A Thousand Splendid Suns – Book Review

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

While I was reading The Kite Runner, I wondered how much pain the author himself had to go through in his life to write this story? Its said that you can’t understand the pain of another human if you have not been through the same situation yourself. Each and every word of The Kite Runner made me realize how much pain and anger must be pent up inside the author. And then I read “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. The Kite Runner was not a book and neither is A Thousand Splendid Suns. They are outlets, vents to tell the world about what happened to the Nation which was once so prosperous and happy. They are outlets for people to know the story of a nation destroyed by its own people.

The story revolves around Mariam and Laila. Mariam is an unwanted child born out of wedlock and lives with her mother in the outskirts of Herat in Afghanistan. Her wealthy father visits her at times. When Mariam is 15 she visits her father’s home against everyone’s wishes. She ends up being married to Rasheed, a widower in Kabul who expects a son from her. When she fails to deliver a baby, she is faced with verbal and physical abuses. Laila, on the other hand, is the daughter of a High school teacher. She had two brothers who are killed in the fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Laila is in love with Tariq, her childhood friend. Things take a bad turn when the civil war comes to Kabul after the victory of the Mujahideen and Tariq leaves Kabul with his parents and Laila is left pregnant and an orphan after her parents are killed in a rocket attack. She lands up in Rasheed’s house and agrees to marry Rasheed for the sake of the child. Mariam is now in Rasheed’s house for more than a decade now and resents Laila but fate has something else in store for the two women.

The most beautiful part of this book is the way the relationship develops between Mariam and Laila. By the time Laila becomes a part of the household, Mariam has endured too much at the hands of Rasheed to bear his second wife. Soon after Laila gives birth to Tariq’s daughter, both the women realise that they are sailing in the same boat. The book is also a story of a nation in transition. It encompasses the political upheavals and what the people went through when the Russians finally left. It tells the story of a beautiful dream which turned into a nightmare. If Hassan was the unforgettable character in The Kite Runner, then Mariam’s doleful life will leave a lump in your throat in this book. And there was one feeling that never left me while I read the book – This could have happened to someone…

Comparisons with Khaled’s earlier book is inevitable and I agree that A Thousand Splendid Suns does not have those kind of twists and turns but it has the same quality which The Kite Runner had. It turns you into a more compassionate, a more understanding and a more humane human. It makes you understand that you are blessed in every sense. And, it makes you understand that there are people out there who deserve a life similar to yours.

Rating – 4.5/5

Author – Khaled Hosseini

Snow by Orhan Pamuk – Book Review

As I finished the last page of this book, there was a sense of loss as I had finally closed the door to a world which I was completely oblivious of when I turned the first page. Snow is an offering from the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk which will wake you up to many realities. The novel deals with a plethora of themes like the confrontation between the Secular and extremist Islamic worlds, atheism, political secularism, wearing of headscarves by women, technology, religious doubts, freedom etc. Frankly speaking, I had a very deplorable picture of Turkey after I finished the book and thus I was surprised to find on Wikipedia that Turkey is a developed nation.

The story is set in the city of Kars which exists in the north eastern part of Turkey. Kars is now considered as the most poor and neglected part of Turkey and the story begins when the main protagonist of the novel, Ka, arrives in the city amidst heavy snowfall. As he entered the city, the weather conditions worsens and the blizzard cuts off Kars from the rest of the world for three days. The book encompass the events of those three days. Ka is a journalist and a poet and arrives in Kars to interview the families of the “Headscarf girls” who have committed suicide. He is also aware of the fact that Ipek, the women whom he has always loved, is in Kars. As Ka reunites with Ipek, he meets her father Turgut Bey who is an atheist and her sister Kadife who is the head of the headscarf girls and is in love with the notorious Islamist militant named Blue.

The most chilling sequence in the book is the military coup which happens at the National theatre, when during a play depicting a version of Headscarf girls, the soldiers open fire at the audience, who think that the firing is a part of the play and the rounds being fired at them are all fake. At one level the novel is a love story between Ka and Ipek set in troubled times and at another level it is a glimpse into the tussle between religion and politics.

The book can be pretty much summed up by these lines said by one of the characters named Fazil :

“We’re poor and insignificant. Our wretched lives have no place in history. One day all of us living here in Kars today will be dead and gone. No one will remember us;no one will care what happened to us. We will spend the rest of our days here arguing about what sort of a scarf women should wrap around their head, and no one will care in the slightest as we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace , an anger runs through me because I know then nothing really matters in life more than love.”

