Category Archives: Award Winning Books

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

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Family life by akhil sharmaLiterary Awards

Folio Prize for Fiction (2015)

Family Life found a place in my reading list when I read a few raving reviews about it on few of my favorite book blogs . I was determined to track down a copy and read it when I get a chance. There were innumerable occasions when I almost bought a copy, but then restrained myself from buying it at the last moment.

Family Life reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake about Indian immigrants in America but the similarity between them ends there. Family Life is about two brothers Birju and Ajay who emigrated to America in their childhood with their Indian parents. I read it assuming it to be a work of fiction, but I learned later that this story is actually inspired by the author’s own life.

3 minutes is a time that passes away so fast that we don’t even bother to keep a check on it in our daily existence, but that time became crucial for the Sharmas. 3 minutes is what it takes to overturn the Sharmas’ happy existence in America to a nightmare, when Birju laid in the bottom of a swimming pool unconscious after he hit his head in a diving accident. That incident left Birju brain damaged leaving his family to deal with the situation along with its financial and emotional repercussions.

Family Life is a tough novel to read and it would have been tougher to write. I am not surprised that it took Akhil almost 12 years to put this in shape considering the depth of the subject. This is a well written novel, but I did have some initial issues with the writing style. I was surprised by this experience because I had read that this book is engrossing from Page 1.

Family life is Ajay’s narration about the life before and after Birju’s accident, the whole book is written from his perspective – his honest thoughts about life before and after Birju’s accident. There are no heavily emotion laden words in this narration, Ajay mostly sticks to plain facts and leaves the rest to the reader.The character feels more realistic because Ajay is far from the innocent brother ignored by parents due to the invalid brother.

I wanted to love this book, but it never happened. But then when you start thinking of the story and the writing, I can clearly understand why this book was such a popular one. The premise of the story is too raw and disturbing and there is a stream of unending sorrows. Akhil Sharma handles all of them beautifully and makes this book a good read.

Family Life is depressing and I will give it 3.75/5,but I highly recommend that you read before you ignore it.

Rating: 3.75/5
First published April 7th 2014

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We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Published / by Elizabeth / 2 Comments on We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
We are not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas book cover.

Raised in the 1940s in the mostly Irish neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, by an alcoholic mother and a union-wage father, Eileen yearns for more from an early age. Driven by this longing, she places her stock and love in a handsome young scientist and with him begins a family. Once her childhood neighborhood begins to slip below her standards, she pushes against her husband’s reluctance to find a home elsewhere. When it becomes clear that his reticence is part of a deeper, more incomprehensible psychological shift, the bricks of the life she thought she was building begin to crumble, and she and her son are left to grapple with a husband and a father who is, beyond their control, fading away.

In this heartbreaking debut, Thomas masterfully paints the sprawling portrait of a family that heroically weathers an extraordinary storm. It is wise to the ways in which people happen, over time and with each other.

Reading certain books are so easy. You get to live in an imaginative world with all those characters, and when the book ends you move on to a different book and get immersed in another world. Then there are those books which leave you disturbed and thoughtful occupying a space in your mind long after you finished reading that last page. We are not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is one of such kind.

When I started reading this one, I did enjoy Eileen’s early life and its details, but after a few pages of reading I honestly had to push myself to read through the pages. I had even thoughts about abandoning the book, but I kept on. After all, this book came with a lot of recommendations and I just had to know what all the hype was about it.

Then came the second half and everything changed. When Learys’ life seems to be doing OK with enough of their own complexities, darkness enters their lives – slowly at first and then with full force threatening to take over their lives completely.  That is all I will say about the second half of the story.

The story picked up momentum and then you realize what kind of ride Matthew Thomas is taking you for, you are awed and scared. You are scared for Eileen and Connell, because you what know what is going to happen, but then they don’t know what their future is going to be. Imagine you as a reader knowing something and you just want to cry out to Eileen and make her see what is happening.

