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There are some writers who can mentally transform you to a time and place with their vivid descriptions, while physically you may be sitting on your comfortable couch, reading the book. Probably some part of that journey also depends on the imagination of the reader too. A saying goes that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and therefore, I believe it is indeed an accomplishment to be able to create a picture just with words.
I am getting these philosophical thoughts reading the books by Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Finished two books in two days. So you can imagine how captivating the writing must be.
My friend Y loaned me the books on Friday and I am so grateful that she did. I have not been to Africa so far but the books describe Botswana in so much detail that I feel like seeing those sights as if I am travelling myself.
The series is about a woman Mma Precious Ramotswe, opening a detective agency in Botswana, and through her, the author has shown the day to day life of people in Botswana. Their simple ways, sense of right and wrong, beliefs, social norms, relationships with one another and with neighboring countries, struggles – everything has been so well written that sitting in your living room, you can get the feel of living in Botswana. What I like about the book is that you are not made to feel right or wrong or wretched about the hardships. It’s like a matter of fact – the way one lives in his/her own country.
I have started the third one now (there are 13 in the series). Hoping to get my hands on the other ones too. So if you are looking for what to read next, give this series a try!
Sometimes when I think of the terrible events that took place in the 20th century, I can’t bring myself to rank them in the order of their horrendous nature. It just doesn’t make sense that man who is the self proclaimed most intelligent animal, can change himself and so many others into monsters. Over the last few years, I’ve been reading the recollections of the people who witnessed the holocaust and shudder at just the thought of such a thing happening. But reading “The Book Thief” gave me the perspective of those who were suffering just as much, even though they had the right color of the eyes needed in those times, just because their hearts were in the right place. It must be so much easier to be heartless rather than having a conscientious heart to see horrid things happening around you.
“The Book Thief” is a wonderful narration of Liesel’s story by “Death”, penned down for us mortals by Markus Zusak. Interestingly enough, even though my eyes have leaked on reading the recollections of people from those times, this book evoked not a single tear! May be because it was “Death” narrating it. It told about people who were just trying to survive the hard times, surrounded and tortured by those who believed in the strange ideas of their ruler. And why was it that the world had to see not one but many such maniacs who got the power to decide the fate of so many lives? Was it just something to do with the confluence of stars or was it some higher force’s way of punishing the earth people? I guess no one has the answer to such questions.
Coming back to the book, I was touched by the sadness in the heart of Hans Hubermann who was saved in two wars – once by a friend and the next time by a not-a-friend. His love for his foster daughter Liesel is so much about understanding and kindness, that it just breaks your heart when his own son calls him a coward for not being part of the ideology that most of the country was so eager to follow! His wife Rosa is another tortured soul who has the same goodness of heart as him, but who just has her own way of expressing it / hiding it.
Then there’s Rudy – Liesel’s best friend, who is not afraid to show his derision for whatever he finds wrong and then being punished for it. Max – who is trying to survive, while dying a thousand deaths of shame at the thought of putting the family, that’s protecting him, in danger. There are so many “Life” stories, seen by “Death” who had a busy time during those years. All of them with their own secrets, with their own burdens and a common burden of survival.
Now one could say it’s a fiction while the others are real stories. But I think the stories in this book are also real. There were definitely people like these during those times – who helped the “hunted ones”. And this book shows the time from another vantage point – from that of a small girl who happened to live in those times.
Yesterday night I finished reading the good old classic “David Copperfield”.
I had read that story as a child, in the 6th standard – in a book belonging to the series “Great Stories in Easy English” abridged by S.E. Paces.
I loved the story of the boy who was orphaned and then adopted by his father’s aunt and who made a man out of himself through his hard work, battling all the miseries life threw in his way.
So when I started on the real book a week back, I was expecting more or less reading the same thing except may be more dialogues and more philosophical ideas. But what I had in store was much more than what I had expected.
I am so glad that I read this at a time when I was more experienced in life about the shortcomings of the human nature and to accept the characters of the story as they were without being judgemental. Bless you S.E.Paces that you didn’t tell me then so many things like – what would Steerforth do in his restlessness, what would the innocent “Little Emily” do after she said “yes” to Ham, how would the Murdstones destroy one more young woman, why would Dr. Strong and Annie suffer for so many years, what heartbreak and pain would Mr. Peggotty go through..
Had I been exposed to all that then, may be I would have judged the people but now, I could understand the “first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart”, the pain of an innocent heart on having betrayed someone, the woman who loved someone all her life – even at the time when he came to her to tell her about the woman he fell in love with. The meanness of people like the Murdstones, the Heeps, the Jack Meldon versus the goodness of people like the Peggottys, Agnes, the good heart behind the weirdness of Miss Trotwood – all that was so beautifully put by that great author whom we call Dickens – that one does not feel at all that the story was set in a time so long before – it could be the story of this day and age, if you just replace the props. The human nature still has the same variety of emotions, the same old impulses, the same fallacies. You can relate to the characters – just look around yourself and you would find them in one or the other person you are acquainted with!
All in all, it was a good read. May be someday I would read it again.