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Song of the Cuckoo Bird
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Song of the Cuckoo Bird

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  565 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Malladi's fourth novel transports readers on a cinematic journey through late-twentieth-century India as seen through the eyes of the inhabitants of Tella Meda, a religious community on the Bay of Bengal. Kokila comes to the ashram in 1961 as an 11-year-old orphan. She later renounces her arranged marriage to stay within Tella Meda's restrictive walls, a move she comes to ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Ballantine Books
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Gorab Jain
Jun 16, 2017 Gorab Jain rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gorab by: Mab
Shelves: indian, 2017
Excellent read. When I think back on what was so good about it, there isn't anything particular.
A story spanning across generations from 1960s, of inhabitants of Tella Meda, an unconventional ashram, also serving as an orphanage and an old age house.

Nothing exceptional about the plot, or the writing style, or the characters. Most of it is like a commentary on their day to day lives. But the way these characters blend and form that bonding is what makes it an interesting read.
Every chapter begin
Nov 26, 2011 Chandler rated it it was amazing
My treasured mother recommended this book!!! There are so many things I love about this book the first of all that it is set in INDIA!!! Generally I find books set in India and written by Indian authors wonderful and this was no exception.

What else did I love? It is set in a Ashram with a female guru. The Ashram is run by the bizarre father of the guru and how he impacts each of the inhabitants is fascinating. Each woman is located at the ashram because of less than perfect circumstances and wat
Jul 11, 2011 Mab rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read so far this year. I just loved this book from the first line to the end, though the end was a bit bizarre. I loved the house, the disjoint characters, the way they live together and help each other inspite of glaring differences between their temperaments and circumstances - I would like to reread this book and I would definitely recommend this to anyone and every one. These sort of stories are my forte - where nothing much happens, days pass by and people do the ...more
Emily Crow
Song of the Cuckoo Bird provides a glimpse into Indian daily life and social change, through the eyes of the women who inhabit Tella Meda, a house in village by the Bay of Bengal. The story revolves around three women in particular: Kokila, an orphan; Chetana, a prostitute's daughter; and Charvi, believed by some to be a guru.

The history of Tella Meda begins when Ramanandam, a writer who is controversial for his views on women's equality, thinks he recognizes signs of holiness in one of his daug
Aug 05, 2014 ☆Ruth☆ rated it really liked it
Based in India during the second half of the twentieth century, this is the story of a house and the women who lived in it. I found myself experiencing a completely different culture and way of life through the lives of the protagonists. It was a fascinating and engrossing read - the characters lived and breathed for me and regardless of the difference in backgrounds, I could identify with their pain, their heartache and their joy. Naturally there were words and cultural references that I didn't ...more
Jan 13, 2008 Reena rated it did not like it
Recommended to Reena by: Karen
The most heartbreaking thing about this book is the plot and chracters have so much potential which I felt was not realized in the execution of the story. They were only tapped into in the most banal and contrived way that did not bring out the magic inherent in a story like this. In the way that Jhumpa Lahiri or Kiran Desai really understand how to deliver, Malladi does not.
Dec 17, 2015 Sujithra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: interesting, classic
This book is tremendous. Though few stuffs seemed little difficult for me to accept to have happened in late 1900s, the book kept me anxious. I have always read thriller books with so much of interest wanting to know what happens next, but i never expected i will have a similar feel with this one. A well written, well depicted story that made me to stop and think about life for a while.
Simple loved it!!

This was the first book of Amulya's that I read. Planning to read her other writings too.
May 04, 2012 Cas rated it really liked it
One of those unexpected finds that makes ploughing through all the other mediocre rubbish worthwhile. This novel is entirely original, touching and enlightening. At eleven years old, Kokila makes a decision than sets her aside from other girls and changes her life forever. This is about unconventional relationships, the role of women in society and the changing face of India. It is what it is like to be different, to choose a way of life that sets you apart. I found this totally engrossing.
May 29, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
Well written, great story, with very personable characters and plot line. I liked the time lapse between chapters, and historical details woven it. It made the passage of ~50 years much easier to grasp and work with the story. The only issue I had was that some of the chapters re-summarized what happened the chapter before to explain the actions of a character. This is somewhat repetitive since you read the actual details a few pages before. Other than that, I enjoyed the book.
Jun 09, 2014 Baljit rated it liked it
I would rate this 2.5 stars. It's a story of the people who by chance end up living in an ashram with one woman who has been given the status of a goddess. The dynamics between the characters is interesting and spans many decades, but it lacks some emotional depth, so it is not in the league of Indian writers like Mistry and Umigar. I would however, read other novels by this writer to see how her writing develops.
Prital Nicholls
Sep 28, 2012 Prital Nicholls rated it liked it
All about the lives of women over the course if 50 odd years who live in a ashram in india. I love reading book about India and thus enjoyed it . A good insight into South Indian customs.I think more could have been made of the characters and some events in the story leave un answered questions and don't add to it. All in all an enjoyable read but not a favourite.
Jul 09, 2014 Sangeetha rated it really liked it
This book had me captivated for a week. It reminded me of God of small things, the ease with which the storyline moves forward. There was no mystery, or conspiracy in the story nevertheless you wanted to continue reading. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it
Katie M.
Oct 13, 2010 Katie M. rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
I liked the idea of this book much more than the book itself - the prose is pretty painful, all tell and no show. But still, for the idea of it - and the potential of what this book could have been - it gets a dubious 3 stars.
May 16, 2016 Linda rated it liked it
This is a long but satisfying epic story of a group of women who are family with and without blood ties. Interesting account of how women's lives have changed over time.
Mar 22, 2017 Candy rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this story. It was full of interesting, colorful characters, and refreshed my memory of historical events in India.
Feb 23, 2017 Japitoj rated it really liked it
So real and believable ... a fresh to read . Well weaved with India's struggle to modern era post independence . her writing style wherein she reveals the event / mystery first in single line and then explain the series of event leading to it , is different and refreshing .
A novel covering a span from the late 1950s up until the early 2000s, about a group of people (mostly women) living in an ashram in Andhra Pradesh, India. The main character (sort of; the narrative switches focus between a lot of people) is Kokila, who first comes to the ashram when she's 11 years old, waiting for her arranged marriage to go through; instead, she ends up spending her life there, having an affair with an old man, taking over the running of the business side of the ashram, briefly ...more
Apr 09, 2012 Kristin rated it it was ok
I hate to review this book with only 2 stars, but... I found this book a bit hard to read. I think the book was well written, the characters all well developed, and the story well developed. But the story lacked a certain "magic" that so many other Indian writers have in their stories (i.e. Thrity Umrigar). It took me a while to figure out why I was finding the book such a slow read. It was like running through water, but reading in such a manner. Am I really only halfway through? There are stil ...more
Radhika (rads)
Aug 05, 2011 Radhika (rads) rated it it was amazing
The book is intense in the description, narration and story. Many lives intertwine, and the voice of the author changes between characters of the highly entrenched Tella meda (or white bungalow)
The many, mostly female characters come together as a makeshift family and function as most of the families do. With care, concern, jealousy and together.

