A.R Sara

A breezy & intense eternal teen with a zest for the here and the now

Overcoming writer’s challenges

Most of the consistent and voracious readers I know, either already possess a natural inclination to express their thoughts in written words or involuntarily develop it over the years. So what is it that holds them back?
Some of the most common challenges I see in the transition from a reader to a writer and realizing one’s potential as a writer, do not revolve around lack of opportunities or muses or any external stimuli. But rather around a finite set of hurdles that lie within. I have tried to outline a few that I believe are the critical ones to address to kick-start your creative engine.

  • Shedding inhibitions
    It takes courage and a sense of purpose to actually put thoughts on paper, which is akin to peeling layers off an artichoke to reveal the heart. The fear of exposing one’s thoughts to the world can be intimidating resulting in conflicting emotions and a strong awareness and acceptance of one’s vulnerabilities. It requires an acknowledgement of the presence of the invisible yet formidable layers of inhibitions, prior to making an effort to shed them one at a time.
  •  Handling empathy
    Yes, even a strong sense of empathy can make a writer think several times over and reconsider penning down thoughts, ideas, feelings and brooding over the choice of words. Especially avid readers, who read across genres, have a strong tendency to become overly sensitized and empathetic.
    A striking sensitivity and awareness that words can be stronger than swords, can become a deterrent. What if the words from the heart were to hurt someone. It is important to reflect and apply some logic and due diligence and ask yourself if you are ready to take ownership and responsibility for the true intent and the meaning behind the words from your inner perspective. If yes, then go ahead with sharing your writing.
    Know that, when you write from the gut, the words you string together will encompass the emotions that went into them and will be invoked and tangle with the reader’s mood, when reading them.
    You can’t control how your writing will be interpreted or perceived. The readers’ perceptions and current state of mind can color the words they read. But if everyone were to interpret your writing exactly the same way, every time, that would be like taking the flavor and zest out of food rendering it bland and predictable always.
  • Seeking validation and Acceptance
    A fear of indifference can be a strong deterrent. After having shed inhibitions to reveal a part of one’s inner self via words in a blog post, book, FB post, social media…what if the world is indifferent, or only a lack-luster response is garnered or worse…it is ridiculed and callously rejected. Now this should turn the focus on who do you really write for and how do you feel about it and why do you share it? Then the most critical query of all: Why do you write?
    Reflect on these questions and answer. Be true to yourself as you do. The answers you arrive at will help you resume your writing journey with a renewed vigor, defer it or change tracks altogether.
  • Structured vs unstructured writing
    While there are academic frameworks, guidelines on what constitutes good creative writing…be it an article or a book, there is nothing etched in stone that dictates perfect writing except for grammar. Now grammar is something you don’t want to risk compromising on, if you are serious about your writing.
    While it is important to be aware and keep learning and respecting structure, it can be counter productive and restrictive for a writer to regard guidelines as rules and get so caught-up with them that it begins to hinder one own unique writing style from evolving.
  • Lethargy
    Plain old laziness is another culprit that can put the breaks on your writing expedition. Writing is a solitary activity fueled by creative drive. Something that has to be inspired and indulged in and not forced. If sufficient discipline is not applied to bolster your passion, it is easy to slip into a state of ennui and comfort and begin slacking off. Shake off that lethargy with a quick walk or some other form of light exercise or change in activity.
  • An Author’s Delight – Magic formula
    Is there a magic formula to churn out commercial bestsellers or viral posts? Absolutely, there is, in my view. Simply put, the way I see it, bestsellers are the result of Writer’s Passion Matching Mass Appeal. What are the odds of this occurring? Passion cannot be nurtured or forced, it is an intrinsic energy from within. The writing style, story line, character development, genre…all these do add up but cannot assure that the book will be loved by many. It is the undefinable quality, you have no conscious control over, that finally matters and can make or break the book you write. So let passion drive you to write and let the universe conspire to match mass appeal to it rather than attempting it the other way round.
  • There is no clear-cut “one solution fits all writers” to address and eliminate challenges. But the path to breaking free from them lies in recognizing the challenges prior to tackling them…one step at a time.

