“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. Living with someone you really share things with is only wonderful, it’s actually better than all the love songs, all the silly movies say it is. It really is worth fighting for, bring brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Erica Jong, How to Save Your Own Life, 263.
“You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn’t hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed* it. I though it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.” Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (233-234).
Kindness and a caring mind are two separate qualities. Kindness is manners. It is superficial custom, an acquired practice. Not so the mind. The mind is deeper, stronger, and, I believe it is far more inconstant” (170). Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
The Namesake (2004) by Jhumpa Lahiri is, again, a personal favorite. After reading it again, I relaized that it is an ordinary story of two generations of the Ganguli fmaily but this time, as an immigrant, I could connect more to the situations of Ashima Ganguli.
Themes: identity (Gogol and Gogol), home and the diaspora, immigrant, relationships (Gogol and his partners, Ashima and Ashoke, and the community of immigrants), and food.
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh is a personal favorite. I re-read this thinking that my love for it was misplaced but, surprise, it was not! One reason is Tridib, the central character, who functions as Ghosh’s mouthpiece.
Themes: home, memory, relationships (between generations), history, and borders (geography).
Place: “I could not persuade her that a place does not merely exist, that is has to be invented in one’s imagination… so that although she [Ila] had lived in many places, she had never traveled at all” (21).
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is one of the few magic realism novels by a female author. It was Allende’s debut novel, published in 1982. It narrates the lives of four generations of the Trueba family. Clara is the most ‘magical’ character. There are also elements of Marxism both as a form of government as well as in the relations between Esteban Trueba and his tenants. There are also grand descriptions of the decorations in the “the big house on the corner;” the house reflects the relationships as well as upheavals in the family’s social and economic positions. This novel reminded me of Julia Alvarez‘s In the Time of the Butterflies in Alba’s imprisonments and Maryse Conde‘s Windward Heights (which itself is a retelling of Wuthering Heights) in term sof the descriptions and a multi-generational narrative.
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass is a postmodernist novel. Oskar Matzerath is the protagonist of the story. It is begins with him in a mental hospital. On his third birthday, he decided not to grow up, physically and psychologically. He also decides to beat his tin drum always. Oscar lives through the Third Reich and has numerous adventures (summary).
Themes: war, society, relationships (father-son, wife-husband, and mother-son), performance (circus), narration, and identity.