Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga



The Man Booker Prize Winner for 2008 this was recommended to my husband and I by our elder daughter.  What an intriguing first novel this is narrated by Balram Halwai a young Indian entrepreneur, in the form of emails (I think not letters as someone else suggested to me) to a high ranking Chinese official due to visit India.  Over the course of seven nights during one way communication with this official Balram paints a vivid picture of life in India for rich and poor and he confesses via this medium to murder.

I found the character of Balram rather cold and matter of fact and I did not warm to him at all. Maybe I was not meant to as here is a man born into poverty that discovers that by cheating and murdering he can live the life he once only dreamed of in modern India. He seems to have no fear what so ever of the consequences of his actions. He writes an expose of how the rich in India survive and how rife corruption is, yet at the same time he also behaves in a way that shows little regard for either his family or his employers.

This narrative certainly paints a picture of the darker side of India and I suspect a lot of what he says is sadly based on truth, exaggerated or not I have no idea. Never the less it was an entertaining read and as I mentioned before intriguing. Certainly a satirical way of exposing life in India for the poor to Westerners' the market for which this novel was obviously intended as this is not a translation but was written originally in English.

For a detailed plot summary I suggest the Wikipedia page for the novel.


Photo of Aravind Adiga courtesy of his Official Website which is where I obtained the biographical information from.

Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras (now called Chennai), and grew up in Mangalore in the south of India. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the Times of India. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008. His new novel, Last Man in the Tower, will be published in 2011.

I am also including a very interesting podcast interview with the author from Blackwell's which is well worth listening to.

Blackwell Online

The interview continues here.

Blackwell Online Part Two of interview

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review - La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales


La Bella Lingua pb

Praise from the first word, if you have a love of Italy and or the Italian language whether you are able to speak it or not, this book is definitely not just a must read but a title destined for your private collection.

I have owned a copy of this book since the end of last year and I have enjoyed dipping into it frequently. I have not until now though read it in depth enough so that I felt able to write a review.

Dianne Hales is an American journalist and published author. She wrote this book as a result or because, in her own words she never expected to fall ‘ madly, gladly, giddily in love with the world's most luscious language.’  but fall she did head over heels. For over twenty years now Italian has become her way of immersing herself into Italy's culture, history, lifestyle and traditions. She shares this love with us in such an engaging manner you will be captivated.

Just take a peep at this list of Chapter headings.
Introduction: My Italian Brain and How It Grew
1. Confessions of an Innamorata
2. The Unlikely Rise of a Vulgar Tongue
3. To Hell and Back with Dante Alighieri
4. Italian's Literary Lions
5. The Baking of a Masterpiece
6. How Italian Civilized the West
7. La Storia dell'ArteA
8. On Golden Wings
9. Eating Italian
10. So Many Ways to Say "I Love You"
11. Marcello and Me
11. Irreverent Italian
12. Mother Tongue

I hope that just reading that list will have tempted you enough, it is the story of how the Italian language came into existence using art, history, music, literature, cooking, films and last but not least amore or love to teach us. It will not matter if you do not know or understand a word of Italian, a love of Italy and all things Italian is all you need. Or maybe if you do not already have that love reading this will will convert you. Learning Italian or want to learn then this is also the book for you as it takes you way beyond vocabulary and all that complicated Italian grammar. As a traveller to Italy whether in reality or virtually, it will also make a great introduction to the places and the people.

In truth I believe that everyone who reads my Blog 'News From Italy' will enjoy this in one way or another. What more can I say really but to recommend highly that you get hold of a copy to dip into yourself. As once you have done that you will definitely I think want a copy on your own bookshelves whether you are a novice or an expert on all things Italian.

Dianne HalesDianne Hales photograph from her website.

Continuing on from this book Dianne Hales launched a Blog Becoming Italian Word By Word where she celebrates the art of living via the Italian language with each interesting and informative post covering a different aspect.

You can also find out more about her by visiting her website  Dianne Hales

Still not convinced you will enjoy this, then please take just three minutes and listen to what Dianne has to say herself here.

crownbooks | 30 March 2010 Author Dianne Hales tells an audience how she came to write "La Bella Li...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stargazing - The Best Love Story of the Last 50 Years 1960 -2010



This poll was organised by the Romantic Novelists Association in conjunction with the magazine Woman’s Weekly.