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    © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

     

     

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Happy Children’s Day

Smiles like the warm flurries of winter,
To light up your heart like the first day of summer.
Giggling like the rustling of leaves,
To surround you in a pleasant breeze.
Laughter like the rumble of thunder,
To tear your blues asunder.
A tantrum like a fierce hurricane,
Speeding through boredom like an out of control train.
Tears fall like a torrential downpour,
Drenching all your tissues and more.
Munching on berries sour and sweet
Oh…what a nostalgic treat!
Playing like the day has not ended,
All hurt forgotten and fully mended.
Then sleep through a racket without a clue,
Making you want to curl up in sweet slumber too.
Wake up like a sparkling drop of morning dew,
Reminding you of feeling fresh and new.
Childhood is but a fleeting dream,
However real it may today seem.
Forget the homework, set aside any chore,
Experience what today has in store.
Just let the kids be and blissfully enjoy,
And bask in your children’s sweet joy.
 ~
 ~
Copyright © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

 

An ode to a stray cat

The woods resound with a soul piercing wail!
A stray dog is mercilessly on her tail,
Nothing much could any one do.
Hopeless shrugs and eyes filled with nameless rue.
The air is crackling with unease…
All hopes to see her whole again, slowly cease.
Hesitantly I make my way towards her still form…
Flies buzz around the remains…no more warm.
A mere glance and all thoughts cloud over
Constricting pain…my insides are on fire!
It is indeed her,
My friend, the daily visitor.
No glory in the pain she would have had to endure.
Her longing cries for food we shall no longer hear.
I stare at her daily haunt next to the door…
Bread and cream…her joyous fare!
Lie untouched…now that she is beyond care
Other visitors too showered their last respects, I did hear
The many other beings that had also held her so dear
A striking looking snake in somber black paid tribute as she lay unmoving
Her shimmering green eyes half shut now…unseeing,
A flock of crows and eagles circled in reverence over what was left of her,
Squirrels wandered close for a last lingering look at her golden peach fur.
Oh… How she had lit up the air with her mere presence!
Beseeching the forces to watch over her other little siblings, in her glaring absence,
My mind sends up a silent appeal.
Some strength for her family to deal with this devastating ordeal.
I hope she has moved on to a better life,
Away from all the pain and strife.
I let myself detach from it all,
I go about the rest of my day till nightfall.
The next morning I open the door,
The breeze sweeps past me with a deafening roar
I miss her warm and trusting gaze,
Her confident gait and natural feline grace.
My eyes wander over some dried crumbs left over from her last meal.
I force myself not to strongly feel.
I crave her company as I slide down by the door with a cup of tea,
That is when I slowly begin to see,
The trail of translucent white petals leading up to her regular resting spot,
Sprinkled in a seemingly haphazard pattern, resembling her form a lot.
My breath catches as I sense her softly swirl around me settling in my thoughts
And I know then…it is all just a matter of connecting life’s dots,
To form a quilt of lingering memories to hold dear,
Though she has drifted so far, yet she remains near…
 

Copyright © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

A 5am dream gone awry – A horror story

All efforts to pacify failed,
Angry planet on a mission,
To nullify an erring species,
Like scrubbing out irksome pests,
Earth tolerates humans no more!
~
Corruption and pollution spread all over,
Protesting oceans bubbled and boiled,
Hurricanes swept away any hope,
Nature’s cleansing complete and proper,
Earth tolerates humans no more!
~
Blue skies eagerly tumbled down,
The earth rose to greet,
Extinguishing the deep inner core,
Essence flowed into the void,
Earth tolerates humans no more!
~
The shadows followed her everywhere,
Her nightmare had come true,
The reflection reached for her,
World wide web shut down,
Earth tolerates humans no more!
~
The digital world has crashed,
No one exists any more,
All thoughts float in space,
Ancient dwellers returned to reclaim,
Earth tolerates humans no more!
~

 

Copyright © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

A tale of two cats – A short story

It was a lazy Autumn afternoon. Tofli was lounging after a heartwarming meal of cream and bread. It was suddenly enveloped by the strangest feeling. A sense of being watched…
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Tofli sprang to attention and its ears perked up. Its light green eyes darted back and forth.

