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Never Let Me Go | Book Review

I am feeling sooo much more upbeat today than I did yesterday! 🙂
As I said, I started reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I also finished reading it. 😀 Reading block is over! It’s clearly all about finding the right book! We are back in business, baby!
This book interested me because it’s dystopian, of course, but also because it’s about experimentation on human beings and about eugenics, which are both topics that I’ve read about with disturbed fascination for a long time. I wrote a paper about it, too, in my last semester of college, though I don’t think I did justice to the topic.
Ethics of experimentation on living things has become hazier and greyer since cloning and genetic engineering came into the picture. I strained my mind trying to understand the boundaries of permitted experimentation since I read about the Harvard Onco Mouse, which was genetically engineered to be more susceptible to cancer, in order to facilitate cancer research, of course.
Now, off the top of your minds, tell me. Is that right or wrong?
Is it ok to harm mice thus because of the greater good? Why is it ok? Is it because mice are lesser life forms? Or is it acceptable because this particular mouse wouldn’t even exist if not for the people who created it in the lab, thereby giving them ownership of sorts over it?
Can you really own a living being just because you created it in a lab? Can you really use a living being for the sole purpose of benefitting others, to their detriment, if you created it with that specific purpose in mind?
Ishiguro’s book made me ponder these questions anew and it did not get less disturbing or heart-breaking.
I really liked the protagonist of this book, Kathy. I liked that the book was in first person. I liked that is was a nostalgic reminiscence about a past gone by, but with inputs from hindsight. I liked the meandering, rambling style of narration, not just because that’s how my head works, but also because this is how everybody reminisces about the past I think. I like that her memories showed everyone in her life honestly and nakedly, almost unforgivingly accurately, and yet her love and compassion for them shone through.
The matter of fact way in which these characters accepted their due in life was so chilling, so frightening, but so real.
And there was a love story. Of course there was. There is no better way to make your reader relate to your characters than to have them love; love, deeply and hard, because everybody has once in their life at least. And everyone knows that love can leave the “unkindest cuts of them all”.
I’m unsure, but I think it was the way Kathy addresses people like herself throughout the book as the receivers of her internal ruminations that made me feel the same emotions of contentment, hope, fear, helpless rage, resignation, exasperation, empathy, and a spectrum of other feelings that the characters were feeling.
The intensity of these feelings also altered according to whether I was reading about Kathy’s childhood, youth or adulthood.
Invoking this level of internal debate as well as emotion is a very hard thing to do, and it is admirable that Ishiguro is able to do so.
When I was reviewing The Giver, I talked about how certain authors of dystopian novels use their characters as pawns for their ‘message’ and how annoying that is in a novel. Ishiguro has done the exact opposite of this in this book.
This is an excellent book. I think everybody should read it, and in today’s scientific climate, I think it may end up proving more relevant than one can ever imagine.
I gave it a full five stars. 🙂
I hear there’s a movie too? Is that worth watching?
Those of you who’ve read the book, what did you think of it?
Can any of you recommend more dystopian books along these lines, where the book doesn’t end in the overthrow or the reform of the dystopian society? I know it sounds like a ridiculous request, but that isn’t the point of a book in this genre, I think. A lot of the YA dystopian books are along those lines, and it’s kind of put me off after a point, honestly.
Well, I could be wrong. What do you think it the point of writing a dystopian book?

Go ahead and stalk me or hit me up on my social media. I like talking to people. (As long as it’s only on the internet and
my shyness can’t become apparent

Twitter: @sindrao22
Instagram: owlishphotographer
P.S: I just added the term ‘The Greater Good’ as a tag to this post and it made me chuckle to think of how it’s gotten such sinister significance after Harry Potter. And then I realised that these words should have exactly that significance because the greater good is always determined by the stronger group of people, and it quite crushes minorities. It makes sentient beings into sacrificeable statistics.
So… kudos to Rowling for giving these words this new connotation.
P.P.S: I know that this disapproval of the concept has probably existed for longer but I’m only saying JK has made it widespread by associating these words with something objectively bad in the minds of an entire generation.
Well, that was a little random!
Errr. Heheh. Cheers!
Off I go!

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Why I Hate My Brain

It’s Wednesday night as I’m writing this.

I’ve a long day with a sofa-ripping puppy whom I had to give a time-out to just now.

One of my best friends is on a plane to a different continent. We’ve lived 5 feet from each other for 5 years of college, and now…

I feel so lonely in my ridiculously quiet room. I miss noise. I miss company. I miss late night-chats. I miss late night chai. I miss college.

Anyway, I feel like my head is going to explode. But none of this is the point.

