Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Late For Tea At The Deer Palace, The Lost Dreams Of My Iraqi Family by Tamara Chalabi

Late For Tea At The Deer Palace is one of the most captivating books I have ever read. Rather than telling you what kind of a book it is, I 'll let you read part of the prologue Tamara Chalabi herself has written. 

"......It was 19 April 2003, ten days after the fall of Baghdad to the US led coalition forces, and the city, depleted and derelict,  was grappling with a new reality. The heat of the day was intolerable, and I could feel my very eyeballs become coated with perspiration, a strange and unwelcome sensation. This was my first ever visit to Baghdad,  My father's home, his parents' and grandparents' before him, and theoretically mine as well. I had arrived at the capital in a long car journey from the south in the company of my father, Ahmad Chalabi, a leading opposition figure to Saddam Hussein's fallen regime.

Everybody asks me about my father. He has been labelled a maverick, a charlatan, a genius. He has been named as the source of supposedly faulty intelligence that led America into the war in Iraq. He has been called a triple agent to the US, Iran and Israel. But this is my story. He has his own tale to tell, although I acknowledge that my father has played a pivotal role in shaping my relationship to his country, Iraq. As with everything with in the Middle East, nothing makes sense until you  you understand the past, and the past is never straightforward... .........."

This book painted a very vivid picture of Iraq in my head, an Iraq I never new, an Iraq with so long a history, so rich a culture, so diverse in ethnicity, and so aesthetic. I also learned how this great land of wonders was brought in to misery, hatred, and destruction by the worst curse that fallen upon the human race ever, power hungry politics. Anyone with an interest in history, particularly of the region that Iraq belongs to, will find this book very informative too. 
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Last Lecture

I finally read this wonderful book. You can't imagine how delighted I was when I saw a Sinhalese translation of   this masterpiece by Dr.Randy Pausch.

This book is written around the lecture held by Dr. Pausch, a great scholar of computer based virtual realities and an academic of Carnegie Mellon University, after being diagnosed with a  fatal cancer, his very last lecture so, as well as his life experiences.  

What Dr. Randy Pausch had tried to achieve in his final lecture and the book is to teach how to make one's childhood dreams come true, basically. I'm afraid doing justice to this book with a review is far beyond my  ability. So I'm not going to say much, only that this book has the power to transform you in to a new person,and better person at that.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Inventing George Washington Was A Painful Experience

N.B. I have based this review on an uncorrected proof copy of "Inventing George Washington" by Edward G Lengel, so the contents of the final print may be different in parts that are quoted here. 

Inventing George Washington by Edward G Lengel was a bad reading experience, I'm afraid.   I'll start what little I have to say about this book with this quotation from the preface of the book.

".....Although many excellent books about the founder and his era have been published in recent years, there are few-precious few-that do not include, usually inadvertently, some elements of mythology both vintage and modern.   Washington apocrypha has become so thoroughly entangled in history and folklore that it is often impossible to identify, let alone disprove.

     This book does not aspire to peel away these layers of myth and restore the "authentic" Washington to our view. Instead, it looks at Washington myths, and mythmakers, and traces the mean by which they have defined and redefined the Founder from the beginning of the nineteenth  century up to present day. ..."

Well, the book more or less does what its author says it does, but why does it have to do just that? I mean, we read about a significant person to learn from, be inspired by, and be motivated by that person as well as to enjoy that person's life as a story. But Inventing  George Washington offered me none of that. But any way, don't be biased by my review, read it and come to your own conclusion, and better yet, tell me about how you felt about the book.         
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving

N.B. This review has been based of an uncorrected proof copy of the title the and content of the final publication may differ from the way mentioned in this article.

Being a person who love animals, and dogs above all, I found great pleasure in reading through Jeffrey Moussaieff   Mason's The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving, a scholarly composition putting the man-dog relationship in  a new light, a good proportion of it based on the authors observation of his own very special dog Benji.   

I've selected a small part of the author's introduction of the book which pretty well states the main hypotheses he tries to bring forward, and I'll quote it below.

"..........It struck me as extraordinary, and highly suggestive, that at the very moment when human were domesticating wolves into dogs, humans themselves were still in the throes of domestication, shedding their biological skins and being transformed by the the culture they were building around them. This raised the striking possibility that it was partly through our association with dogs that we went from primitive humans to Homo sapiens..........."

Why do you think  Jeffrey Moussaieff  has used his dog  Benji as a case study for this book? Obviously Benji was unique, but how so? Let's here it in his own words.
"....... there is one area where Benji excels: he can not stop loving. He loves all dogs, all humans, all cats, all rats, and all birds.He loves them all equally and  intensely. He has yet to meet a species he is not fond of. He is not extraordinary: he is a lab, after all. ................He has never been in a fight with another dog, although my three cats some times slap him in the face for the sheer pleasure of it, and he always looks completely mystified. He is a big(80lb),strong dog with huge teeth and an awesome jaw, but I have never seen him loose his temper, get angry or even testy......"

But don't get the impression that this book is all about this one particular dog. The author has included  a lot of information about other dogs, many theories and beliefs of other scholars, dog owners and dog trainers about dogs, related to them, and argued against them in his attempt to make his point.