Linda Gillard one of my favourite authors has just been announced as the winner of this award for her most recent novel ‘Star Gazing’

Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard lives on the Isle of Arran and is pictured here with her trophy. It was apparently pure coincidence that the trophy was in the shape of a star, but rather appropriate.

It was a well deserved award as you will know if you have read this novel, if you have not done so I urge you to do so. Maybe my review or one of the many other excellent reviews that have been written will tempt you to do so.

I read Star Gazing before this blog was in existence although I did reproduce it here in the early days. In honour of this award I am publishing that review here again today.

09 September 2008
Star Gazing by Linda Gillard
I have for as long as I can remember had a habit of saving new things as the excitement is often in the anticipation. It is no surprise to me then that I have been saving ‘Star Gazing’. This is Linda Gillard’s third novel and I enjoyed the previous two so much that this new one held a high element of expectation for me. Hence the saving!
I knew from reading an article by the author that this book was somewhat of an experiment for her in that her heroine was blind and that it was written in the first person. Well I was not disappointed Linda has done so with great success and I loved this latest addition to her I think varied repertoire. No sticking to a formulaic outline for this author.
I loved ‘Star Gazing’ and was glad I had saved it for a time when I knew I could relax and enjoy it without interruptions. I did however find it a rather short and quick read. I think for that reason alone I still prefer A Lifetime Burning as it was an altogether much more substantial novel.
Star Gazing is an unconventional romance set in Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye with descriptions that will have you enthralled and characters that you will become emotionally involved with.
All the protagonists are extremely well portrayed, Marianne, Louisa, Keir and Garth. Set in the period of time from the winter of 2006 to the summer of 2007 the story draws you in to the trials and tribulations of the lives of these four.
The fascinating aspect of the story for me was the fact that the main protagonist Marianne was congenitally blind and how well thanks to Linda Gillard’s descriptions I was able to understand her experience of life. There is one particular scene where Marianne gets lost which had me near to tears with frustration for her. Marianne is portrayed as a strong independent woman but this just makes you realise the difficulties she faces to be so. There was also a point in the story where her decisions were making me so angry.
Keir the man with the chocolate voice (love this analogy)that Marianne meets by chance shares her passion for music and has a wonderful ability of describing what he is seeing to her. I felt at times he was almost too good to be true and he was so patient with Marianne. There was at least one occasion I felt I wanted to shout at him not about patience with her physical abilities but when she was making decisions! His way of describing sights via musical comparisons was intriguing and something I will certainly think about in future.
Lousia her sister and Garth who works for Louisa are the minor characters but they make an important contribution to the story and both made me laugh, relieving some of the sadder elements.
To sum up a modern romance with a unique angle and enough twists and turns and heartache to make it a captivating highly recommended read.
As you will realise if you have read all this review this is a story that will stir your emotions!

My words in summing up above will make it clear that I am in complete agreement with the results of this poll.

The other two titles short listed for the award along with Star Gazing were ‘A Woman of Substance’ by Barbara Taylor Bradford and ‘Every Woman For Herself’ by Trisha Ashley. The former I read many years ago, in fact in 1985 and dare I admit I have not even heard of Trisha Ashley my only saving grace being that maybe she gained popularity after I left the UK.

For more information and comments from the shortlisted authors here is a link to the press release. Press Release Winners and Comments

I am including here the long list which ‘Stargazing’ was competing against, an interesting and varied selection! I have read the vast majority, although some were such a long time ago that I would definitely be unable to comment about them or their inclusion on this list. There are six authors on the list whose work I have never read and two I am ashamed as a librarian to admit I had never even heard of previously. There are a few other titles on the list that I thoroughly enjoyed that I was maybe surprised did not make it on to the short list but I do think the right novel won.

