Monthly Archives: September 2017

Read: Selection Day: a novel by Aravind Adiga

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Aravind Adiga is one of my favorite authors. He writes about different aspects and people of India, with vivid detail. While Selection Day follows this pattern, it takes focuses on brotherly competition and cricket.

Cricket is a sport that I know little about but after reading this novel, I feel that I understand the competitive environment and pressure to succeed. Selection Day is an opportunity for fame of all young Indian boys, trying to showcase their skills and be chosen for a professional cricket team. Like with all sports, though, hard work and practice are crucial but sometimes luck also plays its part.

Radha and Manju are competitive brothers, pushed by their single father to succeed at cricket at all costs in order to pull them from the slums and poverty. Despite his tough love, both brothers excel and are forced into further competition as teens as each earns a scholarship from a sponsor to further support and encourage their abilities.

As will all of his novels, Adiga crafts complex and realistic characters. This is true for all characters, no matter what the size of their role is in the story. Their motivations and desires, turmoil and struggles enhance the plot and makes the novel feel more real, more genuine. This is true for the relationships as well. Selection Day showcases Adiga’s skill in developing the relationships between the characters, especially the brothers.

This novel truly is a coming-of-age story, told with two brothers. This is a great twist on a classic genre. As with all such stories, the boy’s love lives and failed romances are side plots but still an integral part.

Recommended?: Yes, for anyone wants to travel to India between pages, enjoys reading coming-of-age stories, or wants to know more about the hidden side of cricket. Adiga provides a day-to-day insight on what life’s like, with all the beauty and grime that entails.

Selection Day book cover

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Read: The vegetarian: a novel by Han Kang

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The vegetarian: a novel by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith, is nothing like you might expect for a book with this title. While well written, it is also an oddly dark and horrifying novel.

In Korea, meat is a key component of practically every meal. Even during our travels in Seoul, for breakfast one of the many bon chon (side dishes) is a cold marinated shredded beef; delicious and served with not matter what you order. Due to this, it makes sense that becoming a vegetarian can be a big deal that would be difficult for a family to understand. This is the premise of the novel, which evokes the worst case imaginable and life spirals ever downward because of this one decision. Certainly intriguing but also scary in its plausibility.

Yeong-hye wakes up from a startling, overwhelming nightmare about raw meat that made her feel revolted by meat upon waking up. The vividness and pungent stench from her nightmare instantly converts her to a vegetarian. The novel opens with the husband finding her standing in the kitchen, throwing out all meat and fish in the middle of the night. Soon he realizes that it is not a faze and that his wife is serious about being a vegetarian and won’t allow any meat at home so he no longer gets it either. She even keeps her distance from him, bothered by the smell of his sweat; even that is too animalistic for her now. Annoyed with her, the husband drags her family into the issue, sure that they can convince her to eat meat again and that’s where everything goes wrong.

Kang builds a compelling story in which all characters believe that they are right and remain stuck in their opinions. Instead of helping Yeong-hue, her family only makes the situation and her stubbornness worse. Her downfall is exploited by her brother-in-law for his own pleasure after her husband leaves her and her sister is all that is left but even her patience wears out. No one wants to support Yeong-hye as she is but it also becomes more difficult as her beliefs become more eccentric and she recedes deeper into herself.

Originally written as three novellas, the novel on gains three parts: Yeong-hye, the brother-in-law, and finally the sister. The main story follows throughout but it gets more complicated with each additional part. As crazy as the plot gets, it’s eerily plausible which makes it even more upsetting and in its own way horrifying.

Recommended?: Certainly for adults only, as there is sexual and graphic content. There is lots of drama in the novel and the plot keeps intensifying, which is typical of Korea television shows so it wasn’t too surprising but it certainly makes the book quite a page turner, despite being frightening. For my first Korean novel, it was a wild one but very good. I can’t wait to read more by Korean authors.