THE VANISHING HALF.

Author: Brit Bennett.

Genre: Contemporary family drama, historical fiction.

Triggerwarnings: racism, domestic violence, colourism.

Rating: 4⭐

Teenage light skinned black identical twins, Desiree and Stella Vigne, elope from a small town called Mallard in Louisiana. But soon after, Stella just vanishes leaving behind nothing but a note for Desiree. Years later, Desiree returns to Mallard with her dark skinned daughter Jude, while Stella continues to live hidden as a white woman with her white husband and their daughter, Kennedy, abandoning her own family. Their lives reach a full circle when their respective daughters come face to face unintentionally threatening to unveil the lie on which Stella has built the foundation of her new life.

This is one of the best recommendations I have received. While the theme of the book is colourism, racism and domestic violence, it also highlights the prejudice of colorism within the community. It was disturbing and empowering at the same time. It shows how the colour of the skin determines a lot of aspects in the lives of the people. It talks about the extent to which black and coloured people are shunned, that they don’t mind losing their own identity in order to be accepted. Characterization by the skin colour is prominent in the story to emphasize on the affects of racism. It hovers on the idea of bigotry, ethnicity, regret and a life based on a compulsive lie.

This book is a non- linear, multi- generational story of the Vigne twins. The characters are dynamic, raw, and show their grey side of survival. I was able to get into the flow of its smooth narration easily. There is an audiobook on YouTube that you can check out.

IN XANADU. A Quest

Author: William Dalrypmple.

Genre: Travelogue.

Rating:  4.5⭐

Xanadu, now Shangdu, is located in Inner Mongolia, northern China. It was the first capital and the summer capital of the Mongol Empire in the 1263. Xanadu was famous for its palaces, gardens and waterways and was Kublai Khan’s favourite summer palace.

Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century China. He was the ruler of the Mongol Empire for 30 yrs. During his reign, Xanadu flourished, making it one of the richest kingdoms. After Kublai Khan’s death, however, Yuan Dynasty started to decline, thus changing the face of the once prosperous city to shambles. Xanadu was believed to be so beautiful, that ‘Xanadu’ term is still used as a metaphor for opulence or an idyllic place.

In 1270s Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, explorer and a writer travelled along the Silk Route with his father and his uncle and reached Xanadu where he served the court of Kublai Khan for 17 years. Though he was not the first European to reach China, Marco Polo was the first to leave a detailed chronicle of his experience. His travel book inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers. Author and his companions are one of the many who decided to retake this path once taken 7 centuries back. They started from Jerusalem to reach a tedious route with multiple ethenic diversities, landscapes and overcame diplomatic complications, struggled for basic comfort to finally reach Xanadu. This travelogue takes us through two timelines, 1270s and 1980s with the glimpse of the history compared to the present . He has collated his observations with that of Marco Polos, adding his own version about the aspects which were either not present or overlooked by the later.

It does take a moment to get into the book if you don’t know the background of the topic. I had to do my own research to understand the scene. Nevertheless, it improved my knowledge and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this hilarious travelogue. It has its ups and downs but never a dull moment.

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE.

Author: V. E. Schwab.

Genre: Fantasy Novel.


Suffocated by the conservative expectations by the society, Adeline starts praying to the Gods for her freedom. On her wedding day, her prayer is answered by a devil, who grants her immortality in exchange for her soul that she would eventually surrender willingly. Also, as her wish for freedom, she would be not be remembered by anyone after their first meeting. From then on she lives her every single day travelling around, free and forgotten. While at it, she constantly tries to leave a mark on the world. She follows a chaotic yet predictable routine until one fine day she meets Henry, who remembers her after their first meeting. The idea of someone remembering her intrigues her. Excited, she decides to pursue him to know more about this glitch in the curse.

The timeline keeps shifting from the present to her past in a non-linear narration. She lives a free life for almost three centuries with an impromptu visit from the devil whom she later names Luc, challenging her to surrender, which she ofcourse, refuses every single time.  While her journey is interesting and adventurous it lacks substance about the major historical events that she apparently witnesses. There is a casual mention of some world occurrences in the passing without much of her contribution or opinion. The story seemed more about her love affairs, the many first dates, pilfering for survival, her struggle to leave a mark and other escapades. Inspite of her being immortal, the purpose of her freedom seemed unchallenged and frivolous. Addie’s character felt superficial which lacked depth about her feelings about the surroundings. The years pass so casually in the story as if they are minutes without much of a consolation.

Having said that, I loved the language, the fluidity, the influence on the art and culture yet it felt incomplete to me. I needed more about her journey, her encounters and not just her one night stands. The whole world transformed multifold during the three centuries,  but there is hardly any mention of its effect on her.

If I just overlook the previous analysis, I really liked the prose of the story. It is a slow read which demands your rapt attention as you might miss certain developments in this strangely laid out timeline. Read this book for the structure of the thought of being forgotten every moment in this world where we do everything possible only to be remembered.

BOOK REVIEW- NIKOLA TESLA AND 5 OTHER UNSUNG INVENTORS

Book- Nikola Tesla & Five Other Unsung Inventors
Author- Girish V. Magre
Genre- Biographies / Non-fiction / Essay
Format- Kindle
Ratings- 3.5/5

REVIEW:
This book talks about 6 inventors:
1. Nikola Tesla
2. Alfred Nobel
3. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
4. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
5. Viktor Emil Frankl
6. Robert Kerns
Author Girish Magre has written this book with a view of appreciating these heroes who had contributed to many inventions that are helping many of us today.

My Thoughts:
Reading something like this was really a new experience for me. I have read a complete autobiography but combine biographies always held me back. I used to think that this format would never give justice to one’s story.
But to my surprize I actually read it with interest. The information provided was adequate to know why these 6 were called as the unsung heroes.
Really a very interesting read.

Points I liked :
– The idea of putting light on the people who are not always celebrated.

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