The long list :-

A HORSEMAN RIDING – R. F Delderfield
A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE – B. Taylor Bradford 
CHECKMATE - Dorothy Dunnett
CHOCOLAT – Joanne Harris
CONSIDER THE LILY  - Elizabeth Buchan
MISS M & ME - Jemme Forte
PENMARRIC - Susan Howatch
RIDERS – Jilly Cooper
STAR GAZING - Linda Gillard
THE ISLAND – Victoria Hislop
LABYRINTH – Kate Mosse
THE NONESUCH - Georgette Heyer
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL - Philippa Gregory        THE
 RECTOR'S WIFE - J Trollope
THE SHELL SEEKERS - Rosamunde Pilcher
THE TAMARIND SEED - Evelyn Anthony
TILLY TROTTER - Catherine Cookson
TOUCH NOT THE CAT - Mary Stewart

I read Linda Gillard’s previous two novels before I started writing LindyLouMac’s Book Reviews but you may be interested in reading my Journal entries at Bookcrossing- LindyLouMac- Home Page

Emotional Geology – Journal Entries

A Lifetime Burning – Journal Entries

Official Website for Linda Gillard  Please visit her website as lots of interesting information, also if you are a Facebook Fan she has a page there.

Facebook Fan Page

I am now hoping that Linda Gillard will get the recognition she deserves and hopefully we will soon see more of her work being published.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We Are All Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka



Personally I think that this author just keeps getting better with each novel published. Or maybe it is just that I have just got used to her distinctive style of combining the hilarious with the tragic.

As in her previous novels I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent portrayal of her cast of characters. What a wonderful cast of characters they are from the two main protagonists Georgie Sinclair and the elderly Naomi Shapiro right down to the smallest bit parts. Even the seven cats in the story have characters of their own.

Marina Lewycka even manages to find something amusing in glue, by using the fact that her main protagonist writes trade articles on adhesives as a clever ruse for appropriate section and chapter names. Some bits were a little scientific and went over my head, but that didn't matter. If I had been so inclined I could have done some research on adhesives but no I am not that interested. I understood enough and it was clever using glue as an allegory for human relationships and bonds, excuse the pun! At least that is how I interpreted it.

Georgie Sinclair is a journalist and would be authoress working from home, dealing with almost adult children and a marriage that is slipping away from her. She gets to know by chance an eccentric  old Jewish lady, Naomi Shapiro who lives in Canaan House a rambling but crumbling residence in the same locality. As if Georgie does not have enough to cope with, Naomi after a minor fall puts her in hospital names Georgie as her next of kin. So she finds herself with a lot more than a son obsessed with the end of the world and her daughter who keeps her distance to worry about. As she is drawn into the old woman's life, we meet a cast of eccentric characters from devious estate agents and social workers to handymen who just happen to be Arabs. Hilarious yes, but we also learn of the complexities of the Middle East Crisis. If you are at all sensitive you might find some of  the descriptions of what happened to the Jews, yes glue again and the state of Naomi's residence might well make you feel slightly nauseous. Sadly the first is a fact of life and the second a sad possibility for a lonely old lady living alone.  As Georgie tries desperately to put Naomi's life on a more even keel her own is falling apart. You will have realised by now that the coherence, yes glue again, of this story is not an easy one but I felt that Marina Lewycka's manages to tie up all the loose ends and give us a more than satisfactory ending although some may consider it a little trite.

I certainly recommend the work of this author and if you have enjoyed her previous novels will be surprised if you do not enjoy this one. I look forward to your comments.

Marina Lewycka Courtesy of Google images

Marina Lewycka is of Ukrainian origin and was born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946 soon after the end of World War II.

This video from YouTube is the first six minutes of the audio book. Do have a listen as I think it will tempt you if my review has not already done so.

Marina Lewycka - We Are All Made of Glue (audiobook) read by Sian Thomas


My Reviews of her earlier books can be found by clicking on the titles

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Two Caravans published as Strawberry Fields in North America.

For more information on the author visit the following link.

Marina Lewycka - Wikipedia

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale


This was a fabulous read and I devoured it, one of those books that once you pick up it is difficult to put down, which meant a late night and two afternoons reading in the shade, what a hardship that was. This a first novel from Diane Setterfield, I just hope she plans to write more as she certainly  knows how to write a really good story. It has all the elements of a murder mystery with suspense plus twists and turns that had me intrigued right to the end. My suspicions and ideas were not always right either which always adds to the impact of a novel for me.

