books reviews

Book Review–Ashes, Wine and Dust

“There are no plans, just people fooling themselves by attempting to design their fates and futures. It makes them feel invincible, even if it’s for a transient period of time.”

Ashes, Wine and Dust is the debut novel of Kanza Javed, which was shortlisted for Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013, making her the youngest and the only Pakistani writer nominated for the prize that year.

Set in Lahore and Washington DC, Ashes, Wine and Dust is a journey of a young girl, Mariam, whose childhood experiences of loss of loved ones and memories associated with them make her feel everything a little more deeply. Thus, since her childhood, she feels more connected with the memories of her dada (paternal grandfather) and less with the rest of the family.

Memories of her childhood friends and confidants 10403138_1186536494695904_912160836046943541_nstill haunt her when she decides to leave for the US for further studies and in search for self-exploration. Thus, America awaits her with the mysterious art work of her uncle who had left her family years ago, his family who no longer cares for his work, and an unexpected incident that leaves her vulnerable in an estranged land. And while Mariam is figuring out on how to cope with her current situation, she finds out about the disappearance of her younger brother, Abdullah.

Alone in a foreign country with a brother missing, she blames herself for Abdullah’s disappearance and eventually travels back home in search of clues which might lead her to him.

As the family goes through the trauma of loss of a loved one and ultimately decides to move on albeit slowly, Mariam hangs on to the clues that Abdullah has left and vows to unite him with their family.

Javed’s Ashes, Wine and Dust is an excruciatingly beautiful read with strong characters that are often difficult to find in a debut novel. The story is gripping and engulfed in such an exuberant tone of despair and desolation of the protagonist that it keeps you in the mood even after you’ve finished the book.

The imagery of Lahore with its canals, food, colourful bazaars (markets) and backdrop of Badshahi Mosque in several scenes brings back the love of Lahore for those who have visited the beautiful city and invites those who still haven’t.

While Ashes, Wine and Dust is a powerfully gripping read till the end, it did let me down towards the end. And although the book ends with a closure, tying all its loose ends, I would have been happier had it ended on a brighter note. Nevertheless, the book is a must read of 2015.

Javed has done a wonderful job writing a novel that is unswerving, profound and painfully beautiful till the very end. Ashes, Wine and Dust would be available across Pakistan by the end of November, so get a copy of the book for a reading full of feels.

 

Average rating: 4.7/5

(This review was first published on ETribune)

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Book Review– The Book of Lost and Found

A story of finding love, losing and finding love again. The Book of Lost and Found revolves around a love story of two young people but doesn’t quite end on a happy ending. But sometimes, love stories do not necessarily have to have a happy ending. It’s the imperfection that makes them striking.

The Book of Lost and Found is a debut novel by British author Lucy Foley. Set in London, Paris, Corsica and New York, the author has beautifully strung together relationships and events which unveil the story of love between two friends, Tom and Alice, who find each other fifteen years after they first met at Winnard Cove when they were six years old.

When Kate—an emerging photographer—is handed over an old sketch of a beautiful woman who resembles her late ballerina mother so closely, Kate decides to find out more about the mysterious woman in the drawing. And that is how she gets to know Tom Strafford, the artist of the drawing. Soon Kate finds out about the relationship between herself and the woman in the dr20150116_212357awing, and Alice’s unfaltering love for Tom, but things are not as simple as they seem. Tom has a bright career ahead of him while Alice doesn’t want to burden him with her own problems. This is when Alice makes a decision for both of them that will change the course of their lives.

While Tom pursues his art career and becomes one of the greatest artists of twentieth century, Alice relocates herself in Paris and chooses a path for her that demands hard work, bravery and courage despite the bleak future that might lie in front of her.

At the same time, in her struggle to find answers to the story of Tom and Alice, Kate not only uncovers answers to questions that have been bugging her but also someone who would make her feel special.

The Book of Lost and Found is a beautiful story of relationships and sacrifices, of relationships and friendships lost and found, of dark times and the will that changes those times into a journey worth remembering.

Lucy Foley, with her debut novel has proved herself as a great storyteller, carrying the story back and forth skillfully without exhausting the reader. The exquisite locations throughout the novel add to the classic frame of reference to which the book itself relates to.

PS: Thanks to Harper Collins for providing review copy of the book.