Shades Of Words


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The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

When I picked this book from my local library I missed “A Novel” part of the title. I thought these were some actual journal diaries or letters of Jane Austen. So I was a tad disappointed when I came home and actually started reading the novel.

I do agree it is always interesting to speculate on the disposition of a famous character and do read a story woven around her. Jane Austen has inspired so many Regency romances that its only natural to expect that she may have had one similar romance in her life. And this forms the premise of “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”. Jane Austen decides late in life to chronicle some of the key moments in her life, her one true love and her journey in becoming a published author so that at some day in the distant future someone might discover this facet of her life. Some part of the books are based on true incidents and some are entirely fictionalized. I was totally gripped in the love story between Jane And Mr. Ashford. How wonderful if it had been true! I liked reading about the various places where Jane stayed and being a part of her daily life.

However, overall, I was honestly quite disappointed. And I dont know why. The book is well written. James’s Ausetn is what you would hope she would be – very much like Lizzie Bennet. But I think that is the main problem.You don’t want her to be Lizzie Bennet, right? As a reader you want Jane to have a personality entirely of her own and not that of her created characters. In the narrative,James borrows heavily from the Jane’s novels in both dialogs and situations. And yes we know life inspires art and its quite possible that Jane created stories out of what she saw around her but it starts getting annoying at some point .It also gets distracting  beacuse instead of focusing on the book you are more interested in trying to connect what you are reading to where you have read it before. It also reflects lack of originality on the author’s part. I was often wondering, if she was running out of ideas to what could have happened in Jane’s life,as she has to pick up instances from her books to create Jane’s world.

Well I did not like it. But it doesn’t mean at all that it was a bad book. I would reccommend it to anyone who must compulsively read everything written by and on Jane Austen 🙂


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Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road is not a movie that you watch for entertainment. Based in 1950s,  this story of the suburban couple April and Frank Wheeler, hits you below the belt.
Never having read the book, and just having heard about it, I stumbled on this movie on HBO. And I was gripped in 5 seconds. April , a desparate housewife, yearns to run away from the monotony of her surroundings.  Frank, stuck in a dead end job, tries to infuse some excitement in his life with a fling at work.April and Frank are ordinary people, who, like ordinary people believe that they have the potential to be special.April decides that the only way to get out of their stifling environment is to go to Paris – where she can support the family and Frank can discover his passion for whatever he is good at. Enamoured by this idea they start planning their life around Paris.Love is back in their marriage and they feel young and foolish again. Somehow, as an audience , you know that they will never make it Paris. Frank suddenly gets a lot of recognition at work and his job does not seem that hateful anymore. April conceives and that becomes a more obvious reason to not to go to Paris.

Both April and Frank are remarkably self-centered and both are in the illusion that they have sacrificed their lives for each other. April is convinced that Paris is what Frank needs and she has given up her steady neighbourhood so that he can live his dream. But as the movie progresses , you know its April who really wishes to be someone else and be somewhere else. Frank just adds to her guilt complex. Their meetings with the crazy neighbour only brings out the insanity in their lives.

The story is such a tragedy and there are scenes that are such remarkable representations of human nature. For example, the scene where April is apologizing to Frank about getting pregnant and telling him that she can get rid of it and it wont come in the way of his dreams. Or where Frank , when confessing his affair to April, makes it sound as if its her fault. The most moving scene of it all – when Frank suggests that April needs a shrink because of her obsession to go to Paris.

Kate Winslet is remarkable , though her American accent is not very convincing. I like the way she plays the role of the troubled April in such a calm and sophisitcated manner. I have been a huge Di Caprio fan since I watched Blood Diamond. With age his boyish looks have gone giving his features a hard-edged quality – which are ideal for this role. His acting is obviously incredible.

Verdict : I recommend this movie if you are willing to get out of your daily comfort zone and think


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The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

Having seen this book hugely recommended on various blogs, it did not take me long to get this on my library request queue. Did I think it was worth the reviews? Absolutely.

Based in post-war British , this is the utterly delightful story of the friendship of Penelope, Charlotte an Henry. And that is just one layer of the story. Eva Rice transports the reader into the 1950s high society London and you can almost hear the  clink of the wine glasses and smell the perfumes.

Penelope Wallace  is the main protagonist of  the story and the reader is instantly engaged with her character from the first page. You remember your teenage obsessions as she swoons over Johnnie Ray, you empathize with her shyness as she is overshadowed by a gorgeous and glamorous mother and your heart aches for her as she struggles for her own confused feelings of love.

Milton Magna  , home to Penelope and Inigo,  is clearly a symbolic substitute for their dead father. Falling apart in disrepair , with no means to keep it standing, Magna is the albatross around their neck. There is this constant sense of repression inside its walls. It is no wonder that Penelope is always escaping to London to spend time with Charlotte and Harry.

“We were young and the world spun for us alone”  – My favorite line of the book ,it most accurately captures the essence of youth  and the book. The constant light headed dizziness of being young and knowing that your whole life is in front of you, when being noticed and loved is what you can ask for most! And nothing changes that – not being in post-war england, not poverty , not rationing and not even living in a dying house.

Eva Rice’s literary style though breezy is fun to read. Character development is beautiful and that makes this book more classy than the others. The best part is that you don’t want the story to end where it does..you wish you could spend another day in the lives of Penelope and her friends.

Verdict : Must read


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The Wreck of the Golden Mary

I almost squealed with delight when I saw this book in the library. No, I had never heard of it nor anyone had ever recommended it to me. But what made me happy was that this book was written by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Till I read this book , I had no clue that they were colleagues or even friends!!

The novella tells the story of a the crew and passengers on the ship The Golden Mary that is sailing towards the Californian coast. There is a motley group of passengers – a man looking out to make money in the gold rush, an estranged fiancé, a mother and her child heading to meet the father. The ship is tragically struck by an ice berg and sinks. Luckily all the crew and passengers are moved safely to two life boats.The people though alive are far from safety as they float stranded on the open sea with minimum food and water between them.

Apart from the captain and the first mate , through whose eyes the story is told , an extremely important character is Golden Lucy. She is the only child on board and everyone’s favorite. She presents purity and happiness when the ship was afloat and hope and spirit when survivors hung between life and death in the lifeboats.

Dickens brings out interesting aspects of human behavior under this severe living condition and creates vivid characters in such short story telling. One of the steps the survivors take to keep their spirits alive as days pass by without the sign of another ship , is to tell each other stories.  5 such stories all contributed by 5 different writers form the body of the novella.

Verdict : Read it