The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
I had heard that The Pilot’s Wife is Anita Shreve’s best work till date, and so, I grabbed the book when I noticed it on sale at an unbelievable price at Daryagunj. I began reading it almost immediately. Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations.
The Pilot’s Wife is the story of Kathryn,who lives in the small New England mill town of Ely. She has been the wife of Jack Lyons, a pilot with Vision Airlines for quite some time now. Though she has got well used to the risks of being a pilot’s wife, the news of Jack’s plane crashing into the sea one night and his immediate death comes as a huge shock to Kathryn. It renders Kathryn’s daugher, Mattie, very disturbed as well. It is, hence, quite natural that Kathryn wants to keep Mattie away from all the stories about Jack floating around in the media. She is, however, unable to keep herself away from the media frenzy, to remain unaffected by it. Jack’s death suddenly brings Kathryn in the limelight, and she becomes a popular face overnight. Jack’s death also raises some questions, which Kathryn does not really have the answers to.
The book has been written very well, I would say. I loved the author’s style of fleshing out the characters, of drawing out incidents, eliciting emotions. The story started off quite promisingly, but tended to get disappointing over the course of the book. It began to seem rather pointless after a while. The end, too, seemed rather abrupt, low-key, and cliched. Disappointing.
The Pilot’s Wife definitely has its moments, but it didn’t turn out to be the great read it had set out to be. At least not for me.
20 Fragments Of A Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
Fenfang is a young woman living in modern-day Beijing, waiting for that lucky break which will change her life forever and bring to her the ‘shiny things’ she has always aspired for. She is tired of doing meaningless roles, of being ‘the woman in the background’, a film extra in Beijing. She is tired of the battles that she has to face every day, but has not lost heart entirely. She has always worked on improving herself, constantly trying to seek out opportunities to further her career and get noticed. 20 Fragments Of A Ravenous Youth is Fenfang’s story, told, as the name suggests, through 20 fragments or short pieces, each depicting a small part of her life.
The book is not a literary masterpiece or anything. The fragments are just that – fragments – without a proper beginning and end. In spite of this, I enjoyed the experience of reading this book. I found it an easy read, inspiring in the way that the stories of common people battling their everyday circumstances always are.
20 Fragments Of A Ravenous Youth is a translation from the original Chinese work, but a well-done translation at that. It does not have those awkward phrases that are so common in a translation.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Especially if stories of ordinary people inspire you, you like reading about cultures other than your own, and do not mind reading a book without a proper ‘plot’ as such.
I am now looking forward to read Xiaolu Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them?
What are you reading at the moment?