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text 2018-06-10 02:43
Cricket, corruption and children's dreams
Selection Day: A Novel - Aravind Adiga

Selection Day: A Novel Aravind Adiga (Author), Sartaj Garewal (Narrator)
Cricket and the white uniforms worn by the heroes of the game are an obsession in India. It is also believed to be the path out of poverty for young boys, like sports is in the United States, and it is the main thread of the novel. The two young Kumar brothers, one 14 and the other not quite 16, have been raised by a slightly unhinged father to be the best cricket players in the world. Their mother left them shortly after they moved to the slums of Mombai. The oldest son, Radha, is told from the get-go that he is wonderful; he is the best at cricket. The younger son, Manju, is told that he is second best. This is Mohan’s wish for both of them when it comes to cricket. He is a father with rigid and quite peculiar rules for them to follow, in order to become the greatest at cricket. He has odd health beliefs and holds weekly inspections of their bodies to see if they are remaining immature and undeveloped. The best cricket players are short, compact not yet sexual or promiscuous in any way, as far as Mohan is concerned.
Radha, the elder brother, dreams of being picked to play for India on Selection Day, of being the greatest Batsman as he has been promised. Manju, on the other hand, is conflicted. He dreams of going to college and becoming a scientist. When the competition becomes so fierce that one brother is pitted against the other, the family begins to come apart. When the second son becomes the greater of the two, the older descends into uncontrollable anger after which he runs away. The youngest becomes the better cricket player, but he is unsure of who or what he is. His sexuality remains an enigma to him. Brother turns against brother and son against father for forcing them into a life that is not fulfilling their dreams.
The father becomes involved with a talent scout who is influential in the cricket game. He makes it possible for them to move from the slums into decent housing in Mombai. All the people involved are interested in their bottom line, their end profit, and the boys are simply the means to that end. They are the tools of the trade. They all want to own the next great cricket player and to make money off his talent. The promise is made that Radha will be chosen on Selection Day to play for India. It is, however, several years away, and in the intervening years, the boys struggle with coming of age.
The brothers, each with different dreams, begin to reject and dislike their father intensely for the pressure he has put upon them to succeed, and their fear of failing him is mind numbing. They have been taught to have but one goal, and to pursue it with maddening effort, to become the greatest cricket players of all time, to be chosen to play for India on Selection Day.
Both brothers have the capacity for violence and cruelty. Hints of that kind of anger and that kind of irrational behavior having existed in other family members in the past, is revealed in stories related in the narrative. As they both come of age, the older brother matures and outgrows the typical successful image of the Cricket body. He begins to be a lesser star. The younger brother, on the other hand, much to his dismay, is able to succeed beyond his wildest dreams. He is obedient and practices. He pleases his father and his sponsors, but disappoints himself.

Manju  has one friend who has given up the sport. He is wealthy and he constantly whispers in his ear and advises him to leave both his father and the cricket game. He tells him to come and live with him, to study and go to college and follow his own dreams. However, this friend also has a questionable nature and sexuality, a sexuality which in India is punished by a life in prison sentence.. As Manju struggles with his own thoughts on male and female attraction, this friend, Javed, is both a positive and negative influence on his behavior.
The novel is written in an authentic Indian voice. The reader has the perfect accent and intonation to impart the subtle humor and the often somber moments, with clarity.
The two brothers, badgered by their father, are brought up with Cricket as the most important effort of their lives. Their father’s obsession with their success to lift him out of poverty, coupled with his often bizarre beliefs, creates a picture of a country driven by Cricket, first and foremost, rather than by the thought of education to lift the masses out of the depths of their despair. Although the humor is frequent, it is sometimes tongue in cheek. What I understood made me smile. What I didn’t understand made me want to learn more about the situation.
There are folk tales strewn within the story, and one of the book’s truisms told by the father, Mohan, is that Indians are like elephants, their minds are chained to their masters, they cannot think on their own, cannot think for themselves, do as they are told. The fierce competition turned brother against brother and son against father because they were not allowed to think for themselves. Like the question posed about why boiling water turns to ice before cold water does, Manju’s confusion about his sexuality seems to remain an unknown as well when the final page is  turned..

