Book Review: Norwegian Wood

“No truth can cure the sorrow you feel from losing a loved one”

Sad but true!

I have never read a book like this, which is so depressing. The novel is

Norwegian Wood

Photo by writer

about young people who have to deal with vicissitudes of life. It seems that the transition into adulthood seems stressful. It talks about youngsters who fail to make transitions and life takes its toll, forcing them to end their lives.

The story revolves around three main protagonists: Toru Watanabe, Naoko and Midori.

Watanabe was the central character and flipping through the pages of the novel, you come across his emotional tale of growing up, his learning to accept responsibility for his actions and his ability to deal with loss and rejection. He lost his friend Kizuki, who committed suicide in high school. Toru, later on, went to Tokyo to pursue his studies. There he met Naoko (Kizuki’s girlfriend)

Naoko was sensitive and vulnerable, definitely influenced by the people around her. She lost both a sister and her boyfriend Kizuki  as they gave up their lives. Afterwards, she developed a romantic relationship with Toru. However, she knew she has psychological problems, and therefore checked herself into a mountain retreat.

Her letters to Toru was a depiction of sudden enthusiasm of youth, followed by capricious silences and sometimes philosophical musings.

While Toru and Naoko were having a beautiful bond, the complication arouse when Midori stepped in. Midori was the opposite of Naoko, she was outspoken and an optimistic soul. She was audacious to express her fondness for Watanabe.

Delving into Midori’s life, she had her own struggles to face. But she is not a pessimist, and therefore, she refused an easy way out to her struggles. To see her perspective about life, there is one quote which I want to share here:

“You know how they’ve got these cookie assortments, and you like some but you don’t like others? And you eat up all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don’t like so much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. ‘Now I just have to polish these off, and everything will be OK’. Life is a box of cookies.” 

Other exception was Reiko, an older woman, who became best friend of Naoko in mountain sanatorium. She was the one who gave the kernels of wisdom that Toru gets to keep after all his emotional journey in the novel.

“Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life”

The novel is set in Japan in the late 1960s, which were the most politically chaotic period in Japan. Like in USA and Europe, Japan witnessed its share of sexual revolution, radical socialist movements, and anti-Vietnam War protests, etc.

NorwegianThe title of the novel is inspired by The Beatles song ‘Norwegian Wood’. Murakami’s obsession with western classics and music is reflected in the countless references to Beatles numbers like “Yesterday”, “Michelle”, “Something”, Bach, Mozart, Scarlatti and literary works of Joseph Conrad, Fitzgerald, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx and so on.

The novel’s structure looks like reading someone’s personal journal. There are some moments of touching sadness, but that’s all the book is really, just moments of sadness strung together.

This is my first foray to Haruki Murakami’s world, though it is not his best work , however, Murakami’s writing is subtle and beautiful. I am sure that the other book of Murakami (Wind-up Bird Chronicle) in my reading list will be much better than this one.

I rate this novel 4/5

 

 

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Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

” There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.”

Last night, I finished with ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, and I must say that the quality

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of this novel is nothing short but a masterful work of art.  I closed the book and start contemplating for a few hours as it was mind-boggling to sit back and penned down my thoughts.

Imagine, if you realize that every sin you commit, will leave the ugly scar on your visage, what would you do at that moment?

It begins with a simple realization, and perhaps an obvious one. But, for Dorian, it is completely life-changing. He realizes that beauty is finite. It won’t last forever. It’s like a flower, temporary and splendid. So if you’re a young man whose appearance is your singular quality, then this is some damn scary news. It is scary to even think that people are with you because you are attractive, and they are near to you only for your looks.

The novel is a reflection of life and societal ugliness. The level of cynicism and societal disregard that Wilde’s characters display towards humanity is simply staggering. It is a study of how the sins we commit cannot be hidden, even if we lie to ourselves about that.

There are three main characters: Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton, and Dorian Gray. Basil Hallward is an artist who after painting a picture of Dorian Gray becomes obsessed with him because of his beauty. Dorian then meets a friend of Basil, Lord Henry, and becomes enthralled with Lord Henry’s world view. Dorian Gray, once he becomes aware his portrait will bear the scars of his corruption – thus leaving his actual appearance unstained – feels free to ignore the pious morality.

Mr. Wilde does not elaborate on what vile acts Dorian committed. One is left to their own expansive imaginations to surmise the bulk of what he had done.

With this novel, Oscar Wilde has produced one of the literature’s greatest study of shallowness, vanity, casual cruelty and selfishness.

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There is an underlying side to Wilde’s character Dorian Gray which probably leads to his homosexuality.  This novel was published in 1891, which was the time when Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas and started a clandestine affair. Wilde was always persecuted by others and himself for his homosexuality.  Rarely any work of fiction seems to mirror the life of an author.

