REVIEW “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

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Some people don’t like reading old dusty classic books. Some people don’t like reading very long books. Well, the book “Les Miserables” is both of these things and still I would recommend you to read it. The book follows (admittedly with some detours) the life of Jean Valjean. A man who was convicted to galley “service” for stealing a loaf of bread.

After finishing his sentence and being out on parole he realizes bitterly, that even though he served his sentence for society he always will be convicted. The book follows him on his journey through the Paris and France of the beginning of the 19th century as he tries to turn his life towards the good.

This search for good plays out over more than one thousand pages. The author deliberately decides to leave the main storyline several times in such a way that the book becomes more like a long walk in a park than a thrilling rollercoaster ride, a phenomenon that lacks in many of the modern day novels. He slows down the pace of everyday life and reveals that even though the book was written more than 150 years ago many of aspects are still true today. Victour Hugos book “Les Miserables” has been called the conscience of the 19th century. And he can also be called the conscience of the 21th century for that matter.  In his work he shows, that there is a higher moral than the social standards and laws of the moment. Good and bad can not always be rightfully decided in front of a court. And how judgment can be true for eternity.

Maybe we should take this point of view on some of the things that happen in today’s day and age… How will our, nowadays ‘accepted’ and ‘right’ actions, be judged upon in 150 years when our self centered reasons no longer matter and the only thing that is remembered are the consequences of our actions.

Wiyanna Markowis

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Book Review- ‘SOLD’ by Patricia McCormick

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Lakshmi  is a thirteen years old “hill girl” from a small mountain village in rural Nepal. She lives together with her mother, stepfather, a small goat and a small baby brother in a hut that can not protect them from the rain. Nonetheless she and her mother excel at finding the simple pleasures in live even if the step father gambles away all their money every night… A bad man is better than no man. After a especially rainy monsoon that washed away all of the family’s crops Lakshmi’s stepfather tells her that she’ll have to go to the city and find a job as a maid to support the family. With the picture of gaining enough money to buy a tin roof Lakshmi willingly agrees and is thankful that she can help her Ama.

What she doesn’t know is, that her new Auntie Bimla never intended to find her a job as a maid. Instead she brings young Lakshmi to happiness house in India. Lakshmi faces an unbelievable fate: she has been sold into child prostitution.

Patricia McCormick who worked together with Amnesty International and Survivors themselves manages to write a nearly poetic book about a traumatic experience. The book is written in Lakshmi’s voice as she writes down daily what happens. How she is treated, used and betrayed but also how she finds friends and laughter and in the end a ray of hope.

This book raises awareness for a fate that happens to young girls every day. Sexual trafficking is not some made up horror but day to day reality. And through reading the book and being aware of this violation of human rights is the first step to change. As Eli Weisel said, ”Let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

 

Wiyanna Markowis

Book Review ‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

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In “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert takes us with her on her journey to self-discovery. After having a highly paid job, a husband and a nice house in the valley and still falling into depression, she gets a divorce and a new boyfriend. Which doesn’t really help in the long run.

So to try out something new, and because learning Italian was something she always wanted to do, Elizabeth packs her bags and moves to Italy, to eat. Then to India to pray and finally to Bali to find balance (and love).  Many of these “self-discovery”/”ashram” novels can be quite unpleasant to read. Most of them are full of themselves and either try to sell you some new form of enlightenment or just hate on everything western. Not so much this book. First of all it is immensely funny. Elizabeth Gilbert has no boundaries when it comes to making fun of herself, and even when it is not an actual joke, her whole style of writing is upbeat and lighthearted. She is nonetheless honest and doesn’t try to make things prettier than they are, something that makes the book as touching as it is.

No matter if you are on a self-discovery trip yourself, already have been or never planned to go on one because not everyone messes his life up in the first place, this book will speak to you and make you dream again of the things you always wanted to do and inspire you to dream about new things because it shows that, no matter how dead end the road you are stuck in may appear, there is always a way out and there are always better things on the path ahead.

 

Wiyanna Markowis

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

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WARNING: If you have not yet read “Me before you” than the review of the sequel “After you” may contain spoilers.

“You only have one life it is actually your duty to live it as fully as possible”. This is Will Trainors most important philosophy, a philosophy that made it impossible to accept his life as a quadriplegic and lead him to doctor assisted suicide in Switzerland. It is also his philosophy that sparked a new will for adventure and excitement in Louisa Clark.  At the beginning of “Me before you” it seems like Lou is the one saving Will but in the end it is the other way around. Will was Lou’s inspiration to live up to her potential and start a new life.

But is it possible to start a new life when the love of your life no longer lives, your family no longer speaks with you and your decision to accompany someone to doctor assisted suicide is discussed all over the papers. For Lou it is definitely not. She lives in London, works in yet another bar and feels anything but alive.

But then two things happen. A strange teenager startles Lou so much during her evening walk on the edge of her rooftop that she falls down her five stories building and handsome Ambulance Sam manages to put her broken bones back together. After nearly two years of solitude she is now confronted with new people in her life. People that (quite literary) push her over the edge so that she has to chose life again instead of the numbness of the past 18 months. Through interesting and unexpected turns of events Lou slowly struggles her way back to being alive.

Will she in the end be the one who catches the flight or will she still be watching people head of to far away destinations from behind her bar counter…? See for yourself, you will not regret it!

