Wednesday, September 9, 2020

#BookReview: Against the Loveless World - Susan Abulhawa


3.5/5 Book Emojis!

Format Used: 


Pages - 366

Available at your nearest independent bookstore!

*Note: The views below are unbiased and solely my own. A copy of the book was provided by the publisher Bloomsbury India for an honest review.


"The Cube is thus devoid of time. It contains, instead, a yawning stretch of something unnamed, without present, future, or past, which I fill with imagined or remembered life.

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa is a literary fiction novel about a girl named Nahr who tells her story of a search for love, family, justice and freedom, from inside a prison cell called- The Cube. Written in 7 parts, most of which are encompassed literally toward the directions in the cube, she paints an extremely vivid picture of her life before, during and after the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Susan gives one of the rawest and the most powerful voices I've seen in a first-person narrative fiction, to the protagonist. The unfiltered diction and strength in Nahr's story speaks volumes that echo within the dooming walls of the cube, as well as the reader's mind. 

While I read the book, I got in touch with my friends who understood the cultural references in the book well. Not only did the author stick politically uncensored, but was culturally authentic to every detail surrounding the lead's life. Every single character and every little side-story had a soul of its own, making this book full of life and yet gripping with sharp edges. It had humour, pain, reality and most importantly, strength. Set in decades from the 70s till the early 00's, the writing is timeless and forever relevant. Anyone who reads it will know the reality and horrors reeking from every word of this story- of what it means to be a refugee, to have your life tossed around in the hands of war-thirsty militants and to find your voice among the deafening bombings by western capitalists. What the essence of the book stood out to be for me, was how fearlessness is a privilege that costs a lot more than what women in the Middle East are given credit for. For the West to cause so much destruction, spanning generations of these innocent lives, and for them to try to fight back, only to be labelled with Islamophobia as terrorists, is something that I feel the world should be educated about, with this book. 

My less-than-perfect rating for this brilliant story is for a conflict between a story of this magnitude and strength, to writing that evokes impermanent thought and inconsistent vigour. The first dozen of pages are gripping but lose their magnetic flow with the reader for the next hundred pages. The ending of the book is interesting, though not immaculate as it could've been, with some direction and structure. The protagonist ages, but her voice fails to evolve- to the point that the narration get monotonous. The other characters of the book, on the other hand, not only evolve as people, but their stories unfold with brilliant plot devices. 

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this read and definitely not as a piece of entertainment. This was power summing up three hundred sixty six pages with raw edge and sheer truth. I recommend it to everyone who doesn't bother with trigger warnings of rape, sexual assault, graphic imagery and violence, and wishes to take a story of a lifetime away with themself. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

#BookReview: The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller


4.5/5 Book Emojis!

Format Used: 

Kindle Edition

Pages - 389

*Note: The views below are unbiased and solely my own. The copy of the book was personal and self-owned. 


"I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus (from the Iliad) where Patroclus, a young boy is banished from his father's kingdom on accidentally killing another boy, and sent as as an exile to Phthia where he meets Achilles- Aristos Achaion and the son of the king. The book spans across their boyhood and coming of age, growing up only to realise that their time together has come down to be placed in the Trojan War where their prophecies and fates will play out for the legends to speak of. 

Madeline Miller has done a great job in adding a life to the legendary myth of the two people whose relationship was speculated as a controversial topic for centuries, by historians. The writing of this book was extremely personal and the reason why it is so successful, what I believe, is how she has a deep spiritual connection with every person in this myth. She knows the characters well, which is why she's able to give them the voices they need to be so deeply resonating with the readers. She has empathised and in a way, almost transformed herself in writing as half-god Achilles or the exiled underdog Patroclus or the stone-cold sea nymph Thetis or the senile but wise Peleus or the obnoxious and selfish Agamemnon and every single person whom we come across. 

I, a person who passionately studies Greek and Roman Mythology, took about a month to finish this book since I had to fact-check and read beyond the pages of every single incident. And lo and behold, I was absolutely mesmerised by how perfectly this book was able to depict the immensely intimate, warm-blooded and pure relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. The way Madeline weaves her sentences into personalised emotions for the two as well as everyone/everything around them, I was swooning with each paragraph. It's powerful and yet adequately soft for a legendary myth. 

I wasn't able to give a 5-star rating for small discomforts I felt in reading two particular scenes that childish and written in a rush (respectively): Achilles in the palace of Lycomedes and the very last scene of the book. Despite that and the fact that I knew how the myth ends, the author was successful in leaving me devastated with her writing and character-building skills. The way she moulds her writing to accommodate romance, war, coming-of-age, parenting, sex and travel: all wrapped up inside the golden veil of Homeric Greek is magnificent.

Conclusion: This is one cultured gay story based on a Greek myth. What else do I have to say for someone to pick it up and read it and wail with me? Nothing. 

#BookReview: Less - Andrew Sean Greer


4/5 Book Emojis!


Format Used: 


Publisher - Hachette India 

Pages - 264

Link to Amazon

*Note: The views below are unbiased and solely my own. Thanks to the publisher (Hachette India) for providing me a copy for an honest review. Part of #HachettePride campaign.


“Where was he? Somewhere in there he lost the first phase of youth, like the first phase of a rocket; it had fallen, depleted, behind him. And here was the second. And last. He swore he would not give it to anyone; he would enjoy it. He would enjoy it alone. But: how to live alone and yet not be alone?” 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer is a book about a 49-year-old American writer who goes on a journey across the world in order to avoid his ex-boyfriend's wedding, while making the most of his life before stepping into his 50s. Written in third person, this book is narrated by an observer of the protagonist Arthur Less, in a wonderfully hilarious tone that subtly jolts your heart with poignant undertones.

I started this book on a light-hearted note, based on reviews from others, and laughed with every page until I reached half-way. This was when the book started gaining content mass and intensity: with vigor and passionate writing facaded as humor. As a queer man who reads between the lines and [unfortunately] is known to feel too deeply, I found the character of Arthur very endearing and most definitely resonating with his unspoken existential crisis that lurks unconsciously inside the psyche of a middle-aged gay man and my personal quarter-life crisis.

The story will make a casual reader enjoy the book thoroughly while making the sensitive absorb the deep emotions that lay within the writer's mind. As from what I've learnt from his interviews, the author wrote the main character based off of his personal traits, but ended up quite independent. However, the writing never fails to reveal the deepest anxieties and the low-lying fear of dying alone that Arthur thinks about but never mentions in the book. All the events, the places, the countries and characters in the book feel extremely real which is why they strike so strongly throughout the book, making it an empathetic journey that we take in each airport and hotel room with the clueless but innocently pure Less. After every few pages, I couldn't help but associate each new character with a person, a feeling and a moment from personal experience I've had in life, so it took me more than a couple of days to fully immerse myself in this otherwise "easy-read," while looking at my old photos and sobbing over them (!).

With a stone to my heart, I'll take off one star from a perfect rating for the minor inconsistency of narration in a few dozen pages that even though is the narrator's personal character development, feels like a very slight prick for this innocent genius of a novel. The ending of the book is so perfect and magnificent that I think no one could've ever imagined being deceived by an innocent and cute cover, that bad.

Conclusion: This book should be a movie. It's for all ages and it will be a contemporary classic must-watch tear-jerker rom-com for the pure soul's sombre pleasure. Definitely recommend to everyone.