Despite what this novel implies, one thing is for sure,  youth is an adventurous phase where one’s actions yield to its whims; while maturity enables a person to be introspective of their past deeds.

I would recommend this novel to all those readers who want to read a beautiful fiction with a few moral lessons, here and there, between the lines.

I rate this piece of art 5/5

2016 Last Book Haul and Karachi International Book Fair

Call me a book hoarder or bibliomania! I love books.  I cannot resist the urge of buying

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books whenever I pass by any bookstore or book fair. I see books and I feel my legs have got stuck under some heavy object and I cannot move ahead.

This time, it happened when I got an opportunity to visit 12th Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) 2016 held in the month of December. For those readers who don’t know about KIBF, the five-day book fair is an annual event, which is organized by the Pakistan Publishers Booksellers’ Association (PPBA), with an aim to provide platform for local book-lovers like me.

KIBF is one of the country’s largest book fairs, bringing many publishing and distribution houses together with domestic and international publishers, booksellers, librarians and institutional customers.

Each year many international publishers participate in this event and this year too, publishers from Iran, Turkey, Singapore, China, Malaysia, England, UAE and other countries were part of this international event.

Coming back to my book-haul, I went on the second day of the fair. As I entered Karachi Expo Center, I was pretty excited because I was going to be with my love (read: books). It was a treat to see children and adults sharing same passion for books.

I made my way to hall number three where I went straight into Liberty Books stall. I browsed through variety of books on the shelves and then I decided to take out my list (which I had been preparing for two days) to purchase only selected books. Though let me tell you, I failed to follow my list.

Before coming to book fair, I made a decision that I would purchase less than ten books. However, I believe decisions are meant to be broken (or rules are meant to be broken) whatever, I end up spending more on books in one go and left broke.

I bought 20 books in the month of December which is quite huge after combining all the months’ purchase.

So, let me present you my last book haul for this year which I am sure will keep me occupied in 2017.

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I am going to read this for the first time and I have never read her before. The story is about two brown girls Tracy and Aimee who dream of becoming dancers. One has talent and the other has ideas about rhythm and time. A complicated childhood friendship ends abruptly in their twenties, never to be revisited but never quite forgotten either.

  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang

I got to know about this novel through Goodreads. A story about Yeong-hye and her husband who apparently seem ordinary people but when Yeong-hye seek a more plant-like existence, commits a shocking act of subversion; she refuses to eat meat.

  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Don’t know anything about this novel; the reason to buy this novel is its inclusion in the list of winners of Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2016. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain explored the legacy of Vietnam War in literature, films and the wars fought today.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

First time I saw on liberty books website and that’s it, I decided to buy this one because I was in love with its cover and after reading blurb I thought to myself, need to read this one.  The story revolves around Maurie-Laure and her father who live in Paris near Museum of Natural history. When the Nazis occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo with museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

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  • Do Not Say We have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

As soon as my eyes set on this cover which was lying on the shelf at Liberty book stall, I just picked on the spur of the moment. The novel brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy which still resonates for a new generation.

  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Winner of Man Booker Prize 2016 is the apt reason for buying this novel. According to what I have read in the blurb of this book, the narrator was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist. His father was killed in a drive-by shooting and the son realized that there never was a memoir as claimed by his father. The son was left with a bill for a drive-through funeral of his father.

  • Thirteen Reason Why by Jay Asher

I saw its cover first on instagram which was shared by one of the bookstragrammars and therefore the book made into my list. The story is about Clay Jensen who found a strange package on his return to home. Later he discovered several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker-his classmate and first love-who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King

King had to be in my list without any doubt. I had in my mind to buy this title for long and finally I bought it. The novel is full of suspense where the main protagonist Morris Bellamy, a reader, consumed by his obsession for America’s author John Rothstein prepared to kill for a trove of notebooks containing at least one more unpublished novel.

  • Where Worlds Collide by David Waterman

I bought this one from Oxford University Press stall. It was just one of those moments when you read something and it captures your attention. Same happened with this book. The reason behind purchasing this book was its survey of contemporary Pakistani writers and their efforts to trace the itinerary of Pakistan in the 21st century.

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    1. Wind-up Bird Chronicle: The story unfolds the tidy suburban realities of Okada’s vague and blameless life are turned inside out and he embarks on a bizarre journey guided by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.
    2. Norwegian Wood: A story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, the novel takes readers to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless and heroic love.
    3. Pinball: The story is based on the writer and it’s also about rat. It’s about a quest, a brief love affair, and the three-flipper Spaceship pinball machine.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I was introduced to Kazuo through his first novel ‘A Pale View of Hills’ which I read few days back. I found his writing fresh and he has an ability to draw interest of his readers with his writing style. The words flow like a river on the pages of his novel. Therefore I got hold of his finest work which was also shortlisted for Man Booker Prize. It is a story of love, friendship and memory, which is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

I want to read something about strategy and how the politicians and executives use this tool on every level from interpersonal to the international, with an aim to understand the physics and psychology of conflict.

