Review: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

 

Title: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Published: October 29th 2002 by Anchor

Original Title: Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise (first published 2000)

ISBN: 0385722206

Setting: China

 

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Synopsis

In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined. – Goodreads

 

 

Review

I found this book while browsing around at a Costco when I was in America last year, and have finally gotten around to reviewing it. I picked it up because the cover beckoned to me from afar and was delighted to find that the blurb was also pretty intriguing. As I hadn’t read any books based in China I thought this might as well be a sign for me to start.

The story is set in the re-education era that took place under the Maoist regime in China. I recalled the Maoist regime and small parts of the re-education from history class in school but as this was ages ago, this book in a way served as my own re-education of the Chinese history due to the abundance of detail put into explaining how it worked and what its effects on the common people were. Sijie himself was re-educated and later moved to France where he wrote this book.

The story felt like a fleeting glimpse into this era, a microcosm of the change taking place nationwide. I love how poetic the story feels, and how beautifully the scenes are painted for our imagination. It gives off a magical feel to the actions of the characters, with the petite little seamstress spinning/ knitting away while the antics the boys get up to keep us entertained and on edge throughout the book.

Something that I loved about this story is the ode it gave to authors and stories from the West. Balzac clearly plays a vital role in the story as we see the characters being spellbound by his works. Interestingly the West now took the place of magic and awe, just like the East was the subject of “the Other/ The Orient ” in western literature. In addition, this book is also a translation from French to English.

I related much with the three young characters love for books, and was excited by their quest to unwind the tales and adventures that these books contained. These were outlets to another world that the government was trying to deprive them of, but they kept them hidden and read in them secrecy. Books for them were a sacred commodity that they smuggled for their own pleasure.  Just imagine someone taking away all the books you owned and BURNING them!! Yes burning.  The horror. Which is exactly why this book will be endearing to those of us who hold books near and dear to our hearts~~

Emotions are also high and volatile. Flirtation is abound, and the pangs of unrequited young love made me smile. Though the story builds up beautifully I felt like I was left hanging after all the trouble they had gone through. In a way though, the end is fittingly bittersweet and very far thinking on the part of the Little Seamstress.

 

 

 

If you have read this book please let me know how you liked it? If not, please do give it a try. I’d love to know of any similar recommendations as well!

 

 

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I’m BACK! ^_^

I’m BACK! ^_^ (but if you haven’t noticed, Hi! how are you doing?)

 

Long time no see! I have missed reading, reviewing and blog hopping but mostly I’ve missed talking to you guys!

First things first.

Let me borrow my mom’s cobweb duster/broom to air this place out a bit. XD

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’ve been off the blogging grid for… wait for it…. nearly… four. months. YES! FOUR! You can go ahead and unfollow/ unsubscribe from me now. T_T

Every day that passed by was a stab at my blogger heart, but in all seriousness I really needed the time out to concentrate with finishing off Uni and the darn exams *insert image of a flailing Zena among her towers of books to be read and more towering towers of anxiety*!!

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I guess I haven’t quite mastered the art of working on creativity amidst times of stress because even when it came to posts other than just reviews I was just frozen. Perhaps it was because I lived in a perpetual state of stress. EUAAH!! Also I really didn’t have the time to read books that I wanted as I had a ton of school reading and secondary reading to get through (I left them all for the last minute you guys, in true Zena fashion!! Take note.  Don’t do that. )

Now that I’m done done done with that phase of my life, I cannot wait to get back on the reviewing lane again.  Also I’d like it very much if you guys can tell me how you deal with creative blocks and brainstorming ??

 

Be back soon…

 

T5w | 2017 Goals? Lemme see….

I haven’t done a T5W in ages, and the week I finally decide to do one, I have a topic I was trying my best to avoid this year. *sighs* I’ll take it as a sign of fate, stop procrastinating and just do it already! Jk jk! Its high time to take a deep breath and collect my thoughts before plunging into yet another eventful year.  hthdrhddrd.png

2017 GOALS! I see so many people bunking the idea, while a few bravely set out venturable tasks for themselves. For those of you who decided to do the T5W like me, lets get through this together 🙂

In all honesty I’m having trouble getting used to the new year haha. Wah! where did 2016 go, huh? I think the general trend around the world is that 2016 was an enlightening year for everyone. We saw it all, the good, bad and ugly. Possibly in that order too. *more sighing* It was no different for me too in my nook of the world. The beginning of 2016 was pretty good. In the bookish world, I cannot be delighted enough to have discovered the book bloggers nook on WordPress. From there I went on to socialize on Twitter where I made a ton of new friends and learnt so so much! Also successfully  managed to survive year two of Uni. One more to go! *claps with all the energy I can muster* rmbrs that I have assignments to write after this hurried post. smh! and i thought it all ended with school. 

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A predominant feature of my 2016 was an ever extrapolating movement towards the deep end of Kdramas and Kpop  and trust me being that deep in is tiring AF. I loved every minute of it, and the more you discovered the more you wanted to know lol. I found my k counterparts Namjin (fangirl in me had to smirk) and shed blood sweat and tears with my bias groups (more smirking). I’m not complaining but it drains you a lot, kinda like the iPhone batteries. I was also delighted to come across an anime that I hadn’t loved this much in a long time in the form of Yuri!! on ice!   (ps. u really do need Yuri in your life >.>) Let me know if you want recs  🙂 psst again! you really do!

