Archives for category: Reviews

The Open Fiction Book Group reads one paperback novel a month and its discussions are led by local author
Ellen Meeropol. The group typically meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m.

SPECIAL THIS MONTH: Author Champa Bilwakesh will join for the conversation!

November 16: Desire of the Moth by Champa Bilwakesh

Event date:
Monday, November 16, 2015 – 7:00pm
Event address:
The Odyssey Bookshop
9 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01075
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MyHumbleOpinion’s review of Desire of the Moth: a novel.

From Amazon.com

This book is a literary masterpiece – but not in a dull, preachy, high-brow way. It has all the appeal of a cool movie like Footloose (dare to dance and face the consequences) but with the importance of a classic, timeless novel. Bilwakesh has managed to write a novel with such attention to literary detail, precision of language, and historical significance that you almost forget while you are reading it that the plot is spellbinding, surprising, and relatable. In this way, it is a sacred text. I have read my fair share of books like this that leave you so devastated with the ending that you can’t think straight for days. Sometimes endings like that seem like a shortcut to pull at the emotions of the reader. I prefer this ending that is more nuanced and realistic. It doesn’t romanticize or vilify the past and antiquated traditions. I think we look to people who break down cultural and gender stereotypes in favor of justice and progression as heroes, but Bilwakesh’s story shows how truly complicated it is. There is no winning or losing or right and wrong – there are only consequences. Everyone in our heart’s field is affected by decisions we make that are out of the ordinary. Although future generations may benefit, there are sacrifices that must be made by all the people who are connected to the “hero.”

Latest Review for Desire of the Moth

From Amazon.com

August 11, 2015
A beautiful story teller! Thoroughly enjoyed the book and it’s nuances. The tale weaves together a poignant picture of practices of the time when widowhood ostracized women from mainstream life as well as brings out the strength and courage of women who chose different paths. In particular, it has a special significance for dancers today to understand that there was a time when dance was not socially accepted as an art form and frowned upon. Towards the end, the book captures intuitively a spiritual path that comes from the practice of dance – one that unites a person with oneself.
5.0 out of 5 stars From Tragedy to Triumph, August 29, 2015
By Karen B. Leonard “Karen Isaksen Leonard”
 This book is a very good read, and it works at the level of the individual character (a young Brahmin widow), the region (south India), and the nation (India during the nationalist movement). The cover is lovely and suggests the eventual move from tragedy to triumph of the heroine. The author writes well, deftly setting the various contexts with care and knowledge, and the heroine is a very sympathetic figure indeed. I don’t want to comment on the plot but…once the turnaround began I found it more sketchy, less compelling (but with lots of family drama/professional drama/complexity). I certainly recommend it, fine work, evoking past histories with flair and compassion.
 National Congress, 1931

National Congress, 1931

After a few seconds of silence Kitappa’s fingers stroked the sides of the instrument and it spoke to her. Sowmya saw the spin­ning of the wheel, a lone flag fluttering in the wind. She saw the entire dance shine behind her lids, and it was new and she suddenly understood what Ruth St. Denis was doing. She had invested the song with a brand new feeling, patrio­tism. To make it concrete in her dance she would express a little bravado, a little piety, and some kind of joy or affection.

“It has to be that kind of a thing, as if you are the child and the mother at the same time,” Mallika said.

Sowmya found a man named Farid at Amarjothi Tai­lors, at the corner of East Mada Street who agreed to make the tricolor flag for her. She found him some silky and slippery material that would unfurl as required. He kept the project inside his house and worked on it at night. She would meet him at his shop after his work was done, and he would take her to his house and show her how he would piece the parts of the spinning wheel together in the center and embroider around it. She was pleased.

***

            On the day of the dance the lawn at the congress office was covered with white sheets. The program started in the late afternoon with a welcoming ceremony and several speeches. So the stage was set up and ready when Sow­mya arrived with the musicians. The lawn was now dotted with people who had gathered among the long shadows.

Sowmya began the program in the traditional way, with an invocation to Ganapathi. Nervous about how it would be received, she had planned the new item for the final piece just before a short and sharp concluding hymn.

