THE GIRL BEFORE

imagesThe Girl Before by JP Delaney is one of the most talked about psychological thrillers of the year, first published in the USA in 2017 by Ballantine Books. The book is written from the point of view of two women, Jane and Emma, who need a fresh start and chance upon the best rental opportunity ever. The book is being adapted into a movie by the Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard for the Universal Studios.

Both women, during different time frames live at One Folgate Street, a high-tech, ultra-minimalist house designed by Edward Monkford, a well established architect who is a bit of a control freak. In exchange for the affordable rent, the architect requires you to follow about a hundred rules. Jane, in the present begins her life in the new house and starts a relationship with Edward. She learns about the tragic death of another woman, Emma, who used to live in the same house. Some believe that Emma was murdered while others believe that she committed suicide. Jane sets out to find out what kind of a person Emma was and how she died. She meets Emma’s ex-boyfriend, Simon Wakefield, who believes she was murdered by Edward Monkford. She refuses to believe this and digs deeper to find out that Emma was not everything people believed her to be. She finds a number of people who may be connected to Emma’s death. Each person she meets has a different version of the story to tell.  As she struggles with her own past, One Folgate Street’s past threatens to consume her. She realizes that after moving into One Folgate Street, she has started living the exact same life that Emma once did. The real question is whether the house she considered a safe haven is actually safe or if she will meet the same fate as the girl before.

JP Delaney is pseudonym for an author who has previously written best-selling fictions under other names. He has done an excellent job writing from the perspective of two contrasting yet similar female protagonists. All the characters are very well defined and each one has his or her own story to tell.

One of the most interesting things about the book is that apart from the two female protagonists mentioned, the house, One Folgate Street, also plays a prominent role. The large empty spaces, the blank white walls, the dozen security measures and all those rules make you wonder what kind of a person could live in such a house. Such a place could either make you or break you. The book thus portrays how the place you live in plays a major role in what you become.

            As you flip through the pages, the book asks you questions which make you think about your own values and beliefs. It gives you scenarios and asks you to choose between one thing and another and not one of them is an easy choice to make. The book revolves around the truth and the lies told by the characters which keeps you guessing throughout.

The Girl Before is an absolutely brilliant piece of work with its interesting characters and mysterious plot. It is similar to Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train and is a must read for anyone who loves suspense and thrillers.  The book is unpredictable with the continuous twists and turns in the story and has you hooked until the very last words. This book is exactly what we readers call an ‘unputdownable book’ and is most definitely one of my top recommendations to all readers.

Anjali Binesh

II PCMB C

Go Set A Watchman

“The lord never sends you more than you can bear……”

                       -Uncle Jack

Go Set A Watchman

Go Set A Watchman

This quote is taken from Harper Lee’s second book ‘Go Set a Watchman’, published by Harper Collins in United States in 2015. Harper Lee is one of the best novelist who is the first author to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her first book ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’in 1961. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the US and National medal of arts are some of the many awards Lee received.

Politics, racism, change, conscience, equality are some of the highlighted themes of this fiction which is a third person narrative and describes the disturbed situation among the dark and the white people during the mid-twentieth century. This book was written prior to Lee’s first book but was published as its sequel.

The story is set in Maycomb, Alabama where the protagonist, Jean Louise was born and brought up, but currently lives in New York. On her two week holiday to her hometown, she notices that things have changed and nothing seems to be like before. She is disgusted seeing the change in her dad (Atticus), her suitor (Henry) and her aunt about the notions they have for the dark coloured race. She also finds that her relation with Calpurnia her old dark maid has changed. The narrator suffers from an inner turmoil where she often recalls her childhood days when situations where different.

The narrator believes in equal rights for all and is angry with her family who are against the dark people, also considered as ‘the black plague’. The author highlights the complexity of history, law, human race and politics when one is forced to do something that he does not wish to. The ‘watchman’ is the view of the older Jean Louise which is different from that of her father’s. She is upset that her father, who is her idol and her best friend does not think the same way as she does. After a row with her father Jean meets her uncle, Uncle Jack who beautifully explains the philosophy of circumstances by giving some amazing examples. He explains that it’s not good to fasten our conscience with someone else’s as, if that happens and the opinions differ, it’s disheartening; and it is also necessary to keep in mind that our idols are just human beings and it is OK for them to have different ideas. These intriguing philosophical explanations gives a better understanding to human psychology, which also helped Jean understand her father’s and Henry’s decisions.

This story can be related to present day situations like: political disturbances, conflicts in families and friendship due to difference in opinions, empowering a particular group of people and many more.

This is an amazing book appropriate for teenagers and young adults, with a simple story about Jean Louise’s life and her relation with her family and the people of her hometown. The author’s opinion on racism is clearly expressed and what she thinks is definitely right but even what her dad is doing is justified and her final decision of understanding her father’s point of view to the situation is definitely agreeable.

