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‘Angels and Demons’: Book Review

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“Stand tall, smile bright, and let them wonder what secrets making you laugh!” ―Dan Brown.

This book is a crime thriller based on religious facts authored by Dan Brown, an eminent American author who always delineates his fictions in an enticing and mystic tack.

Once we get into this book, it takes the form of a puzzle; at each  phase we feel as if our mind is able to create a conclusion for the story-line  and at the very next phase it breaks all our assumptions ad turn out to be something else with a absolutely incredible twist.

The book is about a murder case of a priest and a mysterious symbol which portrayed the word illuminati being branded on his chest and a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon is notified to identify the mystic symbol.

However, the book which depicts the contrasting nature of religion and science has a mesmeric story-line. The most notable thing is even though the pages of the book end, the story will never have an end, it is eternal.

 It makes us ask a lot of questions to our own self.

It makes us accept the hidden universal truth that may one be born to any religion,  one may practice any religion, At the end we all reach at the same point , where one seeks the truth which we consider to be the greatest thing  for ourselves.

It is rightly said that “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”

So go for it, if you have patience as well as a mind enough to accept the similarities and dissimilarities between scientific facts and religious mysteries.

To understand this fiction you need to follow the author’s path and he will reveal the secrets to you, but the thing is each reader will have a different perception of these  secrets.

It was a good page turner for me; I rate this book 4/5.

Hope you have great thrill reading this!!

 Reviewed by: ANAGHA ANIL

Filed under: Book Reviews, Snippets

The Kalam Effect by P.M.Nair: Book Review

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by

P.M.Nair

In this book,the author describes his experience with ‘Kalam Sir’ that
he had during his time. He describes the humbleness and great qualities
of A.P.J.Abdul Kalam that he recognised while working for him.

A.P.J.Abdul Kalam was known as the "people’s president", and the
correct reason behind this has been penned down in the book.He was the
man who worshipped and believed in God a lot. He had such a strong
belief in n god that,I think, he could communicate with him.

For,once,there was a programme in the Rashtrapati Bhawan,that was to be
visited by  a great mass of people,approximately,2000-3000. That
day,the rain started pouring in the morning. The author i.e; the
secretary started to panic for how the programme would be held. He
talked to Kalam , but he, in response, teasing him, told not to
worry. If it is raining out,we can keep the programme inside. P.M.Nair
went hysterical and told that the Bhawan could hold only 700-800
people. To this, the reply came from the President in a rather cool and calm
way. He smiled and pointed towards the sky through  the window and said "I
have spoken there. Do no worry" And believe it or not, at 5 o’clock the
programme was to be started and the rain had stopped at 4:30 pm!!!
And,as if it was not amply surprising to digest,the rain had started
after the programme.

Well, this is only one of the incidents written in the book.This book
tells a great lot deal about him.I loved this book and would like to
recommend it to all.

Reviewed by

Himabindu Bhardwaj, VIII C

Filed under: Book Reviews, Reviews by students, , ,

Book review: Homecoming by Shashi Warrier

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The Homecoming

by

Shashi Warrier

This is a book I have read recently. The story basically revolves around the moral conflicts as well as the material losses experienced by the people in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Line of Control region. The political side of the story is extremely sensitive as one may defy the arguments put forth by the author in many occasions. And its personal side is quite disturbing. The central character of the story is Javed Sharif, a businessman, based on Bangalore who retires from the family business and decides to settle in his home state Kashmir. As the events unfurl , his homecoming which was expected to be a peaceful one turns out to be a tragic one as his younger son was arrested and alleged to be part of the terrorist activities and elder one betrayed him and left him bankrupted for the rest of his life.

The story beautifully presents the feelings of 3 generations in a family of which one was associated with the freedom movement. It also shows how a family bound by the bond of love disintegrates under changing political and social circumstances . The bleak picture of the indifferent attitude of the authorities to the layman is also well presented . Intertwined with the main theme is the vivid description of the scenic beauty of Kashmir. The author often draws comparison between the scenic beauty and the political unrest prevalent there. In the story the drastic turn of events start in a very auspicious occasion. This story does not end in an optimistic note. Although bloodshed is mentioned in a few places the story has very less elements of violence. This book helps us to judge the so called ‘single reality’ from different perspectives as it is said that there could be more than a single reality.It is a book worth reading as it takes us to a different world from which we would not return till we finish reading it.

I would like to conclude by quoting these lines from the book–‘ I WONDER HOW THE FABRIC OF MY LIFE CAME APART SO QUICKLY . IT WAS A RICH FABRIC, SOMETHING I HAD TAKEN GREAT PAINS AND OVER 3 DECADES TO WEAVE. WE MIGHT EACH RECOVER INDIVIDUALLY , BUT THE RICHNESS OF THE FABRIC IS GONE.’ 

 

Reviewed by

Arya S., XII A

Filed under: Book Reviews, Reviews by students, , , ,

Clear Light of Day: Book review

Clear Light of Day

by

Anita Desai

I consider Anita Desai’s “Clear Light of Day” as a poetic novel as it considerably deals with symbols and suggestions. Her use of “the house” imagery is at the center which signifies dust, dullness and decay.

As the novel begins, you’ll notice that the house of the Das family does not change except decays. Like Anita Desai’s other novels, the setting is Old Delhi. The interesting thing you’ll notice is she skillfully synthesizes the image of house with the lives of the Das family. The house is associated with sickness, dust, and disorder. And for that reason, the “grey” color is described again and again.

So, the house reflects the mentality and sickness of the entire Das family. In other words, nobody in the Das household enjoys life, all merely exists! The sickness and disorder pervade in the mind of the family members. This house is exactly in contrast with the house of Haider Ali and that is why Raja gets attracted towards it.

For this house of Das family, the symbol of “web” is described which is apt from every point of view. As I say the house does not change but decays, it is fair to remark that because of such sickness and dusty atmosphere of the house everybody feels “suffocated” and that is why they try to find escape in one thing or another. For that reason, Raja is attracted towards Haider Ali’s house. Tara often goes to Mira Mansi and finally, she succeeds in escaping completely by marrying off Bakul. Baba seeks escape in music and plays his gramophone all the time. Bimla becomes the professor of history. In this way, the house plays a vital role behind the escapist nature of the Das household.

Anita Desai beautifully describes the state of the Delhi city. Sometimes, the whole city seems to be dead and the houses are referred to in the novel as the “tombs”. The house of the Das family seems to be deserted and therefore, Bimla does not prevent Baba playing his gramophone loudly because she thinks that the silence of the house is more dreadful. For her, the noise produced by Baba’s gramophone gives peace to her. Even when Mr. Das and his wife were alive, they were just like the outsiders as Mr. Das was known for his entrance. The mother was either engrossed in the cards or confined to the bed. That is why Tara sometimes feels that even the ghost of her father could create the noise of papers and nothing else!

The decaying aspect of the house is felt on the Das family and this why the whole family gets scattered and only Bim remains with Baba in the “dead house”. This is how, the house has symbolic significance, which plays a major role in the actions and deeds of the Das household and becomes the central episode in the novel.

 

Reviewed by

Aajma Manoj

IX A (Shit-I)

Filed under: Book Reviews,

Indomitable Spirit: Book review

by

Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul kalam was born on October 15,1931and has the unique honour of being the recipient of the country’s top civilian awards : the Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1991 and the Bharat Ratna in 1997. Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam became he eleventh president of India in July 2002.

The book Indomitable Spirit is an awesome book written by Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam.It is the experience from his own life’s journey from the shores of Rameswaram to the hallowed portals of  Rashtrapati Bhawan. In this book Dr.Kalam has showed great respect towards women and says that "womanhood is a beautiful creation of God" and this is explained in chapter-9 (Empowered women) which particularly depicts examples of women who have defied society norms and have done well to rise beyond their expectations. According to him, "there is no other profession in the world that is more important to society than that of a teacher" which is explained in chapter-2 (My Teachers).  And this is what is liked the most as I aim to become a teacher. It gave me more interest towards that profession. He has great hopes towards the youth of the nation.  Indomitable spirit has two components. The first component is that there must  be a vision leading to higher goals of achievement.The second component is the ability to overcome all hurdles coming in the way of mission accomplishment.

