Thursday, 28 April 2011

Review: Papillon by Henri Charriere

The story of how I came upon this book is almost as interesting as the adventures in the story itself (almost!Lol!). It was July 2008 and I was in a guesthouse in Vietnam waiting to depart for my 36hr train journey from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi (turned out to be 41 hrs long but that's another story!) - just having been transferred from the adjacent guesthouse because they did not have the capacity to accommodate us for another night. I had just finished a book (I forget which,sorry :() and was desparate to have one on the journey, for obvious reasons. I had browsed around a nearby bookshop and bought two books related to Cambdoia, but I wasn't satisfied with them. I went back upstairs to bring down my luggage in preparationfor myimminent departure but they was so heavy that I was forced to stop in the landing and take a breather.As I sat there catching my breath, I noticed a dusty cabinet in the corner.On top of it, there was an equally dusty TV. But below the shelf holding the TV, was a dark and seemingly empty panel. I do not know what drew me to this cabinet, except my desparation to find a book, still I approached it and put my hand into this dark panel (a big no-no for someone scared of sipders. ha!). Then my hand came into contact with a hard object. Coul it be? As I withdrew the object, it became obvious it was a book. A dusty one which I had never heard of, but a book nonetheless. I was happy!
Papillon (P.S.) 
PAPILLON (HARDCOVER) ~ BY Henri Charriere 

This book can only be described as a definitive prison break novel. A prison break novel centred around a most audacious protagonist. It is set in the penal colonies of France and our hero, henri Charriere- nicknamed Papillon, is hellbent on escaping prison where he has been sentenced for a crime he denies he committed. The story takes us through his various attemps at escape (I won't tell you if he is ever successful).

This is non-stop roller coaster of suspense, intrigue and adventure. Our protagonist is betrayed, beaten, disappointed, redeemed, loved, spyed upon but continues on regardless. His refusal to throw in the towel is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and is a great motivational tool for your bookshelf.

This is to all intents and purposes, a true story. There is, however, a lot of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the novel and the story itself. Did it actally happen? Did it happen in the way we are told? Did it happen to him (the story teller)?

When I pulled this book out of an abandoned cabinet, I have never before heard about it. Now, I am recommending it to you. If you've previously never read this sort of yarn, then this is a rollickingly brilliant way to start.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Review: The Far Pavillions by M.M.Kaye

I picked up The Far PavilionsThe Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye from a charity book shop circa 2003. I had never heard of it previously so I had no idea what to expect. I was in my first year of medical school and the workload had started to attempt a takeover of my reading time and dedicated reading effort. I picked it up because it was a hefty tome and I was looking for a story to properly lose myself in at that point. This book did not disappoint. At about 995 pages long it is the very definition of a sweeping saga.

It is a romantic adventure about love: between a man and a woman; between friends and for whatever place you call home. There are divided loyalties, betrayals, war, scheming and passion. Set in India in the 19th century, it centres around the life of Ashton Pelham Martin (a fabulous name by the way) from his birth, his early years and into his adulthood. Raised in a culture totally different from that of his parents, he grows to love a country that he is not meant to belong to so he spends his life trying to balance the tug in his heart for India, with his duty to the British Raj.

Another reason this book is such an amazing find, is that it tells a very beautiful love story. But rather than that being the focus of the book, it weaves it's way all through the book always hovering at the back of the reader's mind and you get the feeling it's at the back of the minds of both the central characters and M.M.Kaye herself. However, when it does come to the fore, as it does at several points during the story, it always potent enough to catch the reader at a vulnerable point and tugs quite strongly at the heartstrings.

I call this a sweeping saga because it carries the reader and Ashton (Ash) across India, to England and back again,before continuing on to Afghanistan. At a point during the book, you find yourself weaving through the Indian jungle on elephants and you feel yourself right there amongst the Royal entourage on its way to what promises to be a magnificent wedding indeed.

This is a book that delivered on so many levels that I just had to share it with as many people as possible. The prose flows in such away that sees your turning the pages over and over again even when it's way past your bedtime. Although it seems quite a daunting task when you open that first page, I envy you that you still have all the brilliance that is this story still ahead of you. If you haven't read it yet, please do! You will not regret it.