Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is one of the most anticipated and well loved book of the year 2020. I have had some great and a few not so good experiences with Backman’s books. Read my book review of Anxious People to know how it fared on my scale!

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About the book

Anxious people by Fredrik Backman Book review Cover

Book Name: Anxious People

Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: The bank robber, Roger and Anna Lea, Zara, Linnart, Estelle, Ro and Julia, Jim and Jack.

Setting: Sweden

Plot Summary

When things go spectacularly wrong, a bank robber tries to escape by entering into an apartment across the street. In a moment of panic, the robber ends up taking everyone there as hostages.

And the hostages being the apartment viewers scheduled in by the realtors. Unfortunately for the bank robber turned hostage-taker, the eight people in the apartment end up being the worst hostages ever.

They are anxious puddles themselves, they do not fear the gun nor the robber, they fight among themselves and they even order pizza for dinner. They even are worse at helping the police capture the bank robber.

Did they succeed in catching the robber? Did these anxious people hold themselves together until the end? Read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman to know more.

Book review

I have read Backman’s few other books and I can safely say Anxious People is very different from them. Anxious People is not a story of a person, it is about people and their quirkiness and their insecurities. It is about them looking out for a connection.

Anxious People is filled with well written and warm characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading the book. As the author correctly says, the book is full of “idiots” and yet you will adore them.

I loved how the author maintained the mystery/puzzle element throughout and the writing style helped it work. For some the writing style might seem slightly odd to get into but you will grow to love it, as I did.

What worked for me

  • Anxious People was dark and hilarious and at the same time, it pulls the right strings of your heart.
  • If you like Ove from A man called Ove, you are gonna love Estelle. In fact you will love all these characters.
  • I loved Backman’s outlook into the human nature and struggle to fit in and be loved.

What may have been better

  • The writing style is kinda odd. So if you find it hard to get into, give it a chance. You might end up loving it.

Content warning:

Suicide, Attempted suicide, Suicidal thoughts, Depression, Hostage crisis

Bottom line

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is an endearing and hilarious book that will surely make you laugh out and even tear up at places. Another fabulous book by Backman!Man called Ove, A by Fredrik Backman

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Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi: A Book review

I was excited to grab a copy of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi , as I heard it is an own voice book and that has received so much attention recently. To be honest, it was about how often does an Indian tale so well received by the “whites”, right? So let us get on to the review shall we?

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About the Henna Artist

Henna artist by Alka Joshi Cover

Book Name: The Henna Artist

Author: Alka Joshi

Genre: Fiction – Drama, History

Characters: Lakshmi, Radha, Malik, Kanta and Manu, Parvati and Samir, Dr Jay Kumar, Maharani Latika

Setting: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Plot summary of the Henna Artist

Radha, or the Bad Luck Girl, is an orphan, now that her mother is also dead and fearing for her life she sets out to find her estranged sister Lakshmi with the help of Lakshmi’s abusive husband Hari.

Lakshmi is a henna artist in the post independence Jaipur, serving the upper class women by painting on their body. She has already had her share of knock downs in her life, having escaped an abusive husband a decade ago, leaving her parents to face the shame and started her life from nothing.

All she is working so hard is to build a house for her parents and seek forgiveness from them. But when her husband Hari and her newfound sister Radha walk into her life instead of them, her whole plan goes for a toss.

Could there ever be a happy ending for the bad luck girl? Will the poor ones ever settle in happy life? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story in The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi.

Book review of the Henna Artist

The Henna Artist talks of the women of Jaipur, of different classes and their lifestyles. While the plot had much promise, it was quite predictable and very much like a fairytale.

The characters are pretty charming and interesting but were too superficial for me to have some emotional connection with them. Malik was adorable and a perfect sidekick, but Radha was too annoying.

What I would love to see was some character development for them, I didn’t understand how the naive, frightened Radha turned into a snobby, angry pest even if I count her “rebellious teenage” as a factor.

Ms Joshi’s writing style is engrossing and it almost took me to the 1950s Jaipur and its grandeur. It also gives a quick primer on the caste system and post colonial India, without talking about its ugliness.

Well, that was one of the main let downs for me. This book was entirely written for the white people who want to read about the “exotic India” and “spirituality”. I am astounded that someone could gloss over about a system that ostracizes someone for dyeing the hair of a person from the low caste, like it was nothing.

Moreover, the characters dotting over Jane Austen and Dickens sounded too unbelievable. My aunts who were young in 1950s and broadly educated but I am pretty sure they didn’t read English classics. Another attempt at appealing to the whites??

