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Nectar in a Sieve

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  5,523 ratings  ·  568 reviews
Named Notable Book of 1955 by the American Library Association, this is the very moving story of a peasant woman in a primitive village in India whose whole life was a gallant and persistent battle to care for those she loved.
Paperback, 186 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Signet Classics (first published 1954)
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At its heart, Nectar in a Sieve is a story about suffering and our response to it. The protagonist is an aging Indian woman looking back over her long life and reflecting on her fate as well as her choices. Much that happened to her, she had no say in. She was a child bride of an arranged marriage. In some respects, Providence was kind to her; in many others cruel.

But it would spoil the book to tell Rukmani’s tale before you read it. You need to experience it through her own sparse prose narrati
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Oh, man, talk about grimsville!! I think I'll just run along now and lay my head on that old railroad track!

These characters are just born to suffer and endure and work their tails off and all for what? Nothing, because they get screwed every time they start to get some hope back. Screwed either by Mother Nature or by their fellow human beings. Imagine seeing your child die from starvation and feeling relieved because you won't have to watch him suffer anymore!

Grimmest of all is that there are
John Wiswell
Sep 19, 2007 John Wiswell rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anti-colonial/capital readers
A tale of utter hopelessness in the face of colonial or capital evil. The only inspiration one could draw from this is to hate to hate economic development, hate outsiders, or become determined to not be like these people, who can't or won't do anything to prevent ruin. Unfortunately in this desperation there is also little sense of love or bonding, such that the reader can only understand that it is terrible for people to be torn apart or turned against each other, rather than feel it as they r ...more
Nov 20, 2010 Amanda rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Justin Nichols. He likes the language.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beautiful and touching, Nectar in a Sieve follows a young Rukmani who is married to Nathan, a tenant farmer, when she is only twelve. The marriage, of course, is arranged. The story focuses on the growth of her family and the struggles a tenant farmer and his family must face in a developing India.

I had one minor issue with this book...that is that there wasn't more.

The story should be depressing because the family has to scrape by to survive. And I mean really scrape by...with very little extr
A Don
I just finished reading the novel, Nectar in a Sieve written by Kamala Markandaya. The author, born in the highest caste in India but lived mainly in England, writes about the tale of a family's struggles with poverty and globalization. Being Markandaya's first published novel, Nectar in a Sieve is a worldwide best-seller and has been translated into seventy languages. Markandaya takes us to rural India set in mid-1900's, with the reflection of main character, Rukumani, taking the reader fr ...more
Nectar in a Sieve, written by Kamala Markandaya, is a wonderful novel that lets the reader peek inside the heart of Indian culture. Markandaya, the author of A Handful of Rice and
Some Inner Fury, is actually named Kamala Purnaiya Taylor; she was raised in Mysore, India but she later moved to Britain after India declared its independence. Nectar in a Sieve follows the life of an average lower-class Indian, looking at the effects of globalization and the conflict between traditional and rural Ind
Mar 14, 2008 Sonali added it
Recommends it for: Teens
Recommended to Sonali by: World Lit Reading Requirement
Shelves: world-lit
Death, theft, prostitution and tenant farming. How could these elements be woven into a tale that inspires, evokes sadness, and creates pathos? Only one tale, spun so well, could this be made possible; that book is Nectar in a Sieve. Kamala Markandaya, authoress extraordinaire, can create emotions no one knew they could feel for written text and hardback cover. Markandaya lived no hard life herself, so the way she weaves a tale with such authority, such knowledge, and such passion about a family ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
4.5 Stars.

Some books are going stay forever with us. This is one of such books. The story of Rukmani and Nathan. A tale of endurance and poverty. Apart from Rukmani and Nathan - well formed characters like Ira and Kenny are so realistic that in the end one will start missing reading about them and how they fared. I especially missed reading more about Kenny and Selvam and their hospital.

In my view this book should be recommended to be studied as part of syllabus for schools in India, to make ch
Preeti Gupta
The best book I have ever read, hands down, and I have read many 1000s of books. I have no connection to this author whatsoever, I just happened to love her writing. I also read Handful of Rice, which was also very good, but this one was the best!
Laura Palmer
Nectar In a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Kamala Markandaya really brings to life the struggles of life in a small village in India. Published in 1954, Nectar In a Sieve really elaborates on the daily life of an Indian woman.

