An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire. She came into the world in the year 1577, to the howling accompaniment of a ferocious winter storm. As the daughter of starving refugees fleeing violent persecution in Persia, her fateful birth in a roadside tent sparked a miraculous reversal of family fortune, culminating in her father's introduction to the court of Emperor Akbar. She is called Mehrunnisa, the Sun of Women. This is her story.
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from library
Date Completed: April 10, 2013
I began reading The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan for the May meeting of the Boston book club. Given my track record of taking a long time to finish books, I decided to start early. I was immediately swept up into the story. My favorite thing about the novel is the blend of history with personal narrative. I learned a lot about the Mughal empire, but also wanted to know more about the love story. I loved Mehrunnisa's spirit: her bold sense of adventure and determination to find a way for herself that allowed her to be independent and use her intelligence.
The story finished with the wedding of Mehrunnisa and the Emperor. I wanted to hear more about her time in the royal palace, after she became an Empress. The author's footnote provided some insight, but I wish that more of the novel had been about that part of history. After I finished reading, I realized that this is the first book in a trilogy. I will have to check out the other two novels to get the scoop!
In addition to book club, I am counting this book for the following challenges:
2013 Global Reading Challenge: Most of the book takes place in India which is in Asia.
2013 South Asian Reading Challenge: The book is written by an Indian author and takes place in India.
"Literary critics make natural detectives," says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters, and dusty journals. Together with Roland Michell, a fellow academic and accidental sleuth, Maud discovers a love affair between the two Victorian writers the pair has dedicated their lives to studying: Randolph Ash, a literary great long assumed to be a devoted and faithful husband, and Christabel La Motte, a lesser-known "fairy poetess" and chaste spinster. At first, Roland and Maud's discovery threatens only to alter the direction of their research, but as they unearth the truth about the long-forgotten romance, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal. Desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, they embark on a journey that pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness, challenges the most basic assumptions they hold about themselves, and uncovers their unique entitlement to the secret of Ash and La Motte's passion.
Pages: 555 (hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from library
Date Completed: March 31, 2013
I did not know much about Possession by A.S. Byatt, but I heard about a read-a-long from Care on Twitter and was intrigued. I thought it would be a fun way to read and be more active in the book blogging community. The book was divided up into sections that had to be read by certain dates. As predicted, I fell behind. I surprised myself by making the final deadline.
The book started off slowly and I began wondering what I had gotten myself into and then, all of a sudden, I was completely absorbed. I never knew that researching the lives of authors could be so juicy and reading about the politics of academic departments and fields was fascinating. I was also impressed with the different types of writing featured in the book: poems, short stories, correspondence, and narrative.
I am not giving this a 10 because the first 100 pages were tough to get into and I had trouble with the poetry. I felt like my rhythm got interrupted with the poems. I am sure there is significance to them, but my brain was too tired to pick up on it.
My review and summaries pale in comparison to some of the other participants. You can see the Twitter conversation here. Some of the other reviews are below. If you have a review and would like it listed, please let me know!
Lately, I have been very enthusiastic and optimistic about my reading. One activity I have seen a lot on other blogs and twitter is read-a-longs. Basically a book is selected and divided up into sections. Deadlines are assigned as to when certain sections of the book must be completed, people blog, comment, and tweet about the experience. I want to be more active in the blogging community and thought it would be fun, so I decided to join the 'Posessesion' read-a-long which I heard about from Care (Care's Online Book Club).
The challenge is hosted by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and Lu (Regular Rumination). I met the first timeline for which I still need to post and am behind on the second; yet, I read on with optimism and determination! Reading schedule is below and I will post links to my progress as I get to it or just notes about how I am doing with the book. If you are interested in joining the fun, you can sign up here. You can also talk about the book on any of the blogs of participants and on Twitter using the hashtag #readbyatt.
- March 11: Chapters 1 – 6: Completed on Sunday, March 10th. Thankful story got more interesting after the first chapter. You can see Kim and Lu's recaps here and here.
- March 18: Chapter 7 – 13: I am just about a week behind as I finished this section on Sunday, March 24th. It is getting much saucier and more tense. You can see Kim and Lu's recaps here and here.
- March 25: Chapter 14 – 19: I finished this section and the next one close together. Chapter 19 was a game changer. You can see Kim and Lu's recaps here and here.
- April 1: Chapter 20 – End: I finished this section the night before the deadline. My final review is here.
Zadie Smith’s new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.
Pages: 401 (Hardcover)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
Date Completed: February 28, 2013
The very first book club I was a member of was in New Orleans. I was in my final semester of public health graduate school. We met every week to discuss an agreed upon number of pages of a book. The second book we read together was White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I loved the discussion and enjoyed the book. I had not returned to the author's writing until the Boston book club selected NW by Zadie Smith as the March selection. I had heard that this book was not as strong as her others and could be confusing to read.
When I began, I found that I had to do quite a bit of re-reading. I could not get into the rhythm. I was wondering how I was going to finish the book and then I came to the section that was told from the voice of Natalie Blake. I related to and enjoyed her description of growing up in an insular ethnic community and wanted to build other relationships. Even though it was hard to read, I also appreciated the insight of how her perspective and connection to her childhood community change as she had more economic success. Her friendship with Leah was also interesting to me, especially as both women had very different perceptions about each other's lives. Based on where I am in my own life, I also enjoyed the discussion on parenthood and the decision to have (or not have) babies.
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Pages: 326 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
Date Completed: February 8, 2013
One of the members of the Partners and Professors book club received Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple as a Christmas present. I was excited to read the book when I read that the author had written for some of my favorite shows, including Mad About You and Arrested Development. Just like when I watch those shows, I laughed out loud and was surprised at several points in the book. I expected the story to be funny, but I was delighted to find that there were also several sweet moments.
One particular moment in the story tugged at my heart strings and made me want to be a better parent. Bernadette's daughter, Bee, recalls an incident in which other kids were teasing her and her mother's response. The quote is here:
“I can pinpoint that as the single happiest moment of my life, because I realized then that Mom would always have my back. It made me feel giant. I raced back down the concrete ramp, faster than I ever had before, so fast I should have fallen, but I didn't fall, because Mom was in the world.”
My mother's approach to my getting teased was to ignore it. I can understand the power of not engaging with teasers or bullies, but I feel like I would have cheered louder if my parents had been a bit more snarky. I am not sure how I will do with my own daughter, but I hope that I am able to make her feel like Bee about my being in the world.
Bernadette had many qualities and behavior which annoyed me, but her way of navigating the world also made me laugh. I really enjoyed the relationship between her and Bee. It was also nice to revisit Seattle from the perspective of an outsider. I totally related to the culture shock aspect of Bernadette's experience. The format of the novel worked for me-- the mix of emails, letters, newspaper articles, and general storytelling helped move the story along. We have book club in a few weeks and I am looking forward to discussing.
I am counting the book for the following challenges: