The Binding – Bridget Collins

How would you wish that your unpleasant memories disappear? If you could bind those memories into a book, would you be willing to? Or would you consider those who have bound their memory into a book a cowards?

The Perfect Life – Nuala Ellwood

This provided book has an easy flow that I could barely take it down. I thought it might be an interesting read, based on the synopsis. But I have to disappoint you: it doesn’t even reach my book recommendation list and here’s why

Forty Rules Of Love – Elif Shafak

I have been willing to read one of her books for quite sometime. This book, although very easy to read, contains words which, if you’re not familiar with Arabic and the Islam, might cause you to take a look at the footnote. If you read the physical book, it’s easier to go back and forth from the current page to the last pages that contain the explanation. It’s harder to go back and forth if you’re using e-reader to read.  Although I’m familiar with the words, I’m not a Muslim and don’t know the difference between: Sufi, Shiite, Sunni, even….dervish.  It started with the life of a Jewish family Rubinsteins. Ella and David Rubinstein, their college daughter Jeannette and their teenage twins Orly and Avi. They also had a golden retriever named Spirit and they lived in Northampton, Massachusetts. Ella and David have been married for way too long that Ella didn’t know anymore whether she still loved him or has stopped loving him.  “To my dear Ella,  A woman with a quiet manner, a generous heart and the patience of a saint. Thanks for being my wife. Yours, David” That’s what he’s written in a card on a valentine’s day. Reading the sentences only made Ella think that it’s supposed to be written after her death. Reading about her life, I could sense that love has seemed to vanish from her life. She filed for divorce in the fall of 2008 for a reason: love. She fell in love with someone whose life was full of adventures; He’s a traveller, a writer and a Sufi. This all started when Ella got accepted as a reviewer at a literary agency in Boston. She got her first assignment right at the moment when she just had an argument with her oldest daughter Jeannette about her marriage plan. She didn’t have the courage to read and give an extensive report on the novel she’s assigned to, but when she read the first few lines, she felt as if the author rewrote her life story.  The writer’s name was A. Z. Zahara (Aziz) who lived in the Netherlands (the book says Holland, but Holland is not a country — just one of the author’s lacks of research — to be noticed when she mentioned Indonesia as one of the countries that have seeked for asylum in Netherlands, as if there’s a war in Indonesia. This just made me think that Elif Shafak is a dreamy woman still living in a cave). The title of the book is Sweet Blasphemy. The writer has stated that he had no intention to be an author; He wrote it to show his admiration and love for the great philosopher, mystic and poet Rumi and his beloved Sun, Shams of Tabriz.  “For despite some people say, love is not only a sweet feeling bound to come and quickly go away.” This quotation that’s written on the next line made her jaw dropped as she realised that it’s the contradiction…

Tropenbruid – Susan Smit

I know that it sounds cliche to review this in English while the book is only available in Dutch language. Well, I hope it will be available in English soon. The title in English would be Tropical Bride. Anna Prinsenhoek is an orphan who lives in Amsterdam city. She lives at the shelter and she’s tired of following the strict rules. Susan Smit described the life at a shelter as a life full of misery, the girls living there are only good for doing physical works, and Anna is someone who loves to have adventure, not someone who would be willing to serve as maid. Hence, when she sees an advertisement on the newspaper about an officer living in Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) looking for a wife, she applies. She’s amazed that the man, Willem Francken, replies her mail and chooses her. Arrives in Batavia, she’s brought to Weltevreden (Central Jakata/Jakarta Pusat). Anna realises that her life changes. Willem Francken is a cold-hearted officer and Anna thinks that his previous wife is deceased as he has two young daughters, Minah and Lin and they have a governess, Mary, who takes care of them. When Anna talks to Minah and Lin, she finds out that their mother is still alive, but that she’s been banished. And she soon also finds out that her marriage to Willem is only a cover up for his dream job, and love affair. His previous wife was not his wife, but he’s slept with his njai (female servant, status higher than the rest of the servants as she controls the household). For the sake of his status, he banished Sri (the njai) but adopted/made their daughters his legitimate children. Willem banished Sri because she’s a njai, and not Dutch. Willem and Anna don’t sleep in the same bedroom. He only visits her when he wants to have sex with her, and she is not allowed to enter his bedroom if he doesn’t ask her to. She’s really leading a boring life at the moment as she doesn’t have to do anything to get it done. They have cook, maid, male servant, and a gardener, his daughters have their own governess who accompanies them. Although she and the governess can’t get along with each other, she manages to get along with the maid, who they call Baboe (baboe (pronunciation: baboo) is not a name, but literally means maid in Indonesian language). She asked Baboe where the njai lives. At first, Baboe hesitates to tell, but after her explanation, she finally tells her and she visits Sri, the njai, on the next day. Sri lives in a village, when she’s on her way, she gets help by a young man, as old as she is, named Regi. He leads her the way to where Sri lives. Anna promises her to bring her daughters with her the next time she visits her. There’s a moment when Regi and Anna fall in love with each other, but she soon finds…

