Tag Archives: Novel

The Secret Life of Bees

It took me a long while to get started on this novel, even though I’ve had it in Kindly (the Kindle) for awhile, and part of the reason was because, well, I don’t like bees.

Despite knowing how important and integral they are to the ways of the world and life, I just can’t bring myself to love them as I would a cat or dog. Result of social conditioning.

But that aside, I truly Felt this novel. Good writing does that to you, I think. It makes you feel. Not just for the protagonist, but for all the characters. For the context (Summer 1964, South Carolina – Civil Rights upheavals), landmarks (the Pink House), even the “bad” guy (Lily’s father).

“There is nothing perfect,” August said from the doorway. “There is only life.”
“Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.”

Above all, this novel spoke of the universal affinity within us for that aspect of universal motherhood, the forms and qualities associated with it.

“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves.”
I think here, August, already like a surrogate mother to Lily, was speaking about the qualities of motherhood / femininity which we need to cultivate within us: Forgiveness, compassion, selflessness, the ability to love all beings as one’s own.

This book gave me lots to think (and cry) about.

Skios: A Novel

“Why does one do it?

Round and round the same treadmill one went. Another view like all the others over some unidentifiable part of the earth’s surface five miles beyond one’s grasp. Then another airport, another waiting car. Another eager assurance that everyone was so excited at the prospect’s of one’s visit. Another guest room with two towels and a bar of soap laid out on the bed.”


“Well, he would work it out for himself as he went along, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself. Sadly. Because for the moment he was a living metaphor of the human condition. He knew not where he came from nor whither he was bound, nor what manner of man he was, nor why he was here at all. He was being taken somewhere for some purpose, but of what that purpose was he remained in innocent ignorance.”


An engaging comic novel.

The Unconsoled

A hauntingly strange book, yet quietly attractive.
More than once, I felt that the narrative seems to be detailing a bad dream which the protagonist cannot wake up from. There is his uncanny ability to subtly read the minds of the people around him, and the multiple scenes in which he steps through familiar doorways only to find himself in unfamiliar spaces, and vice versa. Overall, the journey was disturbing and comforting at the same time, if such a combination is ever possible. Best experienced when surrounded by quiet and tranquility, with the slight rustling of trees, or the undertones of distant, unintrusive chatter.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

I can’t remember how long ago I’ve heard of this famed book, and for how long I’ve been wanting to read it. Unfortunately, I caught the movie before reading the book, so the experienced was a little marred.

I particularly appreciated how photography was used as a metaphor throughout. The idea of Juxtaposition – how light is made more beautiful by the presence of shadows, and vice versa – How the things we push away because we think they bring unhappiness, might be the very things that allow us to recognize inherent happiness.

“You missed a lot of heartache, David. But you also missed a lot of joy.”

The Dark Road

A dark and saddening novel on the social consequences of China’s population planning policies and human migration.

“When she met him at seventeen, she believed marriage was for ever, that the government protects and cares for the people, and that husbands protect and care for their wives. But as soon as she got married, these naive beliefs were shattered. She discovered that women don’t own their bodies: their wombs and genitals are battle zones over which their husband and the state fight for control – territories their husbands invade for sexual gratification and to produce male heirs, and which the state probes, monitors, guards and scrapes so as to assert its power and spread fear.”

The Invention of Wings

She said it again, “I’m tired.”
She wanted me to tell her it was all right, to get her spirit and go on, but I couldn’t say it. I told her, “Course you’re tired. You worked hard your whole life. That’s all you did was work.”
“Don’t you remember me for that. Don’t you remember I’m a slave and work hard. When you think of me, you say, she never belong to those people. She never belong to nobody but herself.”
She closed her eyes. “You remember that.”
“I will, mauma.”

A raw account of slavery and the struggle for abolition. I’ve always been interested in this era of history, and this amazing novel further sparked and quenched my curiosity at the same time. It also delves into other social issues, such as the emergence of women’s rights, and the tension between the different denominations of the church. From two different lenses – “Handful”, the house slave, and her owner, Sarah, the girl who would eventually grow up to become one of America’s first female abolitionists, a poignant and very real picture of the era is painted for the reader.

Is it any wonder that the book elicited tears from me – twice?

“There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old. She said, “Handful, your granny-mauma saw it for herself. She say they flew over trees and clouds. She say they flew like blackbirds. When we came here, we left that magic behind.”

A Fraction of the Whole


A novel on one’s personal philosophy on life and living.
A story which reminded me of the fact that while we spend much of our lives trying to learn how to live in the best, most meaningful and productive way possible, how many prepare to learn how to die? Is it something that can be learnt, to begin with? Why do we live as if death is separate from life, when we have set up an appointment with death from the moment of our birth?

At the end of the day, what kills us? Is it fate? Death itself? The fear of death which results in a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or the fear of that fear?

Even as we live, what defines us? If we are a fraction of what our parents are, then they must be a fraction of what their parents are/were too. A fraction not only of physical build and personality, but also places and circumstances. And ultimately, we must all be a faction of a greater whole. What is that? God – in his/her different forms? Above us? Inside us? Will we ever get to see this whole?

As you’ve probably guessed, this is not very light reading, although it started out simply enough. A story of rather draggy proportions at some points, it ended as very thought-provoking food for the brain. For interested readers, happy contemplating your existence!

A Pale View of the Hills


Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel is centered around his seemingly favourite theme – Japan and her role in the War.

As I read on, however, I found that the plot had some sinister undertones, and it was not until I read this review when these undertones were affirmed: http://thefrenchexit.blogspot.sg/2011/06/what-hell-is-up-with-pale-view-of-hills.html

Masterful plot and imagery, as usual, from one of the writers I am feeling increasingly close with.

Lone Wolf: A Novel


“There’s an honesty to the wolf world that is liberating. There’s no diplomacy, no decorum. You tell your enemy you hate him; you show your admiration by confessing the truth. That directness doesn’t work with humans, who are masters of subterfuge. Does this dress make me look fat? Do you really love me? Did you miss me? When a person asks this, she doesn’t want to know the real answer. She wants you to lie to her. After two years of living with wolves, I had forgotten how many lies it takes to build a relationship.”


In many ways, we can learn so much more from animals than they from us.

A Different Sky

You know that feeling of anticipation at the start of a long journey, especially one you’ve never taken before?

You savor every detail in the passing scenery. You hang on to every picture you can capture. You want the novel images to stay in your memory, never to be forgotten.

As the journey goes on, you start to sink back into your seat. You allow the transport to carry you. You begin to relax in the familiarity of the passing images, though the euphoria of journeying still stays.

And as the journey nears its end, you sit up, again, excited about what the destination holds. Once more, alertness takes over, as you try capture remaining the shards of the journey, as it occurs to you that it may not happen again. After all, everything only has a single first time.

Reading “A Different Sky” felt something like this. A long journey, detailed in emotions and imagery. Personal and insightful. Also something close to my heart, as the history of this place we live in came alive through characters easily identified with. All in all, one of the better historical novels I’ve read 🙂