When the time came for the dance the stage lights dimmed. Somu played a dirge like beat on the mridangam. The flute came on, and then Kitappa and Neelam’s voice rose in unison.

*This land of a thousand years,

shaped by a thousand thoughts . . .

my mother’s playground,

where she learnt her first sounds,

and danced in this moonlit night,

frolicked in these rivers,

made sweet music with my father,

this land of my mother.

Sowmya raised the standard and pulled the string. The flag dropped down, and she leaped around the stage to the beat of the refrain, the flag unfurling:

Would I not adore it in my heart, and cry out in joy

Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

Even before the dance came to its conclusion, people rose to their feet, cheeks wet. Sowmya found her eyes filling over with tears when she finally stood waving the flag.

— From Desire of the Moth

*Poem of Subramanya Bharati translated by author.

Latest Review for Desire of the Moth

From Amazon.com

A beautiful story teller! Thoroughly enjoyed the book and it’s nuances. The tale weaves together a poignant picture of practices of the time when widowhood ostracized women from mainstream life as well as brings out the strength and courage of women who chose different paths. In particular, it has a special significance for dancers today to understand that there was a time when dance was not socially accepted as an art form and frowned upon. Towards the end, the book captures intuitively a spiritual path that comes from the practice of dance – one that unites a person with oneself.

Latest Review for Desire of the Moth

From Amazon.com

This book is a journey of the human spirit.
A tenacious young woman from India defies cultural norms, traditions, and expectations to go off, following her heart . Her tenacious spirit directs her, guides her, and leads her through traumatic family alienation.
The writing is clear, and Champa Bilwakesh is brilliant in conveying the heroine’s turmoil while truly following her heart.
The cultural and political references at times were difficult for me to follow, but again, it was the basic theme of the human spirit and humanity which prevails within this family unit. I loved the book. I was drawn in within the first 30 pages. Champa made simple, quick, thought provoking statements which had me stopping mid-read to revisit what I just read. I love books that draw me in, but more importantly, I love books that celebrate an internal victory. Well done Champa! I couldn’t put it down.

India’s women organize for Freedom

Read the rest of this entry »

Debut _ Listen to an excerpt read by the author 

Lethal love arrows, like pouring rain.

Your sweet lips, the Divine Face.

Lord of Lords, the Presence, Unfathomable,

embrace me. Now!

 

Sowmya surrendered to the longing. She did not notice

that her costume, damp with sweat, was sticking to her

legs, or that a bell from her anklets had torn off and flung

out on the floor. She only saw the sound, only heard the

dance: the leap she would make, the pause for a fraction of

the beat before landing with the elegance of the antelope.

There was nothing else in her vision. She summoned to

her face all that was needed to communicate the agony, the

bliss, the sacred story, the mystical moment. It will cleanse

your audience, redeem! Her feet, weightless, flew over the

ground.

Kita-thaka-dharikitathom! Kita-thaka-dharikitathom!

Kita-thaka-dharikitathom!

 

MyHumbleOpinion’s review of Desire of the Moth: a novel.

From Amazon.com

This book is a literary masterpiece – but not in a dull, preachy, high-brow way. It has all the appeal of a cool movie like Footloose (dare to dance and face the consequences) but with the importance of a classic, timeless novel. Bilwakesh has managed to write a novel with such attention to literary detail, precision of language, and historical significance that you almost forget while you are reading it that the plot is spellbinding, surprising, and relatable. In this way, it is a sacred text. I have read my fair share of books like this that leave you so devastated with the ending that you can’t think straight for days. Sometimes endings like that seem like a shortcut to pull at the emotions of the reader. I prefer this ending that is more nuanced and realistic. It doesn’t romanticize or vilify the past and antiquated traditions. I think we look to people who break down cultural and gender stereotypes in favor of justice and progression as heroes, but Bilwakesh’s story shows how truly complicated it is. There is no winning or losing or right and wrong – there are only consequences. Everyone in our heart’s field is affected by decisions we make that are out of the ordinary. Although future generations may benefit, there are sacrifices that must be made by all the people who are connected to the “hero.”