  • The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

I read its review sometimes back and it was in my mind to get hands on this one for sure. So, I was enthralled to see this book in the Liberty Book stall.  The story is an intimate exploration of disjunction between exalted dreams and complicated realities.

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  • The GoldFinch by Donna Tartt

Obviously I found this title in the Pulitzer Prize List and then next I found in the book fair. The story revolves around son who is abandoned by his father, miraculously survives a catastrophe that otherwise tears his life apart.

  • Taboo by Fouzia Saeed

The title and the cover says it all. My interest to know about the world of prostitution which is considered a taboo in our society instigated me to purchase this book.

  • Keeping faith by Jodi Picoult

I have watched ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ which was based on Picoult’s novel, a brilliant story full of emotions which is why I bought this one. In this story, the author depicts the broken family and how it affects the child’s mind?

  • David Copperfield

I bought this one because it only cost Rs. 50 and other reason is its story which is both fantasy and fact, an autobiographical fiction that stood the test of time.

  • The Fool’s Tale

Less cost so why not! No other reason to buy this one, and after all I am a book collector at the end so yes, I bought it.  The story is a historical fiction, compelling political intrigue and passionate romance to create an intimate drama of three individuals’ bound-and undone-by love and loyalty.

This year, I was no good but next year, I hope to do a lot more reading and less buying. I only hope but no promise because after all I love books…

 

13 Traits Only Booklovers Will Understand

Are you passionate about books? Are you the kind of person who likes to carry his/her books everywhere? I mean literally everywhere (no, bathroom is not the right place to take your book). Do you feel like to read every minute of your day? Do you feel a part of your missing when you can’t read any day? Is book the only reason of your existence? Okay probably a bit of exaggeration but nonetheless if you nod to all of my questions so here is good news for you; you are a booklover! Yes, you are deeply, madly in love with books. Okay, I have repeated the word ‘book’ many times in a single paragraph but then this blog is all about loving your books. Every booklover has about similar characteristics which connect them with each other. Here are 13 points which I think every booklover can relate to:

Booklovers Smell Books

Guilty as charged! Whenever I get hold of any new book or matter-of-fact tumblr_m46o86LVoj1qbsprjsecond-hand so one of the first things I do is not reading but I smell the pages. The smell of ink inscribed on those pages opens up your mind to a world of fantasy. It’s kind of an addiction and I suppose every book that passes through the hands of a booklover is sure to get a thorough sniff once in a lifetime.

Solitude is better than people

Booklovers are not introverts but it’s a fact that nothing gives them immense pleasure than being around books rather people.  Being alone tumblr_n6jokzHvO31sdo33qo2_r1_400magnifies their excitement than socializing with every other person. Booklovers believe that one gains more knowledge through reading than talking to people and books could be a better source of comfort than words from another person.

Prefer to Carry books anywhere and everywhere

Rory-Gilmore-I-Take-Books-With-Me-Everywhere-Gilmore-GirlsBooklovers love carrying books anywhere and everywhere either bus, café, workplace or to any party (if only my parents allow me, I would definitely take my book along especially to tiresome wedding proceedings).  They love to pass their leisure time by reading books like I try to squeeze my book reading during breaks at workplace and I also read while commuting back and forth between home and office. Booklovers feel empty without books and it’s the mere reason of their existence.

Bookstore is like going on a shopping spree

Booklovers are fascinated by bookshops. They are very lazy when it comes HSMTmeMy36pzto shopping but the only time they are elated when shopping is focused much on buying more books for their shelf.  The bookstore is a booklover’s dreamland in the same way as the restaurant is a foodie’s comfort place.

Book Library; a temporary getaway for booklovers

Booklovers are readers and they like to be surrounded by books.anigif_enhanced-5300-1424220960-8 That’s why they spend much of their time in libraries. They feel serene and secure at this place.  They know what the essence of a book is to their intellectual growth and for that they are willing to pay any price to get one. Library is like a candy store for booklover where they can get a handful of candies under one roof. They can spend ample amount of time at this place while having no qualms in disconnecting themselves from the outside world.

Booklovers are tentative to lending books

chloe-moretz-books-mean-a-lotYes, this is a dilemma for all booklovers. They are reluctant to lend books to anyone, I mean ANYONE! Books are their only assets and lending a book is a nightmare for them. They find it so difficult to let go of their books.

