Sleuths in skirts

“She’s had a long life of experience in noticing evil, fancying evil, suspecting evil and going forth to do battle with evil.”
Agatha Christie, on Miss Marple

I was reading a book titled “The Midwife and the Assassin” by Sam Thomas, a mystery set in 17th century London where a midwife and her assistant solve a series of murders and unearth a major plot to blow up the Parliament. This got me thinking about all the female detectives that have featured in detective fiction, hence the poem.

(Source: wikipedia, wonderlist, crimefictionlover)

Women have found an unlikely place 

To be featured, a rather unusual space 

For them to occupy in works of fiction

Yet they fulfil the role with consummate conviction-

This poem is about the female detective

Who, by virtue of her curiosity, is quite effective

At finding the culprit by her powers of deduction

(Without using any feminine charms or seduction)

She has a keen eye, a perception remarkable

A fascination with minute details that enables

Her to notice things that others have ignored

(Including the pompous police officers on board)

She does not have any  academic qualification

But knowledge of human behavior is her specialization

 

There are no stereotypes, she might be

A teen like Nancy Drew or a middle-aged lady

Like Miss Marple, anywhere in the world she might be

In different settings, different eras you might see

A remarkable woman solving the mystery of a crime-

Give me such a detective novel to read any time!

 

 

 

The Writer

dsc07049In a world that often did not make sense

In a society plagued by pomp and pretense

She felt like an outsider, never could blend in

Always blurting the blunt truth, she could not win

Friends around her, so she became a recluse

The more she withdrew, the stronger was her excuse

To keep away from  company unless required

A distant, cold aura she gradually acquired

**

Away from the chatter of human interaction

Thoughts in her mind began to take action

Shaping themselves into words she penned down

Furiously, her forehead wrinkled in a frown

She created a protagonist no different from her

In being direct and truthful, they were similar

Her character walked through her life unconcerned

About others’ opinions, living life on her terms

She made the phrase “calling a spade a spade”

Seem almost glamorous, as her escapades made

For a very interesting reading, I would say

This lead character was quirky in an endearing way.

**

I’m not alone in my opinion, let me make that clear

When her book was published, it became that year

The book to lead all major lists- critics raved

About the quirky way in which the heroine behaved

The author became a celebrity overnight

This time she was able to say what she thought right

And no one objected, dazzled as they were

By her brilliant book and her character singular

People jostled for her attention, tried to befriend

Her now that she was famous, tried to extend

Their hospitality, which she graciously accepted

Marveling at the irony- she had not suspected

The quality that had alienated her from others 

Would be desirable in her fictitious character!

Publishers and readers were clamoring for more

Stories featuring the protagonist they now adored..

**

She continued to write, but would say this often

She still did not understand most women and men

Who, in their preferences, appeared quite capricious

Inexplicable to her, they liked a character fictitious

So she made her character the instrument 

To voice her thoughts and her sentiments

Her heroine her alter-ego became

She lived life vicariously under her character’s name!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book I Read

“Between the pages of a book is a lovely place to be.”

1girl reading.jpg

So I read a book and tears sprung

The story touched me, the words just stung

Somewhere, in between the pages, somehow

Somewhere, between the beginning and now

I had entered the world the author had portrayed

From the realm of reality I had strayed

Into the caverns of a world fictional

But the pain that I felt appeared real

It was as if unbeknownst to me 

I had developed a relationship, strangely

With the protagonist, and as I read

I was vicariously living her life instead

When she was heartbroken, I felt the pain

At night, I dreamt about her again

Imagined myself in her place, I confess

Replayed in my mind her abject distress

Such was the power of the book I had read

Of thousands, this was the one where tears were shed…

**

When I read a book, it matters not to me

Its place in literature, old or contemporary

Or its place on the bestselling list of any kind

A good book is one that resonates with my mind

That draws me inside until I attain a state of unison

With the characters in it, when there is a fusion

Between my world and that in the pages contained

There are such books, my enthusiasm has not waned

Therefore, from reading, I am always trying to find

The book that would impress my heart and mind..

