Book Review: Dark Places

Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places is a twisted tale of a crazy night on a farm in Kansas that takes Libby’s mother and two sisters away. Ben the only son to Patty and brother to 3 sisters of the Day family is in deep trouble for not just the alleged murders of his family but also Satan worship and child molesting. Libby the youngest, and only 7, escapes the gruesome murders by a twist of fate. But how and why? 25 years after the murders, Libby now 30 something finds herself researching into the murder case of her family only to discover the truth that was buried by the people involved in the case.

As I turned page after page into the story, I couldn’t help but pause and say, what the hell goes on in Gillian Flynn’s mind? As I started the book, I kept saying nah its not at par with Gone Girl. No, nothing close but she proved me wrong! The story just keeps getting better if you keep turning the pages and once you start the book there is no stopping until you have reached the end. Though I would highly recommend reading the novel with all the positivity and happy vibes around you as there is some depressing, disturbing stuff to freak you out.

Things I really enjoyed as the story progressed are as follows:

Libby and her unusual random theft moments stop disturbing you and as the story unfolds you realize how perfect are her stealing skills.

The conversations between Libby and Lyle brings out the personality of both the characters making them more human than weird. But then again, humans are weird. right?

As Libby starts visiting Ben, her brother in the prison, the layers to these characters start to come of.

Flynn does it incredibly well when she describes the murders. They hit you like a bullet and stay with you. I do not want to reveal much, spoilers are the worst thing but let me tell the readers (if anyone has come this far into reading my ‘review’) that some of the final chapters in the book are best.

Libby’s dreams are perhaps the weirdest but one can relate to their strangeness.

I don’t remember giving much thought to acknowledgement part of the book. But with Flynn, acknowledgements were fun, inspiring and more of an insight to the kind of person Flynn is. I recommend reading them, seriously!

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The Bell Jar Review

belljarcoverAs a reader, when I picked up this book, I did it solely to find some answers into the mystery of Plath’s suicide. Why would a beautiful mind producing amazing poetry, would put an end to her life? The Bell Jar is exactly about this person not just through Esther’s character but through all the characters that we meet in the book. You cannot help but see Plath in Esther’s friend Joan as well. Esther, the protagonist, has been portrayed to  what Plath could have become in an ideal world but it is Joan’s character which is mirroring Plath’s real life. Once you open the book, a labyrinth opens up as Esther goes on from being an apparently stable mental health to eventually breaking down. The book portrays the struggles and experiences of her time in different asylums; most importantly how she ends up in them.

The imagery in the book gets you in awe with a tinge of pain. There is a fig tree described at one point in the book. A sadness lingers on once the fig tree has been interpreted through Esther’s perspective. This is by far the only imagery that will remain stuck in my mind; especially whenever I see the beautiful fig tree out in my own lawn. The dilemma of picking the right fig instantly climbs up my spine. At one point into the story, Esther goes to visit her father’s grave and the description of the graveyard is exactly the kind you find in Pakistan. She says ‘It was crowded right up by another gravestone, head to head, the way people crowded in a charity ward when there isn’t enough space.’

The issue of gender equality made me draw parallels between Pakistani culture with that of the American when Plath reflects on men and patriarchy.

An element of distrust looms over her relation with Willard Buddy that on some level amused me. I could not come to a conclusion who was more at fault Esther or Buddy? Was it the feminist in Esther that made her inflexible to Buddy’s confession, or the lack of his ability to build confidence about their relation for Esther to lean onto.

It is not just Esther’s relation with her boyfriend and other men that she comes across that make you want to dig deeper into her character or so to speak see into Plath’s. The irritation with her mother’s visits to the hospital and her memories of her father, all lets you peep into the complex mind of Esther.

What happens to Esther in the end is for you to find out; making observations about this girl who herself is a silent observer ‘I liked looking at other people in crucial situations.’ As readers we all kind of become Esther; very carefully peeling off layer after layer observing her dissent into mental illness.

Book Review: How It Happened

There is a girl in her twenties, part of a work force, with a marital status that screams ‘I m single, save me’. Whenever and where ever she goes and happens to come across aunties, they ask her either verbally or non verbally, ‘beta why not married yet? Something wrong?’ It is then followed by a full body scan via the sharp laser eyes. If you happen to be the above, then Shazaf Fatima Haider’s tale of ‘How It Happened’ is a must read for you. The single happy creatures living in South Asia can totally relate to this.
Set in the city of lights, Karachi, the story revolves around Zeba, a teacher by profession, a bookworm and a cynic by nature and single by status. Her family includes a mother, a father, a brother and a sister, not to forget the dramatic/nostalgic Dadi retelling the stories from her ancestral village of Bhakuraj. The story is narrated by her Naïve 15 year old sibling Saleha which adds freshness to the perspective. Family values and customs are deeply imbedded in the memory of their eccentric Dadi who vows to follow them unto death; arrange marriage of her grandchildren being her priority.
The fun in the story begins right at the start when the writer very cleverly mentions the words ‘arrange marriage’ followed by an amusing story from the proud Bhakuraj. Saleha’s naivety adds humour to the story along with the failed attempts by the Dadi to marry off her grandchildren in her esteemed Bhukraj family.
There is Haroon the eldest brother who fills up the sub plot with his story of how he marries much to the nuisance of Dadi first and delight later. Haroon’s story also prepares the reader with what awaits them – the main debates of shia sunni union, the whole drawing room rishta episodes (where match making takes place) that reeks of ‘tradition’ going stale and the question of an eastern girl crossing 25 yet living a happy single life.
The story has its moments of seriousness when the family finds itself in the middle of a row. There comes a twist when Zeba finds the love of her life and expresses or let’s say gets caught dating a Sunni young man by Dadi amid the shia mourning time. The circumstances under which her family learns of her tryst and how the events lead to impeccable rishtas/ suitors for Zeba are wonderfully woven with good punch lines that are totally relatable in our day to day life.
If you are looking for a light humorous read, this debut novel is a recommendation as its story is right out of our lives or the lives of those around us. The writer is very Pakistani; her story I would say is a safe pick but again it is very Pakistani and the satire right on spot.