Climbing the Stairs
Padma Venkatraman
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Climbing the Stairs

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,795 ratings  ·  415 reviews
A remarkable debut novel set in India that shows one girl's struggle for independence. During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather's large traditional family, where the women...more
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Published January 1st 2009 by Brilliance Audio (first published 2008)
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Before I start this review, I do have to say that I have met the author, and like her very much, but have tried to make this review fair and unbiased. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman is a YA historical fiction about a fifteen-year-old girl named Vidya that takes place in India during the struggle for Indian independence and WWII. Outspoken and willful Vidya is excited about her future, but when her father is injured in a freedom rally, Vidya’s hopes of entering college are shattered whe...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
"Amma," I said tentatively. "I don't want to get married."
"What, Vidya kanna?" Amma said anxiously.
"I mean, I don't want to get married until I finish school," I said nervously.
Amma's expression cleared a little. "Don't worry," she said. "I'm sure we can wait a little longer. After all, girls are getting married much later these days. Even seventeen is not considered too old anymore."

For me, the essence of Climbing the Stairs was conveyed so expressively in the above conversation. Vidya is a fif...more
While this is a very ambitious book, tackling the British rule of India, Gandhiji's efforts to a non-violent revolution, the role of women in India during World War II, a young girl's sense of guilt over her father's life altering injury and her ambition which flies in the face of tradition and some family expectations. But the author pulls it off well, the heroine's voice is clear and genuine and at least this reader identified with her and cared about her. While some of the secondary character...more
Anne Osterlund
Vidya is a fifteen-year-old girl living in Bombay, India during World War II. She loves climbing trees, spending time with her friend, Rifka, and her dog, Raja. And she has dreams of going to college. A dream her father promises to help make come true.

But her father is a member of Gandhi’s non-violent freedom fighter movement against the British. And when Vidya rushes out into the street in the midst of a protest, her entire world changes.

