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The Rice Mother

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4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,560 Ratings  ·  371 Reviews
Nothing in Lakshmi's childhood, running carefree and barefoot on the sun-baked earth amid the coconut and mango trees of Ceylon, could have prepared her for what life was to bring her. At fourteen, she finds herself traded in marriage to a stranger across the ocean in the fascinating land of Malaysia.

Duped into thinking her new husband is wealthy, she instead finds hersel
...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2002)
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The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best South Asian Fiction
45th out of 502 books — 1,588 voters
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Sri Lankan English Fiction
13th out of 81 books — 79 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Yosita Oramahi
Jul 17, 2007 Yosita Oramahi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After two full days, I finally finished reading Rani Manicka's debut novel, The Rice Mother. So intense is the storyline, I found myself clenching my fist and gritting my teeth from time to time as I breathed in the wonderful storytelling. Love, betrayal, anger, sorrow, hope, denial, happiness, longing, despair, deceit, infedility, honesty, pain and a thousand other emotions are spun and woven beautifully in this 580 page work of art, spanning a period of 85 years over 4 generations. It's been a ...more
Tania
Aug 21, 2015 Tania rated it really liked it
Life had yet to teach me that a child’s love can never equal a mother’s pain.

A fast-paced family saga depicting life in Malaysia through four generations. The author does an amazing job showing the change in lifestyle and culture over an 85 year period. The first and last chapter could almost feel like different books if it weren’t for the recurring themes. I thought the cast of characters were beautifully described and I loved that none of them were perfect. I hated Rani, my heart broke for poo
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Chrissie
Sep 21, 2010 Chrissie rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
LemonLinda
Nov 01, 2010 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
I could not believe that this one is a debut novel. This author has quite a promising career. The book gripped me from the beginning and never let go.

The family saga spanning about 80 years in time beginning in the 1920s is told from the perspective of many different family members spanning four generations. I loved that way of telling the story of this family set in Malaysia dealing with all of their adversities (and they had many) including the Japanese occupation during WWII. But later it is
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Averil
Mar 26, 2013 Averil rated it really liked it
I think this must be, for me, the Malaysian equivalent of A Thousand Splendid Suns.

A dense, poetic, evocative, sensual, lush, decadent story. This was a heavy read at times, with much savagery and tragedy within, but Manicka drew me wholly into the intoxicating world of Malaysia.

This debut novel was an addictive page turner for the parts which deal with Lakshmi's forced marriage and the births of her 6 children, and then the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War Two. Selfishly, I wis
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Dana
Jan 04, 2009 Dana rated it really liked it
This book is about four generations of a family in Malaysia. Lakshmi, from Ceylon, is duped into marrying Ayah. He portrays himself as a wealthy man. But everything is an illusion even down to the borrowed gold watch. Ayah is a civil servant who while kindly and loving is a plodding unintelligent man. Lakshmi has 6 children by the time she is nineteen. She makes friends with the Chinese servant girl next door, Mui Tsai. Mui is forced to have sex with her master and each child is given to a diffe ...more
Matt
Dec 30, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
In short, this book is gut-wrenching. Truly a tough read, the telling of a family's dreadful prophecy and its lengthy unfolding over multiple generations.

At its best, it's a tribute to the tenacity of "powerless" women, the child brides of history who accepted their fates and challenges. At its best, it lends a voice to powerless women of traditional societies.

It also delivers on Asian folklore. Manicka has a great talent for writing beautiful sentences.

That said, I found it tedious. The only th
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Felice
Apr 23, 2011 Felice rated it liked it
There is nothing new about a storyline that takes a woman with no education, no experience in the world who winds up either a widow or with a wastrel husband, a brood and no means of support for her family. It's been done by male and female writers, it's been played out in every possible kind of setting and time period from ancient Roman households to Mayberry. So as an author if you're going to take that crumbly old plot and make it the center of your novel you had better be able to pony up som ...more
Кремена Михайлова
Интересна градация имаше във възприемането ми на книгата. В началото не ми хареса, подразних се от сходството с другата книга на авторката („Японският любовник), но постепенно различната й сила се появи. Допадна ми, че майката разказва от свое име, а после децата й и други герои също разказват от първо лице. Имаше динамика и свързаност и същевременно интересно представяне на едни и същи неща от различни гледни точки (чрез различните разказвачи).

Към средата вече чувствата и събитията станаха дос
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Diane
Mar 06, 2008 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
February Smart Women Book Club selection.
I knew nothing of this book nor the author before it was selected by my Book Club for our March read. I cannot say enough about it. I found it compelling, and could hardly put the book down. A family's saga spanning approximatly 80 years. Each chapter told in a different voice; each voice so different. There were so many layers, things left unsaid, feelings not given into. Much sorrow and strength within this family's story. The writing was beautiful. As
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Angela
May 21, 2007 Angela rated it really liked it
Lovely novel - I love to travel through my books...

