Girl in White Cotton/Burnt Sugar: Avni Doshi

Note: This book was published as Girl in White Cotton in India and under the title of Burnt Sugar in the UK. Caregiving in the best of circumstances is a fraught business. One that is made more so when it involves a relationship that is itself threadbare, ragged from too much wanting and not having, …

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Beyond the Seasons—Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet: Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer

Review by Usha Raman My first encounter with Ali Smith was a hardcover library book with an intriguing title: How to be Both. I raced through it, transfixed, by the ingenuity of form and stop-in-your-tracks prose, the effortlessness with which she shifts perspective and forces you to see first through one pair of eyes and …

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Warlight: Michael Ondaatje

Review by Usha Raman “The lost sequence in a life, they say, is the thing we always search out.” “We order our lives with barely held stories” Memory is a strange thing; it reveals the ephemeral nature of experience and the power of its reconstruction. It builds stories where none existed. And it imbues monochromatic …

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Listening to the Writer’s Voice

I'm looking at close to half an hour of standing over the stove, staring into a pot as I stir, maybe stepping away for a few seconds at a time to check on this or that, open the refrigerator and put something away, or just look out the window. I block out the impatient honks …

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No sweet song, this

Lullaby by Leila Slimani Translated from the French Chanson Douce (2016) by Sam Taylor (Faber & Faber, 2018) I encountered Leila Slimani and her work in the New York Times Review of Books, months before the English translation came to market. My fingers raced across the keyboard to Amazon, only to find I had to wait …

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Life’s sentences

I have several books of poetry on my shelf...and now, on my Kindle. I leaf (or swipe) through them in the spaces between fiction, when I am recovering from an intense or troubling story or when the weather puts me in the mood for contemplation rather than escape. There are some I return to periodically, …

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An evening (or two, or many) with the Bloomsbury Group: Vanessa and her sister by Priya Parmar

E M Forster, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, and most importantly, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf... a bunch of undeniably privileged, smart social and cultural radicals who gathered over pastries and coffee most evenings in [what is now] Central London to discuss art, literature and life, and of course, to gossip. You …

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Civil War, again

One comes to books through many routes. I've been fortunate to have been surrounded by fellow bibliophiles who often come bearing wonderful gifts of books I may not have run into otherwise. Some of my favorite titles have been introduced to me thus. But occasionally I will follow up on a review or an author …

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Some histories can never be reconciled

Strange fruit--the title of a song by Billie Holliday that's been playing on my car stereo, and I can't get it out of my mind...nor can I get the images it evokes out of my head. It kept playing in my head as I read Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer-winning novel The Underground Railroad (Random House, 2016), the …

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Zig-zagging around the world

One of the giddy pleasures of joining a reading challenge of the kind we’ve been engaging in—to read around the world—is that you can zig-zag around the world in ways that regular travel would not allow. Your trajectory lands you bang in the middle of cultures, at the center of worlds at once unfamiliar and …

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