Jerusalem by Guy Delisle [Book Review]

Jerusalem by Guy Delisle

Title :  Jerusalem

Author : Guy Delisle

ISBN : 9782756025698

Publisher : RHUK

Genre : Nonfiction, Geopolitics & International Relations, Graphic Novels

Pages : 336

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars


Guy Delisle is a famous graphic travelogue artist and after covering Burma (Myanmar), North Korea and China, the ancient city of Jerusalem is his latest project. He visits Jerusalem with his girlfriend (who is working for Doctors without borders) and children and has written an enriching account of the daily humdrum of lives in the mystical city that stands at the crossroads of three Abrahamic religion- Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The tone of this graphic novel is curious and humorous and though the author doesn’t go in detail to explain each sight that he experiences, he has done a commendable job in articulating the diverse manifestations of the city and his people. The author was permanently living in East Jerusalem (Part of Palestine) so it’s obvious that his views and descriptions might sound a bit pro-Palestinian but he has also tried to present the viewpoint of Jewish settlers in the city. He meets Arabs, anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox Jews, orthodox Jews who hate Arabs, modern Jews in Tel Aviv who hate all religious fanatics and even the Samaritans. For someone like me, who was completely unaware of Jewish traditions and customs, the book was an eye-opener and very informative.

The book also serves as a “Guide” to the famous religious sites (for different sects) and gives a little bit of historical and cultural details about them). In the backdrop of all this, the author never forgets to portray the sad reality of war and segregation that is taking place right since Israelis came here to settle down in the “promised land”

One aspect where the author must improve is coherence. At many points, I felt that a story/anecdote was left abruptly while the author moves on to describe another incident. Nevertheless, I am intrigued enough to read his other works on Burma and North Korea.

Buy yourself a copy of the book here: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

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India vs Pakistan by Husain Haqqani [Book Review]

India vs Pakistan.jpg
India vs Pakistan by Husain Haqqani

Title : India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?

Author : Hasain Haqqani

ISBN : 9788193237250

Publisher : Juggernaut

Genre : Geopolitics & International Relations

Pages : 200

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




The only reason I picked this book was it being written by a Pakistani and I wanted to read a perspective from the other side of the border. It turned out that the author is not just a Pakistani, but a former Pakistani ambassador to the US and has held several high-ranking positions including as adviser to three former Pakistani prime ministers. Nevertheless, I was still expecting a biased version with distorted facts and figures (after all what can you expect from the bureaucrat of a country that has distorted the reporting of its own history!), but I was completely taken by surprise that how profoundly and maturely Mr. Haqqani has pin pointed all reasons as to why “India and Pakistan can’t be friends
In this short but whistle blower account, Haqqani clearly describes how Pakistani Mullah+Military camaraderie is not only terrorizing India but their own country and how the civilian government has been completely paraplegic to contain that. The author has tried to dive deep in the issue and has discussed the sentiments of the governments, military and civilian population of each country towards the other and correlates it with the various historical milestones that have perpetuated the current scenario. The book discusses Pakistan‘s faulty foreign policy and mistrust towards India, its tacit approval to irregular warfare (read terrorism), the gradual Islamization of the country and frankly compares the current attributes of both the countries that were ‘born together’

To cut it short, the book is a completely ‘honest and blunt‘ account (I might not be surprised if it is being banned in Pakistan for obvious reasons) and is a good choice to pick up if you want some hands-on, quick insights about the concerned scenario.

Buy yourself a copy of the book here: India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?

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Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah [Book Review]

Chinese Cinderella.jpg
Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Title : Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter

Author : Adeline Yen Mah

ISBN : 9780440228653

Publisher : Puffin

Genre : Memoir

Pages : 252

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




Chinese Cinderella is one of those books that prove that you can write a simple memoir with uncomplicated words and sentence formation but can still move the reader and touch the chords of his/her heart because the story itself is immensely heartbreaking which is only complemented by a brisk and smooth narration.

Chinese Cinderella” is a memoir written by Adeline Yen Mah, whose mother dies after she is born and her entire childhood is eclipsed by the unfair treatments subjected to her by the hands of her stepmother and father. I understand that there are a lot of negative reviews on Goodreads for this book- many find it “whiny” and “pretentious” for during those turbulent years in China, Adeline had at least a house, education in good schools and always had access to regular meals. I understand that there are many Chinese who have had much worse conditions. Having said that, this book is more about the emotional upheavals of a girl child who is being felt “unwanted”, not only by her stepmother but also by her own father and brothers, rather than being financially deficient.

Along with her story, Adeline has tried her best to include snippets of China’s political happenings of the time to make the reader feel more connected and informed. My favorite chapter is the one where Adeline’s Ye Ye (Grandfather) makes her realize the importance & uniqueness of the Chinese language. Reading this chapter is like a first-hand guide towards the language- you will understand how Chinese is not a phonetic language but a pictorial one and how one can read Chinese fluently still not be able to speak it!

At the end of the book you will also be surprised to know that the actual Cinderella story that we all know has been derived from a much older Chinese folklore. A wonderfully narrated memoir, sure to touch your heart!