Into the strangling, tradition-bound realm of her grandfa...more
(Genre:Young Adult literature/historical fiction) This is an interesting novel about a 15 year old girl named Vidya living in World War ll India. She and her family are HIndu and belong to the Brahmin caste (scholars and others who sought for wisdom and learning rather than wealth and riches) which is one of the upper classes in the Indian caste system. When Vidya's father is injured, she and her family are relocated to her paternal uncle's house where life is much different for her than it was...more
This is the story of a 15-year-old girl in British-occupied India during World War II and her struggle to be her own person and go to college instead of following the traditions of her strict culture. It is a good role model for girls today. There is outstanding imagery portrayed in descriptive language with good insight into Indian culture and religion. The realistic characterization uses opposites to portray the father/uncle and brother/sister. Prejudice is captured in the description of the N...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I enjoyed this novel with the unusual setting of India during World War II. Teenager Vidya's life is turned upside down when her father suffers a brain injury and she and her family are forced to move in with her strict grandfather's clan. I was fascinated with the depiction of the difference between the life of women and the life of men in a traditional Brahmin household. Vidya's struggle to resist a pre-arranged marriage and go to college instead is uplifting. I was sorry to see the story end,...more
I absolutely loved this novel! I found the characters to be inspiring and entertaining! Vidya's story is touching and her struggles and triumphs are what makes the novel perfect for young adult readers. I love the genre of historical fiction so the book was a perfect fit for me. I found it very interesting to read about a completely new point of view during such a troubling time in the world's history.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in culturally diverse texts and historical fi...more
The story of Vidya, a girl entering the turbulent times of adolescence during equally turbulent times in early 1940's India, is as intriguing to read as it is informational. Vidya's peaceful struggle for her freedom in a society that expects women to only marry, is nicely paralleled with the people of India's non-vilolent resistance against the British occupation that subjects the people of India. She is to women what Gandhi was for India. Courage and hope.
'Climbing the Stairs" is a novel of a girl named Vidya who dreams of pursuing her education. She lives in a society in which that lofty goal is often only unattainable. This book takes place in India, during the Imperialistic British rule. It was a time in which Indians were treated as second class citizens in their own country. During an act of brutal violence, Vidya's life takes an unexpected turn in which she is left the choice of either following her family's dreams, or her own. The story ex...more
Lauren Berry
I enjoyed learning about the difference in cultures between Vidya's and my own. The way the extended family treated her , Kitta, appa, and amma frustrated me. But overall I did like the book.
I have to say that this is my favorite way to learn history, through a novel, set in a foreign country during an era less known to me. Vidya is an Indian girl growing up in World War II India. This novel touches on the Hindu caste system, British rule of India, and Hitler’s army encroaching ever closer to her home. Talking through Vidya, the author gives us insight into the Hindu religion and way of life in 1942 India. Vidya is a dutiful and independent minded daughter of Brahmin parents. Her fa...more
The premise of the book sounded very interesting and I did enjoy the description of India as a British colony during World War II. However, I found it difficult to really like the main character. She seemed at once both too modern (I kept forgetting that the setting was WWII and not the 21st century) and too shallow. She feels great guilt for what happened to her father but does little to alleviate this guilt. She feels bad for her mother but doesn't often try to comfort her. She believes in non...more
The novel “Climbing the Stairs”, may not start out as an exciting story, but when you consider the period in time (WWII) and the country (India during the occupation of the British government), I was able to become interested in this young woman’s life and that of her family relation. Her father Appa was not the “traditional” Indian father figure at that time; meaning he was more understanding of how women and the non-Brahmim class were treated. He considers caste system as a “social evil”. I be...more
My first impression of Climbing the Stairs is that if you are not familiar with the Indian Culture you can get a little lost. The setting is very Indian oriented and I feel this novel connects with Realistic Fiction. However, as you read this novel it will have you wanting to read more. Vidya who was 15 years old was a very determine young lady caught my attention. Vidya worried so much because within the Indian culture women are too marry and not educate themselves. However, this was not what V...more
Kerri De
Initially I was not sure if I was going to be able to connect with this book due to the cultural differences. However, after reading the first 20 pages or so I began to better understand the characters and the dialog. I was able to make connections with several characters in the book, especially with Vidya. I found myself relating to her wishes to continue to study and attend college. Although I have never been told that I could not further my education I can understand her frustration if she wa...more
This was an interesting novel set in India that displays one girls struggle for independence. It is set during World War II and the last days of British occupation in India. The main character is Vidya, she is a fifteen-year-old girl living in Bombay with dreams of attending college. He father was friends with Gandi and was apart of the freedom fighter movement. The peak of this novel is when Vidya rushes out into the street in the midst of a protest. She also struggles with acceptance of the tr...more
Donald Tate
I was very much entranced by Climbing the Stairs, so much so that I read it in one night! Having grown up in a more strict home environment than what my friends had as a child/teenager, I could very well relate to Vidya's struggle for her own independence and identity, although our circumstances were vastly different. The ending actually left me wishing that Venkatraman would write a sequel-would've loved to have read how Vidya/Raman's relationship progressed further, if she ever did take that t...more
Quick read (just the way I like them).
I have never read a book about India during World War II. I have always been fascinated by Indian cultures, beliefs, religions, etc. This is little gem of historical fiction. I enjoyed that the author told (in an Author's Note at the end of the book) which parts of the book were based on her own family history or actually events.

The main character, Vidya, was interesting. I grow tired of girls always running away rather than talking them out. That was one...more
Vidya is a bright ambitious girl who lives in Bombay with her family during WWII. After a tragic accident, her family has to move to another city and live with their extended family, whose way of life is much more restrictive than Vidya is used to.

