Well-researched and beautifully written, Nefertiti is a compulsively readable first novel from Michele Moran, who gives gives readers a beautiful glimpse into the life and customs of ancient Egypt. Tracing the rise and fall of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti, the story is told from the point of view of Lady Mutnodjmet (Muty), Nefertiti’s younger sister.
Married to Akhenaten, the unstable and suspicious 17-year old co-regent of Egypt, who is determined to break with tradition by replacing supreme deity Amun with a little known sun god Aten, Neferiti was chosen by Queen Tiye to balance and moderate his heretical views. Desperate to carve her name in history, however, Nefertiti soon throws caution to the wind and supports and encourages all of Akhenaten’s follies.
Knowing he cannot do much until his father, the Elder, is still Pharoah, Akhenaten decides to move to the desert city of Amarna, where he establishes his capital. However, since he is arrogant and unsuitable to rule over Egypt, Nefertiti’s father Vizier Ay becomes the real power behind the throne, working hard to reverse the damage caused by Akhenaten and ensuring he gains the upper hand over Vizier Panahesi, the father of Akehnaten’s first wife, Kiya.
That sets the premise for palace politics, court events and power struggles. The characters are well developed and engaging, and Michelle Moran manages to pull you into their lives from the first page itself.
Richly detailed, the novel brings alive the sights, sounds, colors and texture of life in ancient Egypt.
Her wig came below her shoulders and behind her ears, emphasizing her cheekbones and slender neck. Every strand of her hair played music when the beads came together, and I thought there wasn’t a man in any kingdom that could refuse her. Her entire body glittered with gold, even her toes.
And if you’re like me and wonder how much of the novel is based on truth, these words from the Author’s note at the end of the book should be encouraging:
While the main historical events are accurate, such as Ay’s rise to power, Akhenaten’s obsession with Aten, the dream of Amarna, and Nefertiti’s unparalleled influence at court, liberties were taken with personalities, names and minor historical events. For instance, no one can be certain how Mutnodjmet felt about her sister’s vision of an Egypt without the Amun Priests, but in an image of her found in Amarna she is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically embracing Aten. In a period where art attempted to portray reality for the first time, I found this significant.
All told, this is a beautiful book that will transport you to the life and times of the epitome of beauty – Nefertiti. A must read.
If you like historical fiction, be sure to check out The Raven Spell’s review of The Courtesan by Susan Carroll. It looks like a very interesting read – definitely on my to-read list!
Set in Nigeria, the novel traces the story of Kambili and Jaja, children of a rich, fanatical and oppressive Catholic patriarch Eugene Achike, presenting a moving picture of the effect of domestic violence on children; of religious fanaticism; of the political unrest in Nigeria and the privations and trials faced by Nigerians.
Eugene is a self-made Big Man. Brought up by Christian missionaries, he is a deeply religious, fanatical Catholic, who “punishes” his family for the slightest trespass against God, for not meeting his exacting standards or for disobeying him in any way. So deep is his fanaticism that he even ignores his own father, who is a “heathen,” and tells his children to “not eat in that heathen’s house.”
It isn’t until a military coup in Nigeria forces the children to live with their Aunt Ifeoma, where the laugher and conversations flow feely, that Kambili and Jaja begin to acknowledge the silence, oppression and violence that has marred their life so far. While Jaja is quick to adapt and acknowledge the past, it takes Kambili more time to get the “bubbles in her throat” to part and allow the words to flow out. It is at her aunt’s house that she meets her grandfather for an extended period, and learns that he is not a “heathen” but a “traditionalist,” described through a beautiful passage describing his daily morning prayer to the ancestors.
At her aunt’s house in Nuskka, she meets Father Amadi, a local priest who, unlike the priest back home Father Benedict, is a more easy-going and friendly, who sees nothing wrong in breaking into Igbo songs in the middle of rosary, and who takes an easier and more relaxed view of religion. This is her first taste of kindness from a grown man, and she transfers all her repressed love onto him.
The idyll of an escape from the oppressive atmosphere in Enugu is shattered when her aunt decides to leave for America and Father Amadi is transferred to Germany…
This novel is a beautiful coming of age story of 15-year old Kambili, a commentary on the political situation in Nigeria and a treatise on religious oppression.
I particularly enjoyed it because it gave me a peek into a new culture; exposed me to words that I had never heard before, such as umu m (my children), ke kwanu (how are you/how was your day?), nwunye m )mt wife); and introduced new smells, like that of frying plantains and bleaching palm oil. Though Adichie isn’t the first African author I’ve read, hers is the first book I’ve truly enjoyed. It most certainly is a must-read.