Buy yourself a copy of the book here: Chinese Cinderella

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The Sellout by Paul Beatty [Book Review]

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Title : The Sellout

Author : Paul Beatty

ISBN : 9781786070173

Publisher : Pan Macmillan India

Genre : Contemporary

Pages : 289

Source : Self

Rating : 2 stars



Man Booker Prize for Fiction is considered as the Grammy of Literature and I am in no position to judge the authenticity and importance of this prize. But since last two years, the books that are getting this prize are difficult, unimaginative and a “distant” reads to me.

Coming to “The Sellout“, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016, the multiple online & offline reviews claim it to be a “lacerating satire“. I did understand the overall plot and the broadly imbibed the message & satire that the author wanted to portray, but the reason of low rating is that I couldn’t understand most of the cultural references a way an American would have understood. The narration is in first person and the author digresses every now and then to strike a “lacerating satire” on racism and segregation through pop culture references and I only wished I could understand, if not relate to them.

The Prologue of the book only introduces the reader to its crazy & absurd theme- A black man is being tried in the Supreme Court of USA for slavery & racial segregation! The rest of the story continues in flashback. There is narrator’s father who is a controversial socialist with equally controversial ways of social & personal (on his own son) experiments, Hominy, who seeks pleasure in being enslaved, and the Hispanic town of Dickens where they have all lived since beginning but now the town has lost its name & identity.

The narrator’s father is shot dead by police during a feud. Dickens has been wiped out from the map and children at the local school are turning into goons and according to the narrator, the only way that these two issues can be solved is through racial segregation- making apartheid like separation modules in schools and different areas for Whites & Non Whites in Dickens.

The theme of the book is no doubt bold & brave. It has been more than 50 years of Martin Luther’s revolution but the race is still a burning issue in the States and combining racism with subtle and explicit satire is no wonder an extremely meticulous task by Beatty.

I would love to re-read this book someday when I am a better read person, when I am better aware of the historical and political fabric that clouds the horrendous evil of racism in United States.

Buy yourself a copy of the book here: The Sellout

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Wonder by R. J. Palacio [Book Review]

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Title : Wonder

Author : R. J. Palacio

ISBN : 978-0552565974

Publisher : Knopf Books

Genre : Young Adult

Pages : 316

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars





Family. There is nothing more important. They’re the ones who show up when we are in trouble. The ones who push us to succeed. The ones who help keep our secrets. But what of those who have no family to rely on? What happens to those poor souls who have no loved ones to help them in their hour of need? Well, most learn to walk life’s road by themselves. But a sad few of us, simply stop trying. -Desperate housewives.

This is the most beautifully written book, or so I thought right after “the perks of being wallflower”. It has all the elements that make you think, assimilate and ponder on all the things that we take for granted. In the eyes of a small boy, in the eyes of his friends and how, though it sounds hard to get, everything has its own explanation if we just stop and think whilst putting ourselves in someone else’s frame of reference. I could not stop until the last page and a story from a boy who used helmet for years t cover himself to a boy who stood in front of hundreds and received a medal for being strong was magnificent. Everything and everyone is beautiful, provided, they have an explanation for their deeds. A valid one and a plausible one.

The universe would abandon us completely and the universe does not. It takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we cannot see. Like with parents who adore you blindly, and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you, and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you and even a pink haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. May be it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end, The universe takes care of all its birds.

Review by Pavan Kumar B C

Buy yourself a copy here: Wonder

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The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami [Book Review]

The Strange Library.jpg
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Title : The Strange Library

Author : Haruki Murakami

ISBN : 9781846559211

Publisher : Harvill Secker

Genre : Contemporary Fiction

Pages : 77

Source : Self

Rating : 2 stars




“The strange library” was a good experiment in terms of writing. Yes, it had the typical Marukami material through out. One day a scholar needs to be descended from Murakami’s literary brain cells and explain the module of his intentions in his novels. I absolutely adore his way of writing but this book had its own positives and negatives.

A boy goes to a library to return the book he had finished reading and plans to get more regarding tax litigation. He was told to go downstairs where he meets an old man who is cruel and shred and manifests him into following him after helping him get the book he wanted. The old man successfully tricks the boy into a joy where he is to read for 3 months and his brain would be eaten long after that. The whole story is about the escape.

The book to see is beautiful, quite unconventional but the pictures in them were unnecessary. Sure, dogs, feathers and shoes come in the story but I would not have any problem picturing it instead of wondering how these elements might look like.

And if someone may, please explain the below.

  1. The pretty girl who exists in his own world and the girl in the book he was reading who cannot talk as well, are they same and if yes, how?
  2. What was that the old man coughed?
  3. What did the switch the old man used for?
  4. Why did the narrator’s mother die?
  5. How did the crow escape?
  6. How did the old man manage to find the dog that bit the boy years ago?
  7. How did the bird manage to grow in size and attack the old man?
  8. How did the bird speak and why was the voice same as the pretty girl’s who gives him his dinner?

And the questions go on and on. Are these metaphors for something? Did I fail to read between the lines? I cannot quite understand.

All in all, the book kept me going until the end and this probably is the only novel that I have finished in 15 minutes. So yay.

Review by Pavan Kumar B C

Buy yourself a copy here: The Strange Library

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