Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Complete Maus

‘Graphic’ and ‘novel’ ideally stand apart for any reader, since the former tends to rely largely on image and the latter on text. I decide to judge for myself, the result of merging the two, when the TSBC Challenge comes up with a “Graphic Novel Special” in June. And, by now, I’m attuned to lay blind trust in their recommendations.

But it wasn’t the BEST people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was RANDOM.

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Pavel’s astute observation on the Holocaust, in Maus, constantly rings in my mind as a comment on reading, as well as mis-reading a survivor-story. Half way through the book, he questions the writer’s own perception of the Holocaust and its survivors even as he tries to lighten Artie’s emotional/creative dilemma and distress (graphically portrayed by Artie’s shrunken size). Could we extend this remark to life itself, I wonder, as I try to consolidate my experience of ‘reading’ Maus by Art Spiegelman, as a part of the TSBC Challenge.

The book-cover leaves little to the imagination, for one can’t help but notice a vivid swastika cross. One broadly knows what to expect, but not quite. Expectation, in the world of Maus, is a mistake. I’m told by the mini-blurbs on the inside of the jacket that the work is autobiographical. However, the predominant images of cat and mouse seem at odds with this intention. Why would an autobiographical work require a metaphorical representation? Intriguing.

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Book Review: The Prague Cemetery

I decide to take up the TSBC Challenge out of curiosity. What book would I get? Could it be completely out of my loop? As a student of literature, haven’t I already abandoned the idea of a ‘comfort zone’? And anyway could TSBC gauge my loop?  And, I’m in for a surprise!

The-Prague-CemeteryMy first impressions of The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco are restricted to two words on the smoky, greyish-brown book cover: ‘Cemetery’ and ‘bestselling’. And I see a man with a hat who apparently conceals an event of some consequence as he stands with his back to the audience. It is perhaps, only through him that we might see light. Horror? Mystery?

The first chapter continues the eerie feel of the book cover by taking the reader through the “tangle of malodorous alleys” in a crime-infested neighborhood of the late nineteenth century Paris, only to land him/her at the doorstep of an old, faded antique shop. Inside, the reader almost bumps into history, as it is jammed together in terms of articles perhaps from different times and contexts — “a pendulum clock in faking blue enamel”, “vase stands with chipped ceramic putti”, “a rusty iron visiting card holder”, “hideous mother-of-pearl fans decorated with Chinese designs”, “two white felt slippers with buckles encrusted with Irish diamante”, “a chipped bust of Napoleon”… Interesting.

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Book Review: The Chocolate War

It is said that good writing is the context which a writer creates and makes the readers think.

Going by this famous quote, The Chocolate War is not only a good, but an exemplary piece of writing. It not only makes the reader think but also sets a stage for him/her to be able to clearly recognise right from wrong, good from evil, and the consequences and repercussions of standing by one’s beliefs in a particular scenario, like the school in this book. But it stands true to every phase and situation in life. Calling it an analogy to society, as such, will not be wrong.

the-chocolate-warWritten by Robert Cormier and first published in 1974, The Chocolate War remains the most discussed, analysed, debated and criticised book by Cormier and has been frequently labelled controversial and provocative. It has been banned in some parts of the world for it’s mature content, language and violence, but is equally supported by critics and taught in schools in other parts of the world.

The story is set at Trinity, an all-boys Catholic school where an annual chocolate sale is held to raise funds for the school. Brother Leon, the evil Headmaster at Trinity, doubles the number of chocolate boxes to be sold and also the price, clearly burdening the unassuming students. For this he cleverly seeks help from Archie Costello, the ‘Assigner’ with The Vigils, an underground student gang/group operating within the school in a clandestine manner. The Vigils intimidate the students and terrorise them into doing ‘tasks’ assigned by them. The protagonist Jerry Renault is a 14-year old freshman at Trinity who has recently lost his mother. Jerry refuses to sell chocolates for the annual sale and that sets into motion a chain of events, all unexpected and unusual for the school. How Jerry stands up to his beliefs, continues to refuse the sale of chocolates despite being bullied and harassed, how the complicated behaviour of students and Brothers at Trinity unfold layer after layer following this rebellious act from Jerry form the body of the book.

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