Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Easter Island (A Novel)

Easter Island

I read about this mysterious island in a book titled ‘World Famous Unsolved Mysteries’ several years ago. Since then it has always arrested my interest even at the slightest mention of it. Therefore, when I stumbled upon this book titled “Easter Island: A Novel” at the old book store, I bought it instantly. The highlight on the back cover suggested a tale of mystery where two stories, belonging to two different eras begin to unfold in this mystical island and finds an interesting conclusion as the stories intersect each other.

Synopsis

There are two stories which we get to hear in this book. The first is the story of Elsa Beazely ,her troubled sister Alice, and her second husband Edward, whom she has recently married. This story is set in 1913, when they visit Easter Island for a scientific expedition. Elsa feels that such a trip would help her move on with her past despondencies and also make her sister feel good with a change of atmosphere. The second story, set in 1970s, is that of Greer Farraday, an American botanist who recently lost her husband (her husband was alleged to have stolen her research works to attain fame for himself.) She too has come to Easter island to get rid from her past and complete her research work on flowering plants, for which the secluded ecosystem of Easter Island provides a perfect research ground.

Both these stories progress at a slow pace. Nothing surprising happens. A reader only relishes the experience of staying in a remote, mystery laden Easter Island, with its sparse population, simple lifestyle and unexplained historical folklores. The claim made that the two stories intersect each other in interesting way is misleading. They don’t connect in any significant manner. Perhaps there is no thrill in both the stories; the only delight of the novel is the experience of living in the quiet and esoteric Easter Island.

The Author

Jennifer Vanderbes has been quite earnestly lauded for this debut novel of hers. It also won her Washington Post Book World and Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2003. I gathered she has written quite a lot of non-fiction on the subject of botany. Undoubtedly it reflects in this novel too. The character Greer, the botanist, goes at length to explain about her research on angiosperms (seed-bearing vascular plants) The whole of the second last chapter in this novel is the research paper published by the character Greer at the end of her research. This chapter was quite obtrusive as it broke the flow of what I was reading.

Experiencing the Isolation

The only good thing about this book, as I have stated, was to get a feeling of life in Easter Island. The population is sparse and in the novel it is depicted that everyone knows each other. There are no big factories or industry. Every such good is transported from Chile, once in a month. People place their orders and after a month the supplies arrive on ships. People line up to collect their orders.

The island’s past is shrouded in mystery and people don’t seem to have a clear account of its history. The gigantic statues, called moai, have many versions of folklores as to why and how they were created, although the scientists are unable to agree on any of those theories. Explorers and Voyagers have been bumping upon this island and writing accounts, expressing perplexity over its variety of flora and fauna despite being cut-off from any landmass by thousands of miles. The author invokes commentary from such famous explorers like Captain James Cook, Charles Darwin etc. Additionally she introduces us to rongorongo, an unsolved mystery of Easter Island. Rongorongo is a system of glyphs which appears to be writing or proto-writing and it has not been deciphered yet.

With such a mystical backdrop, the endeavor of Greer, to try to move on with her past seems a fair plot. I liked few lines where the sense of isolation and peace is evoked.

“She became aware of the silence all around her, broken only by the slight slap of water against her boots. Here I am, she thought. In the middle of a crater on the most remote island in the world. Reeds rising all around me; all I can see is sky. Not a voice, not a rustle to be heard.”

“On the rocks, about twenty yards from her, she spotted a plate covered with a metal lid, a halo of steam curling from its edges. It was odd, this abandoned meal, but then again, the island seemed governed by its own rules and rituals”

“She takes a deep breath. There is a moment of silence between them as they watch the port chandlers pack up their goods for the evening, as these last signs of familiar civilization rumble their carts into the distance.”

Conclusion

This story is interesting only if you like Easter Island and a little bit of reading about plants(since we have a botanist character here). The story, in itself is not quite gripping. The pace of story is slow and it is only the mystical feeling of the islands that is appealing. It makes for a fine reading on a sluggish rainy day.

