Book review: All the light we cannot see

To be honest, I was half skeptical when I first read the synopsis of “All The Light We Cannot See” for I thought to myself, ‘How different could another World War Two story be?’ But I was happily proven otherwise because this 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner by Anthony Doerr is an absolute stunner.

War is arguably an institutional feature in the international society, a description that devoid of emotions and conjures up images of men in suits, negotiating tables and marching soldiers. This book takes war out of the hands of adults and thrusts them into that of children, blind French girl Marie-Laure and orphaned German boy Warner.

It maps the divergent paths they took during the Second World War, a period where they experience drastic changes and the pains of growing up. They were confronted with difficult decisions that people around them were making, but unknown to them was that these decisions were mainly made to shelter them from the harsh realities that were unfolding. In the years to come, these moments would continue haunt them for the rest of their lives. Continue reading

Book review: The Syria Dilemma

The Syrian crisis is now into its sixth year with tens of thousands killed and millions displaced. It is without a doubt one of the biggest humanitarian tragedy in modern times but has only in the past year received considerably more international attention.

Written in 2013, The Syria Dilemma is a collection of 21 essays edited by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel to highlight the complexities and fragmentation in the then three-year-old civil war in Syria.

This got me interested to revisit earlier arguments that thinkers and academics made, including US President Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” comment where he declared that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons crosses a line that might trigger US military intervention. What struck me was how discussions had dramatically shifted in the past two years. In 2013, the Syrian problem and solution centered on the dictatorship of the Bashar al-Assad government; but today, he had been overshadowed by the brutality of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

Book review: Eleanor and Park

I have came across SO MANY raving reviews for this young adult title that was released last year, the most memorable though would be by John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars”:

“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”

After reading such comments, I was resolute in getting my hands on a copy of the book despite knowing that it is a romance novel, a genre that rarely floats my boat. And as highly expected, it did turn out to be a very lovely read by author Rainbow Rowell, which I thought would be in time to recommend for this Valentine’s Day.

The protagonists of this novel are a pair of high school misfits Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan who fell in love while sitting beside each other on the school bus. Cliché as the set-up might sound, what makes this book truly enjoyable is how most of us could in some ways or another relate to the emotions and struggles that the characters experienced while growing up.
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Book review: Alex

195kg46t59vd0jpgThis Halloween if you are looking for something frightful to read, look no further than ‘Alex’ by French author Pierre Lemaitre. This detective thriller will keep your fingers flipping and eyes glued to the pages while chilling you down to the bones.

Alex is the first book of Lemaitre, winner of multiple crime-writing awards, which is translated into English language. As an avid fan of detective stories, I thought I have seen all different types of story plots such that it would be relatively difficult to surprise me any more, but I was wrong. I was AWESTRUCK by this brilliant piece of work and let me explain myself.

At the heart of this novel is gory sex, the basic selling point found in many thrillers, especially in Scandinavian crime novels that I adore, repackaged to exude such calm and sophistication to give it the cold-blooded murder qualities. A young beautiful woman was kidnapped from the streets of Paris after dinner and taken to a warehouse as captive where her kidnapper told her, “I’m going to watch you die.” The details of her confinement are plainly horrifying and gruesome to read:

“All around the rats are watching, not knowing whether to attack her. Then she pulls her hand back, and they fight over the fresh blood, gnawing into the rope for a taste of it; they can’t get enough. But now they’ve had a taste of blood, now that she’s given them her own blood to taste, nothing will stop them.”

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Book review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran“Reading Lolita in Tehran” is a memoir by author Azar Nafisi, an English Literature professor, documenting her tumultuous years teaching under the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story centers around the book club Nafisi created after she stopped teaching at the university aimed at discussing about Western classics from authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov and Jane Austen. Because these books were forbidden under the Islamic rule, the club consisted of only carefully selected female students whom she felt were committed, and they held weekly discussions on the literary works.

This is a book that pays homage to literature, where it critically analyzed the role and value of fiction in relation to reality. For Nafisi, her reality was particularly unpalatable so much so that it felt unreal.

“I had a feeling that we were living a series of fairy tales in which all the good fairies had gone on strike, leaving us stranded in the middle of a forest not far from the wicked witch’s candy house. Sometimes we told these stories to one another to convince ourselves that they had really happened. Because only then did they become true.

In his lecture on Madame Bovary (Vladimir) Nabokov claimed that all great novels were great fairy tales. So, Nima asked, do you mean to say that both our lives and our imaginative lives are fairy tales? I smiled. Indeed, it seemed to me that at times our lives were more fictional than fiction itself.””

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