I hate headaches. They come and go as they please and most times I don’t have to do anything to get one. But there is one kind of a headache that I will never complain about. This headache comes with a dull throb that I wake up with. In truth though, I would have gone to bed with my head trembling slightly with a dull ache. A sweet, sweet throbbing induced by reading well into the pre-dawn hours. It is the sort of morbid delight that only a good book can provide.
Even as my head throbs and my temples pound, my mind is swirling with the delightful colours that an author drew with his words. A sort of kaleidoscope that I could go on staring at. Memories of Fire is such a vividly gripping read and Ashok Chopra has done a great job! I tried, I really did, to absorb this book in instalments but I couldn’t. I went back to the very beginning and began re-reading it again and spent more than a few hours with it. Reading until I finished, until the dull ache formed in my head.
I probably sound like a masochist, but one does relish the hangover after a great party. When you go back and recollect memories it is the awesomeness of the party and not the hangover that comes to mind. This is exactly what Ashok Chopra has done with his Memories of Fire. I am sure I shall, always, recollect the joy that reading this book was. Memories of Fire is a book of recollections. The book starts off with a prelude indicating four friends who meet after fifty-four years. Where once they were a group of five, only four turn up for this get-together. The fifth is in jail serving a life sentence.
Then you are taken on a journey. There is no delusion that this book is a joyous recollection of memories or a tale of a group of old men reminiscing about their childhood scrapes. Memories of Fire rids you of that notion in its first few pages, if not paragraphs. It soon becomes a book with many lessons – a lesson in literature, a lesson in history and a lesson in love. And as with lessons, there are plenty of questions. Some whose answers are as abstract as the question itself. The pages of Memories of Fire are wrought with delicious examples of history and literature that it was a delight to read. I do not know what I enjoyed more – the plot of the five friends and their lives or the pages with notes on history and poetry.
I should perhaps write more about these five friends. There were once five friends and then life happens along with adulthood and responsibilities. They drift apart, yet are together like a threadbare blanket hanging on to its dear life. (Not very unlike Brother Walsh’s.) A story that we are all familiar with. That is all I shall write about it because to know more, you should go read it! While this plot and their lives, individually and together, hold the reader’s attention one cannot discount Ashok Chopra’s writing. None of these five people are simple characters. They are very well defined and the fibre of their being is so intricately woven into this book, it makes a fabulous read.
Memories of Fire cannot just be classified by this plot, for it takes place across decades. And with time come changes all around us. This is another reason that Memories of Fire has proved to be a great book. The way this book depicts the histories of this country and our dear neighbour’s, the insights that perhaps many of my generation (including me) did not have, the nitty-gritties, the reverberations of a political decision and its consequences on civilian life. I do not know what I relished more – the history or the writing of it. The next time I read, maybe I will find something more to love about this book.
I fell in love with the love, I relished the history, I felt the pain of heartbreak and agony of being disowned. I felt the need to cherish and the joy of keeping a promise. I felt it all from this one book. I loved the tale of the five friends, I loved the accounting of modern history. I loved how Jane Eyre and Shelly, Dickens and Vikram Seth flit through this book effortlessly. Basically, I loved Memories of Fire and everything about it!
(I am going to stop now, and give you a little insight. If my book review runs into a long post like this one, it means I loved the book and cannot stop raving about it!)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars