Review of Summer Reads with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Reviewed by Fiza PathanThis book was an ‘epic read’ as my students would have said it. In my words, it was ‘superbly awesome.’ Herman Koch’s unputdownable book simply titled Summer Reads with Swimming Pool is a work of art. It’s dirty—but deep, it is poignant— but drifting, and it is disturbing, but exciting all the same. Narrated by the main protagonist who is a GP called Marc, the story flows into a rhythm of suspense and plot twists that makes the reader stare in complete awe at the masterpiece of a thriller that he is reading. The characters here make you laugh, smile, sneer, gag, hate, etc., drawing out the emotions necessary on the part of the reader to complete the story and understand its implications to perfection. Sam Garrett translated the English version of this Dutch novel. I applaud the translator for doing such an efficient and excellent job with Herman Koch’s original masterpiece, for you feel that you are reading a Lee Child or a Patterson or a Nesser or a Baldacci. But it’s better! Ten times better and richer! I’m so overwhelmed by this book and its master of the craft ‘synopsis’ that states the main mystery without divulging too much about the plot, which is the best thing possible where this fabulous book is concerned. I am dying to head back to my library or the bookstore and pick up another book by Herman Koch, most probably his bestselling work, The Dinner. Summer Reads with Swimming Pool is a 409-page book but does not make heavy reading. There is a healthy blend of reflection and storytelling with a bit of philosophy tossed in at crucial moments, but for me, I thought I was watching a Hollywood movie at the edge of my seat —the book was that spectacular. The climax is a complete surprise, and you will be up all night thinking about it even after the story is done and over with. This will happen because of the poignant questions asked by the writer through his protagonist, who is quite a shady character himself. If you want to be shocked and scandalized with the thrill of a perfect, viciously funny thriller, then Herman Koch is the writer for you. All in all a perfect read by a master of the craft, Herman Koch. And thanks once again to the translator for a job well done.
Copyright ©2017, Fiza Pathan
A Writer’s Vocation
As I sit at my study table with the fire warming the silence of this rainy afternoon,
a slender flame leaps out of the place of shadows,
making me profess that which may not go in vain.
As I lift the pen with my rough hand and bring the diary of my life so far, toward me,
I ask the flame of knowledge burning before my eyes . . . where do I go from here? What is my vocation?
Answer? It gave me naught but its bright words burnt my paper thrice;
Upon the words I wrote it bade them to leap from slumber and enter within.
It is just that every writer of prose will come to understand that his writings only
come from that one single pure fire that blemishes the red wounds of a sage’s flesh for us;
that every time you lift your pen to pour out your heart’s yearnings onto the papyrus,
your duty toward mankind is sealed in it.
A writer’s vocation is within the multitude of souls that can hear,
that taste the sound of the lover of the saints upon his pen nib.
Who yearns by his words for the betterment of mankind
and for the panacea required to soothe that ne’er answered question
within his bleeding chest . . . WHO AM I WHAT AM I?
To such a writer as this, the vocation is not easy; it pricks you at every step and stings you at every sentence.
For you do not speak of your own self, but from the flame that leapt out from the core of
your blood and from the divinity of His love.
For you speak the truth which can never be heard, of what no one speaks and yet wants to know.
You write of the misery of death, the simplicity of the pure;
the witness of the Christ and the duty of one’s birth;
of the rights of men and women . . . of the blind and of those who cannot see;
of young dying souls and of souls dying young;
of what is truth in the death of millions and the fuss about external beauty;
of the abortion of infants and the death of students;
of the flame that burns within the redness of existence . . . the flame that burns up eternity.
These are the words of my vocation I pen down from my study of sacred scripture,
and the flame ceases to come toward me.
O that the night never comes and I may ponder upon the banishment of my lot
to the realm of the green vine which no gardener comes to prune;
to the occupation of the material realm, cast out by the ruby flame.
But . . . vocation surpasses the winner and the bride has at last met her groom;
for no man can resist . . . the flame that resides within.
