Nectar in a Sieve
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Nectar in a Sieve

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  4,945 ratings  ·  529 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...more
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...more
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.
Meh. Whatever. The husband dies. Who cares. He cheated on her a zillion years ago and I won't forgive him. The End.
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
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...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...more
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.
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...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...more

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...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
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
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...more
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.
Amber Laha
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.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was touching and sad and made me really appreciate the fact that as a woman, I have so many opportunities. The situations the family go through are real and hard and taken on with an air of resolution and a quiet grace. The story is simple and there is nothing overly complicated about the story. It is about a young girl of 12 who is married to a farmer beneath her caste in India. She accepts this fate and takes on her role as a poor la...more
Julia Birenbaum
I really enjoyed this book that gave me a different perspective of life from a point of view that I've never heard from before. I've read about the hardships or village people, people going hungry, change in 3rd world countries, but reading this book through the eyes of someone actually experiencing those things was a completely different experience. I think this was a good book to read for history about imperialism because throughout the book I found myself making connections and relations betw...more
Ruku, from the age of twelve, has had to learn how to run a household, along with being a supportive wife and mother. One of the various trials Ruku and her family had to face was the sudden death of Raja, one of the youngest. Her husband Nathan is a farmer who strives to be a good father and head in his family. Ruku's daughter Irawaddy sacrifices her dignity and that of the family in a most desensitizing manner.

When looking at this title, one wouldn't be able to discern the intense and extreme...more
This was a lovely, heart-rending book. To read about Rudmani's struggles was to realize that my own struggles are almost superficial. She was married, as is the custom, at age 12 to a poor farmer who had nothing to offer. She herself had nothing to offer but herself, since she was the fourth daughter in her family. She had now dowry, no riches, and her wedding was a hum-drum affair. Yet her husband, Nathan, loved her dearly and they lived through all sorts of triumphs and tragedies.

Rudmani's fi...more
Scott Hayden
Wow. Powerfully written. What love they had for each other! And to take in an orphan in their state. Yet it was Puli who led them to provision, despite all their hopes in their "real" children. Hope, beaten down many times, persistently struggled back to its feet. Wow!

"I will repeat it again: you must cry out if you want help. It is no use whatsoever to suffer in silence. Who will succour the drowning man if he does not clamour for his life?" (p. 111) Kenny's rebuke to Rukmani, and what I would...more
I've seen the pictures in magazines, in documentaries--masses of people in India, children with swollen bellies, families living in hovels by city dumps. It's heartbreaking; it's a life so very far removed from my own that I can hardly imangine the reality. "Nectar in a Sieve" by Kamala Markandaya was written in the 50's but still has relevance today. It's the story of Rukami, a rural peasant woman, who lives, loves and struggles. Despite her life circumstances that are far removed from my own,...more
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a 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 b...more
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.” 5 likes
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