Review: The Silence of the Girls

Revisionist fiction or retellings still fill bookshelves to the brim these days—old fables pop up with shocking twists, we see fairytales shed their Disney-fied formula to give newer nods to their darker roots, and we even come to know stories of antiquity thrown in with “cyber” sensibilities. With the unremitting creativity of writers today, the possibilities are endless. Readers may clamor for something “original”, of course, but I find that there is charm in revisiting familiar narratives refashioned for the modern eyes.

Personally, I enjoy reading reimaginings of classic myths. I was rapt, for instance, while leafing through the story of the tragic Greek hero Achilles and his bosom companion Patroclus in Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. I devoured Circe, a feminist take on a classic character from Homer’s The Odyssey by the same author, with equal fascination. There is also Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, spun from the decades-long wait of Penelope for her husband Odysseus from the Trojan War. None of these felt old to me. In fact, they gave substantial and refreshing heft to the original materials. Since then, I’ve been on the prowl for modern narrations of old legends.

That’s why when I heard about Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls—events of The Iliad, but told from the perspective of a significant female character—I just know I have to grab a copy.

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Review: Bone Gap

Title: Bone Gap
Author: Laura Ruby
Genre: Magical realism, contemporary, young adult
My Rating: ★★★★
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“The face that the world sees is never the sum of who we are.” I was thumbing the blurb’s print on the roughish dust jacket of Bone Gap when my fingertips stopped at this line, the last one dangling at the end. It struck a chord with me. Lately I was contemplating about appearances, about the metaphorical masks we put on when we bottle up feelings or when we don’t want the society to judge us for who we really are. With its ambiguous synopsis, would the book be able to quench my curiosity?

It did, but in a way I did not expect.

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Review: The Song of Achilles

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Mythology, revisionism, fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★
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The true brand of a good tale, I once heard, lies in a string of four words signifying the storyteller’s power over his audience: “And then what happened?” These words indicate a sliver of magic in the middle of action, wedged between this or that plot point; it is a question posed as a half-baked sterling review, an evidence that the truly gifted tale-spinners can prod readers to continue thumbing through the pages for answers.

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Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genre: Young adult, drama
My Rating: ★★★★
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Poems may get written because of it, songs may pull out their lyrics from it, and stories may be born from its dark womb, but there is irrefutably nothing beautiful about depression. It is not your garden-variety sadness; it is an ugly monster seeking shelter inside you, consuming all the happiness it can find there and eating up a bit more of you until you feel like an empty husk. It attaches itself to you like an additional vital organ, one that pumps away hollowness into your veins. It makes each day too hard to meet, and makes even the thought of smiling feel like a demanding chore. Ultimately, it can urge you to believe that dying—suicide—is a better alternative than living.

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Review: Station Eleven

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ★★★★★
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The last wedge of chocolate you chewed on. The fading flavour of coffee on your tongue. The last note of your favourite song that hung in the air. The creased page of the last book you read. The excited shriek you let out when you caught a virtual creature in a hip game-app. The uneven but beautiful smile of a friend. The soft, persistent kiss of someone you love. The familiar dissonance of the city—the honking of cars, the prattling strangers on the sidewalk during rush hour, the tired sighs of commuters as they wait for the next jam-packed train…

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