Friday, October 29, 2010

Learning to Fly by Shehani Gomes

Some people think I am wierd, for example I will never not buy a book because someone else didn't like it. I have to read it for myself. My friend told me that her mother had bought this book and not liked it but that she had. Previously a reader had left a comment that they loathed this author. So when I saw this on sale at the book fair, I had to buy it, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. (I told you I bought a lot of loot at the book fair). The cover is just gorgeous and straightaway I knew that it was a sad story. You can kinda tell with the lonely table, the rainy day, the grey sea. And yes I was right, it is a sad story but told in such a way that it doesnt force itself down your throat in a sad way, but just says it the way it is.

Shehani Gomes writes for young people. And actually if I think about it, there are hardly any books that cater to the late teens early twenties crowd. The warped love story actually reminded me of a stupid obsession I had when I was fifteen with a guy who didn't even know I existed. Sigh! But luckily I came to my senses and realised that he wasn't worth it. Anyway back to Learning to Fly. The story can get kind of complicated. You have Kala, she has a best friend Sumi who dies in a car accident. Kala never really gets over Sumi's death and throughout the book you have her remembering incidents of both of them together. Kala has a blind sister and two working parents. The blind sister falls in love with the flute teacher who while he does have feelings for her marries another girl chosen for him by his parents. After all who wants a blind girl for a daughter in law, however pretty she may be? Then you have Dylan. Oh my lord! Dylan is a complicated bag of goods. He lost his father when he was young, his mother married again and there are traces of the wicked step father routine here. Dylan fantasises about building a tree house with his real dad. Dylan and Kala love each other but pretend that they are friends. Kala finishes school, grows up, gets a job, has an affair with her boss, is sacked, attempts suicide, mother dies, she recovers, meets someone else, marries him and has a baby. Dylan while interested in Kala, has an affair with Nadia who is another bag of complications (alcoholic, rich, indifferent parents, commits suicide). If I put you off the book with all that , I am sorry, because it is really a fabulous book. Shehani Gomes writes about serious things in a very unserious way that totally would appeal to the younger generation. I mean isn't this what we have all gone through - sometimes thinking life isnt worth living, doing anything to get your parents attention, having money (Ok not all of us have it but still) and your life still feeling empty. But I can also totally understand older people just not getting it. This book is too wierd for them, give them a soppy village love story any day and that they will lap up, but a book with real stories and real situations - Nah! that is just too real for them I suppose. Anyway, I loved the book, its definitely a keeper not to be given away to anyone. I will admit sometimes it a bit confusing and you go - what the heck just happened there - but give it a chance, and let me know if you liked it as much as I did. Judging from previous comments and reactions I have had with others, I am expecting the comments to just fly in.

Mythil's Secret by Prashani Rambukwella

When I was young I read the usual things starting with Enid Blyton, then Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket etc etc. Basically I didnt read any Sri Lankan authors as a child. Heck! I didn't even read Indian authors. So when I picked up Mythil's Secret at the book fair for my neice, I intended to do a quick read and then give it to her, and guess what? I am getting another one for her, this one is mine. OK, so I loved the book and yes its a children's book but it is intelligent, it respects the child and therefore it is a cute read for adults as well. Mythil's Secret is about yakas and a little boy who realises he has the gift of seeing them. Prashani Rambukwella didn't write a sweet idyllic all is well with the world story for children, what she did was to create a world that balances real life (fighting parents and worries about money) with the fantasy world of the yakas. OK, so there are good yakas and bad yakas, there are strong yakas and weak yakas, there is a bahirawaya who is cool to die! There are yakas who impersonate humans and then there is Mythil. The unlikely hero, who is an only child who worries obsessively about his parents fighting and is aware of their money problems. Such a welcome relief from the spoilt brats you generally see around (take a look at my neice's classmates!) One holiday when Mythil is dumped at his Aachie's who lives in a village near a little forest, he realises that he can see into another world. Thus begins the adventure. Soon Mythil is seeing everyone as a yaka. The beauty of this story, though perhaps its only adults who may realise it, is that it could be that Mythil because of his family problems is retreating into a fantasy world. Even his parents think so and thus enters a child psychologist to counsel Mythil. But Mythil is suspicious of her, she could be a yaka, her friends could be yakas, who can he trust. The nice thing about this book is that it is a book that any child can relate to. Ok, so I am not the horrible aunt you think I am, I did give my neice her book and asked her what she thought. Her verbal skills are not that advanced as her aunt's obviously because she said it was "Cool!" For me 'cool' is good. It means that she didnt wrinkle her nose and go: "What a lame book, how goday." Then she tells me that some of her other friends from other schools (not her posh school mind you) are doing Mythil's secret as a school text. Hurrah! If only we had such interesting school texts I might have paid attention. Right now, I cannot remember a single school text that I did. Just goes to show. Anyway, Mythil's Secret in my books is a winner - and of course how could I forget, it did win the Gratiaen early this year. So even other people thought so.