Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mrs. Dalloway, Eragon & Amir

In the last few weeks I’ve read the most amazing books. Without further ado, I’ll just start with the first one: “The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Many of you must have heard of this title in connection with the movie staring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman had also won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. I had seen bits and pieces of the movie before I read the book, and I hate to say this, but I couldn’t quite follow what was going on. The performance by all three actors was really good though, and that’s quite an understatement! But when I read the book I could understand it so much better.

The first time I heard of Virginia Woolf was in connection with the Elizabeth Taylor movie “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” I have never seen it and don’t know what it is about. The next time I came across Virginia Woolf was in my third year of BA, when we had to study a poem and an extract from her book “A Room of One’s Own” in English Lit. She was one of the founders of the Bloomsbury publishing firm, the same one that now publishes the “Harry Potter” series!

“The Hours” is about the lives of three women – Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Vaughan/Mrs. Dalloway and Laura Brown, all set in different points of the 20th century. Cunningham interweaves events that happen in their lives with the events that occur in Woolf’s novel, “Mrs. Dalloway”. It is just brilliant the manner in which the narrative slides back and forth between the lives of these three women. I was totally drawn into their world, and it was like I was standing in the room with them, watching their lives unfold before my very eyes!

Another factor that garnered my interest, as a student of clinical psychology, was that mental illness is present in the lives of all the protagonists. There is this line in the book that I really liked: “…sanity involves a certain measure of impersonation, not simply for the benefit of husband… but for the sake, first and foremost, of one’s own convictions.” Makes you really think doesn’t it?

The other book, rather books, that I’d read are the first two in the “Inheritance” series by Christopher Paolini: “Eragon” and “Eldest”.

And for this I gotta thank Monk, as he was the one to suggest that I give these books a try. These two books belong to the same genre as “Harry Potter”, “LOTR”, “Simoqin Prophecies” etc. I love this genre because it is to do with MAGIC and FANTASY!! I guess it’s to do with my desire to possess magical powers! Who wouldn’t like to possess some kind of power that would elevate them to a position above almost everybody else? But what I really liked about the “Inheritance” series is the concept that the energy it takes to accomplish a task using magic is equal to the energy that would take to do it without the help of magic! This adds a very human twist to magic.

The adventure is set in a land called Alagaƫsia populated by human beings, dragons and other magical creatures.

Paolini was only 19 years old when he published “Eragon”! I find that incredibly cool! His protagonist, Eragon, is himself only 16 years old. He is working on the third and final book in the series. If any one of you is a fan of magical tales then “Eragon” and “Eldest” are a must read!

The third book that I’d read is “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

It is set in Afghanistan and America, and tells the story of two Afghan boys, Amir and Hassan. It is told in first person, in a very matter of fact manner, but the emotions and feelings are very much in evidence in each and every line. The turning point in the novel was so shocking that it knocked the breath out of me. And I’m not being overly dramatic by saying so.

“The Kite Runner” is a story of courage and redemption and finding your place in the world. It has been a while since I have been so moved by a novel. Even though it is not a thriller, it was simply unputdownable. I’ve already added it to my ‘favourite book list’.

So there they are now, the books that I’ve enjoyed reading these past few weeks. Books have seemingly replaced the weekly movie ritual that used to take place when I was in Hyderabad, with my parents dragging me to see the worst movies ever!! They are such movie aficionados that they want to see every single movie that hits the screens, and I have had to sit through horrors such as Pyar, Ishq aur Mohabbat, Baaz – A Bird in Danger, and more recently, Kyun Ki…, Shaadi No.1, and Garam Masala!

Anyway, I think this is gonna be my last post for a while now, because I have to start working on my second file submission, and if I want to avoid getting panic-stricken as I’d gotten last November, then I better start in advance! :D

May be I’ll be able to squeeze in short posts now and then, but I make no promises!