You see Eileen’s ambitions from early on and then you see some of them being lost on the way. The way she pushes herself, Ed and her son towards a path which she thought was the path to happiness. But Ed has his own ambitions and aspirations which might not be aligned with Eileen’s many a times. What happens then? Does they take the middle ground? Or does someone give up on their ambitions for the sake of love?

I think everyone calls this an epic story because of the way you live the life with Eileen, Ed and Connell. You are not a passive observer, you are an active but invisible character in the story itself, seeing everything and feeling everything that the family is going through.

You just have to read this book and experience it.  I hope I was able to convince you all to pick up this amazing book for the characters and the writing.

Warning: It is a heavy subject.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source: eARC from HarperCollins
First Release: August 19th 2014

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Review

Published / by Elizabeth / 2 Comments on The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Review

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumor and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

~Synopsis from Goodreads

Literary Awards

Man Booker Prize (2011)
European Literature Prize (2012)
ALA Notable Book for Fiction (2012)

The Sense of an Ending is a book that I picked after I read so so many great reviews about this book. Finally I was able to find a copy through the justbooks library and devoured it before my son was born. I never got to writing down my thoughts on this one because my son decided to come few days early and then I did not get the mood to sit down and actually write about this book. I know I have to write about this book, but I am not sure what to write.

I salute all those people who were able to articulate their thoughts on this book. I am still not sure what I exactly feel about this. Just that this is a book where the destination is less important than the journey. Can I say that about this book? Actually no. The whole story is tied together in a complex way and the reader gets some sense of a closure only at the end; so does the protagonist though what he feels at that point is indescribable.

Tony Webster – the character and its imperfectness makes this story. The very ordinary life of Tony makes his thoughts very much confined. A relationship breakup from the girl he loved and betrayal of trust from a close friend may be the biggest hardships that he has faced. And when something unexpected happens in his peaceful life he does not understand anything much and his search for the mystery takes him to a different level of understanding of an incident that happened during his youth. Tony is forced to rethink and rearrange his thoughts and impressions from that point and truth could be something far from what he thought, something which may take away the peace of his mind changing his life permanently.

When I was reading this book, The Sense of an Ending made an impression on me not because of the story, but for the amazing writing. If you have the habit of bookmarking interesting quotes, you will have to highlight the whole book. Each sentence is written so beautiful, so says me who is not too keen into prose. When it ends you feel like you have read a good but not so great book. Then you start wondering about all that hype and when you give it a few minutes of thoughts, you start grasping a lot of things and your respect for Jules Barnes goes higher and higher and you finally realize why people describe this one as a masterpiece.

The Sense of an Ending is a must read if you want to read something unique, a masterpiece !!!

Highly Recommended

Rating: 4.5/5
Source: Justbooks Library
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
First Release: Jan 2011

The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy – Review

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Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl. She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn. So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning. Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence. From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Philippa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets. Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the Golden era of television. A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.

~Synopsis from Goodreads

Philippa was abandoned by her mother at a very young age, left with Bob who loved her like her own.But she was always haunted by the fact that the mother who promised to return for her never came back for her.  The book is filled with all the emotions of Philippa who loves Bob very much and considers him more like a father; but the pain of being ignored by her mother does hurt her a lot.

Sophie Duffy has written a touching story about Philippa starting from infancy without suffocating the reader with her sad emotions. She goes on to narrate the life of Philippa through teenage and adult years and her marriage, till the birth of her child where this book actually starts.

There are lots of secrets related to Philippa’s life that are slowly revealed towards the end of the book. Believe me..this is not a chick lit fiction where everything ends happy. This is all about a happy conclusion about lots of questions surrounding the painful life that Philippa has lived till now.

I liked this book very much for the writing, story and the narration which is sometimes difficult when you talk about painful memories. Either they can be depressing or less convincing, but this book strike the right note.

Rating: 4/5
Publisher: Legend Press
First Release: July 2011

Note: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher through netgalley in return for my honest review.