I don’t think it is a secret that Collette lead an interesting life. It only stands to reason that her biography would be interesting. I just don’t think it is as interesting as it can be. I couldn’t, with any authority at least, tell you if the facts are all there or a dazzling affair has been omitted. I think it’s all there. What bored and angered me was the attempts to psycho-analyse Collette and when her voice becomes more important then the life of her subject. I carried on reading because I wanted to know about Colette, not from any joy in reading the biography itself.
Set in 1960's Bombay it tells the story of the Mittal family who are haunted by their drowned baby. It is a ghost story, a story about Hindu superstition and the Mittal family trying to vanquish their ghost. Maji, the overbearing matriarch, using every trick in the book to keep her family safe.But there is a background noise that keeps getting louder. It whispers about gender, sexuality, colonisation, superstition, sexism. Pinky Mittal's mother was killed in partition, two servants - sisters - lost their parents to famine. The superstition that saves the family from the ghost causes misery and ruined lives. Maji's perfect family is helped along by corrupt officials, poor workers, and gently bending the lives and desires of family members until they become one with the goals of the family.All of this is done with a feather light touch. Themes are introduce, imperceptibility woven in and tied up neatly at the end. The writing is delicate and sublime and very much recommended.
Looking back on reading I can say a few words of criticism. The background made the book slow to start, the detail dragged you away from the main focus and the foot notes did repeat information on occasion. But while I was reading it was so compelling, so beautifully detailed, researched and written that I didn’t care.This book is a sound grounding in the lives of the Europeans, the Indians and the inbetweens in eighteenth century India. It tells of the lives of men who not only went to India but loved India and adopted it as there home. A fresh antidote to the Victorian ideas of separateness, of coloniser and colonised.
There is a helpful list of reading group questions at the back of my copy. The introduction to them states that the 'unique combination of religion, survival and a Royal Bengal tiger' makes it stand out.If you give this book to an ex religious student who grew up with a tiger obsession and is making plans to visit India you are almost certain of a good review.Aside from my personal interests the themes and the colour are beautiful enough for almost anyone to be interested in. While not incredibly compelling the writing gently nudges you along. Go slowly, savour the details. I enjoyed the set up of the first part as much as I enjoyed being lost at sea. And, with the 'ending' being revealed early on, even the third part wasn't an anticlimax. It's beautifully written, almost painted, and an enjoyable read.
Seahorses are Real details the abusive relationship between Marley, who suffers from depression, and David. David plunged himself into the relationship with hopes of saving her and, as the novel opens, he realises he can’t. How surprising. And the misery they bring each other is the subject. The story is told in through cycle of fighting and making up. Abuse and making nice. And the unrelenting cycle that is Marley’s life: Jobcenter, ineffectual councillor, home. The cycle that she logs to ditch as much as the depressive thoughts.Like that, as a study, the novel doesn’t do too badly. It shows the horrible reality of a couple who only show affection with a side of sarcasm and who are overly dependant on each other for their happiness quite well, even if Marley is up – I think unfairly – for more criticism. However the writing falls short. And I hesitate to say thing because I can see what’s trying to be achieved but it does just tend to fall back. The overload of adjectives, clichéd similes, repetitive sentences are a tool to let us see through Marley’s mentally ill gaze. However with the third person it just makes the novel seem clumsy and unpolished. When the viewpoint characters switch and we see things from David’s eyes it does so clumsily. Several places I was dragged out of the story wondering where I was and who I was with now. I will treasure the description of the calm after the storm, the hopefulness following a breakdown but ultimately the writing keeps me from giving the thumbs up, excited grin recommendation.
It should probably be mentioned first: the recipes themselves are good. Some of them are great in fact and the book is much easier to use and find things in the Kramer’s earlier offerings which tended to be sprawling and confused. The travel advice itself isn’t terrible. It’s incredibly basic and lacks any depth. Kramer seems unsure of airline regulations and European travel which is a bit odd coming from a travel guide. The marriage of the two seems odd to me. A tiny recipe book that you can use when travelling places where you have a kitchen? Even the no cook recipes require equipment like a blender. I was expecting that it would be more useful for roughter forms of travel. At the very least I was hoping most of the recipes could withstand travel. Some do. Small blessing.Still the recipes are good.
The recipes in this book are very good, the Portobello burger is mouth watering and the idea of vegan shortbread makes me want to jump up and down. The nutritional information is interesting but I’m not impressed by talks of detox, macrobiotics, and qi. Less still claims that all manner of things from zits to Parkinson’s can be manifestations of an overload of toxins. As someone who may want to cleanse because of her mental health issues I’m glad I have to sense not to. Try the Portobello burger, avoid the detox.
I’ve got to say I don’t quite know about this one. Immediately I was turned off by the tone. There was something not quite right about it, almost if it were trying to sound too Victorian. The comparisons with Dickens where in the worst possible sense, his blunt, forceful moralising creeps up instead of letting the reader get their own impression of the situation. While the novel comes across as well researched it’s more to do with the facts crammed, often irrelevantly, in to each sentence.The character of Dora too comes across as slightly too twee, her daughter Lucinda even more so. As I got to the end of the story and read through the fictional epilogue, the ‘look how it was in real life’ afterword, and the note on the author I was wondering when I’d get to the back page. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The team of misfits assembled - the working woman, the black man, the gay chap, the rape victim and the fallen socialite - were lovable despite their cliché. The story was slightly predictable but compelling all the same. I still don’t know if I loved this book or not, but it is well worth the read.
Rather disappointing. I didn’t expect it to be heavy going but this light and fluffy? Not a good thing. It does point out double standards in a readable and entertaining way but some of them just seem to be filler. The ‘so what to do sections’ are superbly useless. Sometimes they can point you in the right direction by naming organisations but things like ‘speak out’ and ‘move’ easier said then done. And I have to take issue with the idea that ‘Boobs are not for boys’ …‘boobs are future baby food’. The idea that women have to do something with their bodies takes ownership away from them. The person the boobs are attached to. But despite all that I wouldn’t be against passing this one down the line. Having my younger cousin read it or a friend. As a interesting, fast paced, introductory piece on feminism it isn’t bad. If you have given a lot of thought to the subject though you are probably going to be board.
I found it a little slow to start. It took me a while to get used to the tangents, the pieces of memory fitting in like you where in a conversation rather than a tightly bound narrative. But once I got into the style, slowed myself down I really enjoyed it. Too many times I’ve had to explain –apparently unconvincingly – to my cousins why they aren’t allowed shaved heads at school. Anita and Me explained a past that still overshadows us. Not just with race, community breakdown, death of industry and traditions are touched upon. And even without all that it’s a memorable tale.