Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Date of Publication: 21 May 2013

Genre: History, Drama, Period

Legacy: This is the third book of Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. His first two books, also based on stories of Afghanistan, were bestsellers.

Age Group: Any

Another masterpiece by Mr. Khaled Hosseini!

This book is about Abdullah and Pari, two siblings who are extremely close to each other and are separated to due to unfortunate situations. This separation affects not just the two of them, but several other people, in the present and in the future generations. The book details the lives of all these affected people of myriad backgrounds, who are connected to the lives of Abdullah and Pari, in some way or the other.

Now, there are some books that you like for their unique story, others that you like for their interesting narration; some that you like because of the articulate play of words, others that you like because of their inspirational message...

This book has none of the above attributes. And yet, it touched my heart and my soul in a way that many, many books haven't. Love, friendship, hope, longing, sacrifice, self-preservation, innocence, desperation, and plain human/animal instincts - the range of such sheer emotions explored and portrayed by Mr. Khaled Hosseini through situations and words makes up for the lack of continuous narration, breezy pace, and overload of characters!

There are two aspects of reading any story: finding out what happens in the end (of the story), and actually imagining and experiencing (in your head, of course) the world that is described in the story, or discovering the underlying layers of the meaning of a story. Sometimes, we tend to neglect the second aspect a little bit, because we get too focused on finding out what happens next. I did so in the case of this book, as I was curious to find out how Mr. Hosseini shaped the destinies of the two siblings who in spite of being so far from each other, were connected in so many ways and through so many people.
I would love to revisit the book, may be within a couple of months, to experience the worlds of Abdullah and Pari, whose story I now know, but whose lives I want to traverse slowly, while experiencing and enjoying the deep, rich, multi-layered emotions of the many characters involved.

And that, I guess, is the biggest success of the book!

Rating: 4 on 5

Positives: Strong emotional connect, beautiful depiction of decisions and their repercussions

Negatives: Slow pace, scattered frame of narration

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: Best Kept Secret ( Clifton Chronicles #3)

Author: Jeffrey Archer

Date of Publication: 30 April 2013

Genre: Drama, Suspense

Legacy: This is the third book from the Clifton Chronicles series. The first two from the series have been bestsellers.

Age Group: Any

So, here's another disappointing venture by Mr. Archer, a man who has previously written so many wonderful books!

This is the third book in the Clifton Chronicles series. While I loved the first one, namely 'Only Time Will Tell', the second one ('The Sins of the Father') dragged so much in the climax, it became almost impossible to complete. The third one is even worse!

It picks up from where the second book ended - with the mysterious death of Lord Harvey, and the much-too-convenient hung vote of the jury as to who would succeed Hugo Barrington as heir. After an elaborate thought process that (only) Mr. Archer thinks will interest the readers, a verdict is announced, and without much repercussions gives way to another 100 pages of description about the MP elections of the Bristol docklands, and the stupidity of Sir Giles Barrington (Read: some lady Virginia something). All this constitutes more than half of the book. It is filled with information so trivial, boring, and tediously detailed that one might as well start reading the book from somewhere in the middle.

Then the book becomes slightly interesting, as Mr. Archer sketches the roller-coaster journey of Sebastian Clifton, the son of Harry and Emma Clifton. As soon as I began to think that, okay, now we are getting to learn something new, that Mr.Archer suddenly turns his attention (and several pages) to a huge Thinker statue and the nails which keep its base fixed, and Lo! it is almost as if we are back to the first half of the book. Why, just why do you think, Mr. Archer, that we would want to read long descriptions about how a carpenter removes the nails from the base of a statue?\

As for the end, it is very much predictable, but am sure will turn out to be twisted in the next book.

Not only does the story seem uninspired, but also the characters with the exception of Sebastian and Jessica Clifton (the latter kinda' seemed to be central at one point in the book, but was totally forgotten about later)seem boring and uni-dimensional.
If Mr. Archer were writing a screenplay, I would have understood, but he most certainly is no Jane Austen who could describe even the mundane of the mundane incidents so beautifully. He should have clubbed the second and third parts of this series and made a book of 250-300 pages out of them - at least then this series would have made some sense to me.

Oh, and yes, the reason this book was named 'Best Kept Secret' is the only best kept secret in it!

The only reasons I am not giving this book 1 star are that I completed reading it, and might still want to browse through the 4th book of the series. Sigh, what a pity!

Rating: 2 on 5

Positives: A couple of faintly interesting story lines

Negatives: Sluggish pace, boring descriptions of trivial matters