It is a story of one particular woman, Kokila, and her relationships with all living under that roof, as she grows from a young 11 year old to a middl
Dec 26, 2012 Iman rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful read!!! After Rice Mother, I was cringing at the idea of reading another miserable intergenerational saga (Rice mother was beautifully written but miserably tragic at every turn). The sad lives of those at Tella Meda were in the end not so tragic... I love how they still ended up experiencing life. Amulya's portrayal of Charvi was splendid- I felt like she was real because she was so hard to completely like or dislike. Chetana was the life that kept the book light in tragic mome ...more
May 10, 2016 ~☆~Autumn♥♥☽ rated it it was amazing
This book had many characters which is often a problem for me but it wasn't in this book as I found every single one of them to be very interesting so I was able to keep track. They were all so real that I feel they may be based on real people. I liked Chetana the best as she was the least "goody two shoes" and willing to take big risks. The main character is the "cuckoo" named Kokila who was very kind to everyone and a very responsible person. People tended to take advantage of her but at the s ...more
Anne Carlill
Sep 13, 2015 Anne Carlill rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It reminded me of a family saga like the Forsytes although of course the occupants of Tella Meda weren't just one family. I felt the characters, especially Kokila and Chetana, were very well written and believable. It's one of the few books I think I want to read again so that I can get to know the minor characters a little better. It made me wish I was in a book group so that I could discuss the book and its characters with others. Before reading it, I was far more interested ...more
Aug 12, 2015 Rahini rated it really liked it
A book set within Tella Meda, an ashram in Andhra Pradesh, I didn't have much expectations when I picked this book up but what a beautiful read it ended being. As the story follows Kokila from the age of 11 through nearly 60, we see the a generation taken through the changes in time, thoughts, relationships and so much more. A book which testimony to how personalities are complex beyond belief, how every decision in our life changes our destiny and how fragile relationships are. Tragic yet so he ...more
Aug 15, 2016 Lora rated it it was ok
I loved the other books I've read by this author, but this one was just too challenging for me. The culture that the story is based around is so different from my own that I found it really hard to relate to. Plus I don't know a ton about Indian culture, so some of the references were lost on me. Throw in new names that were long and similar to others that kept being introduced , and I just couldn't seem to keep my head above water for long. Too bad. I'm sure it's well written and interesting be ...more
Feb 18, 2008 Teresa rated it liked it
I love to read about stories about women in other cultures/times and see how even though we live in completely different worlds, there are similarities. The women in this book make choices that shape their lives and by the end I felt like they had wasted so much. They had the potential to make so much more of their lives and as they get older, they realize how unfulfilled their lives have been. I was sad for the characters, but the writing was great.
Apr 20, 2008 Christina rated it really liked it
A tale of an ashram that is home to a set of characters (mostly women) that are cast off by society or have nowhere else to go. An interesting glimpse into life in India and the roles people are forced into because of caste and their life experiences. A true picture of the strength of the human spirit; even those whose lives seem hopeless are able to hold onto hope in their hearts and seek one of the most basic human needs: happiness.
Jul 10, 2007 suzy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who like historical fiction of India
I especially liked the historical footnotes at the beginning of each chapter, to put things in context. The characters mean comments to each other thoughout the book were often so outrageous that they distracted from the overall story. It was sometiems upsetting to read how mean they were, and if this hadn't been the case I'd have given the book 4 stars.
Jan 22, 2012 Rosh rated it liked it
Set in Andhra Pradesh, India... the writing in the book is good. Some of the characters were good. The author tried to bring up some social issues, where she could have done it better.

There were many errors in the historical facts, which can be misleading. The author should add a note to clarify/correct them.
Sep 01, 2008 Luann rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, india
This book started out a little slow but kept me interested from start to finish. A story about a group of people living in an ashram (spiritual center) in a small town in India that become a family and help one another through the ups, but mostly downs, of life.
Caroline Donaldson
Jun 21, 2011 Caroline Donaldson rated it really liked it
I loves this book. Not what you'd call an action plot, but a lovely evocation of the lives of some Indian women who have suffered misfortune, yet who in the end tend to prevail. I'd recommend it. Easy to read.
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Amulya is the bestselling author of seven novels, including her latest The Copenhagen Affair, which will be published in September 2017. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, Amulya works as a marketing exec ...more
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