Overall it is a good and interesting book and I would recommend others to read it.

I would like to end by quoting a set of meaningful words by Uncle Jack- “prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one…..they both begin when reason ends.”

Aditi Jain

II CAMS K

Four

Four

Four

 

Fear doesn’t shut you down. It wakes you up.

Four

FOUR: A Divergent Collection is a thrilling anthology of four short-stories. Veronica Roth had initially started writing the Divergent series from Four’s perspective but had had to stop after thirty pages. She started the story afresh with an Abnegation girl this time instead of a boy. But the boy never disappeared.

Through these stories, we re-enter the faction system, with Tobias Eaton’s point of view. The first story (The Transfer) was released as an e-book on the 3rd of September, 2013. The second story titled The Initiate, the third story titled The Son and the fourth story titled The Traitor was released on the 8th of July, 2014 along with the simultaneous release of the book FOUR which also contains three exclusive scenes from the Divergent series.

Veronica Roth, best known for her Divergent trilogy, is the recipient of the Goodreads 2011 Choice Award and the Best of 2012 in the category YA Fantasy & Sci-fi, and is also the best Goodreads author in 2012. A like for Psychology 101, division into groups and an interest in the character Tris led to her writing the book Divergent.

The book FOUR serves as a prequel to the Divergent series. It is set in the same background as the Divergent trilogy, but in this book the story begins years earlier from when the Divergent started.

The society is divided into five different factions-Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the truthful), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent); and the factionless. Every one living in this society undergoes an Aptitude Test at the age of sixteen to determine which faction suits one the best. Later, one has to attend the Choosing Ceremony where one publicly announces the faction of one’s choice. Roth chooses the time when, Four has to take the Aptitude test, to begin her narration.

Tobias Eaton, the son of an Abnegation leader, is fed up of living “surrounded by identical houses in the most monotonous neighborhood in the city, surrounded by people in identical gray clothing with identical short hair”.

Having lost his mother at a tender age and being physically abused by his father, all Tobias Eaton wants to do is run. He is willing to choose any faction other than Abnegation.

Tobias, no longer wants to be “surrounded by the differential, apologetic Abnegation”. He rebels and finally chooses Dauntless.

Tobias now goes by the name Four, a name given to him because of his four fears. Four is no longer Tobias Eaton. He has left his past behind and is “someone who’s finally ready to fight” by the end of The Transfer.

The Initiate closely follows Four’s initiation ceremony and how he successfully manages to make a name for himself in the Dauntless faction, making enemies in the process. The story ends with Four catching a glimpse of a lady strongly resembling his mother.

It’s finally time for the initiates to choose their jobs. Though Four’s first choice was being an initiate instructor, Max, a Dauntless leader advises him to be like him instead. Four agrees. As his training continues, Four learns a lot about some clandestine activities happening within the faction system. Also, by this time Four is aware of his mother’s existence. The Son witnesses certain discoveries and important decisions and thus ends.

The final story The Traitor occurs simultaneously with Divergent. Tris has joined Dauntless. Four now discovers the attacks planned and it is up to him to react appropriately to save the factions.

The book also features three exclusive scenes from the Divergent series from Tobias’ point of view. Veronica Roth says that her intention of writing this book was to satisfy the enthusiasm and the inquisitiveness of those fans who couldn’t get enough of Four. This book also serves as a way for the producers and directors to know more about the character Four so that they can successfully portray him onscreen.

The language of the book is simple yet not boring. Roth successfully manages to keep the readers captivated throughout the stories. The exclusive scenes could be quite repetitive in nature but they are no doubt a visual treat for the Divergent fans.

Veronica Roth has truly captured human emotions and reactions in this wonderful book. It has been a hit throughout the globe because it appeals to young adults universally.

This book teaches us that there’s a hero within every one of us. A truly motivating book that never fails to keep my spirits elevated.

Sambhavi Kirti

II CAMS K

The Martian

The Martian

The Martian

The novel, published in 2014, is the highly acclaimed debut work of the author, and was later converted into a film in 2015, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as lead character Mark Watney.

The author has worked as a computer programmer since the age of fifteen, and has been writing in his spare time for nearly twenty years: he has web comics and other science fiction works to his name on his website. His first novel ‘Theft of Pride’ failed to get published. The Martian was critically acclaimed for its scientific accuracy and engrossing plot.

The book is set in a certain time in the future (with no specified dates) where travel to Mars has become a reality, with a first-person narrative (log entries of Watney on Mars) as well as a third-person narrative (all scenes outside Mars). It begins with a log entry where Watney describes his dire circumstances (being stranded on Mars with hardly any food and no means of communication with Earth) and his minuscule chances of survival, and leads into his ideas to prolong his life long enough to come up with plans to attempt to get back to Earth. Being a botanist, he plants potatoes using his own excreta mixed with Martian soil in the crew’s intended “Habitat”. As time passes, he manages to communicate with NASA using systems from previous missions to Mars. NASA then brainstorms for ideas to bring him back alive while even considering the possibility of leaving him behind, as it would cost much lesser in terms of money and potentially, even life. It is decided that a food package be sent to Watney to keep him alive, and the satellite is put together in record time, albeit at the cost of not running required pre-launch tests; due to the hasty loading, a weight mismatch causes the launch to crash and dampens everybody’s spirits and hopes. Meanwhile, a NASA astrodynamicist named Purnell is hit with a brainwave where he comes up with a slingshot manoeuvre which can save Watney’s life with minimal cost and maximum efficiency. Eventually, after months of planning and preparation, it is decided that the crew- which escaped the massive dust storm in the launch vehicle and is currently close to Earth- shall fly by Earth back to Mars to bring Watney back safely. This idea put into action despite NASA chief’s opposition, thanks to the NASA’s chief of the Mars Missions who slyly sends a newly scripted flight plan to the crew members. After a few more months and much drama (including Watney’s near-fatal drive of over 3200km to reach the launch vehicle of another mission, taking down many components to reduce weight, and near death of starvation due to rationing of limited food resources), precision manoeuvring of the two crafts by flight engineer Martinez helps save Watney, despite sustaining injuries.

It is an extremely compelling read dished out by Andy Weir, with large doses of humour, action,suspense, drama, and science; the biggest stand-outs for me are the realistic portrayal of the characters, the scientific accuracy of the entire plot, and mostly, the brilliant narrative style which leaves you breathlessly waiting to know the twists and turns of the plot! On the whole, it is an ultimate page turner and a delight for sci-fi enthusiasts; it’s a perfect ten out of ten personally and surely one of my top recommendations.

AnirudhIyer

II CAMS K

Girl on the Train

Girl on the Train

Girl on the Train

Girl on the train by Paula Hawkins is one of those books you would love to have on your bookshelf. The biggest reason why is that you cannot call yourself a book-nerd if you have not read this one. The book has earned for itself a cosy spot on many Bestseller lists- GoodReads, Times, etc., and is everything a thriller addict could possibly ask for.

Now, most authors would want their protagonists to be interesting people with interesting lives. Paula Hawkins, however, went for Rachel, an alcoholic with the most mechanical life you could possibly imagine. What is most ironic here is that this book is a top notch thriller with the first few chapters being quite dull and grey; it successfully creates an illusion of normalcy, of nothing seeming to be out of place. Just when you are being lulled into monotony, you come face to face with the turning point of the plot and suddenly everything becomes ten times more interesting. The reader’s curiosity deepens with every page he turns; he quickly reaches the point where the book becomes “unputdownable”.

Explaining the plot would most definitely ruin the read, and hence, I’ve decided to explain the character of Rachel, our Girl on the Train. As mentioned earlier she is not built of the usual protagonist material. A person with some serious flaws, Rachel is a divorcee who has sought refuge in alcohol. She drinks excessively and this costs her, her job. Afraid that her apartment owner would not want to have a jobless tenant, Rachel takes a train to London every day pretending that she goes to work. On one of those routine journeys, she sees something from the carriage window that shatters the monotony of her life. It’s only for a brief moment, not even a paragraph but a mere sentence that forms the turning point in the plot.

What is most interesting about the book is the writing style. The reader is compelled to see the picture through the eyes of three different women- Rachel, Anna and Megan, and is compelled to adapt himself to the constantly changing time frame of the plot. Towards the end of the book, the reader is left with random pieces of a puzzle with ABSOLUTELY no idea where each piece fits in the bigger picture. Only when the reader completely finishes the book, can he enjoy the satisfaction of having solved the puzzle. And this is what sets a true thriller apart from the rest.

Reading this book is like sitting on a roller coaster side; you can resume breathing normally only when you finish reading it. By that time, Rachel would have easily gotten herself a place on your “Unforgettable Fictional Characters” list; enough to show that she is more than just a girl on the train.

Ritika Sowda

II CAME L

Looking for Alaska

Looking For Alaska

Looking For Alaska

Looking for Alaska is a beautiful young adult novel which is centered around the life of the teenager, Miles Halter who leaves Florida to attend a boarding school in Alabama. With his resentment towards sports and obsession for people’s last words, Miles heads off to the Culver Creek Boarding School to seek what the poet Rabelais called The Great Perhaps.

Miles befriends his roommate Chip who introduces him to the beautiful, smart, funny and mysterious girl down the hall, Alaska Young. It is she who introduces Miles to the concept of the labyrinth, which is the labyrinth of suffering. She tells him how people spend their whole lives stuck in the labyrinth, trying to escape it by imagining the bright future ahead, while in reality, they never do it. People just use the future to escape the present.

The story progresses, with the high school fun and the pranks. In the long run, Miles gets to know Alaska better and soon, she kind of becomes the centre of his universe. Everything goes on normally, until when halfway through the book, a tragedy takes place. The latter half of the book is about how Miles and his friends try to make sense of it.

What I liked about the book is that, it talks about the afterlife in a very practical way. It speaks how people believe in the afterlife because they cannot imagine death being a big black nothing and cannot bear the idea of themselves not existing.  They believe in the afterlife because they cannot bear not to.

Miles also figures out the labyrinth mystery. In the end, he decides that even though straight and fast is the only way out, getting through the labyrinth is the better choice. The book talks about how forgiveness is the key to survive in the labyrinth and how the concept of the afterlife is probably just something to ease out the suffering in the labyrinth.

Moreover, John Green has written the story fiercely, exposing the working of a teen’s mind as they grow up and explore the world. The author has brilliantly explained how everyone has a part of themselves, which is greater than all the other parts and how that part is immortal as it has no end nor a beginning and hence, it cannot fail. Therefore, there is no need to be hopeless in life as we can never be irreparably broken.

In case you haven’t been impressed by the plot already, you need to read the book for at least the way it’s written. The storyline is gripping, funny and sad at the same time. My favorite part was the brilliantly written quotes. This one by far was my favorite among all the others: “There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow- that, in short, we are all going.”

This book had a really huge impact on me and I’m positive that I can never look at things the way I used to. It is just about one of the most realistic books out there, talking about friendship, loss, love and most importantly, life. It is an inspiring and a very thrilling story and something that every teen needs to read.

Shalini 

II PCMB D

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

-Jane Eyre

‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, a classic novel that has withstood the test of time, has been read, reread and appreciated by many literature and classic novel lovers over the years. It is an extremely rare novel that manages to lure readers by virtue of its charm alone, despite not having much going into it in terms of the overall plot. Despite its complexity, though, the heart and soul of this book is the story of Jane Eyre, a principled young woman who has seen a lot of suffering.

Charlotte Bronte was an English novelist and poet, eldest of three sisters who were also famous novelists. ‘Jane Eyre’ is her most impactful novel which she released in the year 1847. Charlotte Bronte faced a lot of difficulties in her life and she found a way to express her grief and come out of it through writing. She died at the age of 38, with her unborn child, due to suspected phthisis. Her novel, ‘Jane Eyre’ has caught the attention of many critics and literature patrons.

The plot of the book talks about how Jane Eyre, an orphan of no beauty, wealth, or social standing, is taken in by her relatives, the Reeds, who treat her with contempt and even cruelty. When she’s old enough Jane is sent to Lowood School, much to her relief. But the food is foul, several of the teachers are cruel, and sanitation is so bad that an epidemic causes several deaths among the pupils. A ray of light brightens Jane’s life in the form of Helen, her best friend but Helen succumbs to the epidemic while Jane survives. Jane continues in Lowood for eight years, six as a student and two as a teacher. She yearns for a change and takes up a job as a governess to Adele Varens, the ward of the master of Thornfield, Edward Rochester, a dark, brooding Byronic man living in a seemingly haunted house. Jane finds herself falling secretly in love with Mr Rochester and when he proposes to her, surprising her, she accepts willingly. Their wedding ceremony is stopped short when a man interrupts them claiming that Rochester is already married. Jane decides to leave him and flees, penniless and struggling since she feels humiliated. The events that follow lead to a series of discoveries, tales of empathy and friendship, struggles faced by a woman, Jane’s dilemma, misfortunes that befall Mr Rochester after Jane leaves him and the latent yet passionate love between Jane and Mr Rochester.

I do not have a particular genre of books that I prefer over others and hence, I decided to read this timeless classic, having received many positive reviews about it. What struck me the most about this novel is the style of writing used by Bronte, which combines a certain authenticity with good quality writing.The manner in which Bronte has explicitly explained what all Jane underwent made me feel that I was a part of Jane’s story as I leafed through the pages. The book taught me a lot about friendship, empathy, patience and love. Jane’s character impressed me the most.  Despite her social powerlessness Jane is one of the strongest women characters in fiction and by sticking to her principles she is rewarded with true love. This book, I believe brings out the struggles faced by a woman and her will to overcome them. It is one of the most powerful novels written by one of the most prolific classic writers. To me, it is an inspirational novel that each person perceives in his or her own way. I feel that this timeless classic is a must read for all those literature and classic loves out there and also those who want to be introduced to the world of classic literature.

Srishti M

I HEPP ‘N