Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Two reasons why I couldn’t stop reading… March 28, 2015

I have just finished two books. I came back from Delhi in the middle of February and when I did my packing, collecting all the books I had bought, I squirmed… One, two, three and many more. I let one go in my hand luggage, the rest in my suitcase.

I picked up Mirror City by Chitrita Banerji at Bharison’s Booksellers, quite a famous book seller at Khan Market. And a good place for bookaholics. I knew I had read about the book somewhere, and that it most likely was on my to-buy list in my notebook. Having finished Mirror City a few weeks after I came home, Jumpa Lahiri’s latest novel, The Lowland, was next in the pile. I bought it at The Delhi World Book Fair; a very intense experience. The grounds were enormous, the halls likewise, crowds, heat, confusion… I picked up Lahiri, a few more and fled…

Now that I have read these two books I realise that I wanted to finish both books fast, but because of different reasons.

Bok_Lahiri

Mirror City is set in Bangladesh just after independence. The cover summarises the book in words like “the turbulent early days of Bangladesh”, “the slow breakdown of a marriage”, “a woman’s search to find herself”. I should have read it like a warning, still, novels set in Bangladesh are hard to come by and I bought it because of that. After a few pages I knew I’d label the book as simple. An easy read, rather shallow… Very easy language, one-dimensional characters. Still I read on, just out of curiosity because I wanted to know who Uma fell in love with, if Nasreen really was a traitor and – having swallowed even more pages… if Uma would leave her husband and escape with her lover. I wanted to finish the book fast, because in a sense I felt that I was wasting my time.

And then I moved on to Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland. After 50 pages I was hooked, the story seemed promising, but most important; the language was music to my ears compared with Mirror City. As a “foreigner”, meaning that English is not my mother tongue, I’m sensitive to language. A few years back I picked up Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I wasn’t able to turn the first page, I read the first few paragraphs again and again and I hardly understood a word. It might as well have been Urdu. Defeated, I searched my book shelves and found a Norwegian edition. It was a relief though, to realise that Rushdie can be rather unattainable also in your own language, he writes long and complicated sentences. Concentration is a part of The Rushdie Reading Experience…
I experienced almost the same a while ago, while reading Neel Mukherjees The lives of others. I enjoyed the story, but more than that, he writes in a very sophisticated language –  I must admit I had to concentrate as well as enjoy….but I never gave it up!

Whereas Mirror City tells the story from Uma’s view and within a restricted time span, The Lowland moves back and forth in time and follows the main character almost from the day he is born until he is a man in his 70s. Moreover, the story is told from all the three main characters points of view. Which makes the story even more interesting.

I knew from the very start that I would like the book to last. That I’d get a book hangover after the last chapter. Still, I couldn’t stop reading, I wanted to finish the book because I wanted so badly to see how the character’s lives unfolded. I read before going to work in the morning, after dinner (which in Norway can be as early as 4.30…), when I was watching the news, in bed – at length… And now it’s over…

My present pile...

My present pile…

 

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