I know very very little about India, so I found this book enjoyably informative. (History is so much easier to learn from novels than from textbooks.) I had heard of Gandhi of course, but I probably couldn't have told you that he was associated with fr...more
I was drawn in by this book from the first. The details about life in India during the early 1940s; seeing the Second World War from the Indian point of view, and especially what it was like to be a woman in a Brahmin household at the time was fascinating. The story is compelling from beginning to end. The writing is excellent. The wealth of Indian philosophy that the young character studies and considers is also interesting.

If the purpose of art is to instruct and delight, this book certainly a...more
3.5 stars.

I really had no expectations going into this book, honestly I didn't really think i was going to be all that thrilled with it.
But, as the book got started I realized it was a really good story.
Based in India during WWII, Vidya wants to become more than just another housewife. Her utmost desire is to go to college.
Sadly, I never have really thought about India during the war; It was such a confusing time for them. Seeing as they believe in non-violence, but yet they are a house divided...more
Anne Broyles
An absorbing story with the little-explored setting of India during World War II. Vidya must face how her own culture's restrictions might limit her aspirations for the future; her sense of responsibility for her father's disability; her anger at the British colonialists; how her commitment to nonviolence ("Gandhi-ji's way") conflicts with her brother's call to save his nation through enlisting as a soldier in the British army; her attraction to a bright young man and her refusal to marry young...more
Elizabeth K.
Sweet. This takes place during the Quit India movement at the start of WWII. After her father is gravely injured in a protest, a teenage girl and her mother and brother move in with her extremely conservative brahmin grandfather and extended family. There's plenty of great daily life scenes, and all sorts of interactions between various family members present different view points about what it means to be a modern person, a moral person, an Indian national and all sorts of other ways people can...more
Roger Byykkonen
I had a tough time starting to read this book. I think because it was using so many cultural terms and events. The story all together was quite enjoyable but I really lost track of some of the chapters because of the cultural references and terms. It will help me in my writing to try to avoid this from happening to others. I did not know a lot about the Indian culture and customs so this was a good read for learning about their philosophies and history during the World Wars. I just wonder how I...more
Ryan Schroder
This book, while it has many interesting pieces, was very difficult for me to get into. For some reason I just couldn't, I don't know if it was because I didn't really connect with it or what but this one was difficult for me. It was, however, interesting to hear about all of the different historical and social things that occurred during that time period in India. I could not imagine having life as I know it stripped away because my father was beaten by police while he was trying to protect an...more
I actually really enjoyed this book but it had some plot/writing flaws that prevent me from giving it another star. It tells the story of a teenage girl in India during World War II. I felt that a few things in the book happened too quickly to be realistic and that some issues were dealt with a little too easily (at the beginning of the book her parents' views on things were made way too obvious.) I also wasn't a fan of the very last chapter of the book. Other than that it was a book that kept m...more
Vidya witnesses the freedom struggle in India and is quite curious about the movement.During the course she realizes she wants to study for college and not just get married while still in school, which was the practice widely prevalent in India during the 1940's.She fights for her personal freedom while India fights hers.

Padma beautifully writes it with simple language and takes you back to the 1940's.I just couldnt put this book down until the end.
I was impressed by this book as a whole. It seemed to reflect a pretty accurate account of what life in India would have been during the 1940’s during the British occupation. Even though culturally Vidya and her family’s life is very different from my own upbringing I was still able to connect with her. I think many females (depending on the generation) struggle with the want of getting and education and feeling free to pursue their own dreams versus obligations to one’s family and pressure marr...more
Jena Thorp
It took some time for me to be drawn into this book. Eventually I found myself very connected with Vidya and didn't want to put the book down. Since it was a completely different story than what I would normally read I found the first few chapters hard to get into. Since finishing it I've already recommended the book to a friend. It was interesting to read about the Indian culture and the historical events that took place during that time. I was actually sad when I finished it, I would love to r...more
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Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India. When she was young she took a liking toward mathematics, science, and literature. Because she loved numbers, and words, she decided to move to the U.S. and study oceanography.
Padma has had various jobs in oceanography from being the head chief and living in Germany, to a post doctoral researcher at the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins...more
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