I find the authors idea of dogs having played, or even still playing,  a significant role in humans having become who they are or becoming who they would be quite plausible, for he has pointed out some undeniable facts to support that, some of those facts about the how the relationship between man and dog differs greatly from  that of man and any other domesticated animal, some ting that we, well, I, have always taken for granted.  

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Friday, December 17, 2010

The Book Of Tomorrow

N.B.  This review is based on an uncorrected proof of the title, so some of the quotations and information might be different from those of the final print.

Ireland’s former prime minister’s daughter Cecelia Ahern proved herself to me that she’s a brilliant story teller with her   novel The Book Of Tomorrow ,  the first ever book of hers that I’ve read.  It was so gripping with a good plot that holds a mystery that reveals itself only near the end, really likable language style, and some philosophical views of life and love.
The story is presented is of being told by Tamara Goodwin, a spoiled teenage girl who’s father is a very rich developer.   She is a very self centered girl, having being brought up without a care in the world. But her world is shattered in to pieces when her father, after getting deep in to debt, takes his own life.  Stripped off from their fancy home and all the riches, Tamara and her mother are forced to live with Tamara’s uncle and aunt in remote and isolated place.  As they get on with this new life Tamara is very concerned about her mother continuing to appear so dazed and indifferent, and her aunt refusing to show her to a doctor, and even more weirdly, trying to hide something.   Things develop in to a whole new level when Tamara comes across a diary that automatically shows entries for tomorrow when she look s in it to it, in her own hand writing! With the help of the diary Tamara tries to predict and manipulate her tomorrows to help her mother out of her daze and find out the secret her aunt is holding.
I’ll quote the very first two and part of three paragraphs of the book so that you can get a feel of how beautifully Cecelia has woven this story.
“….. They say a story loses something with each telling. If that is the case, this story has lost nothing, for it’s the first time it’s being told.  
This story is one for which some people will have to suspend their disbelief.  And, if it didn’t happen to me, I would be one of those people.
Many won’t struggle to believe it though, for their minds have been opened; unlocked by whatever kind of key causes people to believe.   They’re either born that way or, as babies, their little bud like minds are nurtured until their petals slowly open and prepare for the very nature of life to feed them……”
See the symbols she uses to get her point across?
The plot is so gripping in the sense it slowly, very slowly, builds up tension, untwisting a tiny bit at a time yet presenting another twist, creating such intense anticipation of something sinister to happen, a quality I saw in the movie Coraline too. [I didn’t get to read the book.]  It was a little too rushed near the end though, and when the big secret is finally revealed, it is rather unconvincing. Had the secret being a plausible one in a real life situation, this book would have been even better. What I like most about The Book Of Tomorrow is that it makes the reader think about life, love, caring while being one of the best suspense, thriller, fantasy novels ever.   I can’t wait to get my hands on Cecelia Ahern’s other books!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Unbelievable Yet True Story

 I read a good book after a long time . Once I got my hands on  a Sinhalese translation of Alive by  Piers Paul Read, I got through it without stopping.  

Alive is a remarkable novel telling the true story of a group of people who got lost among the frozen Andes mountains after the plane carrying them from Uruguay to Chili crashed, and how some of them beat the odds of the harsh conditions of Andean peaks and survived.  

How the survivors really managed to find their way to a Chilean  village from the peaks of the Andes range proves that our mind is the greatest force of all.As you read through this book, you will definitely stop to think why most of us often make such a big fuss about the so-called "creature comforts". This story is also  a very good example to show that the unity of people can get them through the worst disaster imaginable.

So give this book a try, will you?
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Good To A Fault By Marina Endicott, How Do Selfishness And Sacrifice Relate To Each Other?

Good To A Fault, a novel written by Marina Endicott ,was a book I found  very enjoyable and inspirational. Although it has a plot that evolves around a woman's decision that is hardly likely to take place in the real world, the author presents it with such a fine manner which makes it really convincing.
Here is a peek in to the plot. Clara Purdy is fourty- three, and works as an insurance claim adjuster. Divorced and living in her deseased parent's house, she feels a certain hollowness in her life.
Then something happens to change her quite and uneventful  life. On her way to the bank during the lunch break in her car one day , Clara hits another car with a whole family in it. None of the family, the Gages, is hurt by the accident itself. But the mother of the family is diagnosed with cancer when they are all taken to a hospital for examination.

With their car damaged, the hospitalised, the Gage family is quite at a loss. Then Clara makes a decision that's to make both her's and the Gage's lives very different from what they used to be. She decides to ask the distressed Gage family to live in her house and take care of them till things come to a settlement.
So Clara' and the Gage's start off with close company, their lives full of exhaustion ,  energy, self -concern, sacrifice, and love. You would think the plot takes a dramatic twist from this point on, but it doesn't, but rather flows on with a very realistic manner. That's the beauti of this book. The not-so-dramatic flow of events makes this book more convincing  and thought provoking .
One other thing that I really liked about this book is how brilliantly  the author expresses how the child charactors of the this story think and feel. Marina Endicott really has a gift of presenting  a child's perspective  of the world around him or her.
In essence this novel conveys  the message that one finds  hapiness and contempt  by helping others, by sacrificing, and when one is helping others, one is actually helping oneself , selfishness  and compassion  are really the two sides of the same coin.That's my reading of Marina Endicott's Good To A Fault.
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