends grow and evolve.

They are independent, yet co-dependent, inseparable but also resentful of each other, indecisive but firm, seeking their own individualities but also constantly emulating each other. The complexities of humans and their intertwining lives is very well portrayed and that’s what keeps you glued page after page…. I have all the books in the series, and I’m finding it difficult to not start the next one immediately.

Elena Ferrante has been in the news lately, having been long listed for the Man Booker for her fourth novel in this series, and what makes it even more interesting is that her true identity remains a mystery. She expresses her reason for anonymity as – “The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies.”

In an age where writers climb over each other to secure any and every form of recognition or acknowledgement (which is fair if their work merits it), Ferrante stands apart as someone who is completely content in the fact that readers are connecting with her stories and that is really the purpose of all her writing. She believes that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t.”
Evokes a lot of respect for such a highly acclaimed author, who first published in 1992, but never compromised with her stand on anonymity.

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