In Nectar In a Sieve, the main character, Rukmani marries a tenant farmer, Nathan. The book follows their life together as a married couple. Rukmani and Nathan soon start a family and as the family grows, there are many challenges the family must overcome; poverty, drought, and
Jan Priddy
Aug 23, 2012 Jan Priddy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in poverty, hope, India
NECTAR IN A SIEVE by Kamala Markandaya (1954) is a classic story of life in India in the last century. I think I must have been 13 or 14 when I first checked out this book from my school library. This most recent reading is only my second, but I was astounded at how much I recall from that long-ago reading and at how much I still love this novel. Some books can truly be said to change a life, and this is one of the ones to change mine. Markandaya opened my eyes to a life completely foreign and s ...more
Ian C
I recently concluded my reading of Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve. Markandaya has written many books such as Two Virgins, Shalimar, and The Nowhere Man. Nectar in a Sieve tells the tale of a woman who is married to an Indian man at a very young age, and of their life together as she matures.
One thing I found very intriguing about Nectar in a Sieve was the insight into Indian culture. It was thrown in almost casually, as if common. In fact, that is what made it stand out to me. It was as

Set in rural India at the dawning of a new age, Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve tells the story of one woman's quest for happiness and peace amidst heartache and hardship. Despite attempts to ignore comparisons, one is indelibly reminded of Pearl S. Buck's classic The Good Earth. The heroine, Rukmani, is a sort of female Wang Lung, who narrates the rise and fall of her family as India grows and changes around them.

The story begins with Rukmani remembering her
Edaj Augusto
Kamala Markandaya painted me a portrait of how Indian women lived in the midst of early arranged marriages, in a changing capitalist India, the poverty that afflicted the land, the illiteracy, the religious superstition and other issues that continue to ring true today in modern India. The heroine's plight isn't her story alone, but the story of the Indian masses. Rukmani was the face of every Indian woman to me. Her strength, her response to each trial and suffering in spite of her limited know ...more
The language and prose in this book was lyrical and the story was concise with strong themes. Both are strong reasons to recommend it. But then there is this other reason that is hard to put to words. It was intensely sad, but not depressing. For some reason I did feel hope at the end, even though it is hard for me to understand why. The only reason I can figure is the main character. She is one that pushes through and figures out how to hold onto herself amidst the terrible cruelty of life. She ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Sapphire rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sapphire by: Mrs.Schoener S
This was such a beautiful story which, with its cruel words of love and happiness, sadness and hardships, pulled me in and possessed me to sit and read such a wonderfully beautiful yet tragic tale. Told from the words of a woman, written by another, this story made me smile when the characters laughed and played, exuberant and unyielding, or literally brought tears to my eyes when they grieved for their losses. In this story love is given to all in one way or another and it really makes you thin ...more
A tale of an Indian woman's struggles to survive in colonial India. She's married off, struggles to bear children, watches her family rise and fall (mostly fall) yet ultimately holds on to her spirit, even in the face of utter loss. A blurb like this makes it sound like some cheeseball Lifetime movie, but it's anything but. The diction is matter-of-fact; the symbols are about as subtle as a cockroach on a white living room rug. But the tone and philosophy of the book, Eastern as it is, is what d ...more
This book tells the story (the melodramatic story) of a peasant, tenant farming family in rural India at the turn of the century. Rukmani, the main character, is a youngest daughter married off to a man she has never met. The marriage turns out to be a good one and the couple have many children. The family experiences unspeakable tragedy as a late monsoon and one son's involvement in labor organizing catapults them even deeper into poverty. It catalogues the absolute vulnerability of the poor in ...more
Jennefer Abdullah
This book was very depressing. It made me feel lucky with what I already have. It also made me feel guilty, because it made me think about wasting food that could have been used more resourcefully, or better yet, it could have been used to save a person from starvation. It is a tale about the protagonist, Rukmani, a child-wife to a tenant farmer she has never met. To make matters worse, she struggles through life raising so many kids on a small farm that they don't even own. It made me feel grea ...more
Alesha Leveritt
I'm not a huge reader of world literature, mainly because it seems so...well, the way it is presented to the reader. What I appreciate about this novel is its easy education: it does not beat one about the head with an agenda. Instead, it introduces you to characters, and it lets the characters educate the reader concerning the hardships faced by native Indians during colonialization. There is no romanticizing the troubles, but the moments of joy in the lives of these characters are ...more
Anushree Thareja
'To those who live by the land there must always come times of hardship, of fear, and of hunger, even as there are years of plenty..... We live by our labours from one harvest to the next, there is no certain telling whether we shall be able to feed ourselves and our children, and if bad times are prolonged we know we must see the weak surrender their lives, and this fact, too is within our experience. In our lives there is no margin for misfortune.'

