Sweeney Todd- The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

So, it turns out that 221 B Baker Street is not the only fabled address that has acquired a cult status, today I discovered another- Todd’s barber shop at 186 Fleet Street, London.

Today, while at a Library, I was looking forward to some light casual reading and so was drawn towards the shelf containing graphic novels. I flipped through some Batman, some Shakespeare, and some World War themed graphic novels but at last got hypnotized with the cover of this book.

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I think the memories of my college days came back which prompted me to  pause at it. In those days, I had some friends who were great fans of manga and through them I had got to watch some interesting animated series like Hellsing, which I had found strangely amusing. This book cover with such a vicious guy,  having tainted fonts below him and the label of ‘classic’  at the top made me believe this would be an interesting read.

And it was! I was engrossed throughout! I was so eager to know the ending of this tantalizing suspense story that I didn’t take a break the whole time.

After finishing I started doing my research. It turned out the story was written as a serial and published in a London periodical between 1846-47 with the title ‘Strings of Pearls’ Now that I had read the tale, I could relate why it had such a title. The mysterious barber in the story is a wicked and greedy man and it so happens that some people who visit him disappear in strange ways, never to appear again. It is only when a particular person goes missing , who is carrying a  ‘String of Pearls’ to be delivered to a young lady as a token of remembrance from her  past lover, that a series of events get triggered leading to the uncovering of mystery.

Wikipedia told me that this story belongs to the category of ‘penny dreadful’

Penny dreadfuls were often written carelessly and contained themes of gore and violence. The ‘String of Pearls’ is no different. Its style of writing makes it a perfect example of a penny dreadful, having a sensational, violent subject matter that plays off of the public’s real fears.

I remembered James Hadley Chase whose stories too, somewhat felt like this. Anyways, I think it was a graphic novel so such a theme appealed to me. I couldn’t have read it if it was a normal novel. Since it was in a comics form, my expectations were well aligned to what is expected from a comic book- a sensational story with thrill and suspense. I was amused to know that this story was hugely popular even before its last chapters were published. Subsequently, over the years it got adapted into novels, plays, Broadway musical, and movie.

The tale became a staple of Victorian melodrama and London urban legend, and has been retold many times since

I was glad I got to know about this urban legend, and as I stated earlier, this vicious barber’s place of dwelling, 186 Fleet Street (which was the center of suspense in the graphic novel) made me consider it with as much curiosity as I consider 221B Baker Street.

 

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Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Amsterdam

Aha! So here I am to tell you about a recycled book I got to read. It’s called ‘Amsterdam’ and is written by Ian McEwan. This was the first book I read of McEwan. At the old book store, the book cover had caught my attention. It appeared like a thrilling tale with mystery and suspense. Furthermore, the declaration made on the book cover that the book won the 1998 Booker Prize added to my conviction that the story must be great to have deserved such honors.

As I read the book, soon I found my pace slacken becuase of lack of a gripping plot. The characters didn’t appear very interesting to me and their personalities didn’t make me eager to know about their endeavours. One of them was a music composer and the other a newspaper editor. They entered into a pact that if one of them will acquire any terminal illness, the other will help by aiding in quick demise of the other to avoid a painful existence. This, they had deduced, after seeing the horrible conditions suffered by an amorous lady who had died of cancer. This lady had dated both these men and so both of them held sympathies for her.

In the course of the story, a battle ensues between both these guys concerning the issue of morality. What one sees as the other one’s moral duty , the other dismisses it with contempt. What I could gather from it was the hypocrisy ingrained in people, to only see bad in others while justifying their own wrongs.

All in all, the book was quick to finish. The narrative wasn’t quite gripping , nor was the plot. The twists weren’t thrilling nor did I feel like taking much out of the novel. Mostly, after finishing a novel I will have plenty of quotes picked up, or some incidents to talk about or some interesting sequence in the story to think about. Unfortunately I didn’t find any such thing in this book. While I was searching online to read some published reviews, I found one published in The Guardian. I could’t agree more to the words of Sam Jordison

The fact that it won the Booker will make many people (and more and more of them in the future) assume that Amsterdam must be McEwan’s best work, when it is far from it. And if Amsterdam were the only book of his I’d read, I’d never want to read another – and so miss out on one of our best contemporary novelists.