 

If 2016 was an enlightening year, I want to make this year the year I use the knowledge I have acquired. Actually put it to use, and regularly. I’m a sucker when it comes to sticking to a cycle, so this is a challenge in itself. Its also really frightening that I’m suddenly getting old. Its the mid twenties YIKES!! where did the years go??! Kyaaa~~ Hajima time! I’m still young at heart!

 

5. Learn driving. Even if I don’t get the license, I want to be confident enough to drive to the nearest grocery and back (it’s just around the corner smh) the end of the world seems hella near (mhm, incorrect choice of words) and I don’t wanna rule out a choice of survival where driving is the best option. *Ok now how do I persuade dad that I won’t hurt anyone just by pressing the ignition button*

 

4. Stop procrastinating!

Uhuh! I’m one of them. I really have to stop putting off assignments and posts until the last minute! Think ahead, plan ahead! ASDFGHJKL! Is it the dreamer in me that makes me wander off in to the different thoughts floating around in my head? Be it assignments, reviews that are due or even just my laundry, haha the older I grow the worse the condition is becoming. Cant anyone relate?? (pls say yes >.>)

 

3. Read rather than watch.

I call myself a reader, and the choice between reading and watching should be a no brainer, but I think I have gotten off the reading track for some time now. I’d like to get back on hence I’m not setting a book reading goal this year either but I intend to consciously choose to read more. (Soz. I’m just dealing with stuff in my head, hence the MIA from the blog too) Anyone else have this problem? I’d like to know. My bestie can switch between both so effortlessly, while I’m a lost cause. Only one works at a time for me.

 

2. Work on short stories

A good portion of my childhood was spent reading, the other bit was spent writing. Of late I feel that I let that slide using exams and just life as an excuse, so I’d like to bring that back.May be I should go out more to get that inspirometer ticking.

 

1. Give my blog and my followers more of my time.

I know, I know, very cliché and it’s barely a goal, but I think tis something I take for granted. This blog is the culmination of my thoughts and your response to it. I can only grow it if I am constant and frequent in posting and tending to it. I am forever thankful to those of you who follow me, and have taken the time to talk to me, I enjoy our conversations but of late I haven’t been doing that much and it eats at me everyday. Saying sorry wouldn’t suffice I know so I will get on it immediately.

 

Its already 4 days past the year yikes!  I wish you all the best of health, happiness, self love and all the delights that come with reading and blogging in the upcoming year and may you have the strength to pull yourselves together at any hurdles along the way! Keep motivated, keep inspired!

And, if you have watched Yuri on ice, TALK TO ME!!! I’m still in frantic fangirl phase. kekekeke!

 

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Hold by Rachel Leigh Davidson: Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway!

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Hi everyone!

I’m back with a exciting news! Not long ago I stumbled across Hold, which was in its final stages of publication, and expressed a desire to read the book, I was contacted by non other than its author, the lovely Rachel Davidson Leigh, and she was glad to have me on her book tour! The best news of all is how hyped I am for the book and for all of you to read it.

 

Hi! Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m Rachel, and my hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and pairing readers with their perfect books. My debut novel, Hold, is a story about grief, identity, and transformation. After his sister’s death, Lucas Aday can hardly drag himself back to school. He couldn’t possibly prepare himself to stop time or to fall for the only other boy who doesn’t stop moving.

 

Summary

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Luke Aday knew that his sister’s death was imminent—she had been under hospice care for months—but that didn’t make her death any easier on him or their family. He returns to school three days after the funeral to a changed world; his best friends welcome him back with open arms, but it isn’t the same. When a charismatic new student, Eddie Sankawulo, tries to welcome Luke to his own school, something life-changing happens: In a moment of frustration, Luke runs into an empty classroom, hurls his backpack against the wall—and the backpack never lands. Luke Aday has just discovered that he can stop time.

Rachel was happy to answer some questions and I love her answers 🙂

During a time when there is a growing acceptance of LGBTQ, your book stands as a clear supporter of it. How important is it to you to show support towards the LGBTQ community?

 It’s hugely important for me personally, for the LGBTQ community, and the characters themselves. I’m bi, and I’ve always been surrounded (and supported) by an incredible cadre of queer friends. Even before I could define where I belonged, I knew that  I felt at home around people who either identified as queer or who made LGBTQ rights a priority in their lives. Hold includes characters who explicitly identify as gay, bi, queer, and asexual, in part because these characters were always inspired by the incredible people who’ve gotten me through the toughest moments in my life.



 

How important is it for your character to identify themselves and to let others know of their orientation?

 It’s important for all of the characters to be able to own their relationships to sexuality and gender, but it’s especially vital for characters who are bi, ace, and queer, because readers have so few opportunities to see these aspects of themselves on the page. If we factor out all the stories where queer characters meet some kind of tragic end, the picture looks even worse. I get to be surrounded by adults and young adults who are proud to be part of the LGBTQ community, but not everyone is that lucky. A lot of teens only get to see that world in fanfic or original fiction, and they deserve to see characters like them going on adventures, fighting monsters, and falling in love, while wearing their identities with pride.  (me ugly crying @ this answer! TT)

 

If you can recall, what do you suppose prompted you to start writing this book?