In this book he tells the young men and women, "success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task in front of you". Since I conclude that the youngsters should read this book as it is very inspiring, and by reading this book one becomes self – confident courageous and determined.

 

Reviwed by

Anuja S.S. (XI A)

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Raj of the Rani: Book Review

"Freedom is the oxygen of soul”

 

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by

TAPTI ROY

This book of Tapti Roy deals with the life of a warrior queen from history – Rani lLkshmibai , who was a figure in the gallery of heroes of the ‘First war of Independence’. Apart from the descriptive events of the freedom struggle,the book also presents the life of common man during the time of British rule in India.It is more than a fiction,realistic more than being dramatic in language.This book deals with the different phases of Rani Lakshmibai’s life – transition from Manikarnika (daughter of Moropant Tambe) to Rani Lakshmibai,queen of Lhansi is depicted very clearly.The life of energetic,vivacious and brave child, brilliant and expert queen is being presented with different versions of same story. As the information is collected from reliable sources, it is a good source of reference too.It salutes the valour of the nation’s heroes who sacrificed their lives to provide the freedom we enjoy today.It presents the chain of historic events which ultimately led to the freedom.We feel the patriotism while reading each and every line of this book and it honours this brave woman who found out her place in history.

Reviewed by

Arya S

Filed under: Book Reviews, ,

What Babies Know and We Don’t

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The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life

by Alison Gopnik

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 288 pp., $25.00

Reviewed by By Michael Greenberg

The most elusive period of our lives occurs from birth to about the age of five. Mysterious and otherworldly, infancy and early childhood are surrounded later in life by a curious amnesia, broken by flashes of memory that come upon us unbidden, for the most part, with no coherent or reliable context. With their sensorial, almost cellular evocations, these memories seem to reside more in the body than the mind; yet they are central to our sense of who we are to ourselves.

Part of the appeal of psychoanalysis may be that, in its quest to locate the faded child in the adult, it turns the adult into a kind of child at a play date with his analyst. The date is structured along the lines of imaginary play, complete with free association and open-ended conversation that can wind up anywhere; but like imaginary play, the date with the analyst follows a series of strict rules. The aim is to articulate what has been repressed, to fill in a blank in the narrative about ourselves. But as Alison Gopnik and her fellow cognitive psychologists have discovered, those years are so difficult to recapture not because of repression but because the states of consciousness and memory in early childhood are so different from those we experience later on.

"Children and adults are different forms of Homo sapiens," writes Gopnik in The Philosophical Baby, a tour through the recent findings of cognitive science about the minds of young children. For one thing, the prefrontal lobe, which has a major part in blocking out stimuli from other parts of the brain and fostering internally driven attention, is undeveloped in young children, and doesn’t fully form in most people until they are in their twenties. Internally driven attention, cognitive research suggests, isn’t a capacity that children fully acquire until at least the age of five. What arouses them is what is in front of their eyes, the first burst of information about cause and effect in the physical world.



Highly active in the brains of infants are the occipital cortex, in the rear of the brain, which guides attention to the visual world, and the parietal cortex, which helps one adjust to new events. It’s not surprising to learn that magnetic imaging shows both these cortices light up in adults while they are engrossed in watching a movie (at the same time, the prefrontal lobe goes dormant). The suspension of disbelief and the swift orientation to a passively received bombardment of unexpected visual stimuli may approximate aspects of the infant’s state of being.

Gopnik speculates that early childhood prepares us for both the appreciation and creation of art: imaginary play among children hones the ability to entertain counterfactuals—the alternative worlds out of which art, and invention of any sort, are primarily made. It requires discipline to stay in the imaginary role one has assumed, to project psychologically what it means to be a mother, a firefighter, a soldier, a prisoner. If it doesn’t feel real, the game falls apart. Imaginary play is a rehearsal for understanding the minds and intentions of others, a basic survival skill.

These are far-reaching claims, but Gopnik makes a good, and sometimes impassioned, case for them. Almost all of the 100 billion neurons in a human being’s nervous system are in place at birth, and in early childhood the synapses—the points of contact between neurons that fire memory and sensation—are vastly overproduced. To a large extent, maturity is a neural pruning process, an uncluttering of consciousness so that what is most useful for getting through a day—driving to work, for instance, or negotiating the supermarket—is readily, and unconsciously, available. Our lives are far more organized around repetition than novelty. Less useful neurons weaken and die, a form of forgetting.

Gopnik reminds us that, to accommodate their rapidly shifting attention, babies’ brains generate enormous amounts of cholinergic neurotransmitters, which are released to different parts of the brain as they process specific information. For anesthetics to be effective they must act on these transmitters, which may explain the relatively high concentration of anesthesia babies require to be knocked out before surgery. Gopnik offers the captivating idea that children are more conscious than adults but also less unconscious, because they have fewer automatic behaviors.

This heightened state of absorption is emblematic of what Gopnik calls "the evolutionary division of labor between children and adults." In this collaboration, the child’s protracted period of immaturity is indulged because it allows him to perform uninhibitedly the sorts of experiments that will eventually enable the more plodding and deliberate adult to alter—or at least to manipulate—the reality of his world. In this formulation, the child is not "limited to the here and now." The Aristotelian view had it that the child wasn’t important for himself, but rather for his potential. Gopnik reverses this view. She finds that the child is a full partner, with a different brain than that of the adult, more capacious, with a greater plasticity, and a more highly attuned ability to drink in new information. The child is the auteur, the adult the producer.

The core idea of cognitive science, in Gopnik’s words, "is that our brains are a kind of computer, though far more powerful than any of the actual computers." Gopnik infers that, like some computers, young children have innate causal maps that supply them with an accurate understanding of how the world works. As a result of this map

children have everyday theories of the world—everyday ideas about psychology, biology, and physics. These theories are like scientific theories but they are largely unconscious rather than conscious, and they are coded in children’s brains, instead of being written down on paper or presented at scientific conferences.

Even infants are sensitive to statistical patterns. The learning of language in its earliest stages involves the statistical prediction of which sounds are most likely to follow one another—an unconscious exercise in probability theory. Gopnik argues that this ability to detect probability patterns extends beyond language—to musical tones in eight-month-olds, for instance—and isn’t limited to a specialized part of the brain as Noam Chomsky and others believe.

A study that fascinates with its mystery of instinctual comprehension found that five-year-olds from distinct cultures share a vitalist theory of life, similar to that of traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine:

These children seem to think that there is a single vital force, like the Chinese chi, that keeps us alive. They predict that if you don’t eat enough, for example, this force will wane and you’ll get sick. They think that death is the irreversible loss of this force, and predict that animals that die won’t come back to life.

There is a complicated interplay between rules and morality in young children, a sophisticated sensitivity to intention when rules are broken, and a subtle appreciation that some rules are important, others less so. Moral knowledge, Gopnik argues, is imaginative knowledge, a direct outgrowth of empathy, which babies seem to experience in some form or another from almost the moment they are born. Gopnik cites a study conducted by the developmental psychologist Judith Smetana in the 1980s that contradicted the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s argument that true moral knowledge doesn’t develop until adolescence because children lack the capacity to imagine the perspective of others.

Smetana presented two-and-a-half-year-olds with a variety of stories. In some stories a preschool rule is violated—not putting one’s clothes away or talking during quiet time. In other stories a child is hit or harassed or something is stolen. Gopnik reports:

Even the youngest children differentiated between rules and harm…. They…said that the rules could be changed or might not apply at a different school, but they insisted that causing harm would always be wrong, no matter what the rules said or where you were.

