Book Review- August 2019

Sitting at home most of this month and being able to finish hardly two books, made me realize that the Delhi Metro provides me the best place to read. I love to either read paperbacks or e-books in the metro. At times, I also listen to audio books. Metro helps me clear books off my reading list.
So since my internship ended I just ended up spending most of my days at home, eating and sleeping. I did try to read but still it wasn’t as much as I end up reading while travelling in metro. So getting to the book reviews now. I finished only The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and read almost 60% of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood this month.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    I picked this up with great enthusiasm as I had heard my friends talking about the show based on this. And at just 344 pages, it seemed to be a light read. So I started this dystopian fiction which imagines a future somewhere after 1990s , based in a city of America, some sort of secret revolution almost overnight leads to a number of changes starting with assassinating the president and other ministers of the parliament. Then the bank accounts of women disappear, apparently they can’t own any property or work anywhere anymore. Some protests against all this do occur but the army is free to open fire at such dissenters. Slowly, certain classes are set up in the society and the position of women in all this is downright pitiable. Apparently, all this is done to regain the position of women in the society. We get all these vague details from the lead character of the story, a woman now known by the name Offred in the novel. Her memories offer us a glimpse into how everything was before it all suddenly changed.
    So after almost 40% of the story, I began losing interest in it because of a couple of reasons. All the conservative changes that occur in Offred’s world aren’t properly explained. It’s plain hard to imagine that a progressive society is turned upside down within days by a sect of conservative people. In our real world, conservative laws surely are made everyday, take Trump overturning quite a lot of progress made by the Obama administration for example, but still not every citizen gets brainwashed and accept all that shit. Progressive people do exist, raise their voices and keep hoping and working for a better future. In the story, the Handmaid comes across only a few of such dissenters who again live their life quietly forming a secret underground network. The acceptance of the conservatism by the majority population is what bugs me off.
    Furthermore, other things that make a novel a piece of art for me is beautiful dialogues, which again I was unable to find here. An emotional connect with the protagonist, which makes a book worth reading, again sadly didn’t exist for me. And so, I had to finally give up reading this book after almost 60%.

2) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Classics are classics for a reason. I was familiar with only the short story The Canterville Ghost by Wilde before reading this. And boy did I enjoy it! The first 50 or so pages of this story are filled with aesthetic dialogues, some of which I’ll add to this review. There are certain aspects of the story, that I admit I wasn’t fully able to grasp and I would perhaps need another reading. But I’ll gladly read it again for all those beautiful sentences. There are certain hints at the Cartesian mind-body dualism. The ‘mind’ is rather interchanged here with ‘soul’. The basic premise might be that the soul and body are pretty much connected, one can’t exist without the other. It’s the thoughts that one thinks that leads to one’s actions. And one’s actions are reflected back on one’s soul. The story makes you think and the dialogues leave you bewitched.
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
“Beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.”
“If one puts forward an idea to a true Englishman- he never dreams of considering whether the idea is right or wrong. The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one believes it oneself.” (Aren’t we all guilty of that.)
“There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral-immoral from the scientific point of view.”
“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”
“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
“Each of us has heaven and hell in him.”
“Each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it.”
“Strong passions must either bruise or bend. They either slay the man, or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on.”
“The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of faith, and the lesson of romance.”


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