To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The story is narrated by eight year old Scout, formally named Jean Louise, who unaware of the complex working of human society has a very straightforward and unbiased opinion of things. This adds a touch of humor and irony to the entire story. Her way of looking at things in a very simplistic manner, helps us attain an insight into how man has made life complicated by creating a difference in the likes of human beings.

It all starts off with Scout explaining to us about how Jem, her elder brother broke his elbow. As Jem and Scout vary in their accounts of how it all happened, Scout tells us the whole lot of it, from the very beginning. And somewhere along the way, we end up knowing a lot more than just a broken elbow. The author handles the sensitive issue of racism and discrimination in a very skillful and almost humorous way, laced with innocence and clear, unpolluted thoughts of the children, while stirring up the reader’s heart and conscience.

The story is set in the 30’s of Southern America, when racism and suppression of the colored people was prominent. In the small little Maycomb County, Alabama, Atticus Finch the attorney for state who also happens to be Scout and Jem’s father is handed a controversial case of an innocent black man, charged with the rape of a white woman. As things proceed, the kids transit from a state of confusion as to what’s happening, to that of understanding and a clear resolve for justice. Their unprejudiced minds, and inquisitive hearts, also probe into the lives and minds of the rest of the townsfolk who tend to suppress their more rational and just thoughts about the issue, for the sake of keeping up the façade of white dominance.

The townsfolk, with quite a lot of prejudice, come to a mutual conclusion that it is but right that the black man be convicted of the felony. But Atticus Finch , who truly believes that cheating a black man, is ten times worse than cheating a white man, does his very best to win the case. The title of the book comes from something Atticus says to the kids, when they get air rifles on Christmas. He says, that his father had once told him, “Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (here the mocking bird signifies the black man). He explains to the kids, that likewise, convicting an innocent black man, based on his colour, would be a grave sin as well.

Another instance, which makes us realize the simplicity of life, which we ourselves complicate, is when Jem and Scout are having a conversation over what different sorts of people exist and Jem reckons there are 4 kinds. And naïve Scout, mumbles to herself “I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks”

And then there is Boo Radley, a character who confines himself to the boundaries of his house and is a mystery to all others. But as Jem and Scout begin to uncover the ugly reality of the society, Jem begins to understand Boo Radley. He says, that maybe it isn’t all that strange that someone would want to stay out of the mess of humanity as it would be much simpler that facing the cruel world.

The author has woven a very simple, yet an amazing storyline. The pure and innocent narration and conversations by the kids, about serious adult conflicts, tend to make us come to our senses about we have made out of this world. Whatever happened to the phrase, ‘all are equal’? .What is the motive behind such biased and unfair treatment towards a certain kind or sect of people? Why does color or origin have anything to do with how you are treated and respected in the society? This and very many other such questions arise when you read the book. But as the story comes to an end, the reader will surely have a much clearer mind about these issues as the raw opinions and uncomplicated thought process of the kids is laid bare for us to go through and contemplate upon.

I sincerely hope that everyone covets the opportunity to cleanse yourself of any sort of prejudice that might be lingering in some forgotten corner of your mind. And this book, will surely serve as a tool for that job.

Saba Firdaus


Animal Farm

It is very difficult to say what kind of book animal farm is. This fantastic book is written by George Orwell. This story deals with what happens when the animals take over Jones Manor’s farm and administer it themselves. Animals talk like humans and they perform tasks meant only for human beings. The experiment is successful except for the fact that someone has to take up the leadership. The story tells us how the revolution failed because its leaders have been corrupted by power.
Mr. Jones is a drunkard farmer and a brutal owner of animal farm. He believes in suppression of inferior animals and treats them cruelly. Major, who is the eldest pig in the farm, advocates freedom. He proposes seven commandments to his fellow beasts and dies. After this incident, the animals revolt against Mr. Jones and chase him out of the farm. Napoleon and Snowball, two strong and intelligent pigs take up the leadership. Everything went on well for a few years. The revolution was hardly complete when the differences began to appear. The pigs dominated the other animals present in the field. Napoleon, who was one of the leaders wanted to be the sole-dictator of the farm. He secretly trained the dogs and made them chase snowball out of the farm. All the other animals which were frightened of the dogs obeyed Napoleon. The pigs start trade with the humans. They become more like humans and socialize with them. They were playing cards with the neighboring farm owners.
This is how Orwell ends the story,
“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they (the pigs and the humans) were all alike. The creatures outside looked from man to pig, and from pig to man, but already it was impossible to say which was which”
Animal farm like Aesop’s Fables and Gulliver travels is a fantastic children’s story. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is an ingenious metaphor of humans’ desire to reform, and natural tendency to ruin all they strived to attain. This work of art, so wonderfully personifying these farm animals, is a complex, interesting, and stimulating piece. Farm animals try to restructure their social situation by taking over the farm, they inadvertently create monsters. The boars become those monsters. The characterization is absolutely charming, especially that of the character Napoleon. Along with a wonderful development of other characters, this story has a relatively well thought out plot.