It’s Wednesday night, and I can say without doubt that Banned Books Week is a giant bust.

I’ve been a mess for a week or so now for all of the afore-mentioned reasons and I have a big fat reading block. Evidently.

I really liked what I read of Grapes of Wrath, the first book I chose, but I couldn’t read a lot of it fast. It really overwhelmed me. So then I decided to start reading Beloved  by Toni Morrison. And that really overwhelmed me too. They have so much to take in in every page; too much, in fact to ever speed through them. And then I realised what is painfully once you realise it: Banned books were banned because they overwhelmed people. 

So, I’m abandoning my brilliant plan of reading and reviewing books on Banned Books Week, and I would like to show solidarity to the cause by just saying this are books that clearly have the power to rip your heart to shreds, but they also have the power to make you think.

They paint portraits of lives that we don’t know about. These are lives that we may not want to know about because they’re sad and we can’t help but feel guilty. They are definitely lives that other people, probably the people responsible for these sad lives don’t want us to know about. Or maybe they’re accurate stories of terrible existences that want to stay hidden.

Regardless, these are stories that need to be told, for no other reason other than that all stories need to be told. Stories may hurt everyone, simply all of humanity, but they still deserve to be told if they will provoke dialogue. Do you agree?

I just want to finish by saying that I will read these books soon, and I will review them, for sure, despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that they will be devastating to review. Just… not this week.

I hope all of your Banned Book Weeks are going well.

I’ve just started to read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Let’s hope I get through it.

Go ahead and look at my social media, if you are so inclined.

Twitter: @sindrao22
Instagram: owlishphotographer



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Wishing some good things needn’t end…

I went to my own farewell party yesterday. it was disorienting. I tried to push the fact that it means goodbye to the people who shared half a decade with me away and just dance like a mad person. No, really. I’m sure I looked like a mad person because I have the grace of a hippo and the dancing skill of…well, another hippo, possibly one who’s hurt his leg. You know those people who say they’re terrible dancers, but they’re actually angelic once they get on the floor? Well, I’m the person giving them side-eye and saying “AND THIS IS HOW YOU DANCE BADLY, BITCH!”

(If anybody comments saying hippos are very graceful, or posts links of hippos in tutus dancing in the moonlight, I AM GOING TO THROW A FIT)

Then they played a senti song and the whole class exploded into tears. 

Everything kept setting me off. I mean, this is heartbreak. I lived with these people for 5 years! As early as my second year, I would be sitting with mum in Bangalore, at home, and referring to college as “home”. As in, “Ma, I’ll do <whatever> once I go back home.” And now I have to leave this place, this life, these people. These are people i met before I was even 18, when I was a whiny little 17 year old. These are the people who have watched me grow into a slightly less whiny, still a crybaby though, and apparently “SOOOO CUTE, SINDHU” 23 year old. Apparently, I’m very cute. Yes. So I was told. I was just like, this is the loving and profound thing you morons waited 5 years to tell me? But they’re my morons. And they’re all pretty f*7%ing precious too.

Guys, I have a lot of regrets. There were people I should have talked to that I never did. We’re talking NOW. And I can’t help feeling it’s too late. It’s really scary. If you guys have time in a place still, make the best of it ok? Friends are important. People are important to other people.

I’m sorry for the emotions. They come off out sometimes. Can’t help it.



PS: Here’s a picture of me throwing shade at the partayyy:


YEAH, BITCHES. #lolawakward

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North | Book Review

This is a book review of the book, the Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

This book is about Prisoners of War in Burma during the Second World War. Most of them are Australian soldiers. The protagonist is Dorrigo Evans, one of the men who actually surive that ordeal. The narrative is a circular one, and keeps returning to this one day in Burma, from before dawn till nightfall which Dorrigo Evans, as a seventy seven year old, reminisces about. It also talks of Dorrigo’s life after he returns to Australia, as well as the lives of the other survivors of the war, (And not necessarily just the prisoners) and how it altered them forever.

This book is woven together masterfully, and seems to unpeel, revealing more and more details, when one wasn’t even aware that details were missing. It’s a wonderful story, in addition to being an accurate and painful representation of the stomach-churning tortures faced by Prisoners of War in Burma. I gave it four stars because the language was too flowery in parts and anyone who knows me knows that it almost always annoys me when the author waxes lyrical unnecessarily. It did work in some parts though, so I have to give him that.