What worked for me

  • A strong female lead who is career focused and fights for her hard won independence and freedom. I liked other women characters like Kanta, Parvati and Lakshmi’s mother in law who had taught her about healing herbs who were also strong and distinct from the others.
  • The writing was engrossing and vivid, especially in the first part, with the colorful description of the city and their lifestyles.

What may have been better

  • The book seemed it was directed at people who are new to India and its culture, rather than Indians. I totally wish The Henna Artist was written for Indians, rather than making it a propaganda.
  • The plot is predictable and too much of fairy-tale vibe, which didn’t work for me given the mature themes it covered.
  • I wish the characters had individual arcs and they had been fleshed out better.

Bottom line

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi can be a good start for people who do not know anything about the Indian history and heritage with a predictable, fairy tale like ending. For people who know better, there are much better choices.

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Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

Normal People by Sally Rooney – A book review

Have you read a book that makes you an emotional fur ball and then climaxes with an open ending? Do you love or hate such a book? Let us talk about Normal People by Sally Rooney, shall we?

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About the book

Normal People By Sally Rooney Book cover

Book Name: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Marienne and Alan, and their mother Denise Sheridan , Connel and Lorrainne

Setting: Ireland

The plot

Normal People begins with Marianne and Connell as teenagers who are from different social backgrounds attending the same school. Connell’s mother works in Marianne’s mansion. Connell is kind of the popular jock at school while Marianne is ostracized and is rather invisible.

They begin a sexual relationship but later puts an end to it, because Connell doesn’t want his friends to know about it. When they enter University, their roles reverse. Now Marianne’s intelligence and wit wins her friends while Connell feels so out of it and gradually slips into depression.

Their on/off romance continues and they lean on each other time and again, whatever their romantic entanglements were then. Did they end up with each other forms the rest of Normal People by Sally Rooney.

My initial thoughts

As I was saying earlier, Normal People made an emotional wreck of me. I rarely get affected so much by a book that I had to stop take catch a few breathes while I am reading. This book did that to me.

The plot as such is not anything that we have not read earlier nor very intriguing. But it is the writing and characters that made me come back for more, repeatedly. The protagonists felt so real that made me reach out to an old time friend, just to ask if they were doing fine. We all were normal people, once.

Flawed characters that are deep and emotionally broken? Sign me up. Her penchant towards self destruction and his gradual slipping into depression hurt me viscerally.

The only issue I had was not being able to understand why Marienne’s family hated her so much or some kind of background about it. Every time she felt unworthy and mistook abuse as love based on her family, especially the men, my heart broke.

I loved the social commentary parts in the book as much as inner thoughts of the characters.

What worked for me

  • CHARACTERS. Such deep, flawed and real characters.
  • I love plot-less plots, if you get what I mean. Character and angst driven plots are the best and Rooney did a great job at that.
  • This might be a make or break thing, but for me, the open ending seemed like a perfect finish to Normal People.

What may have been better

  • I wanted to know more about Marienne’s family and their treatment towards her. How and why would they?
  • Some readers may have an issue with the style of Rooney’s writing. Trust me you will get used to it in a bit.

Bottom line

If you are interested to read a character driven plot that will affect you emotionally, Normal People should be your pick. Normal People by Sally Rooney deserves all the praise and accolades it has been getting. I am definitely reading more from Rooney in future.

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Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

Little Fires Everywhere – A book review

With the hype created by the new show, I had to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NG, even though practically everyone around me has read and reviewed it. And I was low-key expecting me another over-hyped chick flick and boy, was I wrong! Read my review of Little Fires Everywhere to know more.

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About the book

elgeewrites Little Fires Everywhere - A book review Little fires everywhere

Book Name: Little Fires Everywhere

Author: Celeste Ng

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Mia and Pearl Warren, Elena, Izzy, Moody, Lexie and Trip Richardson, Bebe, Linda and Mark McCullough

Setting: Shaker Heights, OhioThe USA

Plot Summary

Shaker heights is one of those perfect small towns, that is tight knit and followed every rule to the T. The residents of this meticulously planned community give great importance to the appearance and uniformity – they all paint their doors in particular colors, the lawns are perfectly manicured, the garbage cans are hidden behind the house etc. 

The Richardson family is a model family to this Utopia. Mr Richardson, a well to do lawyer, Mrs Elena Richardson, a reporter who writes ‘wholesome’ articles and their four children (two boys and two girls) paint a pretty picture. 

Their perfect lives go for a toss when a non conformist family – a single mother and her shy daughter enter their neighbourhood. Mrs Richardson takes in Mia Warren (an artist) and her daughter Pearl into her rented apartment to help them out – a gesture of benevolence. In a few months, the members of both the families get entwined with each other due to various reasons. 

