#4. The Sea: Poet at Work

I’ll be honest. I bought this book back in 2016 because I knew it won the Booker Prize AND because it was the one book that stopped Kazuo Ishiguro from being a double Booker-winning author. Indeed, if you’ve not the heard the story, The Sea and Never Let Me Go were finalists for the holy grail of literary awards. Members of the jury couldn’t make up their mind, and it was left to the chairman, John Sutherland, to decide which book would be the winner.

As John Banville’s Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker Prize of 1989, the year in which Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day won, Sutherland deemed it fair to hand the award to John Banville this time.

So, having read Never Let Me Go in 2014 and having absolutely loved it, I was always curious about that other book. In 2016 I finally got around to reading it during the holidays.

So, what do I remember of it? Simple. The Sea easily ranks among the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read. The language, the prose, the words…all mixed up together to deliver an unearthly experience. The book is almost dream-like, narrated as though from the clouds or some heavenly place. As for the plot itself, I could see the twist, the big revelation from quite afar, so I wasn’t as surprised as I ought to upon the denouement.

As I’ve read so many books over the years, I tend not to include The Sea in my favourite books of all time (maybe at heart I value plot over prose). But, rating it as objectively as can be, I would say it is one fine piece of art. 🙂

#3. Of Human Bondage: A Book that Gets Better with Life

Now, when you think of ‘masterpiece’, you think of something unheard of before, a book that experiments with form and style, something not common at all.

In view of all that, Of Human Bondage doesn’t quite fit the bill. It’s as classic as can be. Yet this book feels intimate as few books can. It tells the story of Philip Carey who has just lost his mother. From then on, we’ll follow him as he goes through life and meets a variety of people. The book is mammoth-sized, and I remember how deeply satisfied I was upon finishing it.

I read Of Human Bondage when I was twenty, months before I set off for university – which was going to be the most determining part of my life. And my main takeaway from this book is you have to accept things as they come. Such is life. You will have all kinds of things come your way, and somehow, they are all parts of life’s greater designs.

That is not to say that I fared exceptionally well thanks to what I learnt. Far from it, being in my early twenties at the time, I lived life as it came; I drew a line between fiction and my life. That was a mistake. Instead of exhibiting acceptance at life’s events and an awareness of what would come, I questioned things and didn’t see how they were falling into place.

At 27 now, and no longer the boy I used to be, I realise that Of Human Bondage is a masterpiece. There is no denying this fact. What Somerset Maugham writes in this book is no more theoretical, as I can see them happening in my very own life. I think I need to give it another read one of these days, for the nostalgia and to absorb things that may have eluded my younger self.

For, you see, Of Human Bondage is a book about life, the kind that gets better the older you become.

#2. Frankenstein: A Book that Struck my Fancy

Let’s get straight to the point with this one.

Is it an essential novel that one should absolutely read? No.

Is it, in my opinion, a beautiful book? So-so.

Are there (way) better classics? Yes.

I read ‘Frankenstein’ back in the very beginning, when I was still scanning lists of classics one should read before he dies. When I came across it in one of those lists, my interest was piqued immediately. Firstly, I didn’t know there was a book behind this whole Frankenstein thing. And secondly, I thought it would make for an exciting read! I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s Frankenstein we’re talking about!

So, I went online on bookdepository and bought myself a copy. This and The Picture of Dorian Gray were my first ever orders online! And as I liked all things fancy, I picked Frankenstein in the Classics Deluxe Edition, just because I liked the look of the cover.

Now don’t get me wrong. Maybe the way I’ve started this post has led you thinking that it is a terrible book. But it isn’t. For real.

It just doesn’t feel memorable enough for me. In fact, I have a vague remembrance of how things end. To be honest, the part I enjoyed most was where Dr Frankenstein was growing up and becoming a genius scientist hungry for knowledge and keen to do what nobody has ever done before. I really enjoyed his manic monologues that are made all the more striking and touching thanks to Mary Shelley’s prose. There’s a scene which to this day I still remember: the death of Dr Frankenstein’s mother and the aftermath. The words have faded in memory, but I remember how beautifully written the loss was.