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(I am glad to post my review for the Recycled Book Reading Challenge, an interesting initiative by a curios reader and explorer, Mliae! Do visit her blog and learn lots about her life experiemnts! PS- Its snowing on her blog these days! 😀 )

 

Weekend Exploration: Libraries

I had a day full of travelling today. As I have come to a new city and have gradually found myself settling down with the new job and new shelter, today I felt I am ready to start for the next milestone- find a library here, for my weekend hangouts.

Thanks to my brand new smartphone, the first smartphone for me, I bought for myself last week (My elder brother helped me get the best one within my budget), which helped me use Google maps and go around wandering in the city.

I found three of them .The largest one was called ‘The City Central Library’. I decided to visit that one first.But upon reaching there I found it’s closed for restoration and will open in the first week of July. It was a disappointing start!

The second one was difficult to locate, as the Google navigation was showing me I had reached ‘The British Library’, although there was no such building anywhere around. I had to walk in random directions to figure out where it was located. This one was a good library! I walked across all the bookshelves and then gathered at the helpdesk about the membership rules.Finding it affordable I signed up immediately and got an Icard too.

I thought whether to explore the third library or not.But since I had time and I had already got the taste of exploration with my new device, I decided to go for it. The third one required me to walk considerably after getting down at the nearest bus stop. This library was called the ‘Mythical Society’. With such a fascinating name, it was alluring me a lot. When I reached there I found a colossal church-like structure. All the entrances were closed and some construction work was going on at the gate. There was no security guard or any associated personnel to whom I could inquire. Lastly, I checked for their number on their website (through my new smartphone, yes! )  and made a call. The person was kind enough to send me a guy who helped me get to the library.It was located on the backside of the building.

There I found lots of book on History, Science, Arts and Social Science.The librarian told me there was no fee to use the library services, though one could not borrow books. ‘You can come and read here’ he said. That was fine. Their collection of books was impressive. I was mostly attracted towards the Science section where I found some classical editions of famous Astronomy books. It was delightful and I spent quite a long time there.

I am glad I have found these places. All I want to do on a weekend is to travel, read and  write. With such fine libraries now discovered, I am sure to have a good time during weekends, doing the three things I love to do!

Thank you for reading .I hope you all are also having a good time and doing the thing you wish to do during the awaited weekends! 🙂

PS: Although I have got a smartphone now, I am still not very active in taking photographs.(Since last 5 years I had the basic Nokia phone.I admired it for the simple life it gave me and I used to rely on my laptop for all the other works) I hope I will form that habit soon. It’s only now when I am writing it here, I realize I should have taken pics. 🙂

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(Image not owned by me.Source: moroepl)

Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Three Men In a Boat

There are three young men and their dog-Montmorency.They are all idling, smoking tobacco, except the dog, of course, and discussing how bad they are- “bad” from a medical point of view.So they decide to go on a long boating trip to heal themselves.That’s the plot of this classic novel, broadly.

Jerome K Jerome, the author of this tale, referred to as “J” in the story, is quite an amusing narrator.In the opening chapter of the book,he tells about discovering in a medical journal, a liver ailment, whose one of the symptoms is, ‘a general disinclination to work of any kind’. He gets convinced he has this disease- since childhood.And he gets aggrieved to recall his old times when everyone thrashed him for being lazy while not realizing it was because of the liver!

From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness

Similarly, each of them discovers having some or the other obscure ailments and then come up with the notion of going on a weekend boating trip up the river Thames, to ‘restore their mental equilibrium’.

What we want is rest, said Harris.
Rest and a complete change, said George. The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.

Their trip starts from Kingston and continues till Oxford- from where they take a return course.The story was intended to be a travel narrative and J tells elaborately about the places they pass through, as they row their boats.

However, the more interesting aspect is the comic narrative of events. J describes the humor in their planning and preparation of the trip and subsequently how they face the hard and good times later in the journey.Additionally, Jerome shares some charming philosophical thoughts describing the life and the beauty of nature.