Moreover, the studies show

that children understand the nature of rules themselves. Children…understand [that] when rules specify obligations, then you have to act the way the rule says. When they specify prohibitions, you can’t ever act that way. When they give you permission, you can decide on independent grounds whether you will act that way.

Nine-month-old babies already show a sensitivity to intention: they respond more impatiently to a toy being withheld from them for no apparent reason than if the adult is prevented from giving them the toy for reasons beyond his control.

Babies imitate, and imitation is a way of taking on an emotion as one’s own. Joy reflects joy, sorrow provokes sorrow, not only as a facial expression but as a state of feeling between caregiver and baby. Allowing herself a touch of unscientific projection, Gopnik writes:

It’s possible that babies literally don’t see a difference between their own pain and the pain of others. Maybe babies want to end all suffering, no matter where it happens to be located. For them, pain is pain and joy is joy. Moral thinkers from Buddha to David Hume to Martin Buber have suggested that erasing the boundaries between yourself and others in this way can underpin morality. We know that children’s conception of a continuous separate self develops slowly in the first five years.

Thus attachment, empathy, and morality are inseparable, though none is inevitable. Although empathy does seem to be innate, and spontaneous acts of altruism on the part of babies are common (eighteen-month-olds will instinctively try to help a stranger in need though they haven’t been taught to do so), the flourishing of empathy is not guaranteed. It can be enhanced or quashed as a result of specific relations and experience. Secure attachment during the first six months is essential. Within hours of birth babies learn the features of their mother’s face, and prefer looking at her face over looking at a stranger’s. In this exchange, being the caregiver reinforces—and in some cases reawakens—ethical behavior in adults. Gopnik remarks on the "moral intensity to the love between parents and children," an intensity that flows in both directions. The relationship between caregiver and child, she suggests, is our most effective initiation to ethics. The major ethical theories of philosophy and law arise from the fundamental understanding in childhood that, emotionally, other people operate more or less the way we do.

Imitation, of course, is not only a path to empathy, it is also a way of excluding others, of forming what sociologists call "minimal groups" where a tiny, arbitrary distinction becomes a reason for enmity. In some experiments "three-year-olds said they would prefer to play with a child who had the same color of hair and the same color of T-shirt that they did, rather then one with a different color." For the child with the wrong T-shirt, empathy and moral concern are withheld. To follow the logic of early childhood as a blueprint for subsequent behavior, this in-group, out-group dynamic extends to the playground, to neighborhood streets in the form of gang violence, and to the wider world in the form of "ethnic cleansing."

Not surprisingly, the ability to lie effectively doesn’t come to most of us before the age of five, when the sense of an internal self has begun to take root. Lying in this context becomes a measure of sophistication: to make a lie believable the liar must understand the mind of the person he is deceiving. In an experiment that Gopnik cites, children are shown a closed box and told that there is a toy inside. But they mustn’t look for themselves. The experimenter leaves the room and naturally the children peek in the box. When the experimenter returns the three-year-olds insist that they haven’t looked in the box and in the same breath tell the experimenter what was in it. Five-year-olds, however, are able to carry off the deception.

Children, of course, are notoriously susceptible to being lied to, mainly because of what Gopnik calls their "source amnesia." They forget where their beliefs come from. In her lab, Gopnik showed children a cabinet with nine drawers, each containing a different object. The children were told or shown what was in each drawer, and had no trouble remembering this. But the three-year-olds "often said they had seen the egg in the drawer when they had been told about it or vice versa. The five-year-olds, on the other hand, could tell you both about what they knew and about the particular experiences that led to that knowledge."

This chasm between the perceptions of three-year-olds and five-year-olds reveals a great deal about how children’s consciousness changes as they develop a sense of personal, autobiographical memory and consecutive time. Prior to the age of five, children appear to experience time in a different manner. They are perfectly capable of "forgetting" events that they experienced a minute ago, as well as their mental state when the experience occurred. They seem to think associatively, closer perhaps to the hypnagogic state that one drifts into just before falling asleep, than to one that is ordered around a timeline with a past, present, and future.

Gopnik attempts to penetrate what this different form of consciousness is like. She describes a "false belief" experiment in which children see a closed candy box that, in fact, is filled with pencils:

The children are understandably both surprised and disappointed by this discovery. But then we asked what they thought was in the box when they first saw it. Although they had discovered the truth with great surprise only moments before, they still said that they had always known the box was full of pencils. They had entirely forgotten their earlier false belief.

This is why young children are so perilously suggestible, and their testimony, in most cases, should be inadmissible in court. They have excellent detailed memories when they are cued to remember a specific event with a leading question, but free recall is alien to them because it is dependent on an internal consciousness that they don’t yet fully possess. One is put in mind of the hysteria about sexual abuse in day care centers during in the 1980s and 1990s when, after "expert" questioning of children, parents and day care workers in various cases were convicted of engaging in satanic rituals, rape, torture, and, in one instance, orgies with aliens. Gopnik points out that adults are also susceptible to prompting questions—in psychoanalysis, for instance, or during a lawyer’s interrogation—with the result that false narratives are constructed that feel like real memory, complete with vivid sensorial details that the rememberer is convinced actually occurred.

A baffling aspect of children’s minds is their failure to recognize that events they have directly experienced carry greater personal importance than events they have learned about in other ways:

While they remember that something happened, they don’t seem to remember what they thought or felt about it…. They also don’t seem to anticipate their future states. They don’t project what they will think and feel later on.

When emphasis is put on the source of information, even four-year-olds are less likely to be manipulated or misled. However, the very concept of the source of information seems to elude three-year-olds altogether. Also foreign to them is the concept of logical, internally driven thought. Three-, four-, and even five-year-olds will deny that a person has anything on his mind if he isn’t fixing his attention on some specific action or performing a visible task. A four-year-old provided an eloquent description of this consciousness when he told an experimenter:

Every time you think for a little while, something goes on and something goes off. Sometimes something goes on for a couple of minutes and then for a few minutes there is nothing going on.

In this state, Gopnik remarks, basic aspects of consciousness that we take for granted, such as "the idea that we know what we thought a few seconds ago, or that our consciousness is a single unbroken stream, or that we have a unified self, fall apart…."

By the time most people turn six, the young child recedes, becoming an alien, largely unremembered abstraction. Autobiographical memory sets in—memory from which we can fashion a coherent narrative of ourselves—an inner observer, a streaming "me" that remains intact, more or less, for the rest of our lives. Autobiographical memory and language seem to be intimately entwined. Without shared language we have no access to the psychology of others, and perhaps not even to the psychology of ourselves.

This was borne out by an unintentional "experiment" involving deaf children in Nicaragua. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Nicaragua established a school for deaf children. Before that time, the deaf were isolated from one another and, since most deaf children have parents who can hear and speak, most had no means of communication. When the school opened, the children invented their own sign language. The second generation of children took up this language as their own. If you asked a member of the first generation—the one that invented the language—

to describe a video of a man absentmindedly taking a teddy bear from a hat rack and putting it on his head instead of a hat, they never mentioned that maybe he had made a mistake. The other deaf people at the school commented on how hapless their older friends were at keeping secrets or manipulating other people.

Remarkably, though they had little grasp of the connection between thought and action, the first generation of deaf children still managed to create a functioning language from scratch that lasted.

The Philosophical Baby is both a scientific and romantic book, a result of Gopnik’s charming willingness to imagine herself inside the consciousness of young children. She compares "the lantern consciousness of childhood…to the spotlight consciousness of ordinary adult attention." With lantern consciousness

you are vividly aware of everything without being focused on any one thing in particular. There is a kind of exaltation and a peculiar kind of happiness that goes with these experiences too.

Gopnik likens lantern consciousness to Romantic poetry, the uninhibited receptiveness that is the artist’s ideal, and the Zen ideal of "beginner’s mind" where the meditator relinquishes attachment to his inner "I." "Babies, like Buddhas, are travelers in a little room," she writes. Lantern consciousness provokes the feeling that "we have lost our sense of self…by becoming part of the world."

