Book Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

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Just in time for the release of the film adaptation (opening in South Africa on 22 August), I’ve read The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. This is the best book I’ve read this year… Okay, maybe alongside The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. But they’re in totally different categories. So I can’t give either top prize. I loved them both.

I read this lovely book on recommendation of my dear friend Ernest. We have a very special bond, him and I, and our deepest mutual interest is food. You’ll recall I went to the Taste of Cape Town? I went with him. He told me a couple of weeks ago about a film being released soon that he really wanted to go see. So I watched the trailer. And I was excited. But then I found out it is based on a book, and as per my rule, I HAD to read it first. So I got my grubby little paws on it, and started reading.

I was hooked from the first page, and I read it in a day. I adore this book. It is so well written, and it demonstrates how an author can create powerful and effective imagery with just his words. This author in particular, does so excellently. The book follows a typical Indian family from their humble beginnings in Mumbai, working as a family to reach success through their food. However, before long tragedy strikes, and the family has to leave their home. Their Mumbai. They end up in London, trying to rebuild. Language and culture differences obviously plays a big role, and it is a theme throughout the book. After some time, the family once again, finds themselves having to leave their home. They travel across Europe, experiencing the culture and cuisine offered by each region they stop, when they finally end up in a small village deep in France. It is here where they settle and find themselves again. They delve back into their own culture and food again after a very long time of feeling alienated and lost. Then they meet their neighbour, Madame Mallory, a difficult and stern French chef who runs a Michelin starred inn.

I am so afraid to give too much away, I just want to stop myself. It is an incredible story of culture, food, traveling, family, friendship, heartache, conflict and ultimately, the strive to follow one’s passion.

Having been to India myself, I can tell you that I was there again while reading this. The smells, the tastes, the people and the sounds, all of it, was so accurately described by Mr Morais, that I was instantly there again. It is fantastic, and it reaffirmed the desire in me to go back again. And France, oh France, the darling of my foodie heart. I want to go back. And eat. And learn.

If you love food, and culture, and traveling, and a good read, this book is for you. If you haven’t seen the film, read it first. I promise, it will be worth it.

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

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As promised, I am working through a reading list, and will be reviewing them as I read them. I’m starting this little project with all the can-do attitude I have, and I hope (very sincerely and earnestly), that I’ll finish this project. I don’t want to let too much time lapse between each book on the list, because I’m afraid I might get demotivated. However, sometimes after a good book, you suffer from a Book Hangover. That’s when you need some time to recover from the literary world you have just left.

I am not ashamed to admit that even though I am in my late twenties, I have read quite a few Young Adult books. They often deal with the same themes as “serious” books, but they are easy to read. And sometimes, all you want is a book that doesn’t give you a headache. And that’s okay. The first book that I read, was The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene. Even though The Fault In Our Stars is technically a Young Adult novel, I really do feel like any person could enjoy it, and all of us could learn something from it.

What an emotional rollercoaster. Gosh, I was crying throughout the book, in various levels of intensity of the “ugly cry”. This is not a book to read if you’re looking for a lighthearted and fun read. It’s a serious read, even though it’s not long.

The two main characters in the book are Hazel and Augustus. They both are living through the tragedy that is adolescent cancer. Both are teenagers, trying to get by in a world where they kind of feel like outsiders. She is an amazingly geeky and intelligent girl, but is very insecure about her role in her family and social circle, weary of being a burden. She shuts herself out from the act of “living life”. Augustus is the typical American jock boy. He’s fun, energetic, dreamy and positive. Regardless of the struggles he has had to endure, he keeps himself strong. Their paths cross, and that’s where the story really begins.

I am weary to give away too much, which is what I normally do when I tell my beau about whatever book I’m reading. I end up giving him a complete recount of the book, cliffhangers and dramatic revelations and all.

I will say this about the book though. The pair fall in love. They get to travel. And as far as I am concerned, the author got the imagery of their travels spot on. I have been where they go (again, I don’t want to say too much, as it is an integral part of the story) and I can tell you, if you read it, that is EXACTLY what it looks like, sounds like, smells like. A tip of my pen to the author.

There are many themes in this book, all of which everyone can relate to, whether you have had to experience cancer on some level or not. There is love. New, uncertain, clumsy, messy first love. Familial love and the blurred lines of duty and guilt and love in family life. There is heartache and heartbreak. Isolation plays a big role in Hazel’s life, of her own doing as well as the nature of society. It’s interesting to see how she deals with that. There’s also obviously a running theme of mortality and religion, how they’re intertwined, and how the characters deal with each of these issues.

It is a heart wrenching story, from which I have learnt a very valuable lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. We’re taught by society that showing pain and dealing with it where people can see is unacceptable. There’s a reason “Get over it” is so popular. Because people don’t like to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I’ve learnt is this: You can take the time you need to deal with whatever life throws at you in your own time. It is your life. You deserve to have a happy soul. And if that means that you’re “still” crying over that thing, so be it. That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.

So feel it.

Summer Reading List

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I have a deep and profound love for books. All books. Whether they be old or new, I adore them all. Truth be told though, I love buying old books. They smell of imagination, and seeing the battle scars of a pre-loved book makes me appreciate them even more. Sometimes I buy books just because they look pretty, and when I’m lucky they even contain a great story. This love is generations strong, a love nursed gently by my grandmother, passed on to my mother, and on to us. One of my biggest treats as a child was to visit my grandmother over school vacation. She would take us to the small town library, each armed with three library cards, and free reign over our literary choices. A week later, we would return them, and the hunt would start again.

I have recently stumbled across a list of books to read, that “will change your life”. After reading a brief synopsis of each, I jotted down which ones I want to read. So I have decided to share this list with you, and tell you if you should read them too. Some of them are classics, some are new hits. All of them have my attention.

The list is not long, but it’s a good start to keep my brain reading-fit.

  • The Fault In Our Stars – John Greene
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
  • The Diving Bell & The Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Invisible Monsters – Chuck Palahniuk
  • White Oleander – Janet Fitch
  • Play It As It Lays: A Novel – Joan Didion
  • Ada, or Ardor – Vladimir Nabokov
  • Push: A Novel – Sapphire
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Catcher In The Rye – J.D Salinger

I’m excited to share my thoughts with you. I’ll re-read the ones I’ve read before too. The first review will be on The Fault In Our Stars, although I believe that I’m one of the last people on earth who have read it after all the hype. Let’s geek it up!