The Secret History

If my friend Rob hadn’t mentioned the author, Donna Tart,  I wouldn’t have known her or read her books. One interesting fact that Rob mentioned was she writes a book in every ten years, the first one (and also the first that I read) was ‘ The Secret History‘. Set in New England, in an elite college, the book tells about six students and one of them, Richard Papen, is the narrator of the story. His role as the observer in this story reminds me so much of Nick Carraway in ‘The Great Gatsby’.

The story starts with one of the six students’ death. Bunny. The others had killed him and after the prologue the story went backward to the day Richard decided to go to New England, ran away from his unhappy life in California. He found himself a scholarship to this elite college in the other side of his world.  He had chosen biology but then he changed his mind and studied Classics and determined to continue his study of Ancient Greeks, where he met the charismatic professor, Julian Morrow, and his five students. Bunny, Henry, the twins Camilla and Charles, and Francis.

Before he was in the group (and he really wanted to be in their little elite group), he kept imagining how exciting it would be. And even after he got in, he still tried hard to be accepted. For me, it was really interesting to see how each characters revealed (or at least from Richard’s point of view) to their truly selves. I guess they are always like that, but it took Richard time and incidents to see who they really were.

As the story went, unfolding each events that lead to Bunny’s dead, I kept turning every pages and asked ‘why? how? when?’ and then, “will they ever get caught? how did they live with it?’. I have never seen this book in our local bookstores (Rob brought his from the UK) and this was written 20 years ago, so I was glad I could get my hands on it. I think to lend someone a really good book to read is the nicest thing a friend can do to another.

At the moment, I’m reading her second book, ‘The Little Friend’. I’ll write what I think about it soon.

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The Space Between Us

You know you’re really curious with a book if every time you visited a bookstore you keep holding and and staring at its cover but then decided not to buy it. Then you visited the bookstore again and you did the same thing again. Either I spend too much time in a bookstore or I’m just broke and need to spend wisely my book allowance (both, I think). Anyway, I keep doing that again and again to ‘The Space Between Us’, there’s something about the book that makes me want to sit and read it page by page. So when finally it was on sale I bought it and just like what I’d thought, I enjoyed reading this book so much I finished it in two days (the last few chapters I read it at night in a car on the way to Bandung to Central Java – I made the driver to turn on the light inside the car)

The ‘us’ in the story are Bhima, a servant in an Indian family and Sera, her mistress. Both are middle aged women (though Sera few years younger than Bhima) and Sera had considered Bhima as her family – in fact, her neighbors had often said that she treated Bhima way too nice and someday Bhima would sit in Sera’s head! But Sera – lived her own unhappy life had known some moments when there was no other people , not even her mother, who understands her as Bhima did. Because Bhima, being a faithful servant had seen things others couldn’t have seen.

Bhima, now a grandmother, lived series of unfortunate events since she had lost her husband and her son. She became bitter and angry, but she remained honest and discipline about her works. Her loyalty to Sera sometimes amazed her granddaughter, Maya. Maya thought that Bhima would put Sera’s family first before her own.  Bhima lived in a slum area in Mumbai and being fortunate enough to had visited the city  a year ago, I had no difficulty in imagining the scenes, the crowded market, the busy and loud people on the street, street vendors – chapatti and the beach close to The Gate of India at night.

The story began with how angry Bhima was, realizing that Maya her precious granddaughter was pregnant. Maya was a smart girl and had been given scholarship by Sera to continue her study in a good college, and Maya also was a nice and polite girl. This incident shocked both of the family, especially when Maya wouldn’t reveal who was the father of her unborn child. Bhima hated Maya so much for her recklessness, she of all people, knew what it meant to live without education, so she hoped so much that Maya wouldn’t have to suffer life she had lived. But then, her dream was shattered with the news and she was worried sick of what future might hold for Maya.

In Sera’s house, her daughter Dinaz, few years older than Maya was also with a baby. But different with Bhima’s life, everything in Sera’s life seemed to go well. Dinaz had a nice husband, worked in a good company, and naturally was a really nice girl whom Bhima raised. Despite her loyalty to the family, she couldn’t help to feel envious of Sera’s life. She hated herself when the thoughts crept in her mind and kept reminding herself how much Sera had help her through her ordeals.

Sera, a widower was felt a deep compassion to Bhima, Bhima was the only one who knew how bad her late husband had hit her, who massaged her bruises with ointment, and who raised Dinaz like her own. But she didn’t understand why she let Bhima sat on the floor when they had their morning teas, why she kept separating their utensils and why she didn’t want to touch Bhima as if the slum where Bhima lived was with her in her skin, although she knew Bhima was the cleanest person she had known.

