Emma, Jane Austen
Found myself thinking and marveling at Clueless throughout. Amazed at how cleverly the film is done. Turns out that I was reading the book on the anniversary of its writing and New York Public library had done a post comparing it to Clueless.
One thing that struck me was the radical nature of Knightly’s sacrifice – to love a woman so much to leave one’s own estate and castle because she will not move out of her home because of her father.
Austen’s work is always about class but in this one, the critique about adherence to class strictures without attention to inner qualities is more pronounced. As ever, we have a high model of what constitutes the good person – the gentleman or gentlewoman – in Knightly.
Fire from Heaven, Mary Renault
This book is part of a trilogy on Alexander the Great.
Knew almost nothing about Alexander except that he was “the great” so it was a good intro. Vaguely remember Aristotle was his teacher, enjoyed that part the most – how he was influenced by Aristotle’s Hellenic ideal.
The other striking thing that our school history textbooks do not tell us but that is otherwise common knowledge is the queer relationship between Alexander and Hephastion. The strong parallel between this relationship and the Achilles-Patrocles myth is stressed here (so it would be good to be familiar with that myth to get its full resonance. I recommend Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles). What annoyed but also intrigued me was the author’s decision to keep the relationship unconsummated.
Polite Society, Mahesh Rao
I actually read Emma as a prep for reading this book, which is a redo of Emma set in Luyten’s Delhi. Read my thoughts on it on my chick lit blog
By Invitation Only – Dorothea Benton Frank
At some point, V got into downloading bestsellers for me, and that’s how I landed up with this one. I struggled to get into it. On the one hand, I can get onboard with a good wedding drama story. It was told from the perspective of the Southern mother of the groom, and the writer has a sense of humour.
It tended to, however, valorise the Southern lifestyle – people exclusively by white people as far as I could tell – and turned into something of a morality tale on how the superficial New Yorkers learn some good Southern values. Oh wait, there was one person of colour in the novel and it turned out he was a crook.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli
I started reading about quantum mechanics after a columnist made some sweeping statement that I was convinced was factually incorrect (and three books down, I am right). While trying to fact check his “quantum physics says that chaos always precedes a transition” schtick, I tumbled down the rabbit hole.
Let me just say that physics was my bete noir. I pretty much failed the physics part of the aptitude test I
Yet, physics is the most philosophical of the sciences, and so, some 20 years after I closed by school physics textbook, I am trying again.
This book is probably the one I’d recommend you read first, as a taster. It is collection of beautiful essays that breaks down as simply as possible some of the big questions that physicists have grappled with since Einstein.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Oh my lord, I loved this novel. How does one write a novel about a single, awkward, lonely woman without making her pathetic. How does one write an uplifting story about her life, without taking the edge of the loneliness? One gives Elinor a scathing voices that comically cuts through the bullshit of contemporary life. Some have critiqued this voice as being unrealistically naive, and while this is a fair point, I still loved it.
Rebel Sultans: The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji, Manu S. Pillai
One of my pet grouse’s about our history textbooks in school was that they started with the Aryans, skipped ahead to Shivaji and ended with Indian independence, with a little detour to encompass the world wars in between.
I remembers characters such as the Adil Shah of Bijapur and Aurangzeb, but in so far as they were the enemies of the great Maratha warrior Shivaji. It all came back to Shivaji in the end.
So actually reading the rich history of the Deccan was a revelation. The Adil Shah was not just some evil king from a substandard province, but a number of people who headed a rich state, where the confluence of Hindu and Muslim culture ebbed and flowed, with other influences. What was fascinating was the presence of not just Persians but Africans in positions of power.
There were so many threads, so many kings and kingdoms that one got mainly snippets of each ruler and kingdom. There was also a repeated stress on how Hindus and Muslims got along to the extent that it seemed a bit like Mr Pillai doth protest too much. And he still ended up with evil Aurangzeb trope which was a disappointment.
There there, Tommy Orange
This is a powerful book about the American Indian experience. It was searing but also too much. I took ages to read it because I kept hoping that the thing that was supposed to happen in the beginning did not happen. A bit like Rebel Sultan,s I thought that there were too many characters, I struggled to keep track of them. What stuck with me was the
Don’t get me wrong, this is worth reading. Just tough.