30

It slowly shifted its glossy body into various positions to get a 360 degree view of its surroundings.

Soon it’s eyes landed on a creature quite like itself, in form. But so very different in looks. It was another cat. A strange one, at that. It sported an extraordinary fur, colored in shades of brown with flecks of gold and beige all over, resulting in arrestingly bizarre patterns.

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At first glance it appeared like designs had been etched deliberately on its fur. A message? Tofli’s eyes narrowed as it contemplated the cruelty humans are capable of. On further observation, it realized the the patterms were as natural as they come.
As it continued to stare, it realized the splash of mysterious whorls spread across the entire length of the cat’s sleek body rendering it both stunning and a tad bit dangerous too.
It watched Tofli unblinkingly from its vantage position on the wall as it sat partially obscured by the branches of a tree. Tofli’s gaze continued to slowly and lazily sweep over the cat, taking in its fluffy tail, sleek shape, unique fur and its well shaped head.
The moment their eyes locked, Tofli felt a distinct twang in the region where its heart is supposed to be. The strange cat leapt off the wall on catching Tofli staring back at it, breaking the eye-contact abruptly.
Turning away, it ambled into a pile of sand nearby.

36

Tofli’s eyes followed the stranger’s slow and measured gait, mesmerized. Then as if pulled by invisible strings it got up and moved in the same direction. It approached the strange cat hesitantly.
“Hello there, I am Tofli, short for Tom Flash Lightning,” it introduced itself tentatively.

37

“Are you talking to me?” the beautiful stranger responded, its eyes flashing fire. Its whiskers quivered. Whether it was from emotion or the wind, Tofli could not tell.

“Yes, I believe I am,” stuttered Tofli, before adding, “Are you a wild cat?”

“What do you think?” the stranger purred before breaking into a feline grin and replying in a silky smooth voice, “I am Firaya.”

41

“F…i…r…a…y…a!” The name rolled off Tofli’s tongue with exquisite ease. It pronounced the name slowly, stretching out each letter like taffy, as if savouring each letter on its tongue. “Such an apt name for someone so unique and striking,” it sighed.
A faraway look entered Tofli’s eyes.

Firaya let out a long low growl before purring, “Tofleeeeee…” That broke the spell Tofli was under and it blinked.

“Look at you. You are no less enchanting!” remarked Firaya, its emerald green eyes sparkling with amusement and something more. It walked around Tofli. “Thick furry coat with a blend of snow white, peach and grey, a classic beauty no less!” It said appraisingly.

Tofli blushed from the tip of its tail to its pointy ears.

40

“You have a rather fragrant pile of sand here. May I?” enquired Firaya in a deeply feline voice.

“Sure! Go ahead. There is enough space for both of us here.” answered Tofli, its heart beating faster.

Firaya, dipped its head into the sand and took in a deep shuddering breath. It  waited a beat before delicately dabbing the fine grains of sand with the tip of its tongue as if sampling and familiarizing itself with the earthy elements.
Tofli followed suit, without taking its eyes off Firaya.

Once they had inhaled and tasted the essence of the sand pile, branding it with a flavour of their own, they lifted up their heads and eyed each other warily. Tofli crouched low. Its thoughts flowed into incoherent words and dissolved before they could land on its tongue and be uttered.

