Sunday, 21 May 2017

"Olalla" by Robert Louis Stevenson - Book review

A great gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson on a weekend!
Picture Courtesy: Amazon

Before starting, while I was going through the reviews on Goodreads many people gave it only a single star complaining about a disappointing climax and weak hints of Vampirism. I was a bit wary thus. But for the first time, I have a completely different experience than the first three reviews I read of the book on Goodreads suggested, and I really liked it.

For a fellow escapist of the tropical heat as I am, the story blithely takes you to the picturesque mountains of a long lost untouched Spanish countryside being described through the eyes of a rational English gentleman of good senses. The story sits on the borderline of being a complete gothic horror unlike Beam Stocker's Dracula and a more human touch is given to those whom we deem inhuman- incestuous ancestry and superstition are hinted to argue with their own set of logics. I really like this aspect of Stevenson's idea of a story dealing with Vampirism or merely animalistic behavior as some might argue dating back to 1885. This banished family of lost aristocracy and surreal similarity in facial features through generations are not complete brutes and heartless beasts and are not burned on touching the cross as happens on most gothic horrors written even today's after almost 200 years of Count Dracula. The neighbouring 'kirktons' are ever wary of the evil that bodes there in the perishing castle amidst the mountains and have a very medieval attitude and that, sitting at this age of reason in the 21st century, make you feel really bad for Olalla, Felipe and their 'unbalanced' mother.

One can see the magic of Robert Louis Stevenson's writing as the climax draws to a close. In a world still not that 'scientific', the ending is plausible. I would have perhaps brought a few experts to Olalla today but sadly in 1885, sitting in a war-torn Europe, that would have been too much of an overstatement. All was well, only I found the sudden overwhelming love of the narrator for Olalla defying his usual air of being reasonable. But such is gothic fiction! So, let's learn if deal with it and savour the great writing of Stevenson that plays minds with words and created tremors with it.

I give this novella/short story(being still unclear, which?) full 4 stars! :)
This would also make for a great play or a short TV movie, so watch out for those good ones you find online and otherwise.

Happy reading! :)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Book Review : Death under the Deodars by Ruskin Bond

Finally a new Ruskin Bond this new year!

"The night has a thousand eyes
And the day but one
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun."

The book was published in October 2016 and I read it today. And yes, Rusty is back! Back with a bang!

There has never been any doubt about the goodness of Ruskin Bond's fiction, but I have never read anything so deep in this genre by him. Crime, thriller, paranormal, murders of passion or out of pure evil - a long tired list of topics people try to popularize their novels, stories with, most of the times the trials being honest may be, but disappointing.  I was slightly skeptical of what this genre might feel like, but the outcome was lovely.

Ruskin Bond has always maintained an image of Mussoorie - a scandalous and promiscuous town sitting in the beautiful lap of the Garhwal Himalayas. This book, nevertheless, is a living epitome of fiction that will sew in your mind deeper threads of such an impression through the experiences of Miss Ripley Bean. Starting from the 1920s and continuing till around 1970s(perhaps), the stories are enchanting. They are the light-reads as Ruskin Bond is famous for but thrilling and captivating. And those readers who have sunk deep in this genre, do not be scared. The endings are not predictable. Rusty manages to surprise us.

Aunt May is no Miss Marple but can be her younger sister who gathers material for her and sometimes makes a good call regarding impending judgments. She intelligently guesses what might be happening and how the thread of reason is seeped into the human psychology and their daily natures and preferences. Her observations are light, easy, confident and at peace with herself sometimes even to the extent of being lazy mainly because that is a second nature to her. Her attitude, perspective give you a glimpse of the life in hills during her time and maintains Rusty's perspective that we have known all through these years in a most amusing and new way.

The nature lovers will not miss the beautiful descriptions of flowers and the hills, but one who is reading only for that you will be disappointed. But nonetheless, give it a try. This book is worth your time. And the Rusty fans, rejoice! :)

I give Ruskin Bond's "Death under the Deodars" full 5 stars! :D
(No surprise there! :D )

Happy reading! :)