I find it hard to sleep without reading these days. It’s probably got something to do with the amount of time I spend staring at my computer. My eyes rebel against the brightness and glare of the screen, demand some rest on good, old-fashioned paper.
I was re-reading May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude. It’s funny how some parts of that book that did not seem relevant to my life the last time I read it have suddenly become relevant now. That’s the beauty of a well-written, meaningful book.
One passage that caught my eye and lingered in my head is from one of her first few journal entries:
I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting and tormented self.
That is an eloquent expression of how things stand with me these days. I’m frazzled, irritated, agitated, and desperately need some space.
On the last day of April, the month in which I have my birthday, instead of doing some soul searching, I thought it would be more fun to do some “product searching.” Do I hear you ask what that is? It’s just me taking stock of where I spent my hard earned rupees this month! Wanna know what I went crazy buying? Like the title of this post didn’t give it away! BOOKS!!
I bought myself a total of 6 books this month! I’ve never bought more than 2 or 3 from the bookstore, unless I was picking them up on deep discounts, and then I’ve picked up like up to 12 books in one shot! But…we’re not getting into my crazy book-buying habits right now, okay? So, here’s the list of books, and a brief synopis of each!
The first two were thanks to my co-workers, who gifted me a Rs. 1,000 gift voucher to knock myself silly in Landmark! I picked up
The God of Spring by Arabella Edge
When the French painter Théodore Géricault died in 1824 at the age of thirty-three, he was mourned as one of the most promising artists of his generation. He was also one of the most controversial, endowed with a character marked by Byronic paradoxes. It was the stinging aftermath of an illicit affair with his beautiful young aunt that propelled Géricault into the artistic obsession that would yield his masterwork, The Raft of the Medusa. The God of Spring opens in Paris in 1818, as the upheavals of the French Revolution, the Empire, and the Restoration come to fruition in the aftermath of a naval disaster caused by criminal negligence and tinged with political scandal. Mesmerized by the tales of betrayal, madness, murder, and cannibalism aboard the life raft of the scuttled French frigate Medusa, Géricault takes as his muses two of its survivors. His canvas pits man against nature, its dominant image a doomed sailor futilely raising his hand toward the clouds and salvation.
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt.
From the moment Louisa first catches sight of the strange man who occupies a forbidden room on the thirty-third floor, she is determined to befriend him.Unbeknownst to Louisa, he is Nikola Tesla—inventor of AC electricity and wireless communication—and he is living out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker.Winning his attention through a shared love of pigeons, she eventually uncovers the story of Tesla’s life as a Serbian immigrant and a visionary genius: as a boy he built engines powered by June bugs, as a man he dreamed of pulling electricity from the sky.The mystery deepens when Louisa reunites with an enigmatic former classmate and faces the loss of her father as he attempts to travel to the past to meet up with his beloved late wife. Before the week is out, Louisa must come to terms with her own understanding of love, death, and the power of invention.
The other four books were picked up last week, when I was depressed and needed some retail therepy!
Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
How do you cope in a world without your mother? When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they’ll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?
Take Lisa, in her midthirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twentysomething Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family; and then there’s Hannah, a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood about to be parted from the mother she adores. But by drawing on the wisdom in Barbara’s letters, the girls might just find a way to cope with their loss. And in coming to terms with their bereavement, can they also set themselves free to enjoy their lives with all the passion and love each deserves?
The Empire of the Indus From Tibet to Pakistan – The Story of a River by Alice Albinia
One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. For millennia it has been worshipped as a God; for centuries used as a tool of imperial expansion; today it is the cement of Pakistans fractious union. Five thousand years ago, a string of sophisticated cities grew and traded on its banks. In the ruins of these elaborate metropolises, Sanskrit-speaking nomads explored the river, extolling its virtues in Indias most ancient text, the Rig-Veda. During the past two thousand years a series of invaders Alexander the Great, Afghan Sultans, the British Raj made conquering the Indus valley their quixotic mission. For the people of the river, meanwhile, the Indus valley became a nodal point on the Silk Road, a centre of Sufi pilgrimage and the birthplace of Sikhism. Empires of the Indus follows the river upstream and back in time, taking the reader on a voyage through two thousand miles of geography and more than five millennia of history redolent with contemporary importance.