38

A gush of wind swept up the fallen leaves, weaving them together before scattering them. The wind broke into a wail. This was punctuated by the chirping of birds and cawing of crows, as they called out to their flocks to join them for their daily get-togethers. This only intensified the silence between the two cats as the wordless moment stretched.

39

“Time to go!” said Firaya, shattering the silence and stepped away, ready to leave.

Tofli scrambled to follow Firaya, its head spinning from the rapid movement.

“Will I see you again?” Tofli enquired facing Firaya. Its light green eyes were luminous with hope.

42

Firaya tossed its head haughtily and chuckled. A whimsical look entered its eyes.

“Maybe this will convince you!” said Firaya with a wink. Then without any warning, Firaya swiftly closed the distance between the two of them and landed a feather light kiss on Tofli’s mouth, their whiskers tangling.

43
Just then a flash of lightning lit up the evening sky, taking a snapshot of the moment for eternal storage. It was followed by a clap  of thunder as if in sweet applause.

 

Copyright © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

Lorkum’s Quest Trailer

Make a wish if you dare
Save a friend if you care…

Here comes the long awaited book trailer…with a little help from my kids.
All you need is a minute to watch it.
Lorkum’s Quest Trailer – https://youtu.be/V0Yxx-pXoRM

Links to buy the book –
Kindle version:
Paperback:
Amazon India: amazon.in/dp/93865030
Flipkart India: bit.ly/2ouCBb2

#BookTrailer
#LorkumsQuest
#Adventure
#Thriller
#Suspense
#Mystery
#Lorkum
#Neurodiverse

Book Review – Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Finally got to read The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak and sharing some thoughts on the same.
Some spoilers ahead!

I found it to be a fascinating read that leaves a lasting impression. The narrative is simple, unassuming and takes you on a lyrical journey filled with timeless mystical romance that transcends space and time. I found the writing style a little reminiscent of Paulo Coehlo’s earlier books.

It begins with a run-of-the-mill present day plot of a frustrated and placid Jewish housewife Ella facing cliched middle-aged blues and identity crisis, replete with a cheating husband she cannot emotionally connect with anymore, a rebellious teenage daughter and twins on the verge of teenage, dealing with issues of their own. With her husband’s reference she lands a job at a literary agency as a reader. She receives a manuscript for review on her very first assignment and therein unfolds the magical thread that connects the current day story to an epic mystical romance from the 13th century steeped in Sufism’s forty rules of love. Ella’s curiosity is kindled on reading the manuscript that spellbindingly narrates the events that led to the transformative and mystical relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. In a move surprising herself, she begins a clandestine email correspondence with the author of the manuscript. A bold step that causes ripples in her tranquil and uninspiring existence, bringing with it life-changing consequences for the author, Ella and her family. Her email exchanges change into a philosophical relationship with strong romantic undertones, carried online then progressing to phone calls before finally culminating into something more tangible. The author Aziz is a globetrotting photographer and blogger of Scottish origin who happens to be a Muslim convert on the path of Sufi mysticism.

The story from the 13th century centered around Shams and Rumi, inspired by historical facts and narrated from the angles of different characters, is interspersed with a rather ordinary, plain and predicable story from the present day. But the overall effect is anything but ordinary as both the stories told in parallel unfold with startling clarity, fueled by mesmerizing and lucid prose, generously peppered with Sufi quotes and anecdotes, giving it an hypnotic effect. The story-telling is stunning as it meanders through the perspectives of multiple characters, whose lives were touched, transformed for better (and in the case of some, for worse) by the larger-than-life wandering Sufi mystic, Shams of Tabriz from the 13th century.
The flow of the novel is natural, smooth and riveting, with seamless and harmonious transitions between the two parallel stories and the several viewpoints.