I’ll probably give this book a second read one of these days.

#1. The God of Small Things: The Book that Started It All

One copy I bought in 2011 for my studies. Another I bought last year for a clean reread.

Whenever I think of The God of Small Things, I can only be thankful for the way my life panned out.

Back in 2011, I had to study this book for my English Literature exams. It took me a while to get going with the story; every time I would start and get to the end of the first chapter, I would find myself lost and unable to make sense of what was going on. Finally, on my third attempt I managed to get hold of everything and read it in one go (not in a single day, mind you). All in all, it is a book I must have read at least 3 times in my life.

The scenes are unforgettable because this book is a masterpiece. A work of art. Unfortunately it is often part of a curriculum, to be studied and taught by uninterested pupils and teachers. In fact, I still remember the English Lit teacher who took the book by the ear and waved it like some rag when I said I liked it.

‘This? You like this?”

I said yes. Since then I’ve grown very sceptical of English Lit/Creative Writing students. Very often, these people (not all of them) see these subjects as easy routes and their knowledge of the literary world unsurprisingly comes well short of a literary enthusiast’s.

Anyway, I digress…

I owe so much to this book. This blog, my library, my own self, everything.

After finishing high school, I found myself hollow. I always thought by the age of 18, I would be ready for the world. But that was not the case. So, I decided to look for more books like The God of Small Things – that’s how I became familiar with the Booker Prize, by the way.

I spent a huge chunk of my savings into buying books. I kept reading my fair share every year since. Classics, modern classics, contemporary novels called masterpieces of our time. But, as great and important a read these books have been, as beautiful they are, I’ve yet to come across one that is remotely close to The God of Small Things.

If not for the faded yellow highlight, it wouldn’t have registered in me that 10 years have elapsed already.

Coming Back

So, after giving it some thoughts, I decided to come back.

Not to carry on posting what I used to four years ago, but to keep track of all the things I’ve been reading since my late teen years. I’m now 27, so there’ll be plenty to post.

I have a few reasons for this comeback. Firstly, I miss interacting with people from abroad ; when I was at university for four years, I used to take this interaction for granted, but now that I’m back in my country – it’s been three years already – I am getting tired of meeting the same people over and over.

Secondly, life is short. Keeping track of the books I’ve read will make me reflect on past experiences and how much I’ve grown. Also, I reckon that to assess a book’s lasting impact, it might be best to step back for a few months or years and see if you still remember the book as fondly as you loved it upon finishing it for the first time.

Again, I’m 27. A lot of the things I’ve posted in the past appear cringe to me. I might delete some and keep some, we’ll see. This blog is not so much a blog now as it is a virtual diary that I wish to share online.

So, that’s that. 🙂

Maybe I’ll post later in the day or tomorrow.

It’s been a pleasure.

Around March I said I wanted to come back, but the timing was bad because I had so much to revise for my eight exams.

I’ve been on holiday since end of May. I’ve been playing video games and learning how to do mini mobile games. I’ve also read a few stories here and there, but definitely not as much as I used to in the last years.

The thing is this:
I don’t think I’m coming back to this blog. I’m going into my fourth and final year of university this September, and I started this blog after I had just finished high school -during my gap year!

I’ve met awesome people from awesome countries and learned that reading is not a dying habit by any means. You just need to know where to find the bookworms,haha.

I will never forget that a one point in my life this blog meant a lot to me. Every morning I would check my numbers, interact with other bloggers and decide what things to share. This whole procedure of reading something amazing (or not) and sharing it with people gave me a feeling that I can’t describe in words, though I’m sure lots of bloggers know what I’m talking about!

I’m also really glad with the 50,983 visitors and 72,998 views my blog got along the years. Who would’ve thought?

But it’s just that I’ve changed so much. I am now 23 and have grown into a different person. It’s hard for me to carry on something I’ve started five years ago, which is why I’ve opted not to renew my membership in September. I think my fonts and theme will disappear thereafter.

Lots of bloggers I started with are long gone, so I doubt many people are reading this, but I just felt I owe it to the blog.

WordPress, fellow bloggers, friends, it’s been a pleasure.