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
More amazing than any work of fiction, yet true in every word, it swept to the top of the bestseller lists and riveted the consciousness of the world. It’s the story of a survivor of terrifying childhood abuse, victim of sudden and mystifying blackouts, and the first case of multiple personality ever to be psychoanalyzed. You’re about to meet Sybil-and the sixteen selves to whom she played host, both women and men, each with a different personality, speech pattern, and even personal appearance. You’ll experience the strangeness and fascination of one woman’s rare affliction-and travel with her on her long, ultimately triumphant journey back to wholeness.
The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho
A profound meditation on personal power and innocent dreams that are manipulated or undone by success, The Winner Stands Alone is set in the exciting worlds of fashion and cinema. Taking place over the course of twenty-four hours during the Cannes Film Festival, it is the story of Igor, a successful, driven Russian entrepreneur who will go to the darkest lengths to reclaim a lost love—his ex-wife, Ewa. Believing that his life with Ewa was divinely ordained, Igor once told her that he would destroy whole worlds to get her back. The conflict between an individual evil force and society emerges, and as the novel unfolds, morality is derailed.
Apart from books, I got myself a really cool pair of gladiators. I’ve been on the lookout for a decent pair since a while now, and finally found a really neat pair at my favorite shoe shop — D&A! Don’t have a picture to post yet, but when I do, I’ll be sure to add it here!
And I almost bought Bulgari’s Jasmine Noire. It’s EXPENSIVE, and I totally love the smell! It lasts really long too, but it wears very close to the skin once the top notes fade. I had to press my nose to my skin until I could smell it! Awesome smell? Yes! Worth the money? Nah!
Slumdog Millionaire has raised the hackles of a vast section of the Indian society, with a large section of population up in arms at the portrayal of Indian slums in the movie, slamming director Danny Boyle’s realistic cinema saying “this isn’t a representation of true India.”
Well then, what is? It certainly is NOT Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss. Nor is it Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger. Both of these writers have written about India for Western audiences. Desai paints first-time Indian visitors to foreign shores as poor desis who cannot wrap their heads around the biting London cold, nor use a western loo, nor adapt to their food. Her portrayal of middle class residents in India isn’t flattering either. In her world, Indians who enjoy English classical music, read English books, and enjoy continental food; whose interaction with the “slumdogs” is limited to their daily chats with their maids and watchman, are mere wannabes, who only want to ape the goras and live in a world totally detached from the realities of their poorer brethren.
Slumdog Millionaire, however, has none of those pretentions. All Indians are not portrayed as mere wannabes or totally devoid of adjustment skills. Instead, Boyle focuses on the journey of two slum children who lose their mother in the Hindu-Muslim riots that gripped Bombay. The movie then follows their trials and triumphs, as they move from one odd job to the next, escape a scheming “orphanage” owner who picks up street kids and forces them to beg, to selling odds and ends on trains, and finally landing up in Agra, where, through their fast-thinking and innocent looks, they manage to make enough money to live a comfortable life. Until, of course, they return to Bombay, where their paths diverge. One brother joins an underworld don; the other becomes an office boy at a BPO company, and through sheer luck, participates in a TV reality show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His life, which we see in flashback through the movie, helps him answer all the questions on the show, and he walks away with a cool million bucks to his name.
In essence, it is a simple story of grit, determination and sheer luck — inspirational, actually. But the reason for it cooking up a hornet’s nest is because of Boyle’s authentic portrayal of slum life — the underbelly of India. It is this that is making us cringe.
True, there have been other Bollywood movies that have shown protagonists rising from the slum to become famous or notorious, depending on the movie —be it Satya, or Rangeela — but we didn’t protest against these movies because they didn’t become an international phenomenon. Nor did they show slums like Boyle did. Their slums were always glossed over; more fantasy than reality. And reality sure bites!
Yes, there is more to India than the Dharavi slums portrayed in Boyle’s movie. But then, Boyle did not portray Slumdog as the “definitive Indian movie.” He chose to tell an inspiring story, and he chose to make realistic cinema. And since that realistic cinema involved a rather unpleasant look at the slums, we just couldn’t digest it.