(I am glad to post my review for the Recycled Book Reading Challenge, an initiative by Mliae! Do visit her blog to become a part and also meet bloggers who are a part of this reading challenge! )

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Recycled Book Reading Challenge: Of Human Bondage

I finished reading the book ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. It uses the character of Philip to demonstrate how human beings, ever after birth, gets bonded by  his/her uncontrolled emotions and prejudices. In an attempt to find a meaning of existence, Philip gets entangled in the complexities of life where he finds himself helpless and indecisive. He is in a constant quest to unravel what happiness means but whatever ideals he develops, he fails to abide by them and succumbs to his uncurtailed desires.

Philip, since birth had a club foot and bore an infiriority complex because of that. He wanted to get loved but he didn’t love himself. His own fears, hatred and apprehensions weighed upon him, making him irritable and prejudiced. He met Mildred, a selfish greedy lady, and fell in love with her. She didn’t love him though and continued to humiliate him. He thought he will be able to make her love him, but it never happened, yet he continued to grovel infront of her and spend away his hard saved pennies to satisfy her extravagant desires. It makes a reader question whether he was mad to do that. Perhaps he was insanely trapped by the chains of his own uncontrolled mind.

I believe there are two groups of people- One who lives life in simple terms, that is conventionally, normally. The other group is too curious to accept things immediately. They want to unravel such philosophical dimensions first, like what is life and why are we born. This path is somewhat dicey because in the absence of a  firm guidance, one may end up forming ideals which will misdirect them. This second class of people is what Philip represents.  His quest to understand the meaning of life leads him to raise fine questions, but in the absence of a learned guide, he ends up making shallow conclusions. It leads him to  deny the veracity of the Divine and belive that life is meaningless; human existence is nothing but a biological accident and so there is no such thing as ‘morality’. The purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure and nothing more. Incidentally, he derives joy in inflicting himself pain and succumbing to his maddening desire of wanting the love of selfish Milderd although he hates himself for that.

I would blame the vicar, his uncle, in whose custody he grew up after the demise of his parents. When Philip first began to understand about life and raised such queries like what it meant that ‘with faith one can move mountains’, the vicar answered him coldly and never bothered to understand his curiosity and intentions. Had he tutored the child lovingly, he would atleast have given Philip’s young mind some idea of morality and meaning of life rather than keeping him ignorant because of which Phillip was still struggling with basic questions even during his mature adult days. Having no solid foundational philosophy comparing which he could judge his revelations, he was bound to succumb to any fickle idea that seemed convenient to him at the moment. The result was he failed miserably all the time, hurt himself, and always lived in a state of deception, thinking that he had finally found answers and attained freedom, while in actuality he only strengthened the stranglehold of ‘bondage’ around him.

(PS: I had been missing being a part of Recycled Book Reading Challenge, a wonderful initiative by Mliae. I want to dedicate this review as my October entry for the challenge. It feels so therapeutic to get back to the habit of reading and writing!  I am thankful to a friend of mine at office for recommending me this book, and prompting me to read it. It has helped me get back to my reading schedule! )

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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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Recycled Book Reading Challenge: The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

(This is the first book I am reviewing for the Challenge, initiated by Mliae.If you would like to endorse this interesting concept , do visit her blog!)

This book is a racy read. Jim Corbett is a fine storyteller, who writes in simple language, recreating the scene with utmost vivacity. He talks about the episodes that entail hunting down the leopard which has become a man eater.(He has been sent by the officials of the erstwhile British Indian Empire to save the people by hunting down the leopard)  Why did the leopard become a man-eater? Because there was once a horrible incident of plague and many dead bodies had to be disposed of downhill(the place Rudrapayag lies in the foothills of the Himalayas) The leopard having tasted human flesh that time got addicted to it, and now it has started attacking the people in the villages of the hill.