We are creatures of the sun, we men and women. We love light and life. That is why we crowd into the towns and cities, and the country grows more and more deserted every year. In the sunlight in the daytime, when Nature is alive and busy all around us, we like the open hill-sides and the deep woods well enough: but in the night, when our Mother Earth has gone to sleep, and left us waking, oh! the world seems so lonesome, and we get frightened, like children in a silent house. Then we sit and sob, and long for the gas-lit streets, and the sound of human voices, and the answering throb of human life. We feel so helpless and so little in the great stillness, when the dark trees rustle in the night-wind. There are so many ghosts about, and their silent sighs make us feel so sad. Let us gather together in the great cities, and light huge bonfires of a million gas-jets, and shout and sing together, and feel brave.

But his mind keeps rambling as he narrates.You must have a friend who is talkative and tells stories starting with-“You know once what happened..” And then gets everyone around him involved in his funny narrative. J is a similar kind of person.By the time you would have finished the book you would have read many amusing incidents which  J recollects from the past.

This book is delightful! A book to be savored!An absolute Classic! The book will keep you smiling all the time.I wanted to read the book since a long time because I had already read parts of the book in following ways-

1.An excerpt from this book was titled as  “Packing for a Picnic” and was included as a chapter in our English Course Book during Middle School.It was an amusing narrative of how packing made J scared because he always forgot to pack his toothbrush.

2.I found another excerpt included in  “The Greatest Literary works of All Time”, a book I had purchased some time ago.This particular excerpt was about J’s uncle Podger, who always boasted that he could do a task without anyone’s help but instead would make the whole house go mad because he will keep messing up the things.

So, I had a fairly nice impression of the book and wanted to read the full of it! Thankfully I read it the last month and was glad to have added it to my “Finished Reading” list.I am grateful to Mliae for hosting this lovely challenge which has ensured that I will be finishing at least one book every month.
If you want to be a part of it, do visit her blog and get acquainted with the challenge.

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Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner: The Travelling Library

As I was rummaging through my old trunk filled with books, I was thrilled to see some classics lying there, unattended since quite a long time.I have to relocate so I have been going through all those closed boxes,trunks and bookshelf, where dust and insects have seemingly constructed a housing colony of their own.

Few of the books I noticed had got weak and fragile.I feared their pages might start falling off if mishandled even a bit.I decided to get them hard bound at the book binding shop.

In the evening,as I carried the satchel of old books with me, happy that they will look robust after the binding was done,I was interrupted by a friend who asked me where was I headed to.
“To the book binding shop, ” I said with delight.
“But there is no binding shop, aren’t you aware?”
“What ! There was one besides that electronics repairing store, a young man used to run the shop, I remember”
“It’s been years he closed down, must not be getting any business probably”
“Really” I was surprised “No book binding shop nearby?”
“None I know, nobody needs it anymore I guess”
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This episode unfolded yesterday evening and I had been thinking about it since morning. True, I myself now read most of the books on Kindle and search more fervently on Google rather than my thick encyclopedias. Perhaps we are living in the phase of transition.Our very next generation may view paper books with curiosity; and wonder how could we be comfortable with that, much like us, who would gape at the big floppy disks, 1.44 MB memory size, our fathers used to work with!
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Mandi wrote this beautiful story as a part of the challenge “Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner, ” which she is avidly pursuing! The story struck a chord with me as she narrated this curious tale of future generation teens who accidentally find a library and start speculating as to what sort of thing it is! I couldn’t help but smile thinking this is exactly what had been going on in my mind.I invite you to read this nice story by her, titled “The Travelling Library”.I really liked it and I am sure you too will appreciate the essence of the changing times, this story captures.

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Thanks to Roger Shippfor hosting FFftPP. Today’s sentence to be included is: “Thoseare the directions…”

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“These rocks are cool,” Tanya sad climbing on top a stack of rocks. “I wonder how and why they are formed like this?”