Copyright © 2014, 2017 Fiza Pathan (Preface to my poetry book: So This Is Love – Collected Poems). Photo by iphis at Morguefile.com
Review of Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan
The main theme of this wonderful book where one of the fictional characters falls head over heels in love with the reader would make every bibliophile and book lover’s dream come true. This happens to be my very first Jodi Picoult book and I adored it. I just couldn’t put it down and read it in two days’ time. Apparently there is a sequel to this book which I am going to borrow from my library ASAP. Between the Lines is a light romance with a lot of plot twists that keeps the reader’s attention till the end. The characters are interesting and real to life–well almost. The story about how a handsome prince falls in love with a teenage girl who is the reader of his fiction world is magical, captivating, and alluring. The tender moments of this book are precious. The climax is out of this world and something that I personally would not have been able to crack, so kudos to Jodi Picoult, and to her lovely daughter Samantha. The magical fairy tale world of Prince Oliver is as captivating as the regular high school life of Delilah. By the way, this is actually a Young Adult story, but I only realized it after I picked it up from the library. However, it’s brilliant not only for a teenager but also for an adult reader who once in a while ‘likes to get lost in a good book.’ My congratulations to Samantha van Leer for coming up with such a marvelous idea for a book. It’s a great story and yet the reader is made to feel as if it was no trouble at all to think of this idea. Genuineness radiates greatly from this book and has forever made me a Jodi Picoult fan. I remember when I was a teenager reading Richard Bach’s books and wishing that one day Richard Bach would suddenly materialize from the middle of his book and fall in love with me, and then I would have a boyfriend of my own caliber. If you’ve ever had that thought too when you were reading a book of your favorite author or a character that you liked a lot, then this is the book for you. This story has a lasting appeal which can’t remain enclosed ‘between the lines’ of the book. It’s a book you will be recommending to people for a long time to come.
Copyright ©2017 Fiza Pathan
Review of Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan
I actually reread this marvellous autobiography for a book club meeting and I am glad I did. The first time I read Adeline Yen Mah’s autobiography was when I was twelve years old way back in 2001. The story of the so called ‘unwanted Chinese daughter’ made me think of my own state in life, as the child who destroyed my mother’s marriage by just being born. In my case, I was the girl child whom my father my father didn’t wish to care for and neither did his family as ‘I was a girl.’ In Adeline’s case, her birth caused the death of her mother which scarred her relationship with her father and with his family forever. Reading this book at age twelve made me feel I was not the only ‘unwanted’ daughter in the world, as someone from China was also going through or had gone through the same pain and rejection that I was and still am going through. Rereading this book at age twenty-seven gave me a deeper understanding of the negative psychological effects that Adeline’s father and step mother had on her and how they scarred her entire life from even beyond the grave and through the actions of their other children. I have no siblings, yet I can still identify with Adeline, as even though she had six siblings, all were up against her, making her childhood a sad and lonely one, just like mine. To overcome disaster and to hope are the main themes of this memoir which make it a life worth the read for a person undergoing the same trauma in their own lives, which is, being rejected by your own family and in all respects having some members of your family as your worst enemies. The Chinese saying that title each chapter resonate beautifully with the narrative, making the autobiography a charming yet startling read. To a lover of history, the lives of the Yen family parallel the life of China as a country through the late 19th century and 20th century which is skillfully written to introduce an amateur to Chinese contemporary history. It took me a week to finish this wonderful book because of illness in the family, but it is only a 275 page book which can easily be read with the least possible effort and which still gives a lot of emotional and reflective material to chew upon. It was indeed nice coming back to Falling Leaves after so many years.
Copyright© 2017 Fiza Pathan
Review of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 – Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan
Verdict: An exceptional book by a very talented author. Marvellous.
I wanted to read this book for a long while, but I just kept putting it off until last week and I’m so happy that I’ve read this book which I claim to be one of my best reads of 2016. It’s a flawless book with suspense, adventure, wit, sarcasm, and bookish fun put together to form a wonderful story. If you love books especially the old-fashioned paperbacks and hardcovers or the leather-bound covers of old, this is just the right book for you. However, if you are also of a digital bent of mind who dreams that Google and the Kindle version of books are changing the way we buy books and store information, this is the book you have just got to read. The plot is suspenseful and the book is unputdownable. I read it in in two days’ time. This is a book which you will want to talk about at your book clubs and libraries after you yourself read it. It is full of surprises, puzzles, and mysterious people who intrigue not only Clay who is the main protagonist in the story, but also the readers of the book, that you will fall in love with the act of reading books all over again. One of the main distinctions that this novel has from all the other books about bookish topics that I have read over the years so that it tries to show the wonder of words itself whether on a kindle or a paperback. The characters come alive and are as curious and ingenuitive as the theme of the novel itself. The chapters are divided very well and professionally so that there is a lot of synchronization with each page turned by the reader. Robin Slogan as an author is a grandmaster of technology and suspense. He has done a near to perfect if not perfect job with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which is a powerful book meant for readers who love adventures, libraries, bookstalls, old books, Google, etc., and is a master storyteller. So please order or borrow Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan as quickly as possible if you want to get to know the power of the word and words better. An exceptional book by a very talented author. Marvellous.
