The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Published by: PanMacmillan

Fiction, 440 pages

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book summary:

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

About the author:

Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year.

My Review:

I won this in a Giveaway and must confess that my interest in the book was piqued considering the popularity of Kristin Hannah’s books, notably of course The Nightingale, which is still languishing in my ‘will read soon’ part of my shelf. Set in the early 70s, this book is a mix of romance, some drama that revolves around the coming of age of a young girl Leni and the beauty and part history of Alaska.

The first 100 pages of this book sets the roots for its main characters: that of Ernst, Leni’s father who has been a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War; her mother Cora who defied her parents for a whirlwind passionate love story and Alaska as a place: remote, wild, isolated but made warm by its people though deadly in the winters. Ernst’s volatile personality is addressed as ‘the war made him like this’ and several chapters go by taking readers through different and similar anecdotes where he snaps, abuses and harms the people around him.

Just when things look like they will change for Leni and her mother, there is a violent turn and it only gets worse. The subsequent action leads Leni and her mother to move out from Alaska with Leni leaving an unfinished love story. They reconcile with Leni’s grandparents and things go on uneventfully till the time Cora dies and tries to ‘do the right thing’. Sadly, the manner of death is another emotional trope and it gets tiring to go all emotional over that development.

If you love reading a love story (there is two in this one, the second being Leni’s) that has suffering at its core and set in a different time period, you will fall in love with The Great Alone. But if you are looking for depth and dramatis, this will be a tad disappointing. The main characters ended up irritating me and I found other characters pushed away to the periphery that were more interesting and appealing.

Verdict? Read it without any expectations and you can be satisfied with the romantic tropes in this one (there are many). Also warning alert: those who have faced abuse in intimate relationships may find the writing a bit triggering.

 

 

 

 

Coming Out As Dalit: a memoir by Yashica Dutt

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Coming Out As Dalit: a memoir by Yashica Dutt

Published by: Aleph Book Company

Non Fiction, 212 pages

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary:

Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit.

In Coming Out as Dalit, Dutt recounts the exhausting burden of living with the secret and how she was terrified of being found out. She talks about the tremendous feeling of empowerment she experienced when she finally stood up for herself and her community and shrugged off the fake upper-caste identity she’d had to construct for herself. As she began to understand the inequities of the caste system, she also had to deal with the crushing guilt of denying her history and the struggles of her grandparents and the many Dalit reformers who fought for equal rights.

In this personal memoir that is also a narrative of the Dalits, she writes about the journey of coming to terms with her identity and takes us through the history of the Dalit movement; the consequences of her community’s lack of access to education and culture; the need for reservation; the paucity of Dalit voices in mainstream media; Dalit women’s movements and their ongoing contributions; and attempts to answer crucial questions about caste and privilege. Woven from personal narratives from her own life as well as that of other Dalits, this book forces us to confront the injustices of caste and also serves as a call to action.

About the author:

Yashica Dutt is a New York based journalist who writes on gender, identity and culture. She was previously a principal correspondent with Brunch and the Hindustan Times. She is the founder of Documents of Dalit Discrimination.

*My Review:

Thank you Aleph Book Company for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

This is a book that I cannot recommend enough – part memoir, part opinion writing and part an academic discourse on the systematic failure of the country in addressing the plight of Dalits, Yashica Dutt’s book is a searing work that needs to be read and engaged with. This is a gut wrenching and honest portrayal of the entrenched discrimination that Dalits continue to face till date and why many in the community continue to live under false identities so that their caste is not disclosed. Yashica not only lays her own journey bare: how her family took on another surname, how her parents and before them her grand parents try to pass off as Upper Caste, how a better education (read English medium) is considered a means to more acceptability but points out historical and factual reminders of how Dalits have been treated over the years.

I have read a few Dalit narratives and must put it out that this one stays off rage and anger and sadness. Rather, it is filled with well-articulated thoughts and anecdotes and questions that will leave the reader gasping with the aforesaid emotions. Yashica’s writing is deeply personal when she lays bare how her family hides their Dalit identity; how in her family, her mother bears the burnt of patriarchal family systems and making the point that Dalit women are subjugated within the community itself. It is deeply political in the way the discussion on reservation is addressed and how Ambedkar’s path as a social leader and reformer is blindsided by that of Mahatma Gandhi.

One can only nod in admiration when Yashica calls out the ‘liberal’ English speaking upper middle class who in theory stand for ‘equality’ but remain quiet when it comes to Dalit atrocities. This is one book that I will constantly re read and recommend to fellow citizens and readers to look up.

 

 

Batman: The Court of Owls by Greg Cox

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Batman: The Court of Owls by Greg Cox

Published by: Titan Books

Fiction, 341 pages

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary:

An original novel pitting Batman against the Court of Owls, a secret society of wealthy families that’s controlled Gotham for centuries using murder and money.

‘Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time

Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime

They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed

Speak not a whispered word about them, or they’ll send the Talon for your head.’

-a nursery rhyme.

The Court of Owls is a criminal secret society that has existed in Gotham City since the 1600s, led by some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential families. They employ deadly trained assassins known as Talons, taken as children from circuses such as the one where Dick Grayson’s parents were killed. These children are trained to become the assassins known as Talons. Bruce Wayne came to the Court’s attention when he announced plans to reinvigorate Gotham, threatening their control. They sentenced him to death, bringing themselves to the attention of Batman. Though they suffer defeats, the Court continues to fight to retake control of the city’s underworld – a fight that has gone on for centuries…

About the author:

Greg Cox is a New York Times bestselling author of numerous books and short stories, including official novelizations of big time films. He has received Scribe Awards from the International Association of Media Tie- In Writers as well as the Grandmaster Award for Life Achievement.

*My Review:

Thank you Bloomsbury India for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

I am an out and out Batman fan and love the brooding knight and his alter ego so my review might just be totally biased. Batman as a character gets bracketed in the super hero category and with his costume and gadgets but for me, it has always been the layers in his character, the emotions he grapples with and his intelligence that made Batman more special than any other comic character.

The Court of Owls by Greg Cox is an original novel based on the shadowy secret society made of the most elite and wealthy members Gotham residents who come across as very powerfully influential and the way the fate of Batman and naturally Bruce Wayne are tied to one another. Opening with the brutal murder of an art professor, we find Inspector Gordon has called in Batman to the crime scene. Very soon, a spate of brutal deaths in Gotham akin to the manner in which the art professor died gives Batman a hunch that the Court of Owls might well be involved.

I love the way Batman’s sleuthing skills coming to the fore in this book and then of course, there are Nightwing or Robin and Barbara Gordon as Batgirl who flit in through the pages as allies who help Batman work on the case involving The Court of Owls. Barbara’s research into the deaths leads Batman to the Owls who have an evil plan in mind: this heightens the friction between the two sides. The story and plot is engaging and kept me on my toes with the back and forth narrative going back from the current time frame to a century earlier.

The writing is a visual and atmospheric delight and takes readers to Gotham through the years. Though the focus is one Batman and The Court of Owls, the mentions of the most notorious of Gotham residents that have a connection to the caped crusader is a delightful writing trope that appeals to the fan in me. I will recommend this as a ‘must read’ for every Batman fan! Go read and enjoy the ride!