The only parts that I found grating on my sensibilities and that had a jarring effect were the ones pertaining to the second half of Kimya’s story and Kerra’s treatment by Rumi. Rumi is shown as being empathetic and forward thinking in taking Kimya under his wings and helping her grow spiritually and helping expand her knowledge, and in pushing the boundaries of his spiritual realization after his association with Shams. But then is shown as resenting his wife Kerra’s interest in his books and treating her with casual indifference. Kimya’s story starts out promising and inspiring. Coming from a modest background, her broadminded father acknowledges the special gift she possesses and takes her to Rumi to shape her journey towards knowledge and spirituality. Rumi, recognizing her spiritual gift, graciously accepts the girl child into his household with a generous and kind heart and begins teaching and guiding her, as an adoptive father. But in an unexpected and shocking turn of events Kimya is shown to have developed romantic infatuation towards Shams and is married off to him at the tender age of 15 and soon meets her tragic end, heartbroken. It is an unconsummated marriage. A marriage that Shams, soon after the ceremony, views as a trap and a deterrent to his spiritual journey and this makes you wonder how Shams having been portrayed so far as someone so wise and enlightened and having established a divine relationship/companionship with Rumi, could be shown as even having agreed to a union like this. This struck a discordant note as it appeared rather incongruous with his character sketch painted so vividly and consistently in the rest of the book. I am not aware about the underlying historical facts that might have inspired this part of the story, so that could be a cause for my startled reaction towards this portion of the story.

That apart, I found the rest of the book compelling, filled with several thought provoking instances and all in all found it to be a beautiful reading experience the author has created by weaving a rich tapestry of historical and imaginary events expressed in a powerful and moving manner.
Something I found really noteworthy is the way the author has leveraged Sufism to deliver a sublime and non-preachy message of tolerance and embracing differences with numerous examples of religious and cultural co-existence throughout the book. Also the abstract comparison and connection between the characters of Rumi and Ella and between Shams and Aziz, wandering souls both, is exquisitely drawn. The comparison between Rumi and Ella is implied especially based on their inner renouncement of worldly relationships for an all-encompassing divine love and mystic companionship, renouncing reputation, changing way of life and finally loss of soul companion.

Below are some memorable extracts from the book that strike a realistic chord and makes one ponder.

“Most of problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstanding. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language, as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.”

“Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.”

“Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.” – Found this to be a recurring theme in the book, right from the beginning, in the reference of the effect of throwing a stone in a lake versus a flowing river to the essence of a wandering mystic.

“East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.”

“The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”

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Discount alert! Nutcat the wise

“Nutcat the wise” is available at a discount on Amazon India. Both the kindle and paperback versions.

The reviews are all on .com site and can be viewed by scrolling down..

If you feel inclined to go for the book, do leave a review once you read it. 🙂

Our planet, our gift

All across the universe we may roam,
Never ever to find another planet like our own…
~
When the moon is on the rise,
And fire flies dot the skies,
Thinking of the day that went by,
And the nature walk that made me sigh,
Into the world of dreams I fly.
I pass a flock of feathered friends…
Look! A rainbow that curves and bends!
Wild and free animals of every color and kind.
Come, join the landscape on my mind!
The day is bright, lively and sunny!
Bees go about their day carrying sweet honey.
See those trees that offer fruits and cool shade.
Tall green grass that with season shall slowly fade.
Dance and sway to the gentle breeze.
Hope this magical day does not ever cease.
Rain showers cool the day’s sweltering heat.
Followed by an earthy smell so rich and sweet.
Everything here is on the move.
Sliding into the familiar groove.
Full of life and beauty, velvetty flowers bloom.
Far away I hear the thunder loudly boom,
And the rustling of the countless leaves.
See that cloud, the shape it weaves.
Like cotton candy scattered above.
In nature’s embrace there is so much to love.
So why don’t we take a pledge now?
And offer our kind and sincere salute.
To preserve, protect and not pollute,
This blue planet with life so dear and rare.
And to wholeheartedly and truly care,
For nature is a gift that is ours to share!
Copyright © 2017 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani

Book Review – My cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

My cousin Rachel. A bewitching and remarkable multi-layered novel.
Warning! Spoilers ahead.
So glad I discovered this book via a book lovers club. Not sure if my write-up qualifies as a full-fledged review rather than as a set of observations and analysis of the story.
It is one of those books that tends to “over” stimulate your thinking and compel you to re-read several of the parts to unwind the strings of a mysteriously and intricately knotted yarn to get to the oblique and elusive core that lies at the heart of the plot and minds of the main characters.