There are actually two answers to that question. If you think of inspiration as the moment when the story came to life, it began with an image. That how most of my projects start. I see a scene that won’t let me go, and then I go try to figure out what’s going on. In this case, I saw the moment when Luke first stops time. It’s his first day back at school and he’s been turned emotionally inside out by everything that’s changed while he was gone, so he ducks into a classroom, throws his backpack against a wall, and the backpack never lands. I first saw that moment, when Luke’s bag hangs in the air above his head, and he runs his hand underneath it as if looking for invisible strings.

The fantasy aspect of the story seems very interesting and I am very excited for this mix of genre. Why did you decide to have this take on your story?

I’m so glad to hear that! This story ended up as magical realism, in part, because that’s the kind of “realism” that always made the most sense in my brain. All of my favorite genres— musicals, Superhero comics, certain flavors of scifi and fantasy— take the epic emotion that underlies so many of our experiences and make it literal. This dates me, but consider how many viewers once considered Buffy the Vampire Slayer one of the most “realistic” representation of high school on television, because sometimes it takes the impossible to represent how reality feels. We could say the same thing about the artistry of The Get Down, the powers in Luke Cage, or the music in Hamilton. People don’t burst into song in real life, but the emotion rings true.

Similarly, grief can make a person feel as though the world is moving too fast, so, for Luke, time comes to a stop.   (more ugly crying TT)

 

Readers at some point become curious as to how much a writer puts themselves in their works, and it goes without saying that writers do use personal stories in their works. In saying this, do we see much of you in Hold?

And this is the second answer to that question about inspiration. I also lost a sibling, under similar circumstances, when I was about the same age as Luke. There are moments in Luke’s life that are drawn almost verbatim from my own experience, and yet it reads nothing like a memoir. Luke walks through some of the same places I remember, but he transforms them into something entirely new. I know some of the emotions he deals with and a lot of the reactions he comes to expect from those around him, but we rarely react the same way. Where I would have gone right, he goes left, and this time I get to follow in his wake. 

 

Theatre, literature and the arts play an important role in Hold. Who is your favourite author and genre to read?

It really is! All of the main characters in Hold are theater kids of one kind or another and much of the action takes place either in or around theater rehearsals. The story is also filled with references to theater, comics, and geeky fiction, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Ms. Marvel. As you might expect, this answer is so hard to answer! I can’t say my favorites, but I’ve recently loved titles by Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene, Robin Talley, Jaye Robin Brown, and Jason Reynolds. I’m also excited for new books coming from Becky Albertalli, JC Lillis, and FT Lukens.

 

Last up, which character do you give a little more love to and why?

I love them all, but I do give a little extra love to Luke’s best friend, Marcos. I love his mind. It moves at these fantastic right angles and it took all I had just to keep up. He’s also the character who was most likely to mess with my careful planning. Every time he appeared in a scene, he added something that I didn’t expect and I just had to follow his lead.

 

 

Here’s the list of stops she’ll be making on her tour.

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HOLD ~ EXCERPTS

Something had made the whole world stop around him, like his own bubble in time, but it was gone. He couldn’t crawl back inside.

* * *

He broke into a weak smile with the shine again in his eyes. “You came to the game. It was a crappy game, but you were there.”

Luke inched in the door and sat on top of the desk closest to the door. The two desks between them might as well have been two miles. “Of course I came.” He didn’t say, “I came because you asked,” or “I had to go because you wanted me there,” because that didn’t make any sense at all. “I didn’t really know what I was watching, but I tried. Dee gave me a crash course in lacrosse.”

“Next time, I’ll come over and give you a tutorial,” Eddie said with a shaky grin. “You see, there’s this ball, and the whole team is trying to make sure it goes into the other team’s net.”

“Shut up” Luke rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help smiling back. Next time. He said, next time. What happened to Wes? “I’m sorry, but I can’t take lacrosse lessons from a man who looks like he’s going to the opera.”

Eddie eyed his black-on-black. “I look like I’m going to an audition,” he finally said. “I don’t know. Today, I wanted to look good.”

You do, Luke thought. You are.

He opened his mouth, but the words stuck in his throat. He felt the influence of their room, just like all the rehearsals before this one. Even when he couldn’t find a good direction to save his life, he eventually sank into their place, their stage and Eddie’s smile, as if he could stay here forever. As long as Eddie kept looking at him as if he were the smartest, funniest, most talented boy he’d ever known, part of him was sure the outside world would hold its breath and wait. Outside, there were secrets and questions and too many hospital beds, but in here—Luke’s stomach clenched. It would be glowing and perfect for a while, but then he had to go.

* * *

If he were a better person, he would have made Eddie stop. If he were in a movie, Luke would have said “stop” really quietly, and Eddie would have listened, because that’s how movies worked. Luke scowled. Real life needs better editing. He scooted off the desk, stuffed his sketchpad into his backpack and walked into Eddie standing perfectly static outside the doorway.

He wasn’t the only one. He’d dotted the hallway with statues in a picture so silent he could hear his shoes clip against the floor.

