It’s time for the first check-in for the 2020 Book Bingo reading challenge. Wondering what the challenge is? Check out this post where I lay out all the rules for the 2020 Book Bingo reading challenge, and then come back here and jump right in!
I had hoped that the lockdown would mean more reading time, but that didn’t happen. I spent a lot of time on art and deep diving on other areas of interest instead. I did read, though I didn’t manage to hit my goal of reading at least two books a month. Oh well!
As of this writing, I’ve read just 4 books this quarter, making it a total of 8 books read this year. So here’s a quick little review of the books I read this quarter, along with the bingo squares I checked off.
P.S.: These are also amazing summer reads – and as a pleasant surprise the books are set all over the world – Kabul, French wine country, India, and Paris!
About the woman: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
Kabul, 2009: Growing up in a family of with five daughters and no sons, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school and then, as they grow older, can rarely leave the house. Their mother struggles to support the family as their father becomes increasingly addicted to drugs. But one day their aunt, Khala Shaima, makes a suggestion: as a bacha posh, Rahima can dress and be treated as a boy-until she is of marriageable age. She will be able to attend school. It’s an old custom but one that most of society turns a blind eye to when girls are young. And then Khala Shaima begins to tell a story that transforms Rahima’s life: the story of her great great-grandmother, Shekiba.
Kabul, 1909: Shekiba, the daughter of a rural farming family, is disfigured in an accident as a child. When her parents and siblings die in a cholera epidemic, she has no one left to support her and is treated as little better than a slave in a relative’s home…until she is able to escape her life of drudgery by dressing as a man. Through a rare stroke of luck, she becomes one of the guards of the king’s harem in a lavish palace in the capital city and eventually manages to make a life for herself…one that ultimately includes a husband and children.
This is the entwined stories of two Afghan women separated by a century who find freedom in the tradition of bacha posh.
What can I say about this book? It’s a fascinating view into the life of women in Kabul; into that culture and society. The story of these two women, so many years apart and yet, in some ways similar, just reels you in. I found myself laughing and crying with Rahima and Shekiba; swept up into their stories; praying that things would work out for them.
There were days when I couldn’t bear to read any more, and days when I feverishly turned the pages, wanting to know how things turned out for them.
If you like reading about different societies and cultures, this one is a must read. Highly recommended!
A book by an author from your country: Mistress by Anita Nayar
Christopher, a young travel writer, arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala to meet Koman, a famous kathakali dancer. Immediately he is sucked into a world of masks and repressed emotions. Koman is instantly drawn to the enigmatic young man with his incessant questions about the past-but so is his niece Radha. Excluded from this triangle is Shyam, Radha’s husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her.
As the drama unfolds, the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made-and unmade-come alive in this searing novel of art and adultery.
This book presented a fascinating insight into the art of kathakali, with each chapter introducing us to one of the emotions and how it is understood and expressed in this dance form. The novel itself is narrated in the voices of the three main protagonists, presenting their stories and emotions from their unique vantage point in the overall story arc.
There are very few Indian novels and writers that I like. This novel is among them. This is the first book I’ve read by Anita Nayar, and I don’t think it will be the last.
For a fascinating insight into kathakali; to understand the mind of an artist who devotes his very life to his art; and an insight into the messy intricacies of married life in India, this book is highly recommended.
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A book about books: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.
The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, 21 years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.
This book is an absolute delight! A friend had recommended it to me a couple of years ago, and I finally got around to reading it. It’s one of those books that you want to savor slowly…and you wish that it didn’t have to end.
More than a book about books, it’s a book about life – about what it means to love and loose and live and laugh. Absolutely brilliant. Also highly recommended.
A book from last year’s TBR: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
I tore through this book in 2 days, in marathon reading sessions that lasted well into the early morning hours. The Vine Witch is the story of Elena Boureanu, the vine witch of the renowned vineyards at Château Renard. Her spells helped create their world-renowned wines, as she divined the right time to harvest and spoke the spells to keep rot, fungus, and mildew away from the vines.
But the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when Elena was blindsided by a curse that kept her away from the vineyards for seven long years. When she does manage to break the spell and return to Château Renard, though, she finds a vineyard covered in hexes and in the possession of a stranger from the city – one who favors science over superstition.
And from there, the story begins. To stay on and help the vines recover, Elena has to hide her true identity, as well as her plans for revenge. But it’s more than just the vines that are in trouble, and as Elena struggles to find the identity of the witch who cursed her, and reverse the hexes at the vineyard, she gets ever more entangled in the malicious magic that has gripped the village.
If you enjoy fantasy fiction, you will love this book. Highly recommended!
Your turn! Tell me how your reading goals are going. What were your favorite reads of the year? And don’t forget to share your blog posts or Instagram posts or even your (public) Goodreads shelves in the comments below!