Copyright © 2016 Fiza Pathan
Image copyright © 2016 Fiza Pathan
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan
Verdict: ” …. you will come out after reading the book a really empathetic person who redefines what the whole idea of hell means to you at your most lowest as well as at your best.”
To be truthful, I read this book before I picked up and read Life of Pi, and I’m glad I did that because this novel is a lighter introduction to the works of Yann Martel. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel gave me a new way of looking and perceiving the tragedy of the Holocaust. I took a week and a half to read it because of work, but otherwise this book is simple, just around 224 pages and is an easy read with a profound message for its readers. You don’t need to be :
- An overcautious intellectual to read this book and probe into its symbolism as it’s an easy read and the symbolism is easy to comprehend
- You do not need to have read Life of Pi before reading this; in fact it’s great to read this book first then Life of Pi.
I really don’t want to give any spoilers here but, if you are a writer or someone who wants to become a writer then you will just love this book. If you are a person who has delved in the archives and history of the ‘Holocaust’ then this is another book you must read to get a totally different perspective on this genocide that still sends shivers up and down every person’s spine. If you are worried about too many characters then don’t be, for there are a few characters in this book, but are dealt with in such a refined way that they will stay with you for a while. I also would beseech the reader/you, to not skip any descriptions in the book as they are a very important part of the whole story and besides, Yann Martel has done a great job with his descriptions so don’t miss out on them. Beatrice and Virgil are a donkey and howler monkey respectively who will take you right down to the worst in us, but you will come out after reading the book a really empathetic person who redefines what the whole idea of hell means to you at your most lowest as well as at your best. Don’t also miss out on the bit of personal biography that Yann Martel has weaved into this wonderful book. If you’ve not read Life of Pi save that one too to your reading list. This was a very soul-searching read.
Copyright © 2016 Fiza Pathan
Image copyright: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_and_Virgil
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf, Canada
Publication date: April 6, 2010
ISBN: 0-307-39877-3 (first edition, hardcover)
For Immediate Release: September 4, 2016
Reader’s Favorite recognizes “Amina” in its 2016 international book award contest.
The 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries.
Mumbai, Maharashtra. Readers’ Favorite has become the fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
In addition to reviewing for some of the biggest names in the literary industry, as well as the first time independent author, they host a respected award contest which features entries from new authors to NYT best-sellers, as well as celebrities like Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler.
“Readers’ Favorite is proud to announce that “Amina” by Fiza Pathan is a Bronze Medal Winner in the Fiction – Realistic category in our 2016 International Book Award Contest.”
Synopsis: Amina: The Silent One brings vividly to life the grim realities facing women in India today, the grinding, filthy poverty, and debasement with which most Indian women must contend in their daily lives. This book will shock you and rip your eyes open. Through the magic of fiction, it tells an awful truth in human terms that cannot be told in any other way.
Author’s Bio: Fiza Pathan is a teacher and an award-winning author of nine books: S.O.S. Animals and Other Stories, Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories, Classics: Why we should encourage children to read them, Nirmala: The Mud Blossom, So This Is Love – Collected Poems, Classics: How we can encourage children to read them, The Flame Will Always Burn-Selected Poems, Amina: The Silent One, Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues, and “Flesh of Flesh” (Short Story). Her books have placed in many prestigious international awards: Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, Reader Views Literary Awards, Mom’s Choice Award, Beverly Hills International Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Award, Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards (Finalist), Next Generation Indie Book Awards (Finalist), etc.
Learn more at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/amina
Amina: The Silent One has won the following awards:
2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards -Winner 1st Place General Fiction/Novel
2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards – Global Award for Asia
2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award- Bronze Medal
Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist Multicultural (Adult Fiction)
2015 New Apple Book Awards – Solo “Medalist Winner” in the E-Book General Fiction category.
2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards – Finalist Novella Category
2015 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award- Category Fiction
2015 New England Book Festival – Honorable Mention in Regional Literature
2016 Pacific Rim Book Festival- RUNNER-UP Regional Literature.
4th Annual Beverly Hills International Book Awards- Winner in Regional Fiction category.
55 Best Self-Published Books of 2015 – IndieReader
2016 IAN Book of the Year Awards- Finalist General Fiction
2016 IAN Book of the Year Awards- Finalist Novella