The book does not stick to the conventional novel format. So, if you are looking for a pacy gripping drama then this is not the right book. It is something which has to be absorbed slowly as the story is created in front of us. And yes, the novel did ruffled a few feathers because of the controversial themes it dealt with.

As rightly reviewed by the Daily Telegraph, it is in every way, An act of bravery and a vital book.

Rating – 4/5

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Harry Potter and the Spell of Addiction


As the last Harry Potter book churned out last year it took away the magic from the lives of many Potter fans. Our beloved Mr. Potter is in the whirlpool of controversy after a group of researchers from Pennsylvania, ended up scrutinising 4000 Potter fans online and stumbled upon the fact that 400 of them were suffering from serious symptoms of depression, loss of appetite and sleeplessness while 20% of them were on the verge of addiction. To read the full article, please follow this link. The tests were spread out such that the children were studied before the last book was released, at the time of its release and after the children finished reading the book. What really took the cake was that addiction to Harry Potter series was compared to addiction to drugs, pornography and even the craving for cigarettes!!!

As per the report :

”After finishing the series, ten per cent of fans spent over four hours a day on Potter-related activities, experiencing interference with appetite and sleep, engaging in less physical activity, having a lower sense of well-being and being more irritable.”

As the series came to an end last year, many Potter fans are finding life very hard. There were participants who gave statements like – “I want Rowling to know that I hate her, as I have nothing to live for now.” Interestingly, those fans who turned their obsessions into creative outlets either through a fan rock band or a fan fiction ended up quite well and didn’t had the bouts of depressions after the last book got over. 

But, is it truly justifiable to use such a strong word such as Addiction in this context? And why only Harry Potter, wasn’t the Lord of the Rings series equally “addictive”? And then why only point fingers at books, aren’t movies equally addictive? As far as I can remember, I myself saw LORT around 30 times. 🙂

What is hard to understand is that how relevant can such a research be? When the report says that Harry Potter series have done a record sale of 400,000,000 copies then how relevant is the figure of the “addictive” children? Is this study a peek in the negative impact which the series had generated amongst the younger generation as it comes to a logical end or is it a classic case of making a mountain out of a molehill? And there have been no explanation of what “Potter-related activities” mean.

Personally speaking, I have not yet read a single Potter book as I am a huge fan of the movies and I don’t want to read the books and end up hating the movies because I know for a fact that they are much better than the movies. I wonder what will happen after the Movie series end. 😦

I am already feeling addicted.

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Best eateries for bookworms – I


I have always craved to write this post from a long time. Here is a list of 15 books which I truly-deeply-madly love. Some of them changed my perceptions, some of them made me cry, some of them gave me a terrible gooseflesh, some of them took me on a journey beyond the realms of my imagination and some of them made me think. So here is the list of my absolutely favourite books.

15 The catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger 


The book which conveyed the teenage anger and frustration vividly. What really made this story thought provoking was the fact that it shows the world through the eyes of a 17 year old. And boy!!! the world did looked disgusting. The narrative is broken and has random ideas thrown at times, somehow very close to how a teenager will explain things if he is asked to. The book was widely challenged when it was published because of its theme and the way it portrayed things. Now its considered one of the best books of all times. To say the least, around 250, 000 copies are sold every year. 

14 Uncle Tom’s cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe


Published in 1852, the novel is rumoured to trigger the American civil war. The novel centers around Uncle Tom, a black slave who suffer constantly in the hands of evil masters. The book came out at a time when slavery was very much in practice and thus left a deep impact. The book had some memorable characters like Eliza ( who escapes after she has been sold with her five year old son), Eva and Topsy. The best incidence which underlines the impact of the novel is that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet, he commented – “So, this is the little lady who started the great war.” 

13 Life of Pi by Yann Martel 

life_of_pi_350.jpgThe book won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 and revolves around Pi Patel who narrates his 227 days long journey on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, a haena, a zebra and an orangutan, when the ship carrying his family from Pondicherry to Goa sinks taking his family with it. Basically there are only two characters – Pi and Parker as the rest vanish one by one. The best thing about the book is that the narrative hold the interest even though there are only two characters. The adventure about how Pi survives being eaten by the tiger forms the crux of the story.