 

 

 

 

 

My life in books

original_book-lover-s-framed-book-art.jpg

This one will give you a glimpse into the world

Of yours truly, from the time she was a little girl

The passion which was at the age of five ignited

Was in the form of printed words that left her excited-

I am going to tell you how books made an entrance

At different stages of my life, became my best friends-

Starting from a cartoon strip in a news periodical

Foraying into a book that took me on a journey magical

Through the solar system and the stars, teaching me

About the universe vast; I still recall quite gleefully

The colorful illustrations and facts fascinating-

I’ ve yet to find a book that captivating…

 

As I grew older, I thrived on a diet steady

Of Secret Seven and Nancy Drew, always ready

To solve difficult mysteries, mostly imaginary

Thinking I’d acquired skills extraordinary

Interspersed were folk-tales from lands far away

Making me yearn to travel to those places some day..

Then there were books that left an impression

Indelible, like the one translated from Russian

About a young boy and his doppelganger electronic

I longed for a friend (robot) with senses supersonic…

 

How can I forget friendship that sprouted spontaneously,

Over shared love for Agatha Christie’s outstanding mysteries

Over the next three years, my friend and I scoured the library

For any evidence of Dame Christie’s prowess literary

Read and discussed every single book ever written

By her, you can see the extent to which we were smitten..

 

Through the tumultuous years of adolescence

Powerful love stories had a constant presence

In my life- thus Bronte sisters and Jane Austen

Were integral parts of my personal heaven

I read works of literature, that were for me

Finest instances of human art and ingenuity

From Hugo and Hardy to Maugham and Tolstoy

Reading classics gave me unparalleled joy

 

These days I find myself gravitating

Towards stories of immigrants; captivating

As they are, in those pages I try to find

Succour for my lonely heart and mind

Get lost in powerful stories that reflect

How I feel today, they are perfect

For lightening the burden carried by me

As an immigrant who once crossed the sea

 

Thus Jhumpa Lahiri, Khaled Hosseini are a part

Of my bookshelves, and of my heart..

 

As I go through life, the genres might shift

But reading books gives me that indescribable lift

 

That always keeps me thirsting for more 

There are always books for me to devour!

(Image source: www.notonthehighstreet.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book List Challenge- Part 1

reading-challenge-2015

Found this list on the 100 greatest books blog. Of course, I had to come up with my own list of books (that I read in 2014).

1. A book with more than 500 pages: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

One of the greatest books of all time, a must-read if you can.

2. A classic romance: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A classic romance that is ageless..

3. A book that became a movie: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A moving book about friendship and repentance; the movie is equally touching.

4. A book published this year (I am using 2014 as the year): The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Sweeping from West Bengal during the Naxalite movement in the 70s, it traces the journey of an unlikely couple to Northeast US. I think this was not as good as her other books.

5. A book with a number in the title: A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini

A very touching story of the bond between two women under the oppressive Taliban rule in Afghanistan. A rare book that brought tears to my eyes.

6. A book written by someone under 30: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

She wrote this bone-chilling classic at the age of 17.

7. A book with nonhuman characters: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

The classic tale of Mowgli, the “man-cub” raised by wolves.

8. A funny book: If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits? by Erma Bombeck

Humor in the insipid things of daily life.

9. A book by a female author:  The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Rai Divakaruni

Too many to count, but this one is an interesting, somewhat magical story of an Indian widow selling spices in San Francisco.

10. A Mystery Book: Six years- by Harlan Coben

My first encounter with this prolific mystery writer whose stories are set in almost my backyard..after this, I read almost all his books.

11. A book with a one-word title: Darshan– by Amrit Chima

The title is the name of the protagonist. This story recounts the adventures of a Sikh family through India, Hong-Kong, Fiji and Northern California.

