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Delicious descriptions from Down Under: Jahnavi Barua on reading

February 23, 2012

In my recent review of Jahnavi Barua’s Rebirth I quoted the following line: “No, I will not buy a book today. I will try and live in my life instead”. I really wanted, though, to quote the entire preceding paragraph, but it didn’t really suit the direction of my review. And so, instead, I’m posting it today.

The protagonist, Kaberi, is in a bookshop (as you will have guessed):

I begin with the As and work my way down the bookshelves. I stop at C; I have not read Disgrace yet and would have liked to have browsed through it but somehow today my heart is not in it. Still, I wander down the aisle looking at the familiar names; I am compelled to stop at K, Kawabata. I caress the spine of the book as if stroking the hand of an old and beloved friend. I cannot forget the girl in his book, The sound of the mountain. Her relationship with her father-in-law haunts me; is it possible that there can be only friendship between a man and a woman unrelated by blood? I had been so deeply unsettled by the book when I first read it; your father had only laughed. He said I had lived so little in the real world that the fictional appeared so significant to me.

I love this paragraph for so many reasons. Let me count the ways! No, let’s not be quite so mechanical but I will say that I like it for personal and structural reasons. Personal because I’ve read and loved the two books she describes, and because I can relate to her need to caress a loved book and her being unsettled by a great book.  And structural because this paragraph contains several clues to character and even plot in the book … but I won’t give those away (beyond of course what you’ve already gleaned from this piece of text itself).

17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2012 10:34

    Kaberi has fabulous taste in books, that’s all I can say! Kawabata’s Palm of the Hand Stories remains one of my all-time favourites. Sheer brilliance.

    • February 23, 2012 10:56

      Yes, I thought so too, Stephanie … made me think I would like the book cos an author who knows and probably likes those authors is probably going to be an author for me!! I don’t know those stories, though, so will keep them in mind.

  2. February 23, 2012 12:39

    Personally, I think the real world is over-rated.

    • February 23, 2012 15:34

      Now, Guy, you would like one of my favourite quotes: Some say life’s the thing, but I prefer reading.

  3. February 23, 2012 17:51

    Lovely quote 🙂

    And guess which review will be popping up on my blog at 6 p.m. Eastern time…

  4. February 23, 2012 18:12

    I definitely have beloved books that I love to caress. Girl of the Limberlost, for one, both for the story itself and the memory of curling into my own mother as she read to me the story of another mother and daughter. xo

  5. February 24, 2012 02:24

    Oh that is a marvelous quote! Thanks for sharing it. That is one of the things I like most about blogging, if there is a quote in a book that doesn’t fit into the review you write up, you can make a whole post just about that quote 🙂

    • February 24, 2012 08:49

      Oh good Stefanie … I so wanted to include it in the review but it does deserve a post on its own I think so I’m glad you and others have responded so well to it. So much more fun being a blogger than a traditional reviewer eh!

  6. February 24, 2012 06:11

    The book is the life.

  7. February 24, 2012 06:34

    What a beautiful quote. And it is such fun to read how others relate to their books. I am a holder, a caresser; a starry-eyed lover who surreptitiously passes the book beneath my nose to catch the dusty perfume of the pages; a child-like optimist who believes in the possibilities fiction unearths. I fondle and dream and pat and sometimes feel half-mad with desire. Clearly, I am not alone.

    • February 24, 2012 08:52

      Well said, Karen Lee … one thing about being a reader is that we get so many kicks. Every book we open to start reading creates a sense of excitement, doesn’t it? What am I going to find in here, we think. What new worlds. What characters to love, hate, laugh at, commiserate with, talk to (even – Why did you do that? Oh no! And so on!)

  8. February 24, 2012 07:06

    I love the last line of your quote. Of course, that’s one of the main reasons we read… I feel. We can only live one life, but through reading, we can vicariously live multiple ones. I’d also appreciated its using The Sound of the Mountain’s characters. That’s a deep, wonderful book, my first one finished and reviewed this year. Can a male and female become friends, purely friends and nothing more, regardless of roles and borders? You see, this brings a movie into my mind: When Harry Met Sally. I guess, it’s going to be one age-old, perpetual and complex question. To explore deeper, I’m afraid we just might have to read more. 😉

  9. February 24, 2012 08:57

    Thanks for this Arti. It sure is an age-old question. My son and his housemate claim that they are each other’s best friends and it does seem to be that way. As for the book, it’s an intriguing question that bubbles quietly underneath and I love the subtlety of its mention here.

  10. February 25, 2012 21:21

    my favourite quote from the book is something along the lines of “money can’t buy happiness, but it can sweeten the ground upon which happiness is allowed to grow”. Something like that, anyway. I can’t find it right now. Somehow, to me, it gets to the core of what this beautiful book is about.

    • February 25, 2012 22:12

      Oh yes, Mark, that’s a good one … it’s p. 96 in Chapter 6. I noted it too … but you have a good memory. She says “soil” rather than “ground” but otherwise you have it pretty much right!

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