As I stated earlier in my blog, this was not an easy book to read. It took me the better part of a week to read it and I had to keep putting it away to do something happy and mindless like watching sitcoms to calm myself down. However, that isn’t an indictment on the quality of the book because it really is beautifully written and deeply impactful. The subject-matter is itself so disturbing that it could not have been any other way. This is a story that needed to be told, and that needs to be read, and that needs to hurt people, because people need to know the impact that jingoism and war have on human beings. And that’s the point. Richard Flanagan makes sure that we know that the people who went out and fought the war and that were subjected to the horrors were human beings. Real ones. They are fighting not to become mere statistics, to be heard and Flanagan gives them their voice in this book.

I would like to end this review with a quote that was at the beginning of Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. (Another painful read and a life time favourite.)

“Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.”

— Honeore de Balzac in Le Pere Goriot:

I cannot and will not aspire to put it better than that.

Do read this book, but not if you’re already unhappy.



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Lessons in Loss

I wrote this post last year in an attempt to come to terms with losing my grandmother. From the fact that I dissolved into tears after rereading this post, I think I haven’t succeeded still, over a year later. And I don’t think my grandfather managed either. A little over a month after losing my grandmother, he developed Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He began to believe that my grandmother is still alive and often complained that she goes out too much these days instead of spending time with him. 

One of his old students wrote a biography of him and gave him an advanced copy of it. Despite his shaky hands, he managed to read the whole book, and when his student returned to ask if he liked the book, he asked her why on earth she would print that my grandmother has passed on when she clearly hasn’t. The student stammeringly apologised and assured him that the error would be corrected in the mass market copy and that this is an advanced copy and not the final one. He then borrowed a pen from my mom and determinedly scratched out that sentence from the book viciously with his trembling hands. This scene just keeps replaying in my head whenever I think of either of them. And I want to cry and cry all over again.

I don’t think I truly understood the quiet love and devotion the older generation of arranged-marriage couples has for each other until I saw my grandfather deteriorate and recede into the past because of his inability to cope with his grief. 

I don’t share too many personal things on this blog but this is my personal story of heartbreak, loss and pain. Maybe if I write about it enough, I’ll learn to understand and accept it. Maybe. 

Here is what I wrote last year:

When I was around 9, my grandmother lost one of her gold earrings.

It was summer. I was in the habit of going to my maternal grandparents’ house for weeks during my vacation. It was blissful – lolling about, reading, watching TV and being fed till I could eat no more by my grandmother, and my uncle, who dotes on me. I wouldn’t talk to my friends back home at all those few weeks, not having the internet or a cell phone. Often, I didn’t talk to my mum either. The idea seems so strange now, now that we’re so “connected” all the time. Instead, I had made new friends near my grandmother’s house and I would play with them in the evenings. I barely got to see them the rest of the year, but we resumed our friendships each summer with minimal awkwardness. I feel bouts of wistful nostalgia thinking about those days even though I’m barely twenty one and far too young to feel this way. It’s probably a testimony to the fast-changing times, I suppose.

My grandfather is a simple, intellectual man with few wants and he expects his family to be the same way. My mother tells me that while she and her siblings never felt deprived of their needs, they did not have many fineries when they were growing up. He is a writer and a historian and a man of great strength and discipline. I do believe that my grandmother as much respected him and was in awe of him, as she loved him. He is a stern man, serious; although he is also loving. The earrings were a gift from him to my grandmother.

I remember that my grandfather never said anything to my grandmother about the loss, but it was apparent that he was hurt. He was not the type to give gifts or demonstrate his affection in any way and this was one of the few times that he had. My grandmother, for her part, was crushed and ashamed. She looked for it for weeks. She had me look under their bed more than once because I was smaller than she was. She had the maidservant look for it every time she swept the house. Unfortunately, the earring was never found. I was a sensitive child and I could feel her pain and distress each time she spoke about it, but I never quite understood it. I was a spoilt brat and I have been told by my parents that I have no value for things because they automatically get replaced every time I lose them.

I stopped going over there in the summer as I grew older and went only on Sundays with my mum. I got swimming lessons instead, and music lessons and God knows what else. We didn’t get to stay very long on most Sundays either so I honestly don’t know if my grandmother ever stopped looking for that earring.

About two months ago, I received a call from my mother that my grandmother has passed away. I go to college in a different city and I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I didn’t visit her the last time I was at home for around four days. She’s gone and she can’t be gotten back, as hard as I wish it.  It is so tempting to look under that same bed in that unchanging room and hope very hard that I can find her hiding from me there, just the way she hoped to find that earring all those years ago. That’s what life seems to me to be about now: Losing valuable things and people and finding the strength to move past the pain, and the shame of not valuing them enough when they were there. I don’t know if my grandmother ever stopped hoping to find that earring, but I know I’ll never stop wishing I could have had one last summer with her.