Friday, 26 January 2018

Mini Reviews #4

I am back with more mini reivews for my required reading, this time with some Contemporary Literature. Half of them were DNFs which was a shame, especially since I'd promised myself to read more of my texts this semester. But they were also the two biggest texts I had to read this semester, so I am hopeful that I will be able to read all the other books. Midnight's Children was interesting but rambling and going nowhere, and even with the audiobook Brick Lane couldn't engage me at all. The Buddha of Suburbia had some good ideas but didn't really work for me. Which leaves Interpreter of Maladies, which I actually loved! I only gave it 3 stars because that was I rated the majority of the short stories as. But there were also some stunning 4 and 5 star stories in that collection that took my breath away.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie - DNF at 35%
I haven't read any magical realism before, so the concept of this book really intrigued me. In many ways I felt like there were a lot of similarities with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides in the way that the narrator starts with their birth, then messes with chronology by going back to the life of their grandparents and starting the story from there. I really like the way in which both books play with the concept of time, but I liked the way Eugenides did it a little better. Also the narration of Midnight's Children was all over the place. I know the effect of fluid thoughts was intentional, but it really irritated me, and the writing style didn't pull me in or make me interested in where it was going in the way that Middlesex did.
Diversity note: Indian protagonist
Warnings: death, suicide

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri - ★★★☆☆
These short stories are deeply tragic and moving, but not in the traditional sense. Lahiri's stories are filled with a kind of pain that doesn't make you cry, but makes your heart ache. They are heavily focused on people and the relationship between India and America - how people live with both identities and how people of different cultures interact with one another. Most of the stories were only 3 stars to me, but my favourites ('A Temporary Matter' and 'When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine') were 5 stars and some of the best short stories I've ever read. Interpreter of Maladies was beautifully written and left me thinking about it for a while.
Diversity note: Indian and Indian-American protagonists
Warnings: death, stillbirth, rape

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureshi - ★★☆☆☆
I didn't particularly have high expectations for The Buddha of Suburbia, but then again I tend to avoid any form of expectation when it comes to required reading. The promise of a coming of age story interested me, but it didn't feel as though the narrative was going anywhere. It was aimless and seemed to document Karim's sex life more than anything else, but not in any way that developed the story. Had the sexual scenes been subtracted from the novel it would have maybe been 100 pages long. Even then I don't think the story would have held up on its own because in that time it doesn't really say anything clearly. The best parts of the book where with regards to living up to British stereotypes of what being Indian is. Karim's father acts as a Buddha-like figure in order to get attention, and although Karim judges him for this false representation of their culture, later he himself lives up to stereotypes in order to get roles, including using an exaggerated accent and performing in brownface. It isn't pleasant, but it acknowledges how western society fetishises those of different cultures, leading these people to live up to these stereotypes. Still, this theme was barely present and I think they could have been addressed more clearly. There was a lot material in the book that had potential, but unfortunately it didn't come together to create an enjoyable read.
Diversity note: Biracial (Indian-English) bisexual protagonist
Warnings: racism, racist slurs, homophobia, homophobia slurs, rape, brownface

Brick Lane by Monica Ali - DNF @ 20%
I decided I was going to listen to the audiobook of Brick Lane in hopes that I could get through it more quickly, which was definitely the right choice. It is a big book and the thought of reading it was a little daunting. Unfortunately the story itself could not hold my attention. The narrator of the audiobook was great, but I was absorbing absolutely nothing about what was happening. I tried to focus but I couldn't bring myself to care about the characters or what was happening to them, which wasn't much. I believe I can find more effective ways to use my time.
Diversity note: Bangladeshi protagonist

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?


  1. Ah, I haven't read any of these but I don't think I will be! I'm so sorry you couldn't enjoy reading any of these at all :/ It sounds like they just weren't books which tickled your fancy... I hope you'll enjoy your next reads more.

    1. Yeah, that tends to happen with required reading. I wouldn't recommend any of these other than Interpreter of Maladies which had some excellent stories in there. But it's okay! I get the feeling the other books on my class required reading list will be a lot better. Thank you <3