The leopard hunts at night. This is the period around 1925.Technology hasn’t yet reached in these parts of the hills. People still live in huts, use kerosene lamps to light up during nights, and have to go into the wild to fetch water. Additionally, Rudraprayag lies en route the pilgrim road that links Haridwar to Badrinath, hence the travelling pilgrims often take halt there and stay at pilgrim quarters, which are nothing but open shades.

Now imagine what if a man-eating leopard is operating in such an area.People are vulnerable, unsafe and unarmed. The leopard is wicked, ferocious, powerful, and has become clever over the years – how to outwit human beings and hunt them down.

The hills are rugged. There are no roads yet on which vehicles run. These dirt paths are mostly travelled on foot. The leopard is killing humans within an area of 500 square miles. This expanse of landscape also includes a wide river in between, connected by a hanging bridge. Now this is a really vast area when you can only travel by foot. While the leopard is in a man hunting spree, sometimes attacking in a village 50 miles away from its previous kill. There is no phone or telegram system within the village. An attack can only be reported to the patwari by a man carrying the news by himself, walking on foot, or riding a horse at best.

Jim Corbett narrates this exciting story of hunting down this dangerous beast, which escapes his many traps and gun shots. Perhaps the leopard mocks Corbett for his fragility. It even tries to attack Corbett several times in sinister ways!

If you love reading adventure and thriller and also have the interest to know about new places, do read it.Jim Corbett writes eloquently. He will also help you get a tour of the beautiful villages in the foothills of the Himalayas. He talks about the innocence, humility and the rich culture of people in these hills of India with reverence and sincerity. He always calls them “Our people”, despite himself being a foreigner.He elucidates this elaborate sequence of events while his stay in Rudraprayag and how he could finally hunt down this man-eating leopard, which had terrorized the hill people for 8 long years.

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3 Day Quote Challenge II, Day 3

Ah, and here comes the lovely weekend!

I hope everyone gets a chance to take a break from their routine errands and to do every sort of thing they can to help them shed the baggage of exhaustion and get closer to peace and rejuvenation!
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I am just completing reading the book Contact by Carl Sagan! Let me give you a sneak peak of it!(that is , if you haven’t read it, or haven’t watched the movie which had followed the book release, more than 2 decades ago! I know I am too late !) Anyways here it goes-

Earth’s radio telescope intercepts unnatural signals from the Star system of Vega, 26 Light years away.It is thought to be some remote and advanced civilization communicating!As the scientists start deciphering their coded signals, and reveal the ‘Message‘ suddenly the whole human community is appalled. The signals are instructing humans to undertake a project!

But who are sending those signals- And will undertaking that project benefit us – or annihilate us- We can’t send them back the signals, as it will take 26 years to reach them! We can only start working on the project – and can’t know their intent unless we complete the task- and see for ourselves what does it lead to!But will it get completed amidst the commotion of arguments from scientists, statesmen and religious leaders of the world?

A delightful read, which gives insights about human behavior from different countries with different beliefs, responding to such cases which concerns the fate of Humanity as a whole.

What  I liked the best in the story is, how the subject of space science, when we start contemplating the vastness of cosmos,  lifts our consciousness to such higher levels that we start feeling more contentedness with every human being. The subject makes us more compassionate and meditative.

I will like to quote this part from the book, which beautifully captures the essence of this feeling!

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With this I conclude my this edition of 3 Day Quote Challenge!

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I am grateful to Spiritual Journey for kindly nominating me for this challenge! At her blog she has an archive of prolific quotes, motivational stories and compelling spiritual thoughts that will surely impart you with profound perspectives about life! Do visit her blog!

Furthermore, I am grateful to Ebby for also nominating me for this challenge! Ebby is a wonderful conversationalist and she writes about social issues she feels deeply about! A charming and lively personality who writes lucidly, you would surely like reading through her blog.

Thank you very much!