Lichter Dan Ik – Dido Michielsen

Ik raakte geïnteresseerd over dit boek omdat er een foto van een Javaanse vrouw op de boekomslag staat, wat me doet denken aan mijn geboorteland, al ben ik geen Javaans. Piranti, die later door een Nederlandse officier Rudolph Isah werd genoemd is een dochter van een batikster voor de sultan. Zij groeide op in de kraton van Djokja (Yogyakarta) en zij had nooit geweten hoe het leven buiten de kraton eruit zag. Zij had twee vriendinnen die ook op kraton woonden, Karsinah en Djatmi, maar zij wist niet dat deze twee meisjes echte prinsessen waren totdat Karsinah haar aap Soeko van haar afpakte. De moeder van Piranti vertelde haar daarna dat zij moesten geven wat de prinses wilde. De vader van Piranti was een sultan, maar hij heeft haar en haar moeder nooit erkend en daarom hadden zij ook geen status op de kraton. Piranti is weg van huis gerend omdat zij niet uitgehuwelijkt wilde worden door haar moeder. Zij kwam bij een Nederlandse officier Rudolph aka Gey terecht. Hij heeft haar ontmaagd en de naive Piranti, die Isah genoemd werd door Gey, dacht dat Gey ooit met haar zou trouwen. Zij heeft twee dochters van hem gekregen. Maar zij werd beschouwd als een njai, een huishoudster. Een paar jaar later verliet Gey haar omdat hij in Haarlem zou gaan trouwen met een vrouw die hem al vier jaar op wachtte. Isah wist niet hoe het met haar en haar kinderen zouden gebeuren. Gey vertrok zonder genade, maar Arnold en Lot waren bereid haar dochters te adopteren en haar als hun baboe te laten werken. Toen haar dochters Pauline en Louisa naar een klooster werden gestuurd, werd Isah ook gestuurd naar de nieuwe toean die net uit Nederland is gekomen samen met zijn vrouw. Zij woonden niet in Djokja. Daar leerde Isah Kampret kennen, die haar adviseerde om haar dochters in Batavia op te zoeken, dus liep Isah weg van het huis van haar nieuwe toean, opzoek naar haar dochters. Het verhaal is triest. Isah werd behandeld als een voetveeg. Maar zo ging het allemaal toen Nederlanders Indonesië bezet hadden, een voorbeeld dat Nederlanders toen geen enige respect hadden en zich niet wilden integreren in iemand anders land. Ik spreek vloeiend Indonesisch, maar ik heb wel veel geleerd tijdens het lezen. Ik wist bijvoorbeeld niet wat een nyai is, wat abdi dalam betekent, enz. In Jakarta heb ik geen njai gehad, alleen een nanny (kinderoppasser), bediendes en djongos). Dido Michielsen heeft goed geschreven. Ik werd meegesleept en ik werd Isah. Ik kondig dit boek aan iedereen. Echt prachtig geschreven!!