The week in reading 44-45/15

Well, Goodreads has congratulated me  for having far exceeded my reading target of 50 books for the year – with 2  months to go. I had forgotten that I had set myself a 50 book target – I am on book 68 at the moment.

I read ‘The corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen (Book 6 of the C-D section of TIMES 100 books list) – and I am happy that I started on this list. Franzen, a well acclaimed and awarded American writer, would probably not have come to my attention, but for this self-imposed ‘challenge’!! The list certainly has an American bias and I must confess that in the recent past I have not read as much of the modern American greats, as I have of the English writers. Each book of these recent books I have read from the list, are centered around a family- from  different periods and different  aspects of American society. Henry Roth’s ‘Call it sleep’ on Jewish immigrant life in the 1930s and John O’hara’s ‘Appointment in Samarra’ on the middle class upwardly mobile young  aspiring small town America of the same period, and so many others from this list have opened up America for me in a most enjoyable way.

‘The corrections’ covers a wide range of issues addressed through the lives of 3 siblings, and their ageing parents who continue to live the mid-West. Spanning a few decades of tjhe post-war years, it talks of the railroads (where the father worked),  medicine (though the pharma industry and its hanky panky doings), economics, industry, cuisine (the daughter is a successful chef) and Eastern European politics. The father is slipping into dementia and the mother lives in denial, the children are embroiled in their own lives – and the family Christmas, the last one before the father goes into a care facility, forms the climax of the story. An absorbing and enjoyable read.

The other book I read was “Hang Woman’ by KR Meera. Originally written in Malayalam, it has been very well translated. Unlike in so many translations, I did not miss the original language in this book. The story is of a family of hangmen, who for centuries have been in charge of the State executions. When the limbs of the last male in the line is cruelly hacked off in revenge by the father of one of the executed victims, the only one left to carry on the line is the sister. This is the ultimate ‘feminist’ book, as she is portrayed as the first and only hang woman in the world and the forthcoming hanging is of a young married man convicted for a rape.  And amidst all the drama leading up to the execution, the appeals, the media frenzy, hangs the question – when it comes down to it, will she be able to actually carry out the execution. The personality is wonderfully developed, her attraction to the TV journalist, her realization about how she is being exploited, the life around the burning ghats where her family lives – all are brought o life so well that you become part of the tale. And you want her to not hold back but carry out the execution – you are hoping that she does not back out, she is successful!!

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