Rosie Milne reads from Circumstance at Books Actually

Publisher Monsoon Books and bookshop Books Actually organized a reading by author Rosie Milne from her new novel Circumstance. Moderator Elaine Chiew followed up the reading with insightful commentary and questions.

See below for a bit of author Q&A and photos from the event.

Continue reading Rosie Milne reads from Circumstance at Books Actually

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Not a lot happens in The Home and the World, but a lot is felt and thought and said. The novel explores male and female gender ideals, the changing role of women in the modern world, and approaches to political change. It showcases contrasting character traits: patience and impulsivity, thoughtfulness and recklessness, candor and cunning, generosity and jealousy, conscientiousness and ambition, practicality and idealism.

The main character, Bimala, is an Indian woman caught in a love triangle with her mild, loving husband Nikhil and the charismatic, impetuous nationalist Sandip. She has always had a place in the home, but what is her place in the world?

See my Backlist books post on Asian Books Blog for more on this Bengali novel. See below for what stood out when I read it.

Continue reading The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Burmese Days by George Orwell

In Burmese Days, a novel inspired by the author’s own stint in the steaming jungles of upper British Burma, plot-related tensions seem on the verge of boiling over. The conflict between local crime boss U Po Kyin and the civil surgeon, Dr. Veraswami, threatens to interfere not only with Flory’s plan to get his friend elected to the local European club, but also with his plan to marry Elizabeth, in whom he somehow manages to see a worthy companion for himself—worthier, certainly than his Burmese mistress Ma Hla May! Elizabeth, meanwhile, seems to have fallen for a young horseman temporarily stationed in Kyauktada. Whose plans will succeed and whose fail, and what lessons does Orwell want us to learn from all this?

For more on where and when the novel is set, a list of the members of the Kyauktada European Club, and some interesting quotes from the novel, see my Backlist books post on Asian Books Blog.

When and Why I Read Burmese Days

Reading this as a follow up to Not Out of Hate.

Genre: fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 03-Jun-2018 / 08-Jun-2018
Length: 461
ISBN: ASIN B003WJQ6RW
Originally published in: 1934/1974
Amazon link: Burmese Days

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

When I bought The Good Earth from the Amazon Kindle store, I had to choose between buying it by itself for $7.50 or buying the whole trilogy for $15.39. I’m glad I only bought the first one. One was enough.

The style of writing is simple in a kind of old-fashioned, grand, Biblical way that grated on me long before I reached the end. Long compound sentences rolled along relentlessly, one after another, connecting each thought or action with the previous one. Never have I read a book that contained so many “and”s. Moreover, those “and”s didn’t seem to be building towards anything in a meaningful way. The novel had a straightforward timeline and virtually zero tension, zero plot.

See my Backlist books post on The Good Earth on Asian Books Blog for more thoughts on this Pulitzer Prize–winning historical novel set in 1920s China.

When and Why I Read The Good Earth

This book was chosen by Rachel of the Hungry Hundred Book Club for June 2018.

Genre: fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 23-May-2018 / 27-May-2018
Length: 225
ISBN: ASIN B008F4NRA8
Originally published in: 1931
Amazon link: The Good Earth

The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I enjoyed this short, out-of-print book more than I necessarily expected to. It got off to a slow start, especially for such a short novel, but it gave me lots of food for thought.

The Fugitive was written by a highly regarded Indonesian nationalist. In writing about the book, I learned that the author’s name, though in three parts, is not a first, middle, and last name with the family name last. It’s just a name. He is referred to as “Pramoedya” (which is also spelled “Pramudya”) or just “Pram”.

Read more about the book in my Backlist books post about The Fugitive at Asian Books Blog.

When and Why I Read The Fugitive

I am reading this Indonesian novel for my Backlist books column at Asian Books Blog.

Genre: Fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 17-Apr-2018 / 23-Apr-2018
Length: 171
ISBN: 0688086985
Originally published in: 1950/1990
Amazon link: The Fugitive

Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

I posted some background information and opinions on Not Out of Hate in a post about the book on Asian Books Blog.

This post explains why I chose this Burmese novel to feature in my Backlist books column, even though I didn’t start out with the intent to study Southeast Asian postcolonial literature.

Continue reading Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

King Rat by James Clavell

Here’s a favorite quote from King Rat:

Writing can be just about the most important job in the whole world. If it’s any good…. A writer can put down on a piece of paper an idea—or a point of view. If he’s any good he can sway people, even if it’s written on toilet paper. And he’s the only one in our modern economy who can do it—who can change the world.

For some thoughts on the novel, check out my post on Asian Books Blog about King Rat.

When and Why I Read King Rat

I’m re-reading this novel for Asian Books Blog. I read it in 2001.

Genre: fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished:  14-Jan-18 to 26-Jan-18
Length: 352 pages
ISBN: 0440145465
Originally published in: 1962/1983
Amazon link: King Rat