The twist in the story was pretty easy to guess, but I didn’t mind. There was something more enchanting in the way Thrity Umrigar told the story of two women’s life in an old and cruel yet beautiful city called Bombay.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Children Book : The Usborne Little Book of Fairy Stories

My sister bought this book years ago and I always love the illustrations. Tiny people who looked so British with two dots for their eyes and all of them were neatly water-colored.  In The Usborne Little Book of Fairy Stories you can find many short stories about fairies and magic. It was small enough to be put inside a handbag and the stories weren’t so brief that you would finish it in 3 minutes. It was really enjoyable to read.

The illustrator, Stephen Cartwright  (1947 -2004) was a British Illustrator who had illustrated more than 150 books. When I brought this to my work, one of my friend instantly realized  Stephen Cartwright’s work (she had one of his illustrated book too). We spent half an hour flicking through this mini fairy book and admiring the illustrations.

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Children Book: Alice in Wonderland

Forever classic, Lewis Carroll’s fantasy story about a world that exist only in a girl’s dream has been made into lots of version by hundreds of illustrators and movie makers.

This one was Rene Cloke’s version of Alice. Rene Cloke (1904-1995) was an illustrator who was born in Plymouth but spent most of her life in London. She illustrated several of Enid Blyton’s work, including  The Brer Rabbit, The Three Golliwogs, The Adventure of Pip. Her illustration for Lewis Caroll’s Alice was one of her non-Blyton works published by Juvenile Productions in 1949.

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Book : Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland

Author : Lewis Caroll

Illustrator : Rene Cloke

Children Book: The Absolutely Essential Eloise

How can you not fall in love with this naughty, chubby, straw-hair little girl, Eloise? Hilary Knight’s illustration for Eloise really brings little Eloise into life. It’s so full of character that it is impossible for other illustrator to create other Eloise. The book consist only in two tone colors, black and pink (black and blue for ‘Eloise in Paris’). The characters and the texts clustered together in all the pages, makes the reading activity a really fun one. I love Eloise!

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when Eloise and Nanny visited Paris. She met Christian Dior and a dress was made especially for her!

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Books: The Absolutely Essential Eloise and Eloise in Paris

Author : Kay Thompson

Drawings : Hilary Knight

Children Book: How The World Works

How the World Works. A stunning pop-up book introducing the basic science, or how we exist. I love how it explains the creation of earth, uses ‘Recipe of Life’ as its subtitle and funny headings like ‘What goes around comes around’. The popped earth, tree, factories, the space help readers to understand the concept of science interactively. I love this book and won’t let my nieces touch them. :p (until they’re in 3rd grade).

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Book : How The World Works

Author : Christian Dorion

Illustrator : Beverley Young

Obsession

Late at night, my boyfriend texted me. He couldn’t sleep and felt a bit down. The reason?  This:

BMW R16

The Dream Bike. The one thing he can’t get and also the one thing he wants the most. I don’t know a person who ever wants something so bad that it makes them stay awake until 4 am. The reason this bike is so hard to get is because this one of the rarest BMW bikes. We’ve been hunting this bike for months with no luck (which drives him crazier). Generally, my boyfriend is a happy guy. Simple things can please him and he’s easy to please. Although he’s an artist, it’s really surprising how mainstream things he likes. He doesn’t like movies that require you to think in a contemporary plot. He doesn’t like to read if the texts don’t come with illustration. He doesn’t like song that released before he was born. In short words, he’s everything I’m not.

But his obsession with this bike is anything but mainstream. Before I date him, I don’t know BMW makes motorcycle, but now, I can tell you which ones are prewar and post-war bikes, which one is BMW and which one is Norton, which ones are the rarest and which ones are commonly found. To the point that I can appreciate the beauty of an antique motorcycle. (!)

I don’t know if I have an obsession and it’s kind of bug me. I want to have something I can obsessed with and I want to feel disturbed if I can’t get my hands on it. Until I realized, I do have an obsession on something!

How The World Works

How The World Works

 

Children’s Book!

I have so many of them and now I understand the guilty feeling of why I keep buying this types of books when there are no children under 12 in our house. I love, love, love picture books. I spend an entire night just browsing and googling for pictures books and adding to my amazon’s cart books I want to buy.  I know names of illustrators, even the famous and already deceased ones.

My boyfriend complains how I talk about picture books too often (comes from someone who has trouble sleeping because of a bike, I completely ignore him) and I have this short list (okay, long) what books I have to add to my collection. Recently, I just add one of William Joyce’s book to my shelf. I can’t wait to take picture and write about each book I have on this blog!