Psychologists who emphasize the "relational" and feelings of "attachment" may find Gopnik’s experiments to be too controlled and spare, designed to decode computer-like patterns of thinking, and eschewing more open situations that would allow babies to follow more freely their inclinations.[*] But Gopnik’s claim that cognitive psychologists have begun to develop "a science of the imagination" holds up. She notes the astonishing fact that in the 1967 Encyclopedia of Philosophy there are hundreds of references to angels and the morning star, and none "to babies, infants, families, parents, mothers, or fathers, and only four to children at all." During the past ten years cognitive science has painstakingly accumulated data about the most mysterious five years of human life, transforming the conventional vision of young children as "crying carrots" to one of highly skilled and sophisticated beings who exist in a state of heightened awareness.

Notes

[*]Pat Cremens, an early childhood development expert, has provided me with invaluable insight about this wide-ranging field.

Courtesy:   

The New York Review of Books, Volume 57, Number 4 · March 11, 2010

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A Fine Balance: Book review

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A Fine Balance

by

Rohinton Mistry

Perhaps the first thing that catches your eye about A Fine Balance penned by the veteran author Rohinton Mistry, recipient of many accolades and whose books have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize many a time, would be the chunkiness of the book, what with the story spreading out to more than six hundred pages. A Fine Balance is undoubtedly a meticulously written novel, rich in superfluous detail, which is set mainly in the 1975 India. It has a certain charm and rawness entwined to it that would make sure that the reader sticks on to its pages which are overflowing with the naiveté of the proletariat.

The novel literally maintains a fine balance between the stories of the four protagonists who meet at one point of the book, during and after which their lives are altered beyond imaginable ways but mostly ending up at heartbreaking crossroads. At first comes Dina Shroff, a girl based in the then Bombay in a well-to-do Parsi family. Her narrative revolves mainly around her family who was shattered by the passing away of her father which culminates in her mean brother, with his hypocritical ideals, taking the control of the house. This finally leads to an abrupt end to Dina’s education. Later, she meets Rustom Dalal and turns into Mrs. Dina Dalal as she is known throughout the rest of the story. Her husband, who is too good to be real, dies in a freak hit-and-run accident at the night of their third wedding anniversary, which leaves a traumatized Dina behind. She was determined enough for a young widow to say an outright no to a second marriage and to refuse a place under her brother’s roof, probably ending up as an unpaid servant for life! But instead she strived to fend for herself with help from one of her childhood friends.

Parting with Dina’s narrative for now, the pages take us to “In a village by a river” where we are introduced to Ishvar, Narayan, later Om and the story of their ancestors. This area of the book is ostensibly nothing but a tale of woe sometimes taking on a harsher version reducing us to tears. It deals with the caste system and the outrageous brutality of the loathsome landlords who deserve to be ripped apart. The effectual and overpowering account rendered by Rohinton Mistry in his fluid flow of language enrages the reader to act against the despicable acts of the so-called upper caste men upon the destitute.

Then again as life moves on, we move on to Maneck Kohlah, a boy leading quite a carefree life up in the mountains inhaling lungful of fresh, pure air each morning, absolutely oblivious to the lives down in the cities. In this part of the novel, we are treated to the frivolities of the families in the mountains, co-existing in complete harmony and wrapped up in their personal worlds of blithe. Ishvar and Om as tailors and Maneck as a paying guest find themselves at Dina’s house. Gradually they steer clear of their prejudices and make quite a company! But nothing too good stays for long. And so the merciless hands of fate unclenched apart their bonds of intimacy and friendship and strewed them across for their own destinies to devour them.

A Fine Balance does a lot of talk on the Internal Emergency declared in India during the setting of the novel. It does compel the reader to put your thinking cap on and frown. The author is visibly taking a harsh and cut-and –dried stand against the then Prime Minister, even making a complete mockery of her at one instance of the plot. But, all the same, the opinion whether biased or not all depends on the mindset of the reader. But one thing we can never deny is the fact that Rohinton Mistry has once again proved his sinuous style of unfolding the chronicles of the hoi polloi with such passion, rawness, simplicity and candor that it is next to impossible not to keep the pages turning and finally reach 614th page!

Reviwed by

Salini Johnson

Class: XI-A (Shift-I)

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The silence of the lambs: Book review by Salini Johnson

 

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by

Thomas Harris

 

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some  fava beans and a nice chianti” Hannibal Lecter

The above-mentioned sentences are the world famous hair-raising confessions of the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter, enlivened on the silver    screen by the Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins. To be frank, it is  hard to come by a bloodcurdling novel like “The Silence of the Lambs”        with its cool style of storytelling that could leave you in utter amazement whether it was really a horror story you had just finished! That is where the real    success of this book as a best-selling novel lies in enthralling its audience, leaving behind us with a feeling of having drenched in cold water.   In my opinion this novel is incomparable and indubitably stands out among the run-of-the-mill horror fiction. The adept ability of the author Thomas Harris is indeed praiseworthy.

The plot of the story mainly revolves around Dr.Hannibal Lecter, the name  that sends a chill down the spine. He is portrayed as a psychopath, with extraordinary intelligence, secluded in a high security prison. The reader is first introduced to Clarisse Starling, an FBI agent who seeks advice from this sociopath on the whereabouts of a killer unrestrained whose modus     operandi is to leave his victims flayed. The rest of the novel is indeed    breath-taking and mesmerizing, at times petrifying, yet suspense-filled.

All in all, the book has been weaved into a smooth tale of tracking-the-murderer in a unique manner resulting in gluing our eyes to its pages throughout. No wonder “The Silence of the Lambs” has been caught on        reel to sweep off the Oscars in its time. Some horror novel this is!

Reviewed by

Salini Johnson,

Class: XI-A.

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“A long way gone” by Ishmael Beah: Book review

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A long way gone

by

Ishmael Beah

 

" A long way gone " by Ishmael Beah is an extraordinary memoir which gives a first hand report of the hardships and desolate situations faced by people and countries during war.Ishmael Beah is a graduate from Oberlin College and a member of the Human rights watch children’s rights division and advisory committee of U.S.A. He emerges as a gifted writer by reporting his life in a clear eyed and liberate fashion and will surely haunt the reader for some time.Among the different war stories which are published, this one stands out as a bestseller because of its simplicity and transparency as seen and experienced by the author. It is a first hand information and gives an idea to the reader of the problems faced by the civilians, the army and the rebels during any war like situation.

            In this story, the author is a 12 year old boy living happily with his close knit family in a place called Mattru Jong. He and his gang of friends, enjoyed school like any one of us and played rap music as pastime. The only exposure to war for them was movies. Suddenly their lives are torn apart by a group of rebels who attack unannounced  and the whole family is separated. Initially the author stays with his brother whom he later loses as they move from village to village in search of safety. The book vividly describes the impact on the young minds as they see families blown apart and the sufferings of those left behind.

             It also gives a vivid description of the life of refugees who are ill treated and bribed by the nation’s own army. This book depicts the events in sequence how the cruel fate, forces them to join the army and the hardships and atrocities they are forced to commit and how it changes the impressionable young minds from home loving  to destruction. This book not only gives the account of war but also the turmoils in the young minds as they try to re-acclimatize to the civilized way of life. Thankfully by the timely intervention of the UN, we find as we read that we will start to concur with the actions  done by these young minds. the author finds some timely respite as he is reinstated with his uncle at Sierra Lane only to be heading to war. He tries to escape in order to not end up as a rebel or recruit. Reading this book makes us wonder how any one can come out of such horror with his humanity & sanity intact.

            This book is also a testament of the ability of children to outlive their sufferings if given a chance. It really leaves an impression of a long way gone…by a determined impressionable mind……………………….. 