Nectar in a Sieve portrays a poignant picture
Janet Aileen
This is a bleak story of daily courage in the face of insurmountable odds.
A bestseller when it first appeared (1954), this book to me seemed dated, even though the story is not set in a particular period of time or a specific region of India. Rukmani is the youngest daughter in an educated family, but when it comes time for her marriage there is not much left for her dowry and her plain looks don't help. She's married to a tenant farmer, raises a family...some years are good, some years the family starves. This book is told by an older Rukmani, looking back on her lif ...more
Madison Housley
Nectar in a Sieve is a good book written about a native born Indian woman and her fight for survival in the ever changing world around her.
It was a very good book to read from the perspective of living in the tribe for most of my life. I could very easily understand the poverty and some of the decisions that the family made in the book. It was so sad to see how famine can totally wipe out a whole tribe. The people here in PNG are very well off compared to some places in the world. I really enjoy
I read this book in a Novel Class my senior year in High School. It is a beautifully written book and incredibly touching. It takes place in India.
Cat Reads
I loved this book a whole lot. The writing was beautiful and the story was both beautiful and heartbreaking. This, I believe, gives you a very clear picture of what is like to live and be poor in India(which I think is a majority of people?). I think the only issue I had with this book was that some things would happen out of the blue and I would have appreciated more explanation. But at the same time I know that she wasn't wanting to put too much focus on that and all, but especially when it ca ...more
I can't decide if this is heart-wrenching story, or simply a sappy generalization. There were definitely poignant moments in this book, surmises about the tensions between industrialization vs. a love of the land, or between independence and honor vs. hunger and depravity. The starving family all separates one by one, lost to jobs or hunger or sickness or corruption. Rukmani seems to be left with nothing at the end of the book, but also seems to have gained self-fulfillment. She has struggled al ...more
Diane Ferbrache
What's a person to do when she has to spend 4 hours on an airplane? It's the perfect time to fulfill a promise made to her students -- read a novel from the "summer reading list". :)

I had never read Nectar in a Sieve either in high school or college. Perhaps it was because I had not been exposed to any literature from the Indian sub-continent. The only Asian literature I can remember reading was The Good Earth, although I'm sure War and Peace was on some recommended reading list along the way.

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500 Great Books B...: Nectar in a Sieve - Kamala Markandaya 1 4 Jul 26, 2014 04:11PM  
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Pseudonym used by Kamala Purnaiya Taylor, an Indian novelist and journalist. A native of Mysore, India, Markandaya was a graduate of Madras University, and afterwards published several short stories in Indian newspapers. After India declared its independence, Markandaya moved to Britain, though she still labeled herself an Indian expatriate long afterwards.

Known for writing about culture clash bet
More about Kamala Markandaya...
Handful Of Rice Two Virgins Some Inner Fury A Silence of Desire Golden Honeycomb

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“To those who live by the land there must always come times of hardship, of fear and of hunger, even as there are years of plenty. This is one of the truths of our existence as those who live by the land know: that sometimes we eat and sometimes we starve. We live by our labours fromone harvest to the next, there is no certain telling whether we shall be able to feed ourselves and our children, and if bad times are prolonged we know we must see the weak surrender their lives and this fact, too, is within our experience. In our lives there is no margin for misfortune.” 6 likes
“For where shall a man turn who has no money? Where can he go? Wide, wide world, but as narrow as the coins in your hand. Like a tethered goat, so far and no farther. Only money can make the rope stretch, only money.” 6 likes
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