We could digest Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, though. His book was hailed as the best book on Bombay. And what did his book focus on? The Dharavi slums — on Hindus who burnt Muslims during the riots and the tales of both Hindus and Muslims; of how the riot changed the landscape of Dharavi, leading to a palpable divide between Hindus and Muslims; and on the life of Bombay bar girls. His visits to the slums were interspersed with visits to Hindi movie director Vidu Vinod Chopra’s house, during the time he was preparing for the shooting of Mission Kashmir. A slim section at the end was a commentary on the rich and famous giving up their riches to take sanyas. If his novel were a movie, it would be far, far more graphic than Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
But, there lies the irony. Mehta’s book was hailed as an exceptional piece of writing, maybe because the Pulitzer Prize and Kiriyama Prize are not as hyped, well-known and universally loved as the Oscars and Bafta in India. Boyle’s movie, though, has become a runaway hit, and what’s more, it’s sweeping of all the awards ceremonies. What this section of Indians cannot stand is the fact that the rest of the world is looking at India’s underbelly, and applauding a foreigner — a Britisher no less —- for portraying the abject poverty in which a vast majority of Indians still live, instead of catering to the middle class Indian’s concept of “India shining.”
The Secret has become a “new age” phenomenon, and as all things that get extremely popular, has also drawn a lot of criticism, chief being that the book is all a sham and that things don’t work the way Rhonda Byrne claims they do.
I received the following forward from a friend, asking me my views on what was said in an article titled Beware what you wish for (pasted below).
Have you heard about “The Secret?” It’s a new DVD which has become a phenomenon of what is called “viral marketing,” i.e., being passed along from friend-to-friend. It’s been on the news, it’s been on Oprah, it’s become a thing of the tinsel-town elite. What is the “The Secret?” It’s a technique which the “spiritual personalities” on the video guarantee will bring you wealth, friends, happiness, power and practically anything you desire. Obviously, it’s caught on. Especially with the unwary. Particularly with those who want something they haven’t earned.
The Secret is actually old wine in a new bottle. You have known it previously as the “Power of Positive Thinking,” “Think and grow Rich,” Nichiren shoshu chants, the song “Wishing will make it so” and even Haitian Voodoo practices. In simple language it tells you that you can have anything you want if you think about it constantly while visualizing what it is you want in your thoughts. Well, sorry, Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill got there first–-not to mention the black priesthood from Alantean times.
Does The Secret work? Yes, it does. And that’s just the problem. It’s why we have this delicious little saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.” Remember that. It’s true. Think on it.
There is a reason that Jesus said, “Your needs are known” and that great spiritual leaders have all said that we should be desire-less. There is a reason that people say, “The Universe will provide.” You should be aware that the “spiritual personalities” and the “New Age Churches” touting this so-called “secret” know nothing of real spiritual laws and are all out for the buck.
When you wish, desire, chant for, focus your thought on and visualize that which you think you desire, you make a karmic demand on the Spiritual Ether. Your demand disturbs the Ether just like a boat plowing through the sea and if you get what you desire (the question is always “when”) it will definitely have a price. It will exact something from you that you cherish or else you will soon lose it and much more. This is that part of The Law they don’t tell you about because they don’t know or understand it.
There is a story of the woman who wished for a white Cadillac in her garage. Her husband lost his job and they had to move and the people who moved in had a white Cadillac. Another story is that of the New York society matron who wished for a mink coat. She got it and her husband was immediately transferred to Egypt. Need I say more?
Oh yeah, they say this is white magic and you can use it to wish for peace and for healing and all that. Doesn’t matter. There is a principle involved here. It’s called the “Rebound Blow.” Just as a rifle kicks back when it’s fired and a balloon goes forward when air escapes from the other end, the rebound blow comes into play when you send out a forced desire for something.
The way this aspect of The Law is best explained is in that phrase from the Teachings of the Temple by Master Hilarion. He says, “Each step of good opens up a like return force of evil.” This is the rebound blow. Send out positive and you can expect negative in return. When you disturb the ether with the force of your desire that magnetism of that energy will circle around and hit you from behind with its reverse force. This means that if you have made a step upwards toward the good, the rebound blow will try to knock you back down again. And it will if you have not prepared for it.
CAVEAT: YOU CANNOT HAVE AND KEEP ANYTHING YOU HAVE NOT EARNED!
Say you want to stop smoking. The energy put into quitting will circle around and hit you at a later date with a reverse force that will make you want a cigarette badly. If you’ve ever smoked and tried to quit, you know this is the truth! That force will be equal to the force you set in motion. If you give in, you’ve lost. If you can summon a greater force and not give in, then each time that force circles around, its energy will be less and less, decreasing until it’s gone and you are free of the bondage.
If you focus on something that disturbs the Ether, you will surely get the rebound blow. That’s Karma. There is a way to wish for something and protect yourself at the same time, however. Go ahead, wish for anything you want, but at the end of the wish, just add, “Only if it is my Karma to have this.” Now you’re off the hook. But then, why go through the process in the first place!
