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Book Review: The Woman in The Window by AJ FinnI am drawn to psycho-thrillers, the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A recent book that had me hooked was The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. A debut novel by the author, yet this book scores on almost all fronts. I loved the narration, the story, and most importantly the brilliance in the execution of the suspense. Anna Fox at the window Anna, psychologist by profession, lives alone. Ten months since she left home, and in a new neighborhood, her days are spent in loneliness, watching old movies, drinking wine, counseling patients through an online portal. She suffers from agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces), thus restricts herself to the four walls of her home. Her window to the world is the real window of her home. Every day Anna stands by the window, watching the world go by. She knows her neighbors-their daily routine, what they do and where they go. Soon the Russell’s move in across the street and Anna from the very beginning is drawn to them. It all seems so perfect, until the evening when she hears it- a scream that gives her the shiver down the spine. She sees it all, witnesses something that’s surely not to be seen. There are secrets she isn’t supposed to know… “You can hear someone’s secrets and their fears and their wants, but remember that these exist alongside other people’s secrets and fears, people living in the same room.” From false clues, to false leads, the book traces a path that keeps you guessing. What is the real thing? Or has she been hallucinating? When all seems wrong, Anna Fox struggles to understand, trying to make things go right. Nothing short of a page turner There are twists and turns, and those moments when you are really sure, of the culprit. Yet, at the end of it you realize the story has an all-together differing offering for you. For a debut novel, I must say AJ Finn has delivered a fairly good read. The book does keep you hooked and, well, sort of addicted too, ‘cause you surely want to keep reading it till that last page. Give yourself a little time, and pick up this engaging novel; you wouldn’t regret it! It is immersive and would totally pull you into it. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Disclaimer: This blog post contains an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission, if you click through and make a purchase Related2 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- Winner of Man Booker 2017Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is no easy read. It is a book where the voices of spirits serve as the narrator; leaving you perplexed at most times. No wonder, I took over a month to complete reading it. The narration shuttles between subtle humor and being intense. Thus the book can surely not be categorized as a breezy read. So is this book worth reading after all? Let’s get to the story first In 350 odd pages, “Lincoln in the Bardo” recounts happenings of a single day- 25th February 1862. It was the day, Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln succumbs to Typhoid. In a cemetery in Washington DC, the young boy is laid to rest. Amidst cold stones of the graves and the eerie silence of the night, spirits of many others laid to rest in the very same cemetery rise. They rise to babble about life and death, about the state of society in times of the unpopular American civil war, under the governance of the then American President Abraham Lincoln. This cacophony of graveyard voices, describes situations of a small American community, living and struggling to overcome the difficulties inflicted in times of a civil war. The voices speak amongst each other. They meet, greet argue and discuss. Where some spirits such as the one of Hans Vollman lend an interesting tone to the conversation, a few other menacing ones drag conversations making you yawn a bit, well skip pages too. Let’s get to the title A Bardo is considered to be a transitional state between death and rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo draws metaphoric connections to Willie and his father Abraham Lincoln. Willie is the Lincoln in the Bardo by virtue of having succumbed to death; Abraham Lincoln his father too is considered to be in a Bardo as, not only is he grieving his son’s death, he also needs to put up a brave front and lead the country through trying times. The Critical Acclaim Lincoln in the Bardo was critically acclaimed and also won the Man Booker Prize in 2017. This experimental fiction was also in the list of top ten 2017 novels on Time magazine. This was reason enough for me to pick this book up. However, it failed to leave an impact. The primary reason was that I found the super natural chattering tedious to read. Most portions seldom made much sense, and it took me a while to piece conversations together. The concept seemed weird and I felt there was a lack of a clear-cut plot. The book also seemed to be oddly punctuated, which added to my confusion. Lincoln in the Bardo wasn’t my kind of read. If your interest lies in American history, this experimental writing may appeal to you. *The book is available in paperback as well e-book format. Related1 Gender Role Reversal in Today's TimesWhat’s gender role reversal all about? Is it when we get into the other gender’s skin? Or is there something more to it? This morning as I sipped my coffee, a news in the local daily caught my attention. *It was the reversal of a wedding practice, in Maner near Patna. Instead of the groom, it was the bride who took the baraat in a horse chariot, to the marriage venue where she was greeted with great pomp by the groom’s relatives. This reversal of roles was planned much before their wedding was finalized. And it got me thinking. Is this just a mere inter-change of a tradition? Or is it communicating something more- about gender roles reversal? Surely it was worth a scrutiny. Gender roles are predominantly rules laid down by past generations and carried forward, either in the name of tradition or culture. For generations together, with absolutely no anomaly whatsoever, men have been considered to be the best providers. To ensure the home functioned efficiently, the women were the caregivers. When decades back Smriti Irani took the small screen by storm, she was depicted as the epitome of how a woman must be. Beautiful, meticulous, a whiz in the kitchen, home and family, the sanskari bahu and the nurturing figure. More than a decade later, though soap operas have taken a modern avatar, the ambitious woman is still seen as the brash and aggressive bahu, in contrast to the demure sanskari one. Despite many brands coming out with more non-conventional themes for their advertisements, a major chunk still portrays women as the caretakers, instilling traditional gender roles in minds. Thus, it didn’t come as a surprise to me, when at a fine dining restaurant with my family; the bill was first presented to the man of the house. Is there anything wrong with this? On the surface, it may seem to be no big deal in continuing the age old system of gender roles. But if you scratch deeper, you would find that it isn’t actually so. A couple of generations back, men would hesitate to marry a woman with an aspiring career. Things have surely changed now, and both genders live similar lives. Both have career aspirations and seek equal opportunities. However, the equations seem to change once the child arrives into the picture. A large percentage of these once ambitious women, drop out of the work force or cut back considerably. Of course one may well argue that this is a personal choice, to be with the child in the formative years. But when one looks at the corporate world, there is continually a wide gap with regards to women in leadership roles. This is despite the growing break down of gender barriers. So what stops women from climbing up the corporate ladder? The answer to this may lie in the fact that most are loaded with domestic responsibilities, and are entrenched in patriarchal rules. Career advancements are thus pushed into the back seat, and embracing leadership roles become far-fetched. We seem to have a double sided issue at hand here. Where on one side, society’s rule book pins down the woman to the home front, on the other side, women themselves allow their aspirations to be crushed by the stereotypical gender roles. So does this mean the conventional gender roles must be shed in entirety? Well, it is not exactly that way. It is all about having the freedom of choice, for men as well as for women, to choose what suits their life and situation the best. Whether it is reversal or embracing traditional gender roles, or probably even a mix between the two, it should not be based on the biological aspect of one being a male or female, but the couple together must decide what would be suitable for them. Surely, roles are changing in recent times, albeit these are mere exceptions. At the end of the day, we could preach and argue at stretch about the unfairness in gender roles and expectations. But we must bear in mind that cultures do not change overnight. Patience along with a progressive outlook should be the order of the day. *News Source: Deccan Herald 26-Feb-2018 Featured Image Source: Pixabay Related1 Vendetta & More in The Second Lady #AtoZChallengeThe Second Lady was written at a time when there existed the Cold War between the two great powers of the world- Soviet Union and the United States of America. It was at a time of political Vendetta, conspiracies and spies. Billie Bradford is the First Lady of the United States. She is the ever charming glamorous woman, intelligent and is loved by the people of her country. In a good will visit to the Soviet Union, Billie Bradford is kidnapped by the KGB and held captive. The First Lady is replicated with a con artist Vera Vavilova. Impersonating Billie Bradford, Vera has a task at hand- to enter the White House, live life as the First Lady and lay her hands on sensitive and classified information to be handed over to the Soviets. With their spy in American territories, the Russians think they have the perfect weapon against the Americans and all the info they seek is easy to obtain. Or so they think. For Vera Vavilova, despite being adequately trained as the First Lady, there still are areas, she is not prepared to deal with. She knows everything about the President and his wife, except for his sexual behavior. Time is ticking away for the Russians, and impatience growing to get the information that they require. Billie Bradford, intelligent as she is, senses the situation. She misleads the Russians with respect to her husband’s sexual behavior. However, being a lady with equal intelligence, Vera manages to overcome the situation without arousing any doubts. It’s the sheer intelligence of both the women involved that actually bowls you over. Billy Bradford, with her fighter spirit, pretends to be in love with a Russian- for her freedom, her honor and, for her country. On the other hand, Vera Vavilova, stuck in enemy territory, plays it cautious, in a shrewd and smart way. The Second Lady is Irving Wallace at his best. It is a book with twists and turns, and an ending that could just throw you overboard. The book is a powerful story of vendetta and two intelligent women, served on one platter together. This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Related2 Weird She May Seem- Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train #AtoZChallenge“let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.” ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train Rachel Watson is not your typical protagonist. In fact, she comes across as a girl with a low self-esteem and a drinking problem. She could get angry, violent and destructive too, to the point where she seldom remembers anything that ensues. So, why am I including her in this series of mine? This is because, The Girl on the Train was a book I enjoyed reading, and Rachel’s characterization with all her weirdness, made the book what it is. It is Rachel and her hyper active imagination that made The Girl on The Train worth a read! Thirty-two year old Rachel is just out of an abusive marriage. Her ex-husband Tom leaves her for another woman –Anna. With her drinking problem, Rachel loses her job and, frustrated she frequently harasses Tom, though she seldom has any memory of it. Tom is now married to Anna and has a daughter Evie. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night, and as her train slows down daily, passing her old house, she watches Tom, Anna, and Evie. Every day it’s the same route, moving past cozy suburban homes, and stopping at the signal that allows her to catch a glimpse of another couple, a few houses away. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not like the life she had recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough for everything to change. Soon she is deeply entangled, in her own life as well as in the lives of many others. I wouldn’t want to divulge too much on the plot, but similar to other thrillers its best for readers to dive in on their own. As much as she has been portrayed as being weird and whacky, Rachel Watson also comes across as a person who is hell bent upon being helpful. She lends a ear to Scott, when his wife Megan disappears. Scott and Megan are the couple she’s been watching from the train every day. What clicked in the book is that element of suspense the narration held within it all along. Yes, indeed towards the end the book did get predictable, but otherwise, it did have the right amount of clues thrown in at the right time. The Girl on the Train and the Watson girl worked for me. This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Related2