(This post was published in my blog The Glass Bangle earlier. Since these books define me as a reader, I wanted this to be my first post here.)
I devour books, there’s no other way to put it. My earliest memories of books are of Amar Chitra Katha, those beautifully illustrated comics which taught me more about History than my textbooks. Even now when I think of Gods and kings, they all have ACK faces ! Over the years countless books have been consumed and countless characters have flitted through my life. Some books have disappeared from my mind as soon as I finished reading, some have stayed on longer and some just refused to leave. I have stored them safely in the recesses of my memory,wrapped in layers of tissue, to be taken out and savored when I’m in the mood.They are like trusted old friends who comfort me with their presence and who do not need explanations for long absences .
Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon– The story of a young lawyer Jennifer Parker and how a small incident in court turns her life upside down. There are two men who enter her life and complicate it further.The fantastic court room scenes made sure that I didn’t put down the book until I finished it. This is the only book which I remember the year that I read it. I was in Class 9 and no other heroine has impressed me with her fortitude and strength as Jennifer Parker. I was in tears by the end of the book and wandered around moping for days fuming at the unfairness of it all. And even today I cannot look at a picture of a canary without thinking of her !
Exodus by Leon Uris– It’s a deeply moving account of the events leading to the formation of Israel. Ari Ben Canaan is the main protagonist and I don’t think anybody who has read this book can forget him. Exodus was the result of two years of research and Leon Uris has weaved a powerful tale of undying allegiance to a cause with a host of characters who steal into our hearts with their bravey and selflessness. Even though a work of fiction Uris has skillfully incorporated real life characters and incidents into the story.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read the enchanting story of Jane and Mr. Rochester. The first time I read it, I raced through the book . Then I found myself reaching for it many a time and each time I discovered a little bit more about Jane . I loved how resilient and feisty she was, not one to be cowed by the challenges she had to face from a very young age. It’s also a beautiful love story with emphasis on their relationship rather than the frills and ruffles.There’s something about Mr.Rochester which sets my heart aflutter 🙂
The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye – I consider this to be M.M.Kaye’s magnum opus. Set in pre-independent India, the story traces Ash’s life from India to England and back to India again. He’s born to English parents and brought up as an Indian, till circumstances force him to go to England. However a deep rooted love for India brings him back and he gets to revisit the places of his childhood but seen with an adult’s eye now. This story reminds me of a Bollywood movie, with a host of strongly etched colorful characters, a beautiful princess, palace intrigues and our dashing hero ! M.M.Kaye’s love for India comes through in her vivid, detailed descriptions of places and people.Sadly, I don’t see it in any book shops now….
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – My copy of this book is tattered and dog eared, and I love to dip into it and read extracts from time to time. It’s the story of a South African boy, Peekay and we get to follow his life from the age of five to fifteen. The narration is in the first person and it’s a spell binding account of Peekay’s life and the characters whom he meets. I just cannot seem to do justice to the beauty of this book with my words. Peekay is a sensitive child who gets send to boarding school, endures the worst loneliness and bullying and then goes to stay with his grandfather and his mother. He is a remarkable child whose best friend is an elderly German Professor who loves music and plants. I was captivated by how Peekay develops intellectually under the guidance of the Prof. Peekay also has a dream, to become the welter weight champion of the world and he gets to learn boxing with other children of the staff in a South African prison ! The scope of the novel is truly remarkable and mind blowing.