 

REVIEWED BY

AISHWARYA NANDAKUMAR

IX – C (Shift-I)

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Da Vinci Code: Book review by Karthika P.

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           “Blinded ignorance does mislead us

            O!Wretched mortals open your eyes”

These words were said by the famous painter LEONARDO DA VINCI,

the creator of the world famous paintings like The Mona Lisa , the Last Supper,

the Vtruvian man etc. He was an expert in many fields. It is said that  Da Vinci has left

many codes in his paintings.

       In the year 2003, a novel by DAN BROWN established that Da Vinci has certainly left

many secrets. The book was none other than THE DA VINCI CODE. It is a fiction featuring

Robert Langdon, a symbologist and Sophie Neveu, a cryptologist who deals with numerical code breaking. The story starts with a murder. The curator of The Louvre Jacques Saunere’s murder and the message left by him Langdon and Neveu towards a new world of thousands of years old secrets.

      Although the number of characters are limited,each one plays a definite role. The language and style of writing is incredible. The main theme of the book is the journey towards the Priory keystone which leads one to the Holy grail and many other well hidden secrets. According to the myth, only the members of the Priory of Sion, a secret society knows the exact location of the Holy grail.

  Da vinci being one of the grandmasters of the secret society wanted the world to know the truth and hence left many clues in his paintings. One such striking trait is visible in The last supper. Da vinci has assigned certain feminine characters to disciple John seated next to Jesus Christ. Holy grail happen to be the cup in which Jesus had wine during The last supper. Mary Magdalene is also referred to as The Holy Grail. It is said that Da Vinci has painted John as Mary Magdalene to show Jesus’s intimacy towards her.

           Mary Magdalene, a prostitute who joined Christ and later became of  his favorite disciple. In the book the author establishes that Jesus had relationship with Mary Magdalene

and that their bloodline exists to this century.

       A huge uproar was roused by this very book. The church and many disciples of the church launched protests against the book and movie alike. In many places the authorities were forced to ban the book. The reason put forth was that The Da Vinci Code hurts their religious sentiments. To be more precise, in the book it is said that

    • The Christians overpowered the Pagan religion to establish Christianity all over the world.
    • Jesus Christ was selected as ‘ Son Of God’ by mutual voting
    • Jesus’ relationship with Magdalene proves to be a major point of controversy.
    • In the book a monk named Silas murders the members of The Priory of Sion with the help given by a bishop.

      Despite many controversies the book happen to be a best seller throughout the world. Anyone who thinks a fiction can never affect your religious beliefs may go ahead and read the book without hesitation.

       

      Reviewed by

      By KARTHIKA.P.

         11A

      SECOND SHIFT

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White Tiger: Book review

 

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Reviewed by

Amrita Nair, XII B

(First Prize in Book review competition, National Library Week, 2008)

 

Not So Shining..

ARAVIND ADIGA’S DEBUTANT NOVEL HAS BEEN HOGGING THE LIMELIGHT FOR RESONS OTHER THAN WINNING THE WORLD’S MOST  COVETED RECOGNETION ,THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE FOR THE YEAR 2008. THE NOVEL “ THE WHITE TIGER “ HAS TORN DOWN THE MASK FRON THE SO CALLED SHINING FACE OF INDIA AND EXPOSED THE DEEPLY SCARRED AND POVERTY STRICKEN FACE OF THE UNSUNG MASSES .

                       ADIGA’S PORTRAYAL OF INDIA HAS RUFFLED A FEW FEATHERS OF THOSE INDIANS WHO HAD BEEN BASKING IN THE GLORY OF INDIA’S RISING SENSEX AND INCREASING INCOME FROM ABROAD .IT IS NOT JUST A CONTENT , BUT ALSO HIS STYLE OF PRESENTATION THAT COMES AS A SURPRISE. THE ENTIRE NOVEL IS IN THE FORM OF A  LETTER  ADRESSED TO THE CHINESE PREMIERE WEN JIABAO FROM AN INDIAN ENTRIPRENEUR BASED IN BANGLORE .

              ‘THE WHITE TIGER ‘ HAS DEPICTED THE  CONDITION OF THE POOR AND THE POLITICIAN WHO FEED UPON THEIR HELPLESSNESS  TO FILL THEIR OWN POCKETS .IT HAS REVEALED TO THE WORLD THAT IT IS THE SWEET OF THE POOR THAT GLISTEN IN THE INDIAN SUN AND FORINERS MISTAKE IT FOR GLITTER .(ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD.)

        THE  PROTAGONIST OF THE NOVEL BALRAM HALWAI IS BORN IN A POOR FAMILY IN BIHAR  BUT WITH AN INNATE AMBITION TO BE HIGH AND MIGHTY LIKE THE LANDLOARDS IN THE VILLAGE .THE PROTAGONIST FEEL THE NEED TO FLEE THE VILLAGE AND LOOK FOR A LIVING IN THE CITY WHEN HE COMES ACROSS THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED THEIR LIVES IN VILLAGE SHATTERED AN MEANINGLES .HE OFTEN COMPARES HIS VILLAGE AND SACRED RIVER GANGA WITH DARKNESS .THIS WAS THE MAJOR FACTOR AROUSING THE PATRIOTIC OR RATHER INFLAMMABLE PASSION OF THE INDIAN INTELLIGENSIA AND THE EVER VIGILANT MEDIA . BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT ONE CAN ONLY SEE WHAT ONE WANT TO SEE .THE AUTHOR SPEAKS OF DARKNESS BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IS PRESENT IN THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT .(FREE EDUCATION AND CONTENTED LIVES IN BIHAR.)

   WHEN THE PROTAGONIST MOVES TO DELHI TO MAKE HIS FORTUNE THE BOOK SLOWLY START REVEALIED THE TRUE COLORS OF  INDIA’S NATIONAL CAPITAL .DELHI APPEARS STYLISH AND ELEGANT TO OTHERS (READ FOREIGN INVESTORS ) BECAUSE IT HAS SUCESSFULLY CAMOUFLAGED THE THAT PLAQUES THE CITY , BEHIND THE CONCRETE JUNGLE,IN THE INSIGNIFICANT  SLUMS.

THE BOOK IS LKE A TYPICAL ADOOR GOPALAKRISHNAN MOVIE ,JUST DEPICTION OF LIFE ,NO BACKGROUND SCORE ,NO LARGER THAN LIFE DRAMA , NOTHING AT ALL.’THE WHITE TIGER’ UNFOLDS MORE LIKE A CHEMISTRY TEXT BOOK .IT SPEAKS ABOUT THE INEQUALITY BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR .OUR SPEAKER POLITICIANS FORMULATE LAWS AND POLICIES THAT CATALYSE THE EARNING CAPACIY OF THE RICH ,MAKIN THEM RICHER AND THE POOR POORER .

NO MATTER WHAT INCENTIVES ARE ANNOUNCED FOR THE POOR ,IT NEVER REACHES THEM BECAUSE THE MIDDLEMEN AND THE POLITICIANS FORM AN ELABORATE NETWORK BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE COMMON MASSES .

THE PROTAGONIST ‘S MASTER ASHOK AND HIS WIFE PINKY ARE CLASSIC EXAMPLES OF INDIA ‘S CITY –DWELLING ELITE .THEY NEITHER KNOW NOR CARE ABOUT THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO ARE IN THEIR SERVICE .THEIR HOPES AND BELIEFS ECHO THE SPIRIT OF MODERN INDIA ,WHERE THE TIME TESTED VALUES OF TRUTH AND SELFLES SERVICE TO THE COUNTRY (READ PATRIOTISM) ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION .

THER NOVEL PROCEDS AT A SNAIL,S PACE EVEN THOUGH THE EVENTS ARE NARRATED BY THE PROTAGONIST IN A SPAN OF 3 – 4 DAYS .THE COLD BLODDED MURDER OF ASHOK BY HIS NEW DRIVER ,BALRAM HALWAR , DOES NOTHING TO EVOKE A SENSE OF FEAR OR INSTIL A CHILL IN THE SPINE .