Luke hadn’t just stopped Eddie. He’d stopped everything and he hadn’t felt himself try. When Eddie had walked out the door, Luke had wanted him to stop and listen, but his demented mind had only managed one thing. He slid out into the hall with his back flat against the wall and his bag clenched against his stomach.

It had been less than a minute since Eddie picked up his bag. Luke couldn’t have counted to one thousand in his head, and Eddie had already turned into someone new. The sad boy from their stage had disappeared. He had his back to the door and one hand in the air, as he turned toward a cluster of students in track pants and T-shirts. The whole group stood across the hallway with their mouths open and smiling, and, in the middle, a pretty girl stood on her tiptoes to wave back. Luke stepped closer to see her face. She glowed as if she made energy in her fingertips. Her skin was darker than Eddie’s, and she had her hair piled into a ponytail that spilled from the back of her head in a high, elegant pouf. Three years at this school, and Luke couldn’t have picked her out of a lineup, but she already knew Eddie. Luke had frozen the moment when her face lit up with joy. She was so happy to see him, and he—

Luke circled around to see Eddie’s face, and he was beaming back at the girl. In the seconds it took him to step away from the classroom door, he’d been remade. Luke peered into Eddie’s happy eyes and wanted to interrogate their shine.

How? He thought. How did you learn to be everyone at the same time?

* * *

They didn’t have to say where or when they would find each other after school. Dee, Luke and Marcos met outside the south entrance by the wobbly picnic table, because that’s what they’d been doing since they were thirteen. Luke let Dee hug him, twice, and they walked toward her house as though nothing had changed in a month of absences and ignored calls.

They fell into step along the side of the road with the February wind at their backs. Neither of them said anything about the funeral, and, after days of flowers and cards promising Lizzy’s arrival in heaven with all the pretty angels, Luke was so grateful he would have let them hug him all over again. It was the kindest silence.

Five years ago, in seventh grade, the walk had begun as a two-some. Back then, Dee and Luke had bonded, in hushed, embarrassed giggles, over their shared crush on the new boy with the soft brown skin and the big, toothy smile. He was so sweet. She’d been the first person to get how the pieces of Luke fit together, before his parents and long before anyone else at school. She’d glommed onto his side like sticky tape and it all should have been a mess. By rights at least one of them should have ended up heartbroken and in tears, but by luck they’d both fallen for a boy who liked neither of them and was too dense to understand the problem.

It wasn’t until freshman year, when all three of them were connected at the hip, that Dee finally had broken down and told Marcos why she and Luke had both suddenly become obsessed with Ender’s Game. Of course it was a good book, but it was also his favorite book and at the time that’s what had mattered. They’d created a Marcos Aldama book club, for God’s sake, and they might have started on The Song of Ice and Fire series if Dee hadn’t gotten up the courage to ask if hewantedtowalkhomewiththemsometime.

When she’d explained, he’d just stared at her over the top of his ham sandwich. “But how?” He’d asked. “I looked like Manny from Modern Family.”

He hadn’t, not really. Except maybe a little in the face.

Most of all, even when he’d awkwardly clarified that no, he didn’t want to date Luke or Dee and asked if that was cool, Marcos had never said a thing about Luke being a boy. It had probably never occurred to him to care.

They walked out of the school parking lot and down West Thirty-third toward Dee’s house. As always, she marched ahead while the boys trailed behind. Marcos’s arm was slung around Luke’s neck, as if to make sure that Luke was actually, physically, there. Their hips knocked together in an uneven beat when Luke stepped forward on one side and Marcos stepped forward on the other. They couldn’t find a rhythm, but neither pulled away. Luke used to imagine that this was what a first kiss would feel like: all awkward limbs and too much feeling.

Neither of them asked questions. Instead, Dee chattered about one show she’d convinced Marcos to watch and another, which she hadn’t. Luke hadn’t heard of either of them, but that wasn’t new. Lizzy liked old TV shows, so that’s what he knew best. Luke caught every other word as she ran through the plots, but the rest flowed together like music.

* * *

As he entered the junior commons, Luke almost stepped on a pair of shoes. The girl wearing them found her way around him and scowled under her breath as Luke leaned against the nearest wall. He was going to look teary-eyed and breakable no matter what. Along the edges he couldn’t do more damage, and that’s where he caught the flash of blue. It was on the wall next to the boy’s bathroom.

The poster, held up by Scotch tape, announced the theater department’s Spring Review in the same color and font they’d used when Luke was nine. Ten years from now they would probably still perform Shakespearian tragedies and Oklahoma. This year, they were doing 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but he didn’t care about that. He cared about the names of the tech crew written across the bottom of the poster. That was their spot, his and Marcos Aldama’s and Dee’s. For a year and a half, since they’d been trusted to not to electrocute themselves, they’d run tech for every production this school had bothered to stage. Dee was supposed to be the stage manager, Marcos was supposed to be on sound and he was supposed to be on sets.

But he wasn’t there.

He found Dee’s and Marcos’s names right where they were supposed to be, and then there was a third name. He’d been replaced by Neil Vargassi. Vargassi? Luke had last heard that name when he’d found out that “that Vargassi kid” had fallen off the stage during warm ups and had had to be sent to the emergency room.