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review 2018-01-28 01:39
Book Review: The Heir
The Heir (The Selection) - Kiera Cass

Book: The Heir


Author: Kiera Cass


Genre: Teen/Fantasy/Romance


Summary: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon - and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairytale romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her own Selection - no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. -HarperTeen, 2015.


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review 2017-06-17 17:58
Great characters lashed to a formulaic plot
Selection Day: A Novel - Aravind Adiga

I added this book to my "to-read" list after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. There was a lot about the description of the book that intrigued me, but perhaps what was most interesting was the idea of reading a story with a familiar premise (father drives his sons to succeed in sport) in the unfamiliar setting of modern-day India.


And this is exactly what Aravind Adiga delivers. It's the story of two teenage boys, Radha and Manju Kumar, who have been moved to Mumbai by their father Mohan in the hope that he can use their skills as cricket to escape from their family's poverty. Adiga's story centers on Manju, the younger of the two, who idolizes his older brother and dreams of becoming a forensic scientist. Together they share a loathing at the controlling lifestyle that their father imposes upon both of them and the hope of escape, yet their growing self-awareness and exploration of life in Mumbai sets them on two very paths towards adulthood.


Such a story is hardly a novel one, but uses it to explore themes in a very different setting -- a vibrant, cricket-obsessed Mumbai, with stark divides of wealth and poverty. It's a fluid world populated with a solid cast of supporting characters, from the cricket scout Tommy Boy desperate to define his legacy by finding a great player to the handsome middle-class Javed, who represents both the main competition for the brothers and the allure of a different life. What they all have in common is that they are all striving in one way or another -- the adults striving for wealth through the children they try to control like chess pieces, the children who seek to break free from that control and discover themselves before the world opening up before them. It is their growing realization of their power to determine their own fate that drives the story, even if it leads them in some very familiar directions.


And that is what disappointed me about the novel: the predictability of Adiga's plot. The whole story unfolds in an extremely formulaic fashion, with the ending telegraphed to its readers well before reach the book's midpoint. Perhaps my expectations were excessive, but I hoped for something more from an author who has won the Man Booker Prize for his previous work. What he has written is an enjoyable novel about two boys living in a world of in which the promise of youth intermixes with the desperation of poverty, but I couldn't help finishing it thinking that it could have been so much more than it was.

Oh, well, at least it got me to finally learn about the game of cricket.

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text 2017-06-15 12:07
Reading progress update: I've read 304 out of 304 pages.
Selection Day: A Novel - Aravind Adiga

I just finished this book, and I'm still uncertain as to how I feel about it. Much of it was fantastic: the descriptions of life in Bombay/Mumbai, the characterization, the coming-of-age of two rural boys who are facing decisions that will shape the rest of their lives and slowly realizing for the first time that they rather than the people around them have the final say in who they become. And yet it's all anchored to a plot that is annoyingly formulaic in its construction. Perhaps this is unfair, but I expected something a bit more imaginative from a Man Booker winner.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-08 03:49
The Crown (The Selection) - Kiera Cass

This is my least favorite cover of the series because the model's head/neck positioning looks so awkward...


Anyway, I was generally happy with the conclusion to the series. I wish Lucy and Aspen had adopted. I guess I can still imagine that they do after the book ends.


I remember that in the first book, it's stated that a crown prince/princess is supposed to step up when the monarch feels he/she is ready and not necessarily when that monarch dies, so it was interesting to me that that happens in this book. I hadn't expected it, but it's happier than losing a parent in order to ascend the throne.


I also like that she demanded respect from her councilors, though I think anyone with that kind of power should purposely keep people in that position who have very different beliefs, so that he/she doesn't end up surrounding themselves with "yes men" and instead get a variety of ideas and opinions. But respect is vital.


Eadlyn has definitely inherited her mother's ability to leap to illogical conclusions in a single bound. She's gently rejected by one suitor and immediately comes to the conclusion that she is unlovable. Girl, chill.


I loved Eikko the most, so I'm really happy that he won (and that they had the blessing of Henri because he was such a sweetie). I particularly loved that he was allowed to show emotion and it wasn't used to emasculate him. Boys have feelings too!


I'm sad to see the series end, but glad it didn't disappoint. :)

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