Know that the more visualization and psychic force you put into a selfish desire, the greater will be the rebound blow. Here’s the kicker. If you receive that which you so greatly desire, something of equal value will be taken from you. Your stocks may decrease in value; you may develop a sickness; you may lose your job. Whatever force you put into your desire, Karma will seek recompense. That is The Law. The whole object is to develop a pure heart and use it to perform unselfish acts. Then Karma will bring you what you need. But you have to TRUST that!
Do yourself a favor. Desire wisdom. It’s the only thing you can take with you when you leave. Remember the Law of Karma: you cannot keep anything you haven’t earned.
Here’s what I think:
This is an interesting article, but a lot of the reasoning is flawed.
The Secret basically explains the Law of Manifestation, which I had read about extensively, long before this book became such a big phenomenon. First, the reason for the book becoming a phenomenon (in my view) is that it breaks the law down and makes it easy to understand (it also over-simplifies the “law”), and gives people a step-by-step on how to use the law. The author got the basis for this book from The Science of Getting Rich, which was written in the 1800s, I think. So, this is a very old, universal law.
Why I say The Secret over-simplifies the law is because I really don’t think you can think yourself into being thin, for example, something that has been mentioned in the book! But if you think about it, your thoughts do have an impact on your environment and surroundings. When you look at a situation negatively, it can overwhelm you; but if you detach yourself a bit and look at it from the perspective of learning something from it, the situation isn’t as overwhelming anymore. Which is part of the reason why we can look back at certain events and laugh over them in hindsight.
Having said that, here’s what I think about the basic premise of this article: “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.”
Well, what would be so bad about getting “it”? It could just be that when you get “it”, you realize fully that there is a trade-off involved. BUT, the trade-off does not come from the “answer to your wish,” it comes from the choice that you made when you “wished” for that something. For example, if you wish for a Hummer and you get it, you then fully realize the cost of maintaining and running it! But, it was your choice, and you have to deal with the consequences of your choice.
As for sending out a “demand from the Spiritual Ether” that will apparently have “an equal and opposite effect,” don’t you think that’s a bit too doomsdayish? I mean please! The woman who wished for a mink coat, only to get it and then have her husband get transferred to Egypt reeks of chain mails — forward this and something good will happen in 10 days, don’t forward it and you’ll have misfortune for 7 years!
And when great spiritual leaders say we should be desire-less, it has more to do with the philosophy of a religious/spiritual path — based on the fact that we cannot take our material goods with us, and that we should dissolve our ego and be more open to the experiences around us — than to an actual “evil” universe, because that is what the underlying argument is! If everything I visualize or desire is going to have an equal and opposite effect, then maybe I shouldn’t use vision boards (which work, by the way), or have goals and focus on them! And have you actually contemplated the full meaning of “Send out positive and you can expect negative in return”? So are you saying that if I send out negative, I can expect positive in return? Sorry, but I really don’t think it works like that!
You might also like:
The Secret to You – a visualization tool designed to harness the power of The Secret to fill your life with happiness, prosperity, health and love.
Remember those cute black and white love is cartoons?
I found them on the Internet!!
http://www.loveisfan.com/ (updated website)
It’s my favorite place to hang out these days to beat the stress @ work!
That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared—she thought, lying still, her eyes closed, her mind moving, like time, through some realm of veiled slowness—it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body’s satisfaction had come from her.
. . . There is reason, she thought, why a woman would wish to cook for a man . . . oh, not as a duty, not as a chronic career, only as a rare and special rite in symbol of . . . but what have they made of it, the preachers of woman’s duty? . . . The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue—while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin . . .
The above paragraph from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged holds powerful meaning and a strange resonance for me. I have always viewed cooking as something I do when I feel like doing it—something special and sacred for the one I love. It has always been a pleasure to cook—on special occasions, when I’m feeling particularly in tune with my significant other, as a gesture of my love. And that is just what I would have preferred to keep it. But thanks to something that someone said to him when he was depressed, we ended up having a huge fight about a year back, and now, it has become drudgery for me. So much so, after treating the whole thing as a challenge, I have now reached the stage when I prefer staying out of the house until late, so I can go home and say I’m too tired to even bear the thought of cooking. The very thought of having to cook as a “have-to-do-thing” fills me with dread….makes me want to bolt. Food has never been a big issue for me. I’m happy eating almost anything. I can get by just fine on soup and toast, as I can on a full Indian meal. But Abid is the opposite. And striking a balance between our different needs is becoming increasingly challenging.