Luke read the poster three times with his hand pressed against the wall beside it. The wall wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t sure about anything else.

They wouldn’t—He read it again. But of course, they would. He’d been gone a month at the beginning of the spring semester with no explanation. Of course they would have found someone to take his place, and he’d had the easiest tech job in the world. He wasn’t irreplaceable, but he’d never thought—

He turned away from the poster and made himself move, as the sickness slid into his gut. It pooled in a sludge below his navel, like a toxic spill, and his body wanted it gone, but there were people going in and out of the bathroom. There were people everywhere.

Luke clasped his hand over his mouth. On his right, the door to a dark classroom sat ajar. He threw himself inside, grabbed the trashcan by the door and gagged until his eyes watered. Nothing came up. He couldn’t even make himself puke. He couldn’t do anything but make people feel sorry for him.

Luke crouched at the closed door with his back flat against the metal kick plate, and pressed his fingers against his temples until pain blossomed under his skin. His stomach turned.

I can’t make it stop, because I shouldn’t be here anymore.

He closed his eyes against the empty classroom, the dirty book jackets and the kick marks on the legs of the chairs.

I should be gone. It should have been me.

Luke pushed himself to his feet and tasted tears. His phone rang in his backpack again and again. He had to answer it because it could have been his mom, but his hands couldn’t remember how. He pulled at the zipper on the front of his bag, but it wouldn’t give. He couldn’t make it move. He tried again and, before he knew what he was doing, he hit it. He hit the bag over and over again until it crunched under his fists. He punched grooves into the plastic lining and ripped holes in the straps.

The holes were real. He made them. The fabric tore under his hands. He made that happen. But the phone wouldn’t stop ringing—four, five, six—and, as he gasped for air, he lifted the backpack and heaved it across the room like a grenade.

Luke turned away, closed his eyes and waited for it to smash against the far wall. He waited and listened for the crunch and the snap, but it never came. His bag never hit the floor.

* * *

Beyond the trees, the road stood frozen, and, above his head, the leaves were still, but on the ground, Luke vibrated with life.

 

 

Click on the link for a Rafflecopter giveaway of HOLD by Rachel Leigh Davidson.

 

 

Purchase Links:

Interlude Press Web Store: store.interludepress.com

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2dAWKMo

Barnes & Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hold-rachel-davidson-leigh/1124079244?ean=2940153117676

Apple IBookstorehttps://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold/id1148322903?mt=11

All Romance eBookshttps://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-hold-2058760-145.html?referrer=55feb862851f8

Smashwordshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/648932

Kobohttps://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/hold-7

Indieboundhttp://www.indiebound.org/book/978-1-945053-11-5&aff=interludepress

 

 

Hold was published by Duet Books on October 20, 2016. You can reach the with author Rachel Davidson Leigh at racheldavidsonleigh.com; on Twitter @rdavidsonleigh; and on Facebook at facebook.com/rdavidsonleigh/

 

 

 

Review: Saree by Su Dharmapala

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The key phrase to this book is ‘fatefully yet surprisingly interwoven lives’. The extracting of silk and human elements and artfully weaving them into intricate patterns. The title in fact, is gleefully fitting. When I saw it on the book shelf at my local book store, I just knew and my expectations rose immediately, but I’m happy to say it delivered, plentifully. The novel wasn’t beauty and smiles all around, in fact it it makes you sit back and think of how life in the end, does come full circle.

First things first.

 

Definition of a saree

A saree is a garment worn by women across south Asia (from my knowledge predominantly those of south Indian and Sri Lankan origin). It is a long piece of cloth usually woven in silk or cotton, varying from 6-9 yards in length and 2-4 feet in breadth, that is wrapped around the waist, pleated, tucked and draped over one shoulder. Of course today how you drape, the designs and material all vary given the advent of fashion, but the traditional hand woven silk sarees in its customary designs and drape are highly respected. And yes it is the dress the lady on the cover of the book is wearing and a real life specimen of one is what the book is pictured on 😛

 

The Synopsis

One thing truly made me happy about this book. I know opinions will vary, but I whole heartedly love the blurb of the book. It gives us just enough to be intrigued but not enough to give away the whole story. So here it is for you:

Nila wasn’t born beautiful and is destined to go through life unnoticed… until she becomes a saree maker. As she works, Nila weaves into the silk a pattern of love, hope and devotion, which will prove to be invaluable to more lives than her own.

From the lush beauty of Sri Lanka, ravaged by bloody civil war, to India and its eventual resting place in Australia, this is the story of a precious saree and the lives it changes forever. Nila must find peace, Mahinda yearns for his true calling, Pilar is haunted by a terrible choice, Sarojini doubts her ability to love, Madhav is a holy fraud and Marion’s understanding of the very meaning of love is challenged and transformed. Each teeters between joy and pain, and each is touched by the power and beauty of the saree.

A breathtaking story of beauty, oppression and freedom… and of an enduring love that can never be broken.

 

 

The Review

I believe life is an art. So it only makes sense that every act therefore in living has to be an art. Passion is key in attaining perfection, and in this story there is no end for passion. Whether it is for a person,  for a craft, skill or a dream, an undying fire from within will help one find opportunities in the most surprising of places.

