Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Book Thief: My Review

I think the words that would most certainly describe the book for me would be: devastatingly beautiful.

The author has narrated the story of young girl in the times of war in Germany—a child who grows up watching the death of her brother, abandonment from her mother and restarting of another life at Himmel Street, only to be torn apart again by the death of the people who she has loved more than herself.
Despite the story being narrated by Death itself, the novel is never suffocating with the fear of the inevitable—the death, unlike many of the other wartime books that constantly grip the reader with a constant, uneasy suffocating vibe. Rather, it tells a tale of small acts of happiness—of playing accordion, of rolling cigarettes, of playing soccer in muddy Himmel Street, of friendship and book-thievery, of calling Saumensch and Saukerl to your loved ones, of the wagers of getting kiss for a reward, of secrets of hiding Jews and unveiling it to your best friend on the branch of a tree; of growing up and understanding your emotions and the moment of accepting that your best friend may also be your lover.

The Book Thief is a story of veiled, unspoken expressions that Leisel has for her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubberman; her best friend, Rudy Steinner; the secret of Hubberman household, Max; and Ilsa Hermann—her savior and Frau Holtzapfel—who would listen to her reading.  

It is a novel that almost had me crying when Leisel saw the corpses of her Papa and Mama. But it turned almost black when Leisel saw Rudy, lying lifeless. Leisel was late, too late to express her feelings for her best friend, her next-door neighbor, her partner-in-crime and her lover.

It’s a book that one would want to read again—at least once, in one’s life time.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Fountainhead: Review

The fountainhead is perhaps one of those books whose every page reflected a new way of looking at things. It took me time, more than average to finish the book, which I normally take to finish novels. The book is a pure genius—written before 1943—and yet immortal in the sands of time. 

One of the most astonishing things that hit me time and again while reading this book –unlike other fiction ones—was the fact that this could only be a work of fiction, for no characters could be as larger than life as those of The Fountainhead. Howard Roark, Dominique Francon, Gail Wynand, even the character of Ellsworth Toohey, are far from reality. The way they look at things, talk with such mutual understanding that one does not listen to their conversations without feeling like an outsider or even an eavesdropper; and the way they handle things is incredibly different from the functioning of normal beings. But then, Ayn Rand is not handling with normal beings in her novel anyway. And thus, the reader unlike other novels—where he becomes a part of the book and starts associating himself with the characters after a hundred pages or so—cannot associate himself with the psychology of the book. While the readers fall in love with characters in novels, this one does not give such chance. Whereas a reader normally looks at the characters as one of them, here one watches the story unfolding, taking shape like a bystander, from the far away seat of a theatre—not as someone who may have got the early tickets to seat in front witnessing the show as if he was one of them. Thus, I found myself looking up at the characters rather than looking forward to them. 

The mood of the book is melancholy and mocking, yet challenging. The characters mostly understand each other and play reverse psychology frequently to get to each other. And yet no one is astonished when he/she is avenged. 

The concepts of love, deception, pain, passion, pleasure, friendship and revenge are long lasting and hard hitting, so much so that they are exhausting and their energy infinite. Aynd Rand has taken a completely opposite position on the concepts of Altruism, Selflessness, Ego and Selfishness from those of a lay man—and yet it is a position which should have been a reality ideally. These concepts are the basic presumptions of her plot and the way she explains those concepts and presents the case of Roark towards the end of the book (in Roark’s trial) is the one of the most ingenious moments in the book. 

As far as characters are concerned, they are strong, so strong that they are hard to break. Roark and Dominique, despite their hatred for the duplicity of the world hardly give up on their situation. They conquer the world in their own way—and Toohey conquers the world in his own. It is Gail Wynand for whom I feel pity in the end: the man who gives his life for Banner, to establish it and give to people want they want, but fails miserably when he wants to use his power to get people think the way he wants it. His, is a sorry state, most unlike what should happen to a person of principles but then it is the truth. Only what I could not understand is that why did Rand had to fail Gynand in the end when she had chosen to diverge away from the reality throughout her book? However, besides this slight diversion the book is a treasure to be read more than once for sure.