THE BOOK CAN SERVE AS A WINDOW TO THE WORLD ABOUT THE TRUTH BEHIND ‘INCREDIBLE’ INDIA .HOW IT MANAGED TO KNOCK THE ’ THE SOCK OFF ’ THE JUDGES AT THE BOKER EVENT IS STILL A MYSTERY TO COME .WELL ,ONE CAN ALWAYS VIEW A GLASS AS HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY .ADIGA CHOSE THE LATTER AND MAY BE THE JUDGES SAW THEFORMER IN HIS BOOK .

INDIA IS A NATION OBSESSED WITH CRICKET AND PRODUCES SURPRISING RESULTS EVERTHING IT OES , LIKE IN CRICKET SOMETIMES IT WINS AN UNEXPECTED MATCH AND SOMETIMES LOSES AN EASY MATCH .(GOT THE ANALOGY BETWEEN INDIA AN DCICKET ?) INDIA ‘S 6 DECADE LONG ATTEMPT IN ALLEVIATING POVERTY HAS NOT JUST FAILED , BUT ALSO PRODUCED STUNNING RESULTS IN INCREASING THE NUMBER OF INDIAN MILLIONARES AND BILLLIONARES .

EVEN THOUGH ‘THA WHITE TIGER ‘ (ARAVIND ADIGA ) ,LACKS THE OF ‘ INHERITANCE OF LOSS “ , IT SUCESSFULLY REVEALS THE SECRET OF SUCCESS IN LIFE :

ANYONE WITH A KILLAR INSTINCT ,CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING UNDER THE SUN .’

AND NOW A WORD OF CAUTION ,THIS BOOK IS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO SEEK INSPIRATION FOR SUCCESS.THOSE BOOKWORMS WHO NEED TO KEEP THE MID NIGHT OIL BURNING SHOULD LOOK ELSEWHERE .

Filed under: Book Reviews

Catch 22 : Book review

 

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Catch-22 is like no other novel I have read.Though it is stereotyped as a comedy, it has action,and other stuff. It has attained the status of a modern classic, at least in American Literature.Just as a fact it has added a new word in the Dictionary.

Right in the middle of a war stuck is our hero Yosarian. Well this is guy isn’t like any ordinary war book hero. Instead of fightng of enemies, he makes plans of escpaing the war. This book follows his efforts in making inventive attempts to save his skin from the countlses people who don’t even know him, are trying to to kill him.Well his efforts are quite understandble.Yet if our hero ateempts to excuse himself from the missions, he is trapped by the Great Loyality Oath Crusade, the sinister yet funny beureauratic rule from which comes the name of the book: “A man is considerecd insane if he is willing to fly all the Dangerous Missions, but if he tries to excuse himself of this mission he is consiered Sane and therefore inegligble to be relived.

Taking a philosphical look on the book, the book is a “microcosm of the tewntieth-century as it might look dangeruosly Sane”

On the bottom line this is one book for all the readers of comedy and american litterature.You can get this book in our library.So what are you waiting for get the book!!

 

Varun.H.S

IX B

Shift I

 

The author of this review can be contacted in his blog

 

 

E-mail allstar57@in.com

Filed under: Book Reviews, Reviews by students

CHETAN BHAGAT VOICES THE YOUTH

 

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CHETAN BHAGAT VOICES THE YOUTH

Indian institute of technology commonly known as IIT is probably the dream college of those who aspire to be the engineers of tomorrow who are on a     heartbreaking race to tackle the entrance giant IIT-JEE.The participants of this race are building up dream castles on the plans which they intend to put into practice if they ever make it into an IIT. But there is an IITan who didn’t think about what to do at a n IIT, but what not to do at an IIT. That is none other than CHETAN BHAGAT who swept out the hearts of millions of young readers all over the world through his debut venture FIVE POINT SOMEONE.

The story unwinds in one of the prestigious campuses of our country:IIT Delhi. The campus is an inbuilt city with various departments,staff quarters,hospitals and round the clock functioning library and above all a bunch of students who breathe in science instead of oxygen. The story is about three friends Hari, Ryan and Alok.The story unfolds through the eyes of Hari.Like every new student who enter IIT , the too had a bundle of dreams and a vision about the life they are going to live.But everything collapse when they receive their first grades. Despite their brains they always remained at the bottom of the class with the grades between 5 and6. That’s how the title came ‘5 point someone’.

The novel is about their strenuous efforts to raise their grades to acceptable level without any considerable hard work. They devised ways to fool around Profs. , bunk classes, to mess up assignments etc etc etc. Ryan, who is a born leader, is a handsome, well built guy who comes up with bright innovative ideas which are blindfolded followed by his friends even though they end up in trouble.

The trio enjoyed their IIT life to the maximum , but the trouble came when the exams were at the doorsteps. As a last resort they decided to get hold of the exam question papers. They were caught in the act,suspended and their lives were ruined.

But they completed their course with the help of Prof.Veera.

Chetan has successfully portrayed the cool attire of today’s youth in his book.It is a must read for those who love cool books…

 

  Reviewed by

  KARTHIKA.P.

  11A

  2ND SHIFT

Filed under: Book Reviews, Reviews by students

The Tales of Beedle the Bard: Review

 

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

 

ROWLING STRIKES AGAIN……………..

It was thought that everything was over for Harry Potter fans. All the seven books were released and the story was concluded in HP and the Deathly Hallows in which Harry succeeded in defeating Lord Voldemort. Of course there are two more movies to be released. But the movies do not count for real HP fans who love to read JKR. Rumors spread that HP mania ceased and the hype was over.

But on December 4, 2008, Bloomsbury Publications launched “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” by JKR. Of course the bard is not a sequel to hallows but it is written keeping in mind the fact that the very book helped Harry to unlock the secret of hallows.

“The Tales of Beedle the Bard” is a collection of five fairy tales written by a fifteenth century bard bequeathed by Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts to Hermione Granger.JKR has portrayed the book in such a way that Hermione has translated the Ancient Runes .After each tale JKR has added a Dumbledore/s note in which Albus says more about the tale and many other fascinating facts of magic world. Dumbledore and JKR have provided foot notes so that MUGGLES can follow the matter better.

The five tales depicted in the book are namely:

a) The wizard and the hopping pot

b) The fountain of fair fortune

c) Babbitty Rahitty and her cackling stump

d) The warlock and his hairy heart

e) The tail of three brothers depicted in Hallows

All the five stories are fairy tales which contains a moral. Although fairy tales are for kids, The Tale of Beedle the Bard is suitable for all ages. Even those who haven’t read HP books can follow this one.

The collection is a reprint of the tales that Rowling originally hand wrote and illustrated in vellum as a gift for six close friends associated with Potter circle

.

The other speciality of bard is that unlike the profits from core HP series ,the proceeds from beedle the bard are going to an east European children’s charity chaired by JKR, called the Children’s high level group.

Like all HP books the bard is also a MAGNIFICIENT work of JKR. It certainly is a treat for hp fans all over the world.

          Some other facts regarding the bard should also be mentioned.

  1. The book was not able to create a huge hype like the one created by the previous books especially in the in the Indian cities.
  2. The lean look of the book has let down many hp fans.

     3.The high cost i.e.Rs.599 for a 108 page hard bound edition act as a hindrance

     4.Also the unattractive jacket of the book contributes to the unpopularity.

But whatever be the reasons, there is no doubt that real hp fans will certainly get glued to the book. I personally wont say it is a must read but I think it is a worth read for everyone. Three books are available in our school library but one will have to swim across about many feet long reservation list to keep your hands on the book.

BOTTOMLINE:The book, beedle is not up to the mark.Nothing compared to the core books.

 

KARTHIKA.P.