The story in Saree, is predominantly set in Sri Lanka, during the Ealam War. There were rifts between races, and also within races. Life seemed to be a game of who is better than who. Innocents killed, brothers divided, friends turning their backs on each other. Among all this hatred and angst, were instances of purity, love, beauty and friendship. This is an aspect the writer has been successful in capturing in her story.

There’s many things to like in Saree. One aspect is the wonderful descriptions by the author. Be it the character building, the surroundings or even the conversation which are often peppered with the mother tongue of the speakers, the story seems to leap off the pages and one feels the anger of the mobs and the pitter patter of rain as one reads.

Character development was a pleasure to see. We are presented with six very different personalities, each with a different passion in life, and are touched by this one fateful saree. Each story is well planned and each in their own way unique. Each endearing, leaving us devastated at the end.  I especially liked Pilar and her story. I was awed by the courage Pilar showed when it came to the upbringing of her son and Raju’s life long memory of his wife.

I particularly enjoyed the factual weave into the fiction. A book from which you can take away something is always good. I learnt a lot about the saree making process from  acquiring the silk to spinning it, to weaving then finishing it draping it and the final look of it. You won’t need to take any saree spinning class in your life. Kudos to Ms Dharmapala for the extensive research you must have had to undertake for this 🙂

The book has a fragmented narrative, spanning time, religion, cities and continents and in my opinion, the writer, I’m so glad, didn’t disappoint. Every perspective of the story fit in and overall made for a delightful, page turning read. In saying this I must add that it is quite a long read as well, with a whopping 560 odd pages (in my copy at least). I didn’t actually read the book at a stretch. It felt right to reflect on each chapter after I was done with it for a few days before moving on to the next. Not only were the characters engaging, but the message the writer was inevitably conveying was too hard to ignore.

The initial literary reaction to the book aside, I must stress on the social commentary that has to be spoken of regarding the story. Directly or indirectly, the war touched on the lives of all people living in the country. How does one live with the knowledge of knowing that your best friend could turn his back on you, how could your own family set fire to your fiance just because  he was of another religion? Do the emotional scars ever go away, does one ever go back to living normally once the war was over? And yet there was society being cruel even in the face of the imminent death and one young woman worries for her future because her skin is darker.

The emotions in this story are very real, very raw and at every turn there is something holding our protagonists down. Does love conquer all, or do they need to resort to rebellion? I’d recommend this book for all ages, and I, myself will definitely be re-reading this book.

 

So go ahead pick up Saree some time soon, and lets get talking. If you have already read it, whose story resonated the most with you? What have you heard of the war in Sri Lanka? Lets talk about how wartime literature and how it helps bring out what really matters in life. Do scars heal once its over? Or does love heal all?

 

Su Dharmapala is a writer, social commentator and a blogger. She released her debut novel, Wedding Season in 2012 by Simon & Schuster, and this novel, Saree was released in 2014. 

Here’s a link to one of her interviews. I find it a great insight into how her books came to life.

 

 

 

T5W: Memorable First Sentences !

Its Top 5 Wednesday today 🙂 and its all about Favourite First sentences. I decided to interpret this as first lines I found memorable, be it the humorous ones, the ones that echo a universal truth or the ones that eventually influenced a childhood.

T5W is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes.

 

 

P&P is my favourite book of all time, and this line is one I cannot get out of my mind for an array of reasons.

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The Victorian era truly was a period of contrasts and contradictions and Dickens so perfectly captures this.

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Mr.Tolstoy sir, preach! Its wondrous to see the array of reactions one has to sadness and disappointment.

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How can one leave this out. The sentence that began the frenzy. The sentence that changed our lives.

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How can you forget this once you’ve read it!!!?

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What are your favourite first lines?

Lets talk! Bookish and beyond @ Cinderzenblogs! #1 Does media and hype shape the way we read?

 

Hello everyone!

I have news! I was just having a routine check on my notifications, when I find that Wordpress says I’ve been registered to this blog for a year now! A year! What!? How time flies when one is busy reading blogs and fangirling with fellow bookworms! XD I have to confess that I have not been seriously blogging for the whole of these past 12 months except for the past 7. I wish I had gotten the taste / excitement of it right at the beginning, a few months definitely gone to waste XD

First things, first! I cannot thank all those who I’ve met along the way, those who followed me out of the blue (lol), for those treasured moments where we’ve created connections and shared stories. Thank you for inspiring and motivating me to keep going on, and giving me the courage to keep at this task we all love and sometimes call a pain XD Its all voluntary after all, yet I  love blogging and the community here!

So, not to mark today or anything, I’ve had this idea for sometime and its long over due, I’ve decided to start on a discussion series touching on all things book related. This will include topics relating to life, interests and all things general. Or in other words, things I come across in my journey that amuse/ inspire/ and get me thinking. Maybe sometimes good, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes bad and very ugly. I’ll post up a topic every week, and with your help, we can get to see a diverse range of opinions under the topic, get excited, informed, inspired and motivated for the better ^_^ Pls do understand my possibly rocky first few discussions till I get the hang of this new venture >_<! Book-bottoms up everyone!

Enough chit chat, I’ve got questions brewing!

