August 17, 2014

Book Review: Sessiv Ev (Silent House) by Orhan Pamuk

 Sessis Ev, or Silent House is the second novel by Orhan Pamuk originally written in turkish and later translated into English. His first novel being a turkish book called Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları (Cevdet Bey and His Sons), which I believe was not translated to English. So, for all practical purposes of the Bingo Reading challenge, where I am to read a first book by a favourite author, this book fits the bill. And at the onset I should also add that this book did nothing for me as My name is Red did. That was a different setting and maybe more complex and intertwined to my taste. This was something I picked up, and read through, without really feeling anything much.


Set in a small town outside Istanbul, and revolving around how 3 grandchildren come to visit their ailing grandmother and her help about the house, a dwarf. As we proceed through the book, we see how the past plays out and how the many people in the small town are related yet believes to be unrelated.

 Eldest drinks and binges all through his stay and wonders about his ex-wife and how she enjoys life. He is shown to be someone who wallows in misery and drinks till sleep overbears. Sister lives a life analyzing the communist era and trying to be there for eldest through the rough patch. She aims to spend time with the grandmom though the grandmom does not really believe so. Youngest, with money in his pockets, from private tutoring classes, wishes to woo and live life with the party crowd in this sleepy beach town. He seems to believe he is in love with a girl and it is interesting to see how he misread her intentions, and almost forces himself on him, before taking control of the situation and rethinking what he is going to do. 

One of the characteristic things which I liked when reading My Name is Red was how every chapter would be in the first person narrative of each charachter in the book. This was something new for me, but this book also had the same method of narration. But, when I look at this book, the method seems to be a little more ineffective, or something which he has not mastered to that extend. This book was a good  20 years before My Name is Red, so I believe its safe to believe he was testing out strategies long before the master piece.

Overall the book was not as thrilling as My Name is Red, the plot was not that gripping either. The story was told mostly about thoughts and what each charachter felt as the summer proceeded and how things pan out for each. It was a little slow and also did not really evoke much feelings neither in terms of story or language.

Rating: 2.5/5

July 25, 2014

Banana bread infused with rum soaked sultanas

Been a while since I did some baking, and when I saw a banana bread recipe on Nigella Lawson's website, I thought this would be perfect for a weekend! And I had some rum sitting about too which I was thinking of using up lest I start using it in other ways ;) Also, added to that I had some bananas which no one seemed to be interested in consuming!

Banana chocolate bread with rum soaked sultanas


So, that was what pretty much lead to this bread, and the chocolate was something I added just to on a whim, which I thought would be the perfect combination for the liquor.
Banana chocolate bread with rum soaked sultanas
 Ingredients

Sultanas - 2/3 cup
Dark rum - 5 tbsp
Flour - 1 1/4 cup
Baking Powder - 2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Cocoa powder - 1 tbsp
Unsalted butter (melted)- 9 tbsp
Superfine sugar - 3/4 cup
Eggs - 2
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Very ripe banana (mashed) - 2 large
Chopped walnuts (optional) - 1/3 cup

Method
  1. Pour the rum over the sultanas in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from fire and keep covered for about an hour. This helps the sultanas soak in all the rum and distend a little. After an hour, drain the remaining rum and keep aside the sultanas.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  3. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt together. 
  4. In a separate bowl, melt the butter, add sugar and beat well. Add eggs and vanilla extract to this mixture. Next add the mashed bananas and then the soaked raisins, followed by the chopped walnuts.
  5. Add the sifted flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold it in.
  6. Pour this mixture into a greased loaf tin  and bake at 170 C for about 40-60 mins. A tester will come clean, on being completely baked.
If you do plan to make it, I must add, it tastes heavenly, and the rum is not that over powering that you would think of opting out. Try it... its a great flavour!

July 24, 2014

Book Review: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

Set in Iran during the uprising, when being against the uprising was a sure way to the gallows. A man is picked up by the militants and thrown into the prison. His wife awaits for his return, his daughter does not know what is happening. His son lives across the ocean in the U.S trying to study an make ends meet with the money sent by his father.
This is a book which had so much to offer with such diverse characters and locations, did not, in my opinion, pick up to its true potential. It does not draw on the culture of Iran or the Jewish customs. I felt I was reading a story about the insurgents, or militants, and their outlook which was affecting a family.

I had such great expectations from the book, especially after I read the NY Times review of the book and so on. But, I did not see this book leaving me with a wonderful feeling of having read something beautiful. There was little about the place, and maybe it is that I was expecting more historic references as the book dealt with the difficult times when the family was looking to leave Tehran and make an escape away from the madness.

Most of the book is in third person, and the most effective prose all lies in the conversations Shirin, the daughter has with her mother and her friend. Her feelings and fears have been very nicely articulated, and how she at her age believes how the universe functions, and how she can cause harm to her parents by her innocent attempts to help. One of the interesting bits was the feeling and life led by Parvin, the son who is studying architecture in New York, living as a paying guest with a Hasidic family, and does seem to like the daughter of the family, though he is unsure how the family will accept his non - religious ways.

All said and done, I think this book lacked the punch, which I was very much expecting considering the setting and the time period of the plot.

Rating: 2.5/5

July 18, 2014

Binggo

Been 2 months since my last update, so thought I should get to it, though I have just 2 more books to add to the list. At this rate, I truly wonder whether I shall get done with all the squares... 10 done of the 25

Finished:
A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )
A book your friend loves: Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
A book which is more than 10 years old: The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu
 
Currently Reading:
A book which I heard of online: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

To be read
A book at the bottom of the to be read pile: Room by Emma Donoghue
A book set in another continent: Still Alice by Lisa Genova