 

Wiyanna Markowis

Book Review- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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Jojo Moyes is known for writing heartfelt novels that might leave you with tears in the end, but ‘Me before you’ reaches a whole new level. Lou Clark is an extraordinary young woman that lives in and likes the restrictions of her small town life. She has a steady boyfriend, still lives with her family and never dreams of going anywhere anymore. Mostly out of fear as the reader will discover during the course of the book. She is weird and quirky, especially in her fashion sense.

Will Trainor, former star of the whole universe, is now quadriplegic and not at all the star of the universe anymore. He is moody, depressed, angry, without any will to live and only one goal left in his life. His mother is the one who hires Lou as a caretaker for Will in a last attempt to bring joy back into the life of her son.

But as Lou storms into Wills life in vintage high heels and colour combinated outfits that could nearly blind you the meeting doesn’t turn out the way his mother had planned. Will who is no longer able to live his life full of adventure is deeply frustrated by the way Lou seemingly wastes her life in the small boundaries of their village. Lou on the other hands is taken aback by how stubbornly Will refuses to accept his new life and the fact that it could be worth living even if there is no possibility to swim in volcano springs in Iceland, to paraglide in New Zeeland or to enjoy the company of long legged mannequins. But over time it seems that both learn from each other and change. But still, one can only change so much and in the end it is not enough for Will to change his plans.

There are many ideas about why Jojo Moyens decided to name her book  ‘Me before you’… Some say it is a testimony to how much one encounter can change a person, who I was before meeting you, others say it shows that in some decisions you have to put yourself before others… In my opinion both are true, one for Lou and one for Will. But I would advise you, to just read the book and decide on your own, its worth it!

SINGING BOWL – A Nepali instrument for Tuning the Mind- Healing the Body

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A Singing Bowl is a metallic bowl made from special alloy. It is also called the Dhwani Patra- a resonance bowl, in Sanskrit and in Nepali. Its sound is produced either by striking the surface with a mallet or the back of a fist; or by stroking or rubbing the bowl rim with a special wooden stick coated with velvet or leather. A Singing Bowl resonates long sustaining overtones, undertones, and reverberates delicate yet intense harmonic tones and sound vibrations. Anyone can easily make a sound with a singing bowl.

The bowl is considered to be one of the oldest utensils invented by the prehistoric people. The oldest pottery specimen ever excavated is considered to be between 17,500 to 18,300 years old, in a cave at Yuchanyan in China. The bowl’s origin is linked to the invention of spoon in the prehistoric times.

Traditionally Singing Bowl did not exist as a musical instrument in Nepal. For centuries the bowls were one among the variety of utensils that were used for serving food, measuring grains, preparing traditional medicines, making concoctions, placing sacred offerings to the deities and other social cultural purposes.

Singing Bowls work through ‘Sound’ and ‘Sound Vibrations’ with its rich tonal characteristics of creating a harmonic sound texture also called the overtones. Its deep and strong sound vibration frequency is swiftly transported to the cellular level of the human body. The vibration is known to induce a variety of waves that evokes sense of calmness and peace. At the physical level this vibration is known to stimulate blood vessels, lymph, nerves, veins and muscles allowing the opening of the blockages and loosening the tensed body parts even without a contact to its surface. The Singing Bowl has multiple functions for good health, healthy lifestyle, positive outlook towards life, freedom from personal angst, release from acute and chronic pain, and for a spiritual quest among many other reasons.

Review- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

fullsizerenderEvery street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye

Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs

And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Saib-e-Tabrizi

The beauty of this poem can be found reflected in the beauty of Khaled Hosseini’s writing. Set in the troubled years between 1960 and 2000 in Afghanistan “A thousand splendid suns” follows the life and growing up of two young girls over the course of many years.

Mariam, a harami, grows up alone and secluded with her mother. The girl spends much of her time idealizing her father and working against the constant negativity of her mother who sees it as her most important duty to teach Mariam, that the only thing women have to learn is to endure. Mariam, who doesn’t want to  believe her Mom learns quite quickly how right she has been. A series of events leads her to Kabul where she, now a girl of fifteen years, marries Rasheed. Her husband is thirty years elder to her and not at all the loving companion she had hoped for.

Laila is the daughter of a Kabul intellectual. She grows up believing in the equality of man and women and the possibility of her reaching everything. Love, success, happiness.

The start of the Taliban Revolution leads to the unfortunate meeting of the two girls, at that time Mariam is already a woman, grown weary with the challenges of her life. The two women, the two wives of the same man find strength in one another. After realizing that they do not have to be in competition, they become allies and in between them a bond is formed that holds stronger than the bond between sisters, the love between a mother and a daughter.

Their relationship brings back hope into both of their lives as Laila isn’t alone any more in keeping her secret and Mariam has found the daughter she never dared to dream of.

Even though the book is set in war times, the book is not about war. Even though the plotline asks for endurance beyond imagination from the women,  it is not about hardship. It is more than everything a book about the strength of love, the power of hope and the true meaning of friendship.

It’s a book by Khaled Hosseini, so you can’t expect to read it through without at least using one box of tissues but after the last page you are not filled with sorrow but your heart is touched and your left in awe by the strength of Mariam and Laila and by the overwhelming heroism that comes with love.

Wiyanna Markowis