12. A book of short stories: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

A fabulous collection of stories set in India and the US- my favorite was “The Third and Final Continent”. This book describes the Indian immigrant experience in the US, so it is very close to my heart.

13. A book set in a different country: Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan

A universal book about the pangs of divorce, this book is set in Ireland.

14. A nonfiction book: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Inspiring autobiography of one of the greatest world leaders.

15. A popular author’s first book: In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I love the cruel satire of this author’s books.

16. A book from an author you love that you have not read yet: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

Archer’s books are simply delightful- clever plots, easy style, really interesting cast of characters; I have loved each one that I’ve read.

17. A book a friend recommended One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of my Latino friends said I should read it to gain more insight into the world of South Americans. I was literally eaten up by the chronicles of the Buendia family, written in long winding seemingly endless sentences…

That’s all for now, I’ll finish the list later!

Losing yourself in a book

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.”
Christopher Morley, PipefulsFullSizeRender (3)

A way to get infinite pleasure

Is reading a good book at your leisure

Soaking in every printed word

Transported to another world..

Letting the characters grow on you

Living their life vicariously, too.

In sync with the cadence of the plot,

In the writer’s web, you get caught..

Letting your imagination soar

As new ideas open their doors

The whole slew of human emotions

Love, jealousy, flattery, devotion

Anger, despair, happiness, 

Each one you may witness.

With each new book you embark

On a virtual adventure in the dark

Not knowing what is in store

An engrossing read or a colossal bore.

When you get to a good book you may find

“Nirvana” for the soul and mind

Reading a good book is my meditation

It leaves me with a sense of elation. 

P.S. The image above is a photograph of the mural in my local library.

Women at the turn of last century


AVioletSeason_Final-667x1024heartRecently I read two books that I found  inspiring. Both these books were randomly picked out by my toddler at the local library and appeared interesting enough to give a try. Incidentally, both were set in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Both had strong, progressive women as protagonists.

The first book, “The Violet Season” is set in upstate New York (near Albany) in 1890s when violet cultivation was the rage. The story is about a smart and industrious woman who realizes she needs to be proactive about what she desires for herself and for her daughter. For someone like me who grew up in India, where very few women in those days were even literate, it was a revelation to read about single women living alone in cities and working. Of course in those days women gave up their jobs once they got married, their occupation thereafter being taking care of the household and family business, much like anywhere else in the world. However, the fact that women could be that liberal in the US over a century ago made me realize how in India, we were almost a century behind them. Even in my mother’s generation, it was hard to imagine a single woman living by herself in an apartment in another city!

The second book is even closer to my heart, as you may judge by the name. This is based on the life of one of the first women physicians in North America, and possibly the first congenital heart disease specialist, Maude Abbot, a Canadian physician. The book describes the struggles of a woman in the latter half of the 19th century in breaking in to a male-dominated field in Canada. There is a passage in the story which describes the disdain of the medical school faculty (obviously male) in allowing female students- they fear that critical patients would not be attended to in time because a female doctor would be more concerned with fixing her bonnet and skirts. The sheer determination and chutzpah of this Canadian woman make her fight insurmountable odds to become a world-renowned congenital heart disease specialist who maintains a large collection of  autopsy specimens of defective hearts. The pathos in the story is how this doctor strives to impress her father who, a physician who had abandoned her and her family after a scandal. She spends a lifetime trying to please her father, who refuses to recognize her when they finally meet.

This second story reads almost like it was set in the current era, except for means of transportation (horse-driven carriages and ships throughout). The doctor lives alone like any spinster would (of course she does not get married, it almost appears that the question never arose in her mind, even though her romantic desires are described).  What was interesting was that the book mentions hundreds of women physicians in Europe, particularly Vienna, in the 1880s. The protagonist also felt that the competence of women was taken for granted in Europe, whereas things were different in North America.

I had to blog about these books as they touched me deeply and reinforced the spirit of women-power.

Have you read books that inspired you (particularly for the women out there)?