The Book Thief is one of the books I am certain I am going to reread. I don’t feel that way with all the books I read, not even with the good ones. The Book Thief has a strange narrator – Death. Yes, it is the voice of Death that introduces you to Liesel Meminger. I made close acquaintance with Leisel, shared the thrill of thievery, experienced utter hopelessness and marvelled at the indomitable spirit of human nature as Death goes about doing what he needs to. And trust me, it isn’t easy being Death in WWII ravaged Germany. “I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases”, he says. “Or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children that I carried in my arms.”, he says. There is plenty more I can say about the narrator, but I will just stop here and say that I found the manner narration as fascination as the plot, if not more. Like all the books that are based in times of war, you will experience every emotion that the characters experience, whether you want to or not, even Death.
I will begin with a confession that I have never read anything like 4 3 2 1. And, that is what made reading it partly fascinating and partly exhausting for me, not to mention a bit confusing too on several occasions. The story sort of outlines the butterfly effect, or the belief that small causes can have larger effects. It starts a little before March 3, 1947, in Newark, New Jersey, where Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson is born. And from here, the writer takes you along on the journey of 4 different Archi’s ( as our protagonist likes to be known ) lives and the way it takes varied twists and turns in response on the various triggers that lay in the path. The same boy with the same DNA and the same set of parents walks an entirely different path in his life as if the circumstances of his birth are fed into a random generator which produces out a new kind of life with every iteration.
Five Quarters of the Orange is similar to the author’s other works ( Chocolat, The Girl with No Shadow, Peaches for Father Francis ) that I have read, in the sense that, Food is the dominant thread which ties the various characters in the book in a strong bond. And yet, the story is has a more sombre mood than the other books. The book begins with Framboise Simon returns to her village on the banks of the Loire in rural France, introducing herself by her husband’s last name instead of her maiden name and opens a creperie. A tragic incident that took place during the German Occupation of France in WWII involving her mother, Mirabelle Dartigen, still haunts and she is afraid that the villagers will turn against her if they recognise her. But what she holds close to her heart is her mother’s journal, which has recipes noted down in it, keepsakes pasted to its yellowing pages and anecdotes which are written in a cryptic code that she cannot decipher. Also, hidden in the enigmatic entries are the details of what actually transpired on that fateful day when she, her mother and her siblings had to flee the village. There are two timelines in the book, one from Framboise’s childhood and one in the present, where she is being hounded by her relatives, looking to cash in on her creperie’s modest fame.
So, Foursome begins on a day when 4 best friends, who have been hiding a secret from each other until then, meet to mourn the end of Tara’s marriage. Sana, Upasana and Arpita, who have gathered to console Tara, find that there is not one, but four whirlpools that they are currently caught in the midst of. The journey from this to untangling of all the tangles in the lives is what comprises the plot line of Foursome.
The Wednesday Sisters is a story where the flavour of sisterhood dominant, but it is also about the battle that each individual fights in his/her own life and the one everyone else is oblivious to. Sometimes our own friends aren’t privy to this information. It is about 5 women, who met in a park in suburban Palo Alto on an afternoon. There is no single thread that connects them, so to speak, and their relationship blossoms out of conversations around the humdrum details of their lives.
Beartown is a small, nondescript town, populated by people who love ice hockey, and cling to it even more after realising that it is the only thing that might turn over a new leaf for the community’s economy. Think of all the clichés in storytelling – underdogs, teenage love, hero worship, a blinding frenzy for a sport the kind that makes you turn a blind eye to every evil, a community that close-knit and scattered in equal measure, poverty that drives one to succeed at all costs, adolescents who find themselves lost and come out of a disaster with a fresh sense of direction – Beartown has everything! A lot depends on the outcome of an ice hockey final, and everybody is jittery and nervous. That is when a violent act sends ripples through the community and leaving every soul of Beartown disoriented and shell-shocked. You have to take a side, and either of the choices makes you uneasy.
To say that Theplas are a favourite snack in Gujarati homes would be an understatement they are a staple. They are so easy to carry along and such favourites that Gujaratis might probably forget their medication at home but not theplas. I probably don’t need to describe them in detail, but for those who are unacquainted with Indian cuisine, Theplas are flatbreads made from a dough consisting of finely chopped or shredded vegetables ( mostly greens like fenugreek or spinach ), whole wheat flour and spices.