A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

A heart rending tale about a young widow, Rahana Haque, who loses her husband and is forced to deal with life headlong and protect her children when war erupts.

The book begins with the words” Dear Husband, I lost our children today.” And no her children are not dead but rather her children have been snatched from her and given to her brother and sister-in-law , as she is deemed unfit to raise them because she took them out to watch Cleopatra at the movies. Eventually she does get her children back but this event traumatizes her and she spends most of her life fearing for their lives.

Written by Bangladeshi native,Tahmima Anam, this moving debut novel, is set in Dhaka, East Pakistan in the 1970’s, a city simmering at the center of the Bangladeshi war of Independence. I must admit that although Bangladesh is close to home and the 1970 civil war was closely associated to India, I did have to do more reading into the history of the war.

Rehana, the protagonist is willing to go to any lengths to protect her children, Maya and Sohail but finds herself unable to shied her children from being sucked into the war. Before long the entire Haque household as well as neighbors are in one way or another affected by the war.

At the heart of the novel is a mother’s love for her children but also how one’s personal struggles are indivisibly related to the struggles of their nation. I enjoyed reading this book not only because it was a moving story of love,heartbreak, hope and war, but also because I was impressed with Tahmima’s ability to scale the war and all its accompanying horrors down to a level I could relate to.

The Red Book – Meaghan Delahunt


The book is basically about three strangers – an Australian photographer Francois ,Arkay a Scottish alcoholic turned Buddhist monk and a Tibetan refugee, Naga who meet in India and subsequently find their lives entwined by destiny.

Written by Australian born Meaghan Delahunt I picked up the book as I always have a fascination to see India through the eyes of an outsider. I also picked up the book for another reason. The Bhopal gas tragedy and the subsequent suffering of the victims has always saddened and angered me. So I figured this book that was supposedly set against the background of the twentieth anniversary Bhopal tragedy might prove to be an interesting read.

Francois, who is drawn to India after she sees the iconic photographs of the dead baby from the gas tragedy travels to Bhopal to travels to Bhopal to rediscover herself and take photographs that are not clichéd .There she meets and falls in doomed love with Arkay who is vainly battling addiction and memories of abuse as well as develops a close friendship with Naga, whose repressed anger caused by losing his family to the disaster stands in contrast with Arkays impulsive and moody temperament. The Red Book is a book where Francois stores photographs that tell of their time together.

What I liked about the book was the short effectiveness of Delahunt’s prose, and though not much else moved me about the book. Bhopal was just a background, a touching point for the characters. Nothing more. I was also not very impressed by the characterization. The three main characters all sounded the same to me. Like three voices of the same person. In the end while the book is mostly a tale of identity, despair, love and the west and East outlooks, it left me quite unmoved and unimpressed.

Homesick – Eshkol Nevo

Jerusalem born Eshkol Nevo’s first novel Homesick takes place in Castel, a hilltop village between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and is ostensibly about Nova, a budding Photography student and her psychologist in the making boyfriend Amir. They move into a little apartment separated from their landlords Moshe Zakian and Sima by just a thin wall. Then there is Yutam, the young boy who befriends Amir, even as he deals with the death of his brother in the war in Lebanon and his parents inability to cope with the tragedy. Saddiq is a Palestinian refugee whose family lived in the Zakian home until 1948, and who lives in an unnamed West Bank village but wants to return to his old house and reclaim what is his. Modi is Amir’s friends a wanderlust whose adventure filled life entices Amir , but who finally does pine for home.

This skillfully written book reads like an art move, a beautifully made art movie. Slow paced yet powerful , Nevo develops each of his characters with such detail that I felt I knew them all. Set against the historical backdrop of the Rabin assassination, Nevo manages to weave a terrific tale of friendship,nostalgia and longing. There is nothing very political about the novel yet the bombings, the state of the Israeli Palestinian conflict all give an underlying sense of gloom that pervades the novel. The reader is constantly aware of the state of permanent war that around them and the And more than the political struggles, it is the struggles of the heart that the novel deals with.

While not obviously tragic or sad, a sense of fore brooding hangs over the novel, like a dark cloud. When Noa and Amir first go to view their apartment , by accidentally enter the house of mourning of a family of a young soldier killed in Lebanon.The tension out in the world slowly seeps into the lives of the unmarried young couple as domestic drudgery threatens to pull them apart. Moshe and Simi too face their share of problems. Moshe, a bus driver in his 30s, longs to raise his children in a religious set u plike his older brother unlike his wife Simi who wants a secular upbringing for her children. This leads to friction in their until now peaceful marriage. The friend ship that develops between Yotam and Amir is beautifully etched as is the scene when Yotam’s family leave for Australia to make a new home and start afresh.

In all it is a beautifully scripted novel. But don’t expect it to be an easy , light read. The books narrative was mostly of inner monologue and sometimes moved between characters thoughts so smoothly that I was always on the look out for clues as to whose thoughts they were. A very compelling book and a fantastic first novel.

Orbis Terrarum 2010 Challenge- Going Places

I know I keep complaining about my lack of time but this is one challenge I couldn’t stay away from. As most of you know I do love to read and travel….and this project lets me do both ( well, almost) .
Confused?
Don’t be..Its like this-
take eight months to read eight books penned by 8 authors from 8 different countries . Aint it interesting???
….read up more on Bethanys blog here.
While Ive not really come up with a final list of books these are what I have in mind..

1.Trainspotting -Irish Welsh (Scotland)
2. Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov ( Russia)
3.Slaughter house five by Kurt Vonnegut American
4. The Handmaid’s Tale by by Margaret Atwood( Canada)
5.The cave by José Saramago ( Portuguese)
6.The Yacoubian Building by Alaa-Al-Aswany ( Egypt)
7.Alone in berlin by Hans Fallada (Germany)
8. ….probably something by Bapsi Sidwa

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