The story is centred around the two female protagonists Margaret Lea, the narrator of the story and Vida Winter. Margaret Lea is a true booklover having spent all her life surrounded by books, now helping her father to run the family business an antiquarian bookshop.  Margaret has a fascination with biographies and has had some short biographical studies published. It is because of this that Vida Winter a well known authoress writes to her. Vida now an elderly lady is not  well and she has decided that she wants to tell the 'true' story of her life before she dies and she thinks that Margaret is the perfect choice for this task.

Margaret takes the job and goes to stay with Vida Winter to carry out her commission. Margaret becomes so preoccupied with the story that she was hearing and writing that her own life fades into the background. As I found did mine the reader's as I became immersed in the gripping tale of Anglefield (the family home), the characters and the world of twins as we discover more about the lives of these two women.  You will eventually learn the secrets that have Margaret spellbound and make the story of Angelfield and its family tragedies such an entertaining read.

image from Google

I found this interview on YouTube which explains how long it took Diane Setterfield to write The Thirteenth Tale. It is very interesting and if you have some free time worth listening to, though be warned it is fourteen minutes long.


Diane Setterfield was born I discovered from Wikipedia on august 22nd 1964, so very recently celebrating her 46th Birthday. What I was particularly pleased to learn though was that she is working on a second novel.

More information on Diane Setterfield can be found by following these links.

Wikipedia - Diane Setterfield

Goodreads Author

Simon and Schuster

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak




Another very successful title of the last decade that has been mentioned in more than one top ten list. In fact reading one of these lists recently I realised that this was one of only three titles on such a list that I had not read!  Completing this one means that I have now have read and enjoyed all ten titles which were voted as amongst the best of the decade. Lovereading - Books of the Decade 
When I looked on Amazon recently there were already 603 reviews published of which 445 are five star ones. There are a handful of reviews from readers that did not like the novel but they are insignificant when a novel is so popular.

Out of the three books that I needed to read to have read all ten recommendations for the decade it is interesting that two of them were both about the Nazi Germany during WWII, a subject I maybe subconsciously steer away from. The other one was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas similar in that it also has a child as the main protagonist. I only mention it here as I feel if you read one of these you should read both. I obviously made a mistake by avoiding them for so long.

The Book Thief is written in a truly unusual style, in fact I do not think I have ever come across anything else written in a style quite like this before. Short sections that all link together almost like a diary, but the weirdest thing of all for me was the fact that the story is narrated by Death. One needs to accept that a story told by Death is  almost certainly going to be a tear jerker which it is but it is also very compassionately told. This is not a book to enjoy as such but it is a story that will make you think, I suspect not for the first time about the awful atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany during the second World War.

The young protagonist is Liesel who is sent to a foster family for her own safety in 1939 when her parents are sent to a concentration camp. Set in a small German town called Molching it is basically the story of her day to day life on Himmel Street plus the other folk that become her friends and neighbours. Liesel steals books to feed her desire to learn to read and write, hence the title!   Work and food are scarce and as the war progresses death is always close in one way or another.

Death's account of Liesels life is thanks to the author full of descriptive imagery which will provide you with strong images of immense cruelty and human misery but also of love and kindness to others.

If you have not already read this, I think I am in the minority in not having done so before now, I recommend you do so. It will stir your emotions but it is for all that an easy quick read. Just make sure you have the tissues ready.

 Illustrations are from within the book.

Markus Zusak was born on 23rd of June 1975 in Australia, the youngest of four children and is the son of an Austrian father and a German mother. It is the stories he heard as a child of Nazi Germany and Jews being marched through the town where his mother lived that gave him inspiration to write The Book Thief.  He now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and daughter.

Markus Zusak - Wikipedia

Courtesy of TheGuardian | 01 June 2009

The novelist explains why he decided to use death as his narrator and why he's not keen for his publishers to see the way he works.

You may also be interested in the review at The Books Cafe of The Book Thief.