Tanya’s friend Crystal chimed in, ” Yeah, I wonder too. But we’re in the middle of nowhere and have no phone reception so we can’t even Google the answer. I’m questioning why my friend Tyler told me we should takeparticulardirections to see these rocks.”

Suddenly, before Tanya and Crystal’s eyes a building appeared. It was all glass but the inside was filled with millions of books and scrolls.

Crystal tried to pronounce the word on the front of the building. “It’s a library,” Tanya said. “It’s where people used to research before Google and the Internet. I’ve never seen a library. I remember…

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The Library

When I was a child, I used to visit an old library.It was located quite a distance away from the city.I would ride my bicycle and take my first halt at the market near the temple.There, I would have some snacks and beverages.

Then I will start my long cycling trip to the library.The route entailed me to pass through a desolate long road, lined on both sides by massive trees.While I passed through that stretch of the path, my excitement would start soaring.

The canopy of the trees made it feel like passing through a green tunnel while the shrill chatter of thousands of birds echoed like in an old abandoned castle.I would slow down my pace to experience the moment in all its detail.The sound, the view, the color, the smell, the chaos, the dampness, the isolation.

After passing that, I would quicken my pace because the path would slope down.It would take me some 30 more minutes to reach the library.I would disembark near the gates.The gates will always be open in a careless manner.There were trees, shrubs and wild plants all around the library. The library itself had discolored walls and random patterns made on  it from decaying moss.

Ideally, the place did not have a very inviting outlook.However it was this sense of abandonment, desolation, and antiquity that actually attracted me to this place.And I would often be the only person to visit that library.With its collection of books, all old, the archaic aroma and the (sometimes scary) silence, I considered the place to be one of the favorite destinations for spending my evenings.

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State Museum:Peace and the Library!

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It got pretty late for me to visit the State Museum, which I had been looking forward to visit since a long time. Had I discovered the serenity of this place before, I would have more of my leisure days spent within the calm premises of this place.

Museum, in the first place is not an attractive place to look forward to go. But when seeking a quiet destination to spend some hours, it’s a place extraordinaire’. And it was by chance that I actually went out of the room today just in quest of finding some new location to spend my evening.

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I at once felt a deep likening for the place as I entered the museum compound, suddenly getting transferred to a zone of peace having just traveled the busy road outside, which felt so hectic and polluted. Inside there were fountains and greenery and a silence that felt like a state of meditation.

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Walking across the hallway glancing at the clay sculptures of native races of people of the forest land, gave me an aesthetic delight .The naive folk dresses adored the sculptures, depicting their popular social and cultural activities.

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The section on archaeology was quite interesting. It always transports me to the ancient times and makes me recall the childhood fascination with prehistoric life, which seems so unreal and much like a fantasy than reality to me.

Overall the museum seemed desolate and isolated.. But that was in some way making the place feel good.I thought I had discovered a wormhole to a new land-so close to my hostel, so much in plain sight , (everyday glanced upon during every trip to and from the college)  yet so undiscovered.

The best part in the museum that I found was the Library. I literally found myself gaping at the exquisite collection of books kept there. My initial thought was that there would mostly be books on Jharkhand’s culture and all. But no, they had more than that! There were plethora of books on Indian History and Culture. There were separate encyclopedias for every major country of the world. There were books on History, Sociology, Geography , Astronomy , Philosophy and few on Economics too. There were famous fictions of English and American authors. There were beautiful books on tours and travels. There were books on Bollywood and almost every other non-fiction category one can think of- Wildlife, Botany, Environment et cetera. The best thing was that most of the books were from standard international publishers like BBC Press UK, National Geographic, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Penguin.

I felt I had finally discovered a place I was looking for; especially for my days at hostel when I get utterly bored. Now I have an option to visit a serene place nearby with a library; for some casual read about cultures and histories of the world or just for some artworks!^^

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