Don’t change bookmark place else bear consequence

The annoying habit that booklovers loath most is the changing ofmyahqc422h2 bookmark place in their book. Mind it! This is not funny at all and doing such act will cause consequence in the form of unsolicited hysteria which I think you will not be able to handle it.

Booklovers hate when someone asks why they read so much

anigif_enhanced-23546-1422989104-6I do not understand why people question about your voracious reading habits. What’s wrong in abundance reading?  There are so many people, who are addicted to Smartphone, video games or fashion but are never looked upon up with inquisitiveness. Reading defines booklovers and what they are capable of. Therefore stop asking such irritating questions because booklovers are chronic readers, that’s it! Period!

Engrossed in a book

Especially I am knee-deep into a good book, it can be easy to book lover 1forget that there’s a world outside those pages. I have certainly been guilty of putting the world on pause while I am immersed in a book, even when I have to be functional and, you know, do things like talk to people per se.

Idea of a Perfect Weekend

If anyone put up an option to booklover either hangout or book anigif_optimized-3989-1436962897-8reading, I am definite that majority of booklovers will prefer to stay around books. For booklovers, a perfect way to spend weekend is to be with books.  Through reading, booklovers transition to a different place and time, they would prefer to either include it in a perfect holiday or make reading one their ideal vacation experience.

Love book as gifts

Books are the best friends for any booklover. It’s a treat for book6booklover to receive books in the form of gifts. So next time if you want to buy me a gift you know what to buy for me. I would love my gifts without wrapping paper unless they are books

Reaction to a non-book lover

anigif_enhanced-buzz-6737-1425616430-7Booklovers prefer people who have similar fondness for books.  A non-reader is a negative force; therefore booklovers keep up a distance from all non-readers

Choose a favorite book

8872184As a booklover, I never understand that

which book is my favorite.  I mean you have infinite choices of books and to pick one favorite book is like searching a pearl in sea of shells.

 

The Book Thief: Yet Profound Love for Books

There are two types of fiction, one where you read through the pages and

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you are lost in a story and it keeps you hooked until you don’t reach the last page of the novel, and then there is second kind of fiction which keeps you haunted even after finishing the book.  I believe that a book gives you a feel of fresh breeze in a suffocated environment! A person devoid of words will live in repression but a literate person will transcend against the injustice and cruelty.  Books are a source of happiness in a depressing world and it encourages you to think beyond the existing world.  ‘The Book Thief’ falls in the latter category.

Published in 2005, the story showcases the events of World War II which is also the backdrop of the novel. Liesel Meminger a prime protagonist of this story arrived at the distraught state to the foster family who reside in Himmel Street. During her stay, she tries to live a normal life despite the horror of Nazis. In the meantime, Liesel developed a strong connection with her foster father Hans Hubermann who introduced the world of books to her. Apparently the first book which she learnt to read was stolen at her brother’s funeral.  She did not know how to read or write but Hans taught her to read.  Liesel also made a friend Rudy who used to like her. Then there was a fist-fighter, Max, who was kept hidden in the basement of her home by her foster parents only because he was a Jewish and Nazis loathed Jews.

Liesel had a profound love for books; her love is illustrated so beautifully in the following lines when she encountered horde of books at a mayor’s library for the first time:

She ran the back of her hand across the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her finger nails, gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like instruments or notes of running feet.”

As a reader, I can relate to Liesel’s emotion because I also feel same when I am around books. The ecstatic feeling I have while holding a book is immeasurable.  A person having so much love for books that even the mention of it brings a smile on her face so why Liesel chose to be a book thief? In my opinion the title ‘Book thief’ is not used in negative connotation, in fact it’s a symbolism of freedom against the clench of Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. During second world war, Nazis attacked the art and literature by burning tens of thousands of books. Hence Liesel’s book stealing acts as symbol of freedom and expression against the atrocities of those times.

The peculiarity  of this book is that death is the narrator.  Usually we consider death as callous but here in this story; death is less-threatening. Regardless of its ubiquity in the times of horrific war, the last sentence of death in the novel; “I am haunted by humans” is a true embodiment of compassion.

I want to give entire credit to the author, Markus Zusak who has written an inventive and interesting read. There is no single moment when you feel like bore or lose interest while reading.  Words are significant component of any write-up, and story is the heartbeat of a good novel.  Markus knows how to touch the chords of his readers’ heart. His story has a poignant feel and each word holds an immense profundity. It’s elegant, philosophical and moving. This is one book which you need to read slowly and savor each moment during reading.

I choose to end my review with the last lines of the Liesel (read: the book thief) in the novel:

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope that I have made them right.”