 

 

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What’s up this week @ the Cinderblog??

Today’s topic: Does media and hype shape the way we read?

 

We are all aware of the recent release of the eight installation of a Harry Potter story. If you do not, get your butt out from under that rock! Things have been heating up.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read a lot of reviews and thoughts on it. Unfortunately though, they were predominantly negative, and the Potter fangirl in me dies a bit every time I do. How can a story which our beloved JK touched on, be so lowly received? What happened? Were we too eager? Are we judging too minutely? Clearly anything HP does give everything a whole new meaning and dimension, given the love we have for it. Were we expecting a similar fully loaded book as the original seven? Was it too much expectation? Was it too much hype? 

I do understand the need for hype and publicity, and a return of a much loved author with another of her works is great news, yes! but should we perhaps take into consideration what the book had to go through to come to completion. The book is itself not meant to be a novel but a play based on the original story, so one must understand the consequences of this. I say consequence because in true Potter fanaticism we will want a fully satisfying book to digest. Details will be omitted, characters will only be inspired by the original, and the plot will probably not read as a work of JK’s alone might.

Here’s the big question.

I haven’t read the book yet, and when I do, will what I’ve read so far change my true opinion of it? Will my reading of everything prior to the book skew my thoughts of the story?

Will I be looking out for things that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read anything?

What happens if hype leads to a disappointing book. I say disappointing possibly due to high expectation or a widely-agreed-upon badly written book.

I know this is can also be a question of one willingly reading the reviews or not, but trust me its hard to not read them. The struggle is real and I’m too curious.

 

Here’s another question.

What happens when a well known person, politician or celebrity endorses a book? If they are well known and accepted by many, the book rockets to fame. I understand the dynamics of that for all parties. What happens if its reviewed negatively by them? Does this make the book a bad one.

I firmly believe that no book can be considered bad by all (perhaps a very few). This is an entirely different discussion with the factors of age, experience and maturity all differing so I believe its not ours to judge. Perhaps we should only give our opinion about, but not to shame them entirely.

This thought sprouted off a book I read back in February. I wanted so much to review the book because I felt it was a compelling story. Then I felt, will the publicity it got, be a problem for me? Would it be considered a bad read just because of all we have read about it? Was I worried about being viewed in a way due to my choice of books? There I was wondering if it was a good book enough to review when I shouldn’t have been doing so. I believe that a book should be judged on how its written, how it reads and what I can take from it. If it conveys a message that’s deep seating and something you relate to, even better. If it entertains you, wonderful.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey was chosen by Oprah for her Book Club in September 2005. The book was released as a memoir, and Oprah was all praises about it.  It turned out that the author had exaggerated some aspects of the story  and understandably the winds turned on him, from positive reviews to negative ones. Personally I loved the writing and the contents for what it was. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘duped’ as she said she had been. Perhaps it was a badly categorized book, a book ‘inspired’ by an original story perhaps should have been the key phrase. So are we too quick to judge?

Another back story regarding the incident is that it was all publicity for the book. See what media can do? Does this seem right in view of authors from a minority background? Do they get similar shout outs?

 

These are just my thoughts! I’d love to know what you think! 

Where do we need to put the barrier on how much exposure about a book we need before we read it? Is media skewing the way we read? Or what we read?

 

 

Review: Street Girl by Rozana McGrattan

 

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“I hear the vibrations of the universe and I call it love.

I want to go to it; need to go to it, need to dissolve in it. It calls me home.

……

And real love is the shedding of old feelings, emotions, longings, wants.

And the knowledge that there will be no more turbulence.”

Rozana McGrattan

 

 

 

Street Girl is an autobiography of Ms. McGrattan. This book is her narration of the events of her life, one we see studded with trials and hardships, from the streets of Sao Paulo to the streets of London, from hunger and destitute poverty to owning her own business.

I received this book via a Goodreads Giveaway (YAY!!) a few weeks back. It is the first book that I’ve read that was based in Brazil and one written by a Brazilian author which gives me so many reasons to be excited about this review.

The book begins with a prologue of her narrating a story her father told her, and we are immediately taken in. The story begins with a simple yet vivid narration of Sao Paulo, where I reckon was the turning point of her life, the make it or break it stage, where her decisions were meant to be well thought out.  Thereafter she takes us back to the beginning, and then to where she is today.

I’ve never read literature from South America, so this was a first. I was excited, and as per usual the vibes that the book sent me when I signed up for the giveaway put me into high expectations. I didn’t know what sort of story it would be, but I wasn’t disappointed!  If anything I want more.  I was fascinated to learn about the workings of the country, a glimpse here and there, but that was enough to shine light onto life there.

It’s a quick read. The writing is easy flowing with no awkward breaks. The language is simple, direct, no beating round the bush, and each new chapter of the book is a new chapter of her life. A very straightforward telling of her life’s events thus far, and very compellingly told. You will read about her successes and her failures, her achievements hard earned yet admirable, her relationships; some appalling, which will leave you horror, while others endearing.

A easy read I did say, but I must stress on the contents. Some chapters are not for the lighthearted. Even the author herself warns the reader to skip ahead. I was repulsed by certain incidents she had to go through and in knowing her intentions and her strength of mind; I admire her courage to be able to free herself from these situations. We constantly find her in situations that are not in any way good, especially at her young age, but time and time again we find that she takes to good and leaves the bad aside.

