goodbye mr chips

Booking Through Thursday: Sniffle

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

“What was the most emotional read you have ever had?”

If by emotional it means books that made me cry, I would have to choose from a rather limited field. I am admittedly not a very sentimental person. Books or movies generally do not make me cry. Only very few books have ever made me cry. Right now only Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton comes to mind.

There aren’t many big moments in this story. But there are a lot of little moments that makes this book what it is. Moments like Mr. Chips’ first day at Brookfield, his memories of Katherine, working at Brookfield through the war years, having the new school boys over for tea. It is little details like this that made this book an emotional read for me. And the ending, although admittedly sappy, pulled at my heartstrings. After finishing Goodbye, Mr. Chips I was bawling like a baby. I guess that makes it the most emotional read I’ve ever read.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I am not much into contemporary books. I am just not comfortable with modern fiction though I do try to read at least one or two each year. Also, this novel belongs to a genre that I am not much of a fan of, Young Adult or YA lit.

No, I didn’t need a boxful of tissues as many of my fellow readers said that I would. Books rarely make me cry (Goodbye, Mr. Chips being one of the very few exceptions). So, it’s not really the book’s fault. But yes I liked The Fault in Our Stars much better than I thought I would.

The Fault in Our Stars, published in 2012 (thus making it the most current book I have ever read!), is John Green’s fourth novel.

16 year old Hazel has terminal cancer. No longer going to school and disconnected from her friends, home has become her entire world. At her parent’s insistence, she joins a cancer support group and Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor, steps into her life. Life becomes, suddenly, much more interesting and kind of livable. But faced with her own mortality at every turn, how long can she hope for it all to last?

Hazel reminds me of someone I know, especially the way she speaks.

“Out of nowhere, Augustus asked, ‘Do you believe in an afterlife?’

‘I think forever is an incorrect concept,’ I answered.

He smirked. ‘You’re an incorrect concept.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m being taken out of the rotation.’”

I liked how her character didn’t change completely during the course of the narrative. The bleak moodiness her character shows early on doesn’t absolutely vanish. Yes it decreases but her character retains its true essence.

I found the way Augustus keeps calling Hazel, ‘Hazel Grace’, irritating. In fact, there is something about Augustus that kept me from feeling totally sympathetic towards him. I know he is just a frightened teen posturing to hide his insecurities but I just didn’t feel connected with him somehow.

Hazel loves the book An Imperial Affliction because she identifies with the main character Anna. Her love for the book, her trip to Amsterdam to find the rest of Anna’s story, all of it is supposed to make the reader feel more connected to Hazel’s pain. But I found those parts to be kind of hollow.

What I liked was how Augustus and Hazel connect with each other. Parts of their time together, like the night they have dinner at Oranjee, came vividly alive. Augustus’ friendship with Isaac, another cancer survivor, also rang true.

The characters of Hazel’s parents are nicely summed up by Hazel herself,

“Appraising myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, I kept thinking there were two kinds of adults: There were Peter Van Houtens—miserable creatures who scoured the earth in search of something to hurt. And then there were people like my parents, who walked around zombically, doing whatever they had to do to keep walking around. Neither of these futures struck me as particularly desirable.”

I liked the character of Lidewij Vliegenthart. She is an unrealistically nice person but I wish such people did exist in real life.

I deeply distrust contemporary writers, having read a few really bad current books. But John Green is not half as bad as I thought he would be.

I loved how Green quotes from various poems! It seems like we have a similar taste in poetry. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot and Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost deserve special mention.

The book is designed to tug at your heartstrings and it does do so, especially the last part. It is a sentimental book and normally I don’t do ‘sentimental’ (barring some Victorian lit and a few others like Goodbye, Mr. Chips). But overall I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars. For a book from an era and a genre I don’t particularly enjoy, I would say it was pretty good.

Musing Mondays (Dec.19)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

“This week’s musing asks…

What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?

I am mainly a reader of mysteries and classics so my recommendations mostly tend to be from these two genres. But if I have to recommend something that any reader can enjoy, I would be in trouble. I tend to go against the current a bit. General readers and I don’t see eye to eye on most books. Still, there are a few books that come to my mind as suitable reads for all.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book I can recommend to anyone without any reservations. It’s a safe bet. I think only a handful of people in the world don’t like it.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton is another one I would recommend. The book is unabashedly sentimental but that’s where its appeal lies. I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes. Now, I for one love unconventional heroes. People who are not what they seem, who are insignificant in the eyes of the world but try to live their lives with dignity or become heroes inspite of adverse situations are heroes in my book.

.1.   Charles Chipping from Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – Mr. Chips is a mild mannered, very average man but he more than once rises to the occasion and shows courage. I especially love the scene where he reads aloud a list of the school’s alumni who have fallen in the battlefield. In spite of objections from everyone, he includes the name of a former master who died while fighting for the opposing side. He chooses to remember the man as a friend and not as an enemy; he decides to remember the friendship they once had.

2.  Severus Snape from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Even if Cassandra hadn’t mentioned him in her post, I still would have put him on my list. Ever since the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something unusual about the man. Of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, proved what a complex character Severus Snape was.  If ever there was an unconventional hero, Snape is the one.

3.  David, the policeman from A Kiss for Cinderella by J. M. Barrie – The character of the policeman is so unlike a romantic hero. He is an unimaginative, unromantic man. He couldn’t possibly understand ‘Cinderella’s imaginary world. But all the same he sympathizes with her and even ends up saving her life. His love for the poor, plain looking, possibly unbalanced ‘Cinderella’ makes him one of my top unconventional heroes.

4.    Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – A deeply unhappy alcoholic of a dubious character, Sydney Carton ends up overshadowing the more conventional hero Charles Darnay.

5.  Mr Harley Quin from The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie – One of the more unusual and underrated creations of Agatha Christie, Mr. Quin, is a friend of lovers, an otherworldly presence. He comes and leaves without any explanation, appears at the edge of a cliff or in an empty train compartment. He never does anything concrete but helps everyone in a most subtle way. A strangely unconventional hero, in my opinion.

30 Day Book Challenge

Day 3: Best Book I Read Last Year–

Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton.

I am admittedly not a very sentimental person. Books or movies generally do not make me cry. But I’ve got to confess. Goodbye, Mr. Chips made me cry.

There aren’t many big moments in this story. But there are a lot of little moments that makes this book what it is. Moments like Mr. Chips’ first day at Brookfield, his memories of Katherine, working at Brookfield through the war years, having the new school boys over for tea. It is little details like this that sparkle with their freshness. And Mr. Chips ceases to remain just another character from a book and comes alive.

One of the very few books I’ve read last year that I know I’m going to re-read.