Hemalatha Naidu M

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri , is an Indian American writer. Interpreter of Maladies, her first short story collection won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The author is also a member of presidents committee on the arts and humanities chosen by US president Barack Obama. The short stories from Interpreter of Maladies focuse on sensitive conflicts in the lives of Indian immigrants. The themes revolve around the marital problems, children and the dilemma faced by second generation immigrants.

The story I read is titled The Interpreter of Maladies which also the title of the short story collection.
The story talks about a family that has come from America to visit India. The protagonist is a teacher with wife and three children. Throughout the context of the story they travel in a car sharing their life experiences with the guide. In the beginning the wife is uninterested. Her uninterested behaviour is noticed by the guide and he takes advantage of the situation. At one point in their journey the travel guide and the lady happen to be alone and share their personal life experiences like their past love life and how she met her husband and how they got married. They both realize the discontentment in life and comes in terms with reality. They accept their role in their personal life. The best thing about the story is though husband and wife are uninterested, the life situation, pain, loss, dissatisfaction brings them together. They both have same kind of love towards their children. And at last by looking at her family she realizes that she has got everything in her life and accepts her husband as he is. This story is very good example of how people ought to know about their self and come in terms with it. I enjoyed reading this short story collection.

Arshiya Banu 

Secret Garden

Secret Garden is a beautiful and inspiring novel written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. She is known for contribution of children’s literature. Secret Garden is one of her most famous stories. It won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1959. Initially it was published in a serial format in 1910, and later in the year 1911 in its entirety as a novel. The story takes place in the pre-independent era of India. Mary is an orphan, who is sent to her uncle in England from India after her parents died of cholera. Brought up by her submissive servants, she grew to be a stubborn and obstinate girl.
Once in her uncle’s mansion, Mary discovers a garden unattended and locked up since long time ago. She keeps this discovery as a secret, and with the help of Dickon, a moor boy, she brings life to the dead garden. By this time her attitude changes from being an arrogant brat to a kind one.
As the story progresses, May encounters her sick cousin Colin locked up in one of the champers of the house while wandering around in the mansion one night. The rest of the story revolves around how the two kids, Mary and Dickon help Colin change from being a sick and feeble boy to a strong and healthy lad by introducing him to the magic of the secret garden.
This Secret Garden definitely makes a good reading for those who like to read classics as it will surely satisfy the reader and widen one’s power of imagination. It is a classic book belonging to children’s literature genre. Secret Garden is symbolic of both the near destruction of the family as well the source of rejuvenation of the family. It, in fact, explores the inherent power of living things around us.

Swati Reji

Only Time Will Tell – Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer’s writing career has spanned almost thirty years. His novels, which range from Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less to Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth have topped the bestsellers list around the world, with sales of over 120 million copies. The author has served five years in the House of Commons and fourteen years in the House of Lords. In August 2001, he was sentenced to four years in prison for perjury. During that time he wrote three highly praised and bestselling works of non-fiction entitled Prison Diaries. He was released in July 2003. He is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.

Only Time Will Tell is the first instalment in The Clifton Chronicles. The book revolves around the life of Harry Clifton, from his growing up and his education in Bristol till he goes to Oxford for his under graduation. This book follows the first twenty years of Harry Clifton’s life and the lives of his close friends and family from 1920 when Harry is born till 1940 when the World War II has just started. His family is poor and can barely manage 3 meals per day. Harry’s outstanding talent for singing secures him a place at St. Bede’s school, a school for children with rich parents. Harry’s mother struggles to make ends meet and resorts to not-so-correct means to provide Harry his education. Harry did not know his father and was always told that his father was killed in the war but Harry knows this is not true. Throughout his life he tries to find out the truth about his father and how he really died. The story is broadly divided into 6 parts and each part of the book is told through the eyes of a different person. In each part the plot thickens and several shockers are discovered as the book progresses. The story is narrated by the major characters in the plot, one by one, from their point of view. The last part of the book sees many twists and turns and ends at a point which leaves the readers wanting to read more.

Reading this book, I rather enjoyed it. It is very well written and it ends with a great cliffhanger that will force me to read the next book. Hats off to Jeffrey Archer for yet another excellent book. I just could not put it down. In Jeffrey Archer’s masterful hands, you will be taken on a journey that you won’t want to end, even after you have turned the last page of this unforgettable story.

Mervyn Xavier