This is not a book, it’s a journey

I don't know what parts of Roberts story are true, and it haunts me

I don’t know what parts of Roberts story are true, and it haunts me

 

I’ll come clean with you, I didn’t like Shantaram for the first 300 pages of the book. I felt like the author was trying to be too wordy a lot of the time, and his endless unnecessary philosophical discussions irritated me more than intrigued me. But then something happened. I’m not sure what exactly, but I managed to not only complete the 900 page tome, but to also fall in love with it.

Shantaram (which means “man of peace” in Maharathi) is a journey of souls. Author Gregory David Roberts has adamantly stated that the book is only based on parts of his life, and that none of the characters are real (though many suspect that Prabaker, the irascible taxi driver, was a real person) but really the book is an artful work of faction (fact and fiction combined). Some of the experiences common to humans are described so accurately and acutely, that I can’t help but suspect those parts of the story are real, especially when dealing with the subjects of death and love.

What is true is that Gregory did escape an Australian prison, he was a junkie, and he did live in an Indian slum in what was Bombay for many years. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but it is a like a very long love-letter to India. And although it irritated me at first, Gregory’s way with words, the way he can turn a phrase to describe something, is like seeing your hearts’ thoughts on the page in front of you.

It can be a tough and gory read sometimes, but it is nothing short of a modern-day epic. I drank the unforgettable Springfield Estate Whole Berry Cab Sav while reading Shantaram. This wine is hand-crafted using traditional methods, without machines and you can really taste the difference in the fruity palate.

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Welcome to the arena…

Christian fiction can go one of two ways

Christian fiction can go one of two ways

I first discovered this gem in my local library, in the days before Kindles and Amazon. Since then (I was about 16 at the time) I have reread this book (and Karen Hancocks other works of fiction) many, many times.

Arena is a great story, and I’ll tell you why. Christian fiction (especially Christian scifi) can go one of two ways: either it becomes horribly cheesy and drenched in cliches , or it is amazing. For me, this book falls into the latter category.

Arena tells the story of Callie Hayes, a 20-something stuck in a dead-end job and feeling a little lost with life (don’t all 20-somethings?). When participating in science experiments for extra cash with her lifelong friend Meg gets her thrown into another world- The Arena- where she has to battle deadly life forms and evil to get out and make it home.

Hancock skilfully weaves Christian allegory into the battlefield of the Arena that can be both scary and moving at turns. I love this story, and I love the fact that Hancock displays delicate skill in putting together an entertaining read with a moral lesson.

A hard copy of this book (as with most of her works) is really hard to find in SA, but you can order one on most online stores and on most e-readers.

I paired this with the Moya’s Vineyard range. The start-up boutique wine farm only makes two varietals, a pinot noir and a savignon blanc. The pinot is light and a rich ruby colour while the savignon blanc has deep notes of green pepper, due to the dry soil it’s grown in. Like Arena, these wines are pretty hard to get your hands on, but once you find them, it’s worth it.

Hell hath no fury…

This is one of the many beautiful quotes from Dickens. Said by Estella in Great Expectations

This is one of the many beautiful quotes from Dickens. Said by Estella in Great Expectations

 

I have finally finished reading my first Charles Dickens novel! Of course it was the literary classic that has come to us through the centuries, Great Expectations. There have been many movie adaptations of this much-beloved story, but without a doubt, the book is better!

I started reading the story with a sketchy knowledge of what happens. Throughout the tale, Dicken’s goes to great pains to describe everything down to the most minute detail. At first I found this annoying and time wasting, not understanding how seemingly insignificant events come to play important roles later in the story, but if you stick it out, it is well worth it.

It is very like the Biblical tale of the prodigal son. It tells the story of orphaned Pip, living with his tempestous sister and her kind-hearted husband, until he is found to have “Great Expectations” (meaning, he comes into money). If you know anything about England, it is, even today, an incredibly classist society, and was even more so in Dicken’s day. Moving between classes was almost unheard of.

The story twists and turns, and the unexpected awaits the reader around every corner. It was a delicious read, both moving and insightful, though I must say, the protagonists long list of poor choices makes it hard to like him.

I paired this book with an equally surprising Springfield Chardonnay. I’m not a fan of Chardonnay in general, but this unwooded and buttery wine was a delightful complement to the bustling streets and exorbitant luxury of 19th century London.

 

 

Sail away…

cats table

Reading is often like climbing onto a ship and sailing softly away into another world, every time you open a book. Or at least that is true of The Cat’s Table. This charming story, by the author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatjie, tracks the on-board adventures of three mischievous bosom-buddy boys on board the Oronosay, sailing in 1954 from Colombo (Sri Lanka) to a new life in England.

It is written like a biography, and although the disclaimer at the back of the book insists that the characters of The Cats Table are fictional, I can’t help but suspect that Ondaatjie based the story on his own experience of immigrating in 1954.

I am deeply in love with and inspired by the way that Ondaatjie puts words together. I first fell in love with him as a wordsmith when I read Anils Ghost (about the Sri Lankan civil war) in 2009. Like well combined flavours, he just knows which words to put together to paint the perfect picture in the readers mind.

This book was an easy read. I paired it with the Swartland wine-of-origin Spice Route Savignon Blanc. It’s spicy aroma and strong flavour of green pepper are perfect for this moving and haunting story.

A hot dense state, sounds like the weekend…

big bang

 

In my years of studying I have often had to digest books that challenge my world view and make me uncomfortable and/or miserable. Included in this list are Ideas: From Fire to Freud (when you see the size of it you won’t need me to discourage you) by Peter Watson and Why Evolution is true from Jerry Coyne.

When Big Bang by Simon Singh was prescribed, I braced myself for another such experience. To my delight, this easily comprehensible book took me on a magnificent journey of exploration, to outer space and back, and I would tell everyone who has any interest in astronomy to get their hands on it ASAP!

Singh details the history of cosmology and the men and women who played an influential role in the development of this field of science. While he does so, he takes your hand and guides you into how scientists developed our current theory of how the universe began. No matter what you believe, it is well worth understanding how this contentious theory came to be widely accepted, and actually how recent this acceptance is!

The men and women who made history in cosmology (including the obvious ones like Galileo, Einstein and Hayley) become living characters in this wonderful story. Go and read it, you won’t regret it, and pair it with something delicious, like the Beaumont Chenin Blanc, full of flavour and wonderfully enlightening!