What started out as smooth and gripping, slowly gave way to a disturbing turn as the realization set in that this is an obscure psychological thriller at its core, a satire on social norms and attitudes with a sharp and incisive feministic slant of the gifted author’s pen, a sophisticated play on the dark and twisted side of human psyche cloaked in common emotions, beguilingly wrapped in family sentiments and romance in a Gothic setting.
The narrative begins as the brooding protagonist’s reminiscence, at the end of the dark deed that serves as a finale or an invite to delve into the story after having read it.
As you linger over the last line of the novel with a deepening frown, it makes you wonder if the event described at the very beginning was being served like a self-fulfilling prophecy and to instill the niggling feeling of censure in the reader against a parent figure exposing a child of tender age to such a disquieting experience, a strong clue to dysfunctional parenting and sadistic behaviour. Multiple clues, both subtle, strong and nuanced seem to have been planted strategically in multiple places in the narrative, challenging the reader to extrapolate and interpret beyond the narrator’s viewpoint, which rather than setting a limitation as a “single point of view handicap”, functions to provide a complex and kaleidoscopic view of the events and characters.

The emotions and sentiments presented initially, appear rather commonplace and universal really, applicable to even the current day social structure. Especially the aspect of blaming a male relative’s change of attitude or his dismal fate to the woman he has married and the influence she is perceived to have wielded over him, apart from being regarded as an intruder and usurper and the “sibling-rivalry” like reaction of the closest blood relations of the male relative towards his wife.
This story started out no different than countless formulaic Indian movies I have seen over the years, in terms of the underlying sentiments presented.
A boy having being orphaned at a very young age is raised by his older cousin Ambrose, an introverted bachelor who plays the role of a mother and father to the young boy Philip, imbibing in him the moral values very specific to the world they dwell in. Ambrose is an eccentric and egocentric and he raises the boy who happens to be his look-alike, in his own mental image in a male-only household by design, in the backdrop of a man-centered world which holds a rather derisive and lack-a-daisical view towards women in general. Given the circumstances of his sheltered upbringing, Philip considers it a rather happy childhood filled with warm memories and Ambrose has grown beyond a parental figure into a larger-than-life hero in his mind, who he wants to mimic. When Ambrose travels to a foreign country on account of his ill health and meets and marries a foreigner, it brings forth a surge of uncomfortable and unexpected emotions in Philip. Emotions of jealousy, possessiveness and sibling-like-rivalry against this mysterious new woman, dominate the mind of Ambrose’s young adoptive son, as he tries hard to conceal them, castigating himself for harbouring them in the first place.
The last few letters with writings or ramblings of Ambrose before his death, scar Philip’s psyche irrevocably, triggering in a way the feelings that lead up to the tragic turn of events.
As the story progresses, Ambrose’s widow who starts out as Philip’s singular object of hate and vengeance undergoes dramatic multi-dimensional transformations with almost surgical precision after she meets him and starts staying with him, as she takes on the persona of a stranger who thaws the cold suspicion in his heart with a sense of humour that seems to both irk and please him, a friend and confidante, a strange foreigner, a mother figure, a lover, a potential wife and finally emerging in his mind as an untrustworthy, cheating and manipulative evil woman deserving of his hate and vengeance, coming a full circle.
A multi-faceted realistic and plausible personality of a fiercely independent and impulsive woman of the world, both frail and strong with a feministic edge is painted in the process, despite being rendered through the point of view of a single character, Philip.
The physical appearance of his object of desire, suspicion and hate, Rachel, is glaringly at odds with what he perceives her to be, even after meeting and spending time with her. Philip finds himself unable to reconcile her dainty looks with her exuberant and gregarious personality. This is apparent based on the various times he remarks especially on her small stature.

