The title of the book attracted me. So when my brother bought this book, i asked him to leave it at my place once he is done reading it. And honestly, I am glad he did.
The story starts with Hedio Akashi trying to save a woman from jumping off a cable car but fails. Fast forward 15 years and you have TMPD Homicide Inspector Kosuke Iwata and Assistant Inspector Sakai investigating a gruesome murder of a family of four. Investigation leads them to some more murders, some following this incident and some done years ago. The murders seem to have some connection with a religious cult. Are they all related?
This is not all. The story also gives us hints about Iwata and Sakai's disturbed pasts and about the corruption and manipulation in TMPD. It slowly goes on revealing the details and takes us close to the suspect. The blend of the personal lives of the Inspectors and the crime they are investigating is very well done.
Being a crime novel there are graphic description of murders and dead bodies, but the narration is so smooth that the cruelty does not get on to you.
The book hooks you from the first page and keeps you gripped throughout. Undoubtedly one of the best crime thrillers I have read in recent past.
A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
Ove is 59. Ove is an "archetypal, grumpy old sod". Does not like cats. Does not find why there has to be any extravagance in life. He has his own way (which he thinks is the right way!) of doing things - "Why you need to make saffron rice, when potato and meat and sauce can do just fine", Ove wonders. Why do you have to break rules when there are sign boards all around stating you should not be doing something like this. Basically, Ove is someone whom you would love to hate. Someone who is not fit to stay in the modern society.
But as the book progresses, you get to know this grumpy old sod. Orphaned at a very young age, Ove lived a very lonely life, his only passion being automobiles and houses. His life was pretty mundane and colourless till he met the love of his life Sonja - the only person who understood Ove. But life had a different way of mocking him and once again, with the turn of events Ove was left alone. Then moves in a foreign family of 5 right next door. From a not so pleasant first meeting, things move to something beyond people could comprehend about Ove. His liking for the family, specially the pregnant Iraninan woman and her two daughters, brings out the compassionate side of Ove and he goes to extreme levels to help people out in his neighborhood. He even starts liking cats and lets one stay with him! Parvaneh, the pregnant Iraninan woman, is the complete opposite of Ove, talkative, full of life, expressive, but she somehow sees in him things that others fail to see. It is her way of dealing with Ove that brings about the change in Ove. My favourite is the chapter where she learns driving from Ove.
The story revolves around Ove, who is the main character, and things that happen in his neighborhood. It unfolds, slowly, one chapter at a time and gives you the details of Ove's past. His parents, his marriage, his house, his car. We experience the life events of Ove and feel his joy, pain, frustrations and anger. His lone fight against the authorities. The narrative is so free flowing and beautiful, that even though it takes us through a lot of harsh realities of life, there is still a lot of optimism and humour in everything. The descriptions are so vivid that you can clearly visualize each and every scene, as if they are happening right in front of you.
Overall, "A Man Called Ove" is about empathy and optimism. Inspite of all the harsh things life throws at you, you cannot help but realise that happiness lies more in giving than anything else. A wonderful reading experience.
Anthony Webster, a man in his sixties, recollects his old days. His school days. His two other friends Colin and Alex and how a third boy named Adrian made to the group. Together they went through their school life and parted with the promise that they will always remain friends. But life has different plans. In University, Anthony meets Veronica and they are in love with each other, but they broke up eventually and surprisingly enough they end up having sex after they have broken up. Later, Tony, through a letter from Adrian, gets to know that Adrian is going around with Veronica. A few months later Tony gets to know that Adrian has committed suicide. Till here we feel it is a mundane story of a sixty year old man's life who is easy going and has a "go with the flow" attitude.
But then you start the Part Two of the book where Tony gets a letter from a lawyer and things take a very different turn. As a part of a will by Veronica's mother, Tony is left Adrian's dairy and five hundred pounds. But Veronica refuses to part with the dairy. As we read through the book we get to know that Tony, in a moment of rage had written a letter to Adrian. A very cruel and disgusting letter which only a dumped lover can write and Tony had conveniently forgotten about the same. And thus unfolds the very unusual and thriller-like gripping plot of the story.
When you read through the second half of the book, you will find yourself wondering about Adrian's dairy. What is there in it? Will Tony even get it? The plot becomes more gripping whrn Veronica sends a photocopied part of the diary. But little do we know that the story is much more than that. It is this unconventional teasing of your thoughts which hooks you to the story. You keep reading with something in your mind but what unfolds is absolutely different and unfathomable. Tony's way of grappling through his emotions, his guilt when he confronts the letter he had written years ago in a state of rage. But as Veronica says "You will never get it. You never did", neither will us the readers get what the story is unfolding until the very last page of the book. And even at the end we are left wondering about the child, the mathematical equation which is there in the part of Adrian's dairy that Tony was handed over.
A brilliant piece of work, the story line, the way the story unfolds, the way it provokes you to predict something completely different and you keep thinking "ok, so what next" is what makes the book a worth reading. A must read according to me!
I was first introduced to Julian Barnes when I read "Sense of an Ending" and I absolutely loved the book. So, I had no doubt that Levels of Life will also be an amazing experience as well. This essay about photography, ballooning, love, life and loss in Barnes unique style, will hook you to it. The book is divided into three chapters and each one looks at a different level of life.
The first chapter :Sin of Heights" talks of three different people : An English Colonel Fred Burnaby, the bohemian French actress Sarah Bernhardt and the balloonist and photographer Nadar. All three of them have a common passion for ballooning. Here Barnes uses the metaphor of ballooning and photography to describe the thrill of flight, of conquering God's territory. As every love story is potentially a grief story, every balloon expedition can potentially be a disaster, but it also can lead to adventure and freedom. And if you can combine ballooning with photography - the world is changed.
“You put together two things that have not been put together before And the world is changed"
The second chapter "On the Level" is where we see Sarah and Fred together. They have a lot in common, their bohemian way of living and their passion for ballooning, but when Fred falls in love with Sarah and proposes to marry her, she refuses. Engrossed in her own life, Sarah chooses to float in the air like a balloon than come down on earth and have a settled life. This chapter is a midway between the highs of chapter one and lows of chapter three.
"Why do we constantly aspire to love? Because love is the meeting point of truth and magic. Truth as in photography, magic as in ballooning".
The last chapter, "Loss of Depth" is where we come face to face with the searingly painstaking memoir of Barnes. In this chapter he talks of the death of his wife Pat Kavanagh and the grief and mourning that follows. From being angry towards people who carefully avoids talking about her, and also towards people who talks about her, to contemplating suicide, Barnes takes us through his plethora of emotions and his constant attempt to cope with it. How he imagines her all the time and is in constant conversation with her, is something we can all relate to.
Even thought we have a huge range of literature talking of love and loss of love, we all find ourselves at loss of words while describing grief our struggles to deal with it. In this book, Barnes pens down these emotions with such simplicity and authenticity that you cannot help but find yourself soaking in this heartbreaking experience.
"It hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think".