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Book Review: Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

‘Forest Dark’ – the fourth novel by Nicole Krauss begins with the disappearance of Jules Epstein, a wealthy, old man from Manhattan, who returns to his roots in Tel Aviv – on a mission – and then disappears without leaving a trace. In a parallel track, a writer named Nicole – with a failing marriage and suffering from writers’ block – also leaves for Tel Aviv, hoping to disappear into fiction.

Both Epstein and Nicole encounter strangers, who entice them with offers too lucrative to turn down. Epstein finds out he might have connections to the legendary King David, while Nicole is drawn into an adventure involving Franz Kafka. While both the protagonists are drawn to Tel Aviv, and converge the Hilton, their tracks do not meet. These parallel stories, with their inherent philosophical undertones, are essentially tales of metamorphosis.

In fact, metamorphosis or transformation is the underlying theme in the novel. Both Epstein and Nicole set on a journey of self-discovery and realisation as they chase their goals in Israel. This novel is almost autobiographical for Krauss; the resemblance of her and Nicole are too hard to miss. ‘Forest Dark’ forces you to press the snooze button on life, sit back and think over.

The book comes as a boon for literature enthusiasts too. The Kafka references and snippets on history and religion are a delectable read. Krauss offers us an alternate view of Kafka’s life, which makes for an interesting theory. However, the narrative loses steam with too many plot twists.

Overall, ‘Forest Dark’ is fiercely philosophical, often preachy, magnificently written work of autobiographical fiction, which is meandering at times despite being engagingly enigmatic.

 

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. This review is part of Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme

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Book Review: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie, who is a master of imagery with words, and has always landed in controversies for his outspokenness, returns with a commentary on the political history of America in the last decade. He narrates the story of Nero Golden, a real estate tycoon who immigrated to America with his three sons, at the same time when Obamas move in to the White House.

Told from the point of view of their neighbour René, the story follows the story of these motley characters through their ups and downs – their high life, sibling rivalry and clashes, the ‘other woman’ and ultimately the undoing of the ‘Golden House’. And with the story of the Golden family, come the varied references to popular cinema, pop culture, political movements and literature of the time.

Although Rushdie does not name him, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (no, I do not mean Voldemort) makes his way into the story too. Nero Golden’s resemblance to the golden-haired business tycoon currently residing in the White House is unmistakable. In fact, he and his sons – and the travails they go through – are symptomatic of the political and social climate America is passing through. Or as René puts it, a constant struggle between good and evil.

Rushdie, in his Dickensian style, weaves a narrative that is often satirical. The book is full of humour, often in the backdrop of a social problem. He describes Obama’s successor as a character straight of a comic book – “it was the year of The Joker in Gotham and beyond”, Rushdie writes, as “America had left reality behind”. He laboriously sketches every character, which sometimes is tedious.

In ‘Midnight’s Children’ Rushdie’s magic realism has wooed us all. In ‘The Golden House’ he tries to tread the same path, leaving us wanting for more. But in times like these, reality is often more fascinating than fiction.

 

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme

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