Meanwhile, an old family friend of the Richardsons adopts a Chinese-American baby and a battle custody ensues. How do the Warrens and Richardsons get caught in the custody web? Do they come out of it as one single piece forms the rest of the story in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Book review

First of, WOW. I loved the book so much that I am writing the review of Little Fires Everywhere as soon as I finished reading it. This has not happened in a long time. Nor have I written such a big plot summary, in terms of word count in a while. So there is my verdict – WOW. Now let us dig in deeper shall we?

On the surface, Little Fires Everywhere is filled with stereotypes.  

A control freak suburban mom, a distant workaholic dad, non conformist artist, a popular jock, spoilt rich popular girl, moody and outcast teen, and a nerd – there is one of every single fictional cliche. But what I loved is how Ng has spun these cliched characters into deep, multi layered characters

A friend of mine asked whom I thought the baby should end up with, when I was reading the book. I didn’t have an answer then, or now, because that is how the world is. There is no complete black or white. Every character is flawed in Little Fires Everywhere and I loved them all the same. 

For my personally, the most interesting character was Mrs Richardson, or Elena. She is one of the most complex characters I have read in a long time now. She made me question my choices and I am sure everyone feels related to her at some point. 

If I had to nitpick, I am not sure if I like being told incessantly to root for a single character, Mia. Yes, she is ‘the empathetic and enlightened’ one. And I think she got off too easily when compared to her counterpart, given her history. 

Things that worked for me

  • Little Fires Everywhere deals with many intense themes like motherhood, identity, conformism and adoption.
  • I liked the plot and the moral questioning that it posed.
  • Deep, multi layered characters that stay with you long after you have finished reading are something to look forward to.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • I felt the scales tipped too easily when it came to Mia.

Bottom-line

Little Fires Everywhere is an exquisitely written family drama with a bit of suspense. Read the book before you watch the series. 

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Anxious people by Fredrik Backman – A book review

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – A book review

I am a self professed World War II fiction junkie. I scour through the internet for any WWII related anecdotes and historical facts. So when the whole world was reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris could I be left out? Actually I was, I read it real late. 

Anyway.. I caught up with the trend and I am posting my review even later than what I had planned. But I am here now, and shall we talk about The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

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About the Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz Cover

Book Name: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Lale Sokolov, Gita Sokolov, CIlka

Setting: Krompachy, Slovakia, Auschwitz, Poland

Plot Summary of the Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, holds a relatively privileged position at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist). He risks his life several times to scrap off jewelry and money of dead Jew prisoners and then exchange them to buy more food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

He feels an immediate connection with Gita, one of the prisoners he had to tattoo and the affection is quite mutual. Despite the circumstances, they sneak out and meet each other, at every opportunity they get. They vow to marry if they ever escape the camp, if at all. 

Did they get to keep their promise? Did they escape? The answers to these questions form the rest of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Book review of the Tattooist of Auschwitz

I couldn’t stop myself from mentally putting myself in Lale’s place while reading the book, from my comfortable couch, and then feel guilty about it. It must have been hard keeping up his spirits and humanity throughout the book and his real life, and I loved it

I particularly liked the fact that how he made friends with the people from other countries and races, despite whatever he has been “taught at home” about them, given how stubborn people were on those days. 

When I think of a tale of a real life survivor from a genocide, I wanted to cry, be shocked and be enraged. Sadly that is not what I felt. ⁠And I am sucker for emotional readers, and the plot was all that. But it didn’t work for me at all. For me it was just another romance, and worse, it romanticizes the whole harrowing experience at the concentration camp. 

And I definitely was not prepared for The Tattooist of Auschwitz being a romance-centric book. That one might be on me, I should have read the blurb/ synopsis better. 

Also, while reading the book, someone sent me an interview of how the author wasn’t true to the real tattooist of Auschwitz’s story (which she was borrowing) and they had a dispute. Well, that put me a little off. Poor guy! 

Things that worked for me

  • As I have clearly established, I love the WWII premise and historical fiction in general.
  • I loved that there was optimism and time for love even during those dire days. 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • I wished the storytelling was better and it actually made me feel something.
  • It was a romance book, predominantly and I expected more of the history part. 
  • It may be just me, but I felt the book was romanticizing the concentration camps, which is horrible if you think about it.

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Bottom-line

If you want to read a romance from WWII era, choose The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. But if you want to read about the war itself or what it does to ordinary people, there are better books to choose from.

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