Reading the Booker Prize winners (4): In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul

Title: In a Free State

Author: V.S. Naipaul

Genre: Fiction

Year: 1971

A nameless traveller who faces human cruelty on his way to Egypt; an Indian immigrant searching for freedom in Washington; a West Indian man sacrificing everything for his little brother; and two English people travelling through an unnamed African country on the cusp of revolution.

In a Free State is a cynic exploration of the meaning of freedom, belonging, alienation, and the prize of colonialism.

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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Title: The Midnight Library

Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Fiction

Year: 2020

Nora is 35 years old. She has no stable relationship, no stable job, and she feels like she has wasted all the opportunities life has offered her in the past. She will never know what could have happened if she had made different choices, and after a really bad day, she decides she has had enough.

That’s how she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a huge building where time doesn’t flow and all the books on the shelves are other lives that she could have lived, if only she had acted differently. She can try on each and any of them, if she wants, and if she finds one that satisfies her on every account, she can just keep living it instead of her original life. But is any of them really going to be the perfect one?

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Reading the Booker Prize winners (2): The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens

Title: The Elected Member

Author: Bernice Rubens

Genre: Fiction

Year: 1969

No, he would not open his eyes. If they were still there, he could rely on them to stay. He pulled the pillow over his ears. He didn’t want to hear them either. Yet he wanted to check that they were still there. He dreaded their presence, but their sudden absence would have terrified him more. They were the only witnesses to his sanity.

Norman Zweck was a child prodigy. At twelve he spoke seven languages, and right after law school he was already an acclaimed barrister. But that was before.

Now, forty-one and still living with his father and younger sister, he lies in bed most of the day to keep track of them. He’s the only one who sees them, and his family believes him to be going mad. But he knows they are there, and his only relief is taking the white pills he keeps hidden under a board in the floor. When his father finally takes the decision to hospitalise him for treatment, they all start exploring their memories in search of the cause of his problems. His father, his sisters – the one that lives with them, but also the one who is estranged from the family – and Norman himself are all guilty to some extent. But only talking and coming to terms with their failings will allow them to heal as a family.

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Girl in White Cotton (Burnt Sugar) by Avni Doshi

Title: Girl in White Cotton (Burnt Sugar)

Author: Avni Doshi

Genre: Fiction

Year: 2019

I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.

Girl in White Cotton (or Burnt Sugar, if you prefer) is the story of Antara and her mother who has Alzheimer. They’ve always had a strained relationship, but now that her mother’s grasp on reality is slipping, Antara starts reliving her past, searching for that thread that would allow her to take care of her mother without reservations.

We follow her during her childhood in Pune, first in a guru’s community, then in a catholic boarding school, and after that during her years in Bombay, and a picture starts emerging from the memories: her mother who is both absent and judging, too proud but also mean and spiteful. And as we watch Antara in her daily life in the present, we start to wonder together with her – if she’s really so much different from her mother, after all.

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