11 A

2ND SHIFT

Filed under: Book Reviews

Diary of a young girl: Book review

 

Anne Frank

By

Karthika P, XI A

Shift-II

 

Anne Frank, the German Jewish girl who dreamt of becoming a great writer some day. Anne Frank’s diary is the diary that conquered thousands of young and old readers’ mind alike. 

Anne Frank was born on 12th June 1929 as the daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. they were forced to leave Germany and settle in Holland due to Nazi invasions. a diary, which she got as a present on her third birthday wrote a new epic.

Anne Frank, a girl who loved to talk, dream and write. Her life had a turning point when her sister Margot Frank received a call letter from a concentration camp. During 1940’s the Jews Were humiliated, tortured and restricted from almost everything due to Hitler’s autocracy. Jews were even taken to a concentration camps where a series of torturing Jews were practiced. Thousands of people were killed in gas chambers. So the Frank family went into hiding. Anne named their secret hide-out above Frank’s office as Secret Annex. With the help of some good Christian friends they survived in the Secret Annex. The Voan Dan family & a man named Dr Dussel were invited to be the inhabitants of the Annexe. Life in the Annex was not too easy. Even a small sound made by them could give away their secret.

Amidst all this worries the members of the Annex did not try to be happy. There were constant quarrels among them. Always Anne was criticized. Anne made herself happy by criticizing almost everyone and everything in her diary, Kitty. Not having anyone to talk, Anne chooses Peter, son of Voan Doan, as a companion. But Anne’s father advised her to give up her affair with Peter. Months passed and on 12th August 1944 the Nazi captured the residents of Annex.

Everyone was took to Oyster concentration camp. Anne died on March 1946 due to typhus disease. Only Otto Frank survived this disaster. When he reached the Annex what he received was some letters written to kitty by Anne. He published these letters and now it is the second biggest bestseller in the world after Bible.

Anne Frank was a girl who had unusual courage. She had her own dreams and views. She wanted to be respected by herself. Above all she had the best weapon in her hand: Her Pen. She criticized almost everything she could in her letters.

Anne had a great dream to become a great writer and live after her death. And so did she, she became a great writer and still eternal in our hearts even after her heath. She will be immortal for ever.

Filed under: Book Reviews

Brisingr-Review

 

Author: Christopher Paolini

Books One and Two: Eragon and Eldest

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books

Audience: 12 year olds, teens, and adults

ISBN: 9780375826726

Copyright: 2008

Release Date and Time: 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, September 20, 2008

 

 

What About Book Four in the Series by Christopher Paolini?

While Christopher Paolini originally planned to write a trilogy, he has since changed his mind.

    “‘I plotted out the Inheritance series as a trilogy nine years ago, when I was fifteen. At that time, I never imagined I’d write all three books, much less that they would be published’ said Paolini. ‘When I finally delved into Book Three, it soon became obvious that the remainder of the story was far too big to fit in one volume. Having spent so long thinking about the series as a trilogy, it was difficult for me to realize that, in order to be true to my characters and to address all of the plot points and unanswered questions Eragon andEldest raised, I needed to split the end of the series into two books.'” (October 30, 2007 Random House Children’s Books news release)

Why the Title Brisingr?

As for the title,

    “‘BRISINGR is one of the first words I thought of for this title, and it’s always felt right to me,’ said Christopher Paolini. ‘As the first ancient-language word that Eragon learns, it has held particular significance for his legacy as a Dragon Rider. In this new book, it will be revealed to be even more meaningful that even Eragon could have known.'” (January 16, 2008 Random House Children’s Books news release)

The First Printing and Release Date of Brisingr

The first printing of 2.5 million copies of the fantasy novel is the largest initial run for a Random House Children’s Books title in the publisher’s history. The book will be released at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, September 20, 2008, so booksellers can host midnight launch parties, such as those held for the Harry Potter series. Random House’s Listening Library division will publish the audiobook simultaneously in the U.S. Paolini’s fantasy novels have been enormously popular, particularly with teens and and adults. According to the publisher, 12.5 million copies of Eragon and Eldest have been sold worldwide.

Filed under: Book Reviews,

LIVING TO TELL THE TALE

By Gabriel García Márquez 

Translated by Edith Grossman. 484 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95. 

(Available in our Library)

Reviewed  By MICHIKO KAKUTANI

Critics have frequently observed that magical realism in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the developing world has been a product of those regions’ tumultuous histories, a mirror of their surreal politics and the disorienting fallout that politics has had on people’s daily lives. But as Gabriel García Márquez’s new magical memoir makes clear, the sources of his phantasmagorical work lie as much in his family’s anomalous past and his own experiences as they do in the convoluted politics and historical woes of his native Colombia.

”Living to Tell the Tale” — a title that conjures memories of ”Moby- Dick,” as well as this Nobel laureate’s own nonfiction book ”The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor” — is the first volume of a planned autobiographical trilogy. But its most powerful sections read like one of his mesmerizing novels, transporting the reader to a Latin America haunted by the ghosts of history and shaped by the exigencies of its daunting geography, by its heat and jungles and febrile light. The book provides as memorable a portrait of a young writer’s apprenticeship as the one William Styron gave us in ”Sophie’s Choice,” even as it illuminates the alchemy Mr. García Márquez acquired from masters like Faulkner and Joyce and Borges and later used to transform family stories and firsthand experiences into fecund myths of his own.

As in so many of his novels Mr. García Márquez uses an elliptical narrative in these pages, cutting back and forth in time to show how memory colors experience, how time moves on a Proustian loop between the present and the past. While recounting a trip he took as a young man with his mother to his childhood home in the remote town of Aracataca, he lays out the story of his family, a story that would indelibly inform his later fiction, from the remarkable ”One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1970) through the equally potent ”Love in the Time of Cholera” (1988).

His family, we learn, saw the move to this Wild West-like town as ”a journey into forgetting”; they had left their earlier home after a duel in which the author’s grandfather killed another man. Aracataca was a place, Mr. García Márquez writes, that ”entered history on its left foot as a remote district without God or law,” a place where ”the banana fever” — galvanized by the arrival of the United Fruit Company, its promise of sudden riches and the company’s abrupt departure — brought ”extreme social disorder,” a place subject to dry hurricanes, killing droughts, sudden floods, plagues of locusts, and ”a leaf storm of adventurers from all over the world who took control of the streets by force of arms.”

Mr. García Márquez’s mother — a model for the many strong, resilient women in his fiction — established, he recalls, ”a matriarchal power whose domain extended to the most distant relatives in the most unexpected places, like a planetary system that she controlled from her kitchen with a subdued voice and almost without blinking, while the pot of beans was simmering.” Her courtship by and eventual marriage to a young telegraph operator — Mr. García Márquez’s father, who became a model for the many impulsive dreamers in his stories — would provide the inspiration for the epic love affair celebrated in ”Love in the Time of Cholera.”

In that novel the fictional couple meet in the 19th century; their courtship, forbidden by the girl’s father, lasts more than 50 years. The real-life romance between Mr. García Márquez’s mother and her ardent suitor was also denounced by her family, who sent her on a long, arduous journey ”as a brutal cure for her lovesickness.” But in the end her parents reluctantly agreed to a wedding after a priest wrote them a letter expressing ”his heartfelt certainty that there was no human power capable of overcoming this obdurate love.”

The portraits that Mr. García Márquez draws of other family members are equally resonant, and reminiscent of the characters who populate his fiction.

There’s his Aunt Francisca, who ”sewed her own made-to-measure shroud with such fine workmanship that death waited for more than two weeks until she had finished it,” his beloved grandfather who painted the walls of his workshop white so that the young Gabriel had an inviting surface on which to paint; and his grandmother, ”the most credulous and impressionable woman I have ever known,” a fantasist or visionary who saw ”that the rocking chairs rocked alone, that the phantom of puerperal fever was lurking in the bedrooms of women in labor, that the scent of jasmines from the garden was like an invisible ghost.”