Some mind-boggling questions that stay with you after you have read the book –
Was Ambrose truly innocent or manipulative as he knowingly or unknowingly planted the evil seed of doubt and vengeance in his young impressionable cousin’s mind knowing the powerful influence he wielded over him?
Was Louise’s interpretation of the letters truly objective or with a manipulative motive, geared against Cousin Rachel so that she could earn Philip’s affections? Did Philip’s godfather Kendall’s motive mirror Louise’s once he realized the extent of Philip’s infatuation towards Rachel and was dismayed that his daughter Louise doesn’t stand a chance of marrying Philip with Rachel in the scene?
Almost every character viewed through the jaundiced eyes of the narrator come across as milder versions of Philip, narcissistic, self-serving, possessive, jealous and selfish if you delve into it, including the domestic workers whose loyalty and attitude conveniently and swiftly swing towards who they believe will head the household and control the purse strings.
Was Rachel truly innocent or manipulative as she played with the younger man’s emotions, knowing the devastating effect she had over him? Or did she equally find herself helplessly and hopelessly drawn into the web of desire spun by the “poisoned” mind, ironically, of a man who bore a marked resemblance in looks and thoughts to the man or rather his ghost she was still obsessively in love with, despite his abuse?
Did Rachel even reciprocate Philip’s love at any point of time or consummate it or was that just a delusion of Philip?

Finally what was the purpose of Laburnum seeds found in her drawer, if they were not a product of Philip’s hyper-active imagination?
Was it planted there by one of the other characters in the story to deliberately arouse and fan the flames of Philip’s suspicion into a raging fire? Louise or Mary Pascoe or Seecombe maybe?
Or slick Rainaldi planted it perhaps, considering he is the common thread that runs havoc in both Philip and Ambrose’s lives and rather than really desire Rachel for himself as he seems to let on, he actually plans to usurp Rachel’s and Philip’s and Ambrose’s properties? This possibility gives the already tragic story a more intensely sad edge as you berate the protagonist for having been fooled so pathetically.

Or did the seeds really did belong to Rachel and were part of her truly diabolic plan or her flimsy “stereotypical woman’s” defense against physical and mental abuse she anticipated from Philip, who she perceived to be the younger double of a man who seems to have subjected her to mental and physical torture or perhaps she innocently used them as an insecticide or to kill weeds considering she is passionate about gardening?

Starting as a deceptively objective narration it smoothly turns unsettlingly subjective as you realize the events and all the characters in the story are experienced through the warped and delusional mind of a young man who happens to be narcissistic and hypocritical, apart from harbouring other psychological issues probably due to a combination of his genes and rather unnatural upbringing. Glaringly hypocritical state of mind is exposed at multiple levels, as apart from other things he seems perfectly comfortable flouting the social norms without so much as a mere thought as he cavorts and covets his cousin’s widow openly, while she is expected to conform to unrealistic norms ranging from her dress to interactions and choice of day to day activities and her spending habits.

Well, it was overall a fascinating and entertaining read, that begs to be dissected and pondered over. A novel that I found to be unconventional and far ahead of its time.

A parting thought. Considering the movie based on this book is to be released soon, can’t help but share some views on this as well.
I wonder if Rachel Weisz was casted because of her middle parting hairstyle among other things. Would have helped keep it true to the book, if the identity of the actress playing Rachel and her face was not revealed in the poster or the trailer, considering that in the first quarter of the book, Rachel does not even make a physical appearance, but takes various shapes and forms in Philip’s fertile mind. Something that adds to the charm and enticingly mysterious nature of the narrative.