12 Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks 

birdsong.jpgOne of the best books on the impact and aftermath of the World War. The narrative moves through three time periods – before, during and after the war. The war is seen through the eyes of Stephen Wraysford who is learning the manufacturing process at a factory and ends up having a passionate affair with the factory owner’s wife. The second track is the world war as seen through Stephen’s eyes when he becomes a Lieutenant in the British army. The third track is the story of his granddaughter who is trying to cope up with her messed up life and trying to know who her grandfather was.

11 The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 

hitchhikers.jpgCreativity and imagination at its best. The novel was a huge phenomenon which gave rise to everything from stage shows, tv series, computer games and movies. The book is the first one in a five book series which included “The restaurant at the end of the Universe”, “Life, the Universe and everything”, “So long, and thanks for all the fish” and “Mostly Harmless”.  I was completely knocked down by the narrative which is nothing less than a roller coaster ride. The movie based on the novel was released in 2005 and generated mixed reviews as it differed widely from the novel…the way 99% of the movies are.

10  The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown

da_vinci_code.jpgA book which shocked and surprised me to unimaginable ends. It was the first time I have seen such widespread recognition of a book. I have known people who have read only one book in their life and this is that book. People got so curious that it became mandatory to read this one. Robert Langdon became a legend and there were widespread discussions on Mary Magdalene’s role in Christ’s life. For the first time a book blended facts with fiction with such minute detailing that it was hard to separate them. The success of the movie can also be credited to the curiosity generated by the book.

9 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

wuthering-heights.jpgEmily Bronte wrote just one novel and what a novel it was. A classic in the true sense. I read this book a loooong time back but it always stayed with me. Unforgettable characters and narrated like a dream. The doomed love story oozing utter despair and loneliness will leave you sad, so much that you would wish to hug the characters and tell them that everything will be all-right. You could almost feel the agony and bitterness of Heathcliff and the free spirit and sorrow of Catherine. Its a story of heartbreak and revenge which too gave rise to numerous forms of art like plays, movie, ballet, opera, tv series, radio series and songs.

8 The interpreter of maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

maladies2.jpgThe best book of short stories I had laid hands on. Don’t expect some over dramatized oh-my-god surprise stories. Its a subtle collection of human bondage, sufferings and understanding. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 and added Jhumpa Lahiri in the A grade list of writers of Indian origin. When I picked up this book I was quite apprehensive and had some preconceived notions. I readied myself for a Yawny boring book, but the first story ( A temporary matter ) killed all my notions. I read five stories in a row before I felt satiated.

7 Midnight’s children by Salman Rushdie

n27478.jpgOne of my absolute favourites. Its a reader’s sheer delight and is nothing less than a blinding flash of brilliance. It took the Booker Prize in 1981 and later the Booker of Bookers in 1993. If I try to narrate the theme in one line, you might find it really silly but it has been presented in such a way that you find sense in the chaos. The book follows the story of a group of children born at the stroke of midnight on 15 August, 1947. It follows the turbulence of a newly born nation through their eyes. The novel ran into a controversy because of the criticism of Indira Gandhi for imposing emergency. Typical Rushdie. 🙂

6 David copperfield by Charles Dickens

davidcoppe_0.jpgThis was the most autobiographical book of Charles Dickens which came out in 1850 and was being published in monthly installments as most of the books in that era were. I have read so many Dickens’s novels like Dombey and Son, Oliver Twist, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations but this one is my absolute favourite. Maybe because of the believable characters he created for this book. The book chronicles the story of David from his teens till he grows into a mature adult. This is the first Dickens novel to do a narrative in first person. 

5 The memory keeper’s daughter by Kim Edwards


I had no idea about Kim Edward’s work when I picked this one. There were two reasons to pick the book. A) It was an International Bestseller. B) I liked the cover. 🙂 The book had such a strong undercurrent of human emotions that it left me spellbound. A doctor is forced to delivers his twins on his own and finds out that one of them(the girl) has Down’s syndrome. He hands over this girl to the nurse to dispose her off in some institution and tells his wife that one of the twins died. The nurse brings up the girl instead of disposing her off and one the other side the Doctor’s family crumbles under the burden of this lie. Beautifully written and definitely worth reading.

4 Sphere by Michael Crichton


I am an ardent Michael Crichton fan. He is one hell of a science fiction writer. I was completely bowled over by Timeline, Congo, Airframe, Disclosure, State of Fear, Terminal Man, A case of need, The Andromeda strain and Prey but the one book which gave me some nice gooseflesh was Sphere. I never knew what people meant when they say that the book is unputdownable until I read this. I finished it off in two days(my fastest ever). The story starts with a group of scientists who are assembled to examine a huge spacecraft buried in the Pacific ocean bed for around 300 years. It soon turns into a psychological thriller as the scientists reach the ocean bed. And don’t watch the movie. It was nothing near the book.

3 The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough


This was Colleen Mcullough’s most famous work of all times which gave rise to the most successfull tv miniseries of all times. The book follows the life of Meggie since she was four to the time when she falls in love with a priest almost double her age to the time when she grows old after suffering in the hands of fate. This forbidden and doomed love story of Meggie and Father Ralph was considered a “bad” book. The Australian settings and the beautiful descriptive style of the writer makes the book a delight to read. To read more about the book, read this.

2 The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings


Ok. So this book seems completely out of place here. I read this book at a time when “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” did not existed for me. So for me this was moi first fantasy novel.  🙂 Its fascinating and in the league of the LOR series. Can anyone please make a movie out of it? Is any Hollywood director listening? Steven? Jackson? Helllooo??? On a serious note, Its a love story between a thief named Althalus and the Goddess Dweia whom he meet in the “House at the end of the world” where he is sent to steal the “Book of Deiwos”. The book reaches epic proportions as it races towards its end. One of the very few yummy books I have read twice.

1 The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

the_fountainhead.jpgThe book which changed the way I perceive the world, the way I perceive my job and the way I perceive love. The book was a major literary success of its times and was rejected by numerous publishers before it saw the light of the day. It still sells like hot cakes since the sixty years it was published and was followed by “Atlas Shrugged”, another of Ayn Rand’s work which underlines her theory of Objectivism. The book was rightly called “a hymn in praise of the individual” by a NewYork times editor. The novel follows the story of Howard Roark, an unconventional and creative architect who has to constantly fight the dogma of established beliefs and conventions of his profession. Its a book which has inspired millions to flow against the tide.

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Should I still be reading books?

Can the road of knowledge be traversed otherwise??

The culmination of the thought process in our minds has a lot to do with our coming in contact with books. Whether it may be the kinder-garden story books or the heavy duty study material we read in our schools or the soul stirring fiction stories of the college years or the thought provoking life management books later on, books have always played a vital part in viewing life from a different perspective altogether. They show us the best way to live our lives, as they are nothing less than an avalanche of experiences, of thoughts, of viewpoints and of knowledge.

We could never forget the effect of the colourful pictures and stories of the fairy tales as a kid, the mind-boggling intricacies of the working of the petrol engine which was crammed from the Physics book and the surprising discoveries ensemble in the Biology books, the unimaginable aftermaths of the World wars as seen through the History books, the initial conclaves with Nancy Drew and the Famous Five, the life changing fiction of Ayn Rand and Paulo Coelho and the “thinking out of the box” ideologies of “Fish” and “Who moved my cheese”, to name a few. You can always peek in the past and find a book which somehow shaped the way you are today, indirectly or directly.

Yes, the invasion of electronic media is very much here. Our lives have become very hectic and we are always performing the “balancing act”. Surely its hard to squeeze a few pages of a book into our busy schedule. But that’s what makes it more important to dwell into the habit of reading, because in such a scenario, books are more than therapeutic. They provide a way to unwind, relax and to loose yourself in another world. Today, E-books have also become the norm of the day. But its not easy to get an e-copy of a book of all the authors on the Internet as this is what a person whose job is remotely connected to computers would prefer. But to say the least, opening an e-book on a computer screen can never replace the thrill of turning the pages of a new book in your hands. Watching a folder on your laptop getting filled with e-books can never replace the enriching experience of watching a library grow in your house.

Ultimately, books are a fountainhead of understanding life, to understand the intricacies of the vast ocean of our existence, to broaden our horizons and to listen to what the wisest of our present and the past generation have to say. They allow us to see life from a larger telescope and make us understand that how narrow our perspectives can be without them.

Surely, each book is a road to Damascus in its own right.