Although the sections of this book chronicling his adventures at school and his early forays into journalism lack the fierce, tactile magic of the portions dealing with his family, Mr. García Márquez delivers a wonderfully vital portrait of himself as a young, aspiring writer. He captures the avidity with which he used to devour books — too poor to buy his own, he would often stay up all night, finishing novels he had borrowed from friends — and the zeal with which he deconstructed them, scouring them for clues to technique, to language, to structure, to anything that might help him learn how to write.

He conjures up, in vivid bloody detail, the explosive historical backdrop against which he came of age (during the late 1940’s and 50’s, a period often called ”La Violencia,” when more than 200,000 people died). And he studiously delineates the penurious existence he lived as a young man: sleeping in the office where he worked, cadging meals here and there, worried that he did not even have the few coins needed to buy a copy of the paper containing his first published story.

At the beginning of this volume the author is still a shy young man trying to find a way to tell his parents that he does not want to become a doctor or lawyer, as they had hoped, but intends to become a writer. By its end he is a journalist and published short-story writer, and well on the road toward becoming the literary magus we know today, a master magician who would be as influential for successive generations of writers as Faulkner and Joyce and Borges had been, in those early remembered years, for him. 

Courtesy: MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NEW YORK TIMES

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The 3 Mistakes of my life

The 3 mistakes of my life, Chetan Bhagat, Rupa and Co., Rs. 95

Reviewed by Pankaj Sreenivasan (The hindu Literary Review)

Five Point Someone was as enjoyable as One Night at the Call Centre was not. Then came The 3 Mistakes of My Life. I was willing to cut Bhagat some slack only because my son loved Five Point… May be it had to do something with his aspiring to go to IIT. Still, anyone who could hold the interest of a teenager not normally given to reading fiction must have something going for him.

And, The 3 Mistakes has enough about cricket, and math tuitions, to hold a youngster’s interest. Of course, saying “Chetan Bhagat brings out the ethos and isolation of an entire generation to the fore” (the synopsis of the book says so) is doing it rather brown. One gets the same feeling reading the Acknowledgements where Bhagat addresses his readers with lines like, “My life belongs to you now, and serving you is the most meaningful thing I can do with my life….I don’t want to be India’s most admired writer. I just want to be India’s most loved writer. Admiration passes, love endures,” and so on. That was a bit uncomfortable.

Ups and downs

 

For the rest, the book is readable. Three friends in Ahmedabad decide to start a sports shop they call the Team India Cricket Shop. A priest’s son, Omi, a National Defence Academy deserter and cricket champ of his school, Ishaan, and the narrator of the story, the aspiring businessman, Govind. They are fairly successful in their business venture and their dreams and ambitions get bigger as they plan to move shop to an upmarket mall. Then, the Gujarat earthquake happens and the mall comes crashing down, dreams and all. But, life looks up again, with some romance between Govind and Vidya, (Ishaan’s sister), the hopes of launching 12-year-old Ali, a reluctant but incredibly gifted batsman as a possible team-India candidate, and a trip to Goa and then to Australia and the Australian Sports Academy.

In between all this, Godhra raises its ugly head. And, with it, the insidious relationship between religion, politics and communalism that has a deep impact on the lives of the three friends, with tragic consequences.

Clearly, the best bits of the book are those related to cricket. Such as the India Vs. Australia test match at Kolkata. The despair, slight hope, incredulity and exultation are infectious and familiar territory. Also, since I like happy endings, that is another brownie point. And, if you want to know what the “three mistakes” referred to are, you’ll have to read the book.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Filed under: Book Reviews, ,

A pukka old pishpash

Sea of Poppies by Aamitav Ghosh

Sameer Rahim

(Courtesy:The Telegraph, UK)

While researching his doctorate at Oxford, Amitav Ghosh came across a collection of letters written by medieval Jewish traders. In one letter, an Egyptian merchant arranges an exchange of silk and cardamom with a friend in Bangalore; he also complains that a shipment of Indian pepper has been lost at sea.

What really caught Ghosh’s eye, though, was a mention of the Bangalore trader’s “slave and business agent”. This man, whose origins and name are uncertain, could easily have been forgotten by history. Ghosh spent the next 14 years tracking down the few references to him in other documents, travelling to Egypt and learning Judaeo-Arabic. What he found is told in his superb book In an Antique Land (1992).

Much of Ghosh’s historical fiction has been driven by what he described in a note to The Glass Palace (2000) as “a near-obsessive urge to render the backgrounds of my characters’ lives as closely as I could”.

That novel traced the history of 20th-century Asia through the journey of a food-stall worker who becomes a wealthy teak merchant. In his new novel, Sea of Poppies, the first of a trilogy that opens in 1838 in India and will take us to the scene of the Opium Wars, we are introduced to characters whose social and cultural mobility are dependent on British colonialism – and the trading opportunities it brought.

The novel is structured around the Ibis, a ship docked in the Bay of Bengal that draws together a number of disparate characters.

Zachary Reid, the second mate and son of a freed slave, has travelled from Baltimore with the schooner’s cotton cargo. Four hundred miles inland, a poor woman called Deeti is struggling with her sick husband; he works in an opium factory and has become an afeemkhor – or addict.

After his death, she reluctantly submits herself to sati, but is rescued from the flames by a leather worker, with whom she escapes towards the sea. There is also an anglicised raja who, after falling out with the owner of the Ibis, is imprisoned on board for forging an Englishman’s signature.

The Ibis allows them to fashion new identities. Part of this is conveyed by the polyglot language used on board.

In Antique Land, Ghosh speculated that medieval traders communicated “by using a trading argot, or an elaborated pidgin language”. In Sea of Poppies, he has plundered Hobson-Jobson and other contemporary dictionaries of Anglo-Indian slang, to imagine such an argot.

“No fear of pishpash and cobbily mash at the Rascally table,” says an Englishman, reminiscing about the food served to him by the raja’s father. “Damn my eyes if I ever saw such a caffle of barnshooting badmashes!” the same man shouts later, sounding rather like Captain Haddock.

An Indian sailor teases Zachary for putting on airs in front of the English: “Michman wanchi, he can ‘come pukka genl’man by’m’by.” Although highly expressive, this packing together of odd words does not add up to a convincing imitation of speech.

A similar problem affects some of the descriptive passages. When we read that a dockside is full of “crowded sampans and agile almadias, towering brigantines and tiny baulias, swift carracks and wobbly woolocks”, it does not help us imagine what these vessels look like – even with the help of the OED.

At points, though, there are brilliantly clean pieces of writing. In an opium factory: “Stretching away, on either side, reaching all the way to the lofty ceiling, were immense shelves, neatly arranged with tens of thousands of identical balls of opium, each about the shape and size of an unhusked coconut, but black in colour, with a glossy surface.” And there are some memorable facts: sailors can burn off cannabis shavings from a canvas sail; opium freezes the bowels and has the opposite effect when you stop ingesting it.

But Ghosh seems to have left none of his research unused. The result is an absorbing but congested novel whose characters are restricted by being little more than vehicles for information. There is also a certain heavy-handedness in the multicultural symbolism, and the allusions to current events. (“Johnny Chinaman knows a good thing when he sees it. He’ll be delighted to get rid of the Manchu tyrant.”)

Englishmen in this novel are particularly stereotyped. While it’s valuable to be reminded of the outrages of the opium trade, we do not need the Englishman who enjoys having his backside beaten.

It is therefore ironic (perhaps something more serious) that most of the sources cited at the end of Sea of Poppies were compiled by British writers. Should a novel about the colonised underclass rely so heavily on the mediated records of the colonisers?

The ghostly subjects of In an Antique Land flickered briefly and faded; by so thoroughly embodying its characters, Sea of Poppies lacks that haunting power.

Filed under: Book Reviews, ,

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