Chakraborty: The City of Brass

“He’d gone pale, and she paused to listen to the pulse of his heart… Despite the graying hairs in his beard – ill-hidden by henna – and the plumpness in his belly, he suffered from nothing other than an excess of wealth. She’d be glad to help him with that.”

April. Aside from bringing with it spring flowers, sunshine, and the taste of upcoming exam season in the air, this month brought forth new reads as well. Though I started by picking up Tolstoy for the first time (stick with me to hear about that soon dear reader), when I found The City of Brass thrust eagerly into my hands by a fellow bookworm as well, I soon realised parallel reading was not an option.

Now that isn’t to do a disservice to our Russian friend in the slightest – I found him surprisingly readable after all, and progressed faster than I thought I would on entering his world. But either Chakraborty’s world was just that little more compelling, or the prospect of borrowing such a pristine copy was too daunting for me to leave The City of Brass unread for too long. It was the latter, in any case, which was most definitely responsible for my returning Chakraborty’s (finished) novel the next day.

And boy, what a novel.

(Spoilers within.)

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Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

“Now, if the enumeration of so many edifices, brief as we have tried to be, has not shattered in the reader’s mind the general image of old Paris as fast as we have endeavored to construct it, we will recapitulate it in a few words.

Have you ever read a book that’s changed you in some way? I talk not of powerful biographies, or religious scripture here, though admittedly both have the potential to evoke great personal change, but the humble novel. Perhaps it’s a stupid question. Most people, after all, would answer yes; literature carries with it that special sort of magic which, on its smallest scale, can move a reader from apathy, to elation, to abject grief, and to all manner of sentiment in between. Some pieces go further than just triggering a cascade of changing emotion through their course, and have the added ability to elicit a change in outlook by their close as well.

But what about challenging the type of reader you are though, and changing the way it is you read?

(Part discussion, part book review. Spoilers within.)

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The Seagull

“Your turning cold on me is terrible, I can’t believe it, it’s as if I’d woken up and found the lake had suddenly dried up or drained away into the ground.”

Having recently been in a bit of a reading rut, of late I’ve found myself turning away from the more conventional novels on my reading list, and opting for plays instead. This in turn has lead me away from my To-Be-Read pile entirely, and towards a longstanding favourite: Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.

Now though it is obviously a multi-layered piece, at its heart, it tells the story of a young playwright and his doomed relationships with the women that surround him. And so if you asked me to summarise the play in oh, say, fourteen lines, I think I would end up with something that went a little like this:

(Spoilers within.)

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A Personal Tale of Bibliophilia

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard’. Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.”

Never has a truer word been said about a bibliophile and their relationship with books than these by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery (for those of you trying to place her, Montgomery’s rise to literary stardom began with the publication of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ in 1908).

How many of us have told ourselves we’ll stop after one more page, before somehow managing to reach the end of the chapter? And how many have promised the same for one chapter but have gone on to finish the entire book, sleep be damned? I know I for one fit into both camps, and it is that ‘irresistible temptation’ that is to blame.

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