I loved that she found camaraderie in those who have nothing to give her, or help her, the children from the slums. It was a warm feeling to know that kindness and humanness is not something one has to have material possession to embody.  Her position as a girl growing up, and later as a woman making her way toward bettering herself, is something to take note of. She manages to charter her way through the dangerous waters of exploitation and abuse, while keeping her sanity. She could easily have followed the route of many in her position, but she kept to her beliefs and followed her dreams.

I love how she never once blames anyone for the incidents in her life and how it began and the many shady paths it lead her to. I love that she took hold of her own destiny, in the sense that she didn’t expect from others, but worked hard to achieve her dreams.  I cannot imagine how she lived through some periods of her life, but she made it and it gave me hope! And I reckon this story will do so, even by a tiny bit, to anyone who reads it. I love that she shows you can go from poverty to living comfortably, from despair to happiness, if not ideal at least one where you are at peace with ones self if you dare to dream and keep at it.

She believes that a life without knowledge or education of any sort is to be blamed only on one’s self. We find that she snatched at every opportunity to better herself, and she firmly believes that no life experience goes to waste, but builds ones self.

Her poetry is a reflection of all her life’s experiences. Outbursts of a deeper understanding of different aspects of life. I was delighted to find that  I deeply related to a few of them.

 

“When I look towards the light,

do I see the glow of realization,

the purity of perception,

or just the glare of confusion,

without shadow or relief- ubiquitous and implacable?

If meaning is menacing,

If its hell,

Then is it a hell of my own making?”

 

 

 

Its hard to find a fault with the story. I was truly disappointed that the story ended. I would love to know more about the author, and took the liberty to do so. She is truly an incredible woman. Her endurance is admirable; her faith in painting the greater picture is inspirational. If anything this book is a humbling one, portraying not only a life of hardship but also one of holding on to hope.  From beginning to end, one thing was very clear. She always was master of her fate, not letting others tell her otherwise.

 

Street Girl was published on May 28th 2016 by Pen Works Media.

For more on the book or author, you can check out Goodreads and Amazon.

 

 

Lets get talking!

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts on it? Did you enjoy the read?

Do memoirs like this fare as well as works of fiction?

Do you have any recs for me based on this read? I’d love to know.

 

 

 

 

T5W: Authors I want to read more from!

 

Halloo lovely readers!

Its that time of the week. Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and this weeks topic is Authors I’m Currently Waiting On A New Book From. WhoopWhoop! Yes, we all have a handful of authors you just cannot get enough of. Here’s my five picks. I’m sure that we all have more than five, this task was excruciating lol!

 

Khaled Hosseini

I’d buy anything he writes with my eyes closed! I know he wont disappoint.Does anyone know of any literature in the works by him?? Pls do let me know!

I have read And the Mountains Echoed, and LOVED it. My review here will explain all. Im currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and am bawling with every turn of the page. Please do chck this space in a week for its review! 🙂

 

J.K.Rowling

Ok, I have heard a lot of negative output from the Cursed Child, and I am willing to think she was not fully in her element when she wrote (did she?) it! Her adult novels were a trying read themselves and I’d like to see where else she can take us.

 

Nadia Hashimi

I adore her! Her writing style, and the elements she works with are beautifully balanced. Her The Pearl  That Broke Its Shell is a wonderful piece of woman empowerment embodied. She has her debut young adult novel coming this August, so look forward to it guys. I hope she is working on more novels soon.

 

Cassandra Clare

Again, I adore her writing. I love her combination of magical elements and the real world. I honestly love the TMI series as well as its sister series The Infernal Devices, and so believe they are the next best series to HP, a world I’d wholeheartedly immerse myself in.

 

Ayisha Malik

Her debut novel Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged published in January 2016, was an instant success. I cannot wait to see what more she can do with her honest yet captivating use of words. She has said that sequels to the book are in the works!! Yippie!!

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What Authors would you like to read more from?? Is there anyone in particular? Any one who you’d bring back from the past to spin on last work? I know it’ll be Austen for me! Hands down!

 

 

 

To Like or Not to Like Emma Woodhouse? (my first guest post @ PagesUnbound)

So….. I fangirled over Austen. Again! *Not something new* DO check out the Classics event going on @PagesUnbound and read more on your favourite Classics. ^_^

Pages Unbound | Book Reviews & Discussions

Classic Literature Event

This July Pages Unbound is celebrating classic literature with a collection of guest posts. We asked other readers to tell us what one of their favorite classics is and why we should read it.

See that girl in the home sewn ball gown, watching BBC’s documentary on Victorian England whilst sipping on a cuppa tea, pinky finger out and shoulders back, thats me – the classics buff. My readers know me as Cinderzena, to my friends its Zena and to my family I’m just that daughter/sister who reads too much.


Emma

Here are 8 things you should consider first…

It is a question Austenites, classic buffs and random readers alike have been asking themselves these two centuries past. Do you like Emma, or do you not? Jane Austen herself described Emma as “a character whom no one but me will much like.” Yikes! That’s a tough choice for us readers to…

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