When I don't have enough money to buy a ticket to a far away place, or when the times I wish to visit have already passed a long time ago, I open a book and read. This book took me to Malaysia, into the lives of three generations of women who struggle to make ends meet and raise their families. A beautiful story about love and war, mango trees and spiced rice.

Mari
Jun 23, 2016 Mari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
3,5-4 tähteä vaikea sanoa.
Ricardo Vasconcelos
I loved this book. The way the story is told is really fantastic!
The main character, Lakshmi, is not the only one who narrates the events.
We have the opportunity to read some parts of the story narrated by various members of the family and it's amazing to see how Rani Manicka maintained the consistency of the plot from beginning to end!
I found this way of writting really cool and unique because not all characters had the same perspective of some of the events.
There are attitudes from some charac
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Coleen Cloete
Jul 17, 2015 Coleen Cloete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Words cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. Rani Manicka takes you on a journey like no other. When a book makes you think of how you live, how you love and how you treat the ones you love it surpass any possible expectations. You cannot help but stop and reread sentences as it is poetic in its language but harsh in its statements. My exposure to the Hindu religion was very limited up to this point. Throughout the story you are being exposed to the wonderful tales of the diff ...more
Roberta
Spesso, quando leggo queste saghe famigliari, mi torna in mente l'aforisma di Tolstoj: "Tutte le famiglie felici si somigliano; ogni famiglia infelice è invece disgraziata a modo suo".
Questa famiglia malese ha lavorato molto per la propria infelicità. Sarà che ho letto tanti romanzi che trattano di saghe famigliari, sarà che sono un po' stanca ed ho la testa altrove, ma non mi è piaciuto poi così tanto.
Il nucleo originale, cioè Lakshmi ed il marito Ayah, sono gli unici personaggi che mi sono se
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Karla
In the land of far away exotic Malaysia lives the beloved and hated Indian Rice mother named Lakshmi seeming IMO to be some sort of human deity. struggling to raise a family trying to be protective but losing the grip on her her inner demons. Her family fights an unyelding curse she refuses to believe. Through unrelenting frustrations, failures, tragic loss and horrible atrocities from the Japanese brutality during WWII you would think that if any of them survived it, they could face anything to ...more
Ramona
Sep 06, 2009 Ramona rated it liked it
How to rate a book that I think I despised, yet also could not abandon. 1 star is indecent; yet 5 stars is scandalous to give to a book which provided me no pleasure.

Rani Manicka’s dark, complicated, and violent first novel, The Rice Mother, tells the story of a family living in 20th century Malaysia. Lakshmi, the “rice mother”, gives birth to 6 children by age 19. She is both chillingly fierce and sacrificially loving. Her children lead tragic, sordid, perverse lives after witnessing the savag
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Sumita
May 27, 2009 Sumita rated it it was amazing
I picked this from the library just for fun, as i enjoy Indian readers -and never expected it to move me the way it did.
Superbly poignant. Being malaysian with similar ancestral history, it was like reading something about my own past - bits and pieces of memories of hearing similar things from the older generations.
This book really moved me beyond my imagination and experience. i'm still so overwhelmed.It has been some time since something caught hold of me the way this book did, i'm still reel
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Amalie
I'm impressed with this book regarding the amount of characters that we meet and the fact that it is surprisingly well organized. There is a decent cohesion in the book and the secrets of the story are revealed subtly and through different characters.

This is a multi-generational saga told in first person. Focusing mainly on women, starting with Lakshmi who, at age fourteen, is duped into marrying a man more than twice her age. The mother from the first generation and the first narrator.

There is
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Cortney
Oct 23, 2013 Cortney rated it it was ok
This book was up and down for me almost the entire time, sometimes within the same page. I think it could have used a better editor, perhaps, to hone in on the heart of the story and trim off the distractions flapping 'round the edges.

My main problem, which might not be entirely fair, is that this read like a poor rendition of The Poisonwood Bible, in terms of theme and the devices used to tell the story. It was a multiple narrator novel, with the narrator's name as the chapter title. The troubl
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Marie80
Mar 01, 2013 Marie80 rated it really liked it
Па да, се додека не стигнете до самиот крај нема да ви биде јасно зошто еден раскажува вака а друг па онака!Клопчето се размотува дури на крајот, со Ниша!!!
Gijs Grob
'The Rice Mother' is an elaborate family history following four generations. It starts with the story of Lakshmi, who, as a child bride, comes from Sri Lanka to Malaysia at the age of fourteen. Soon the stories of her children follow, and at one point it is revealed their stories have been recorded by Lakshmi's granddaughter, Dimple. The stories are of continuous grief and sorrow, with the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War II playing a decisive part. Strangely enough, successive p ...more
Betty
Jan 26, 2015 Betty rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully written. If you liked "In the Shadow of the Banyan", you will love "The Rice Mother." Manicka's descriptions are captivating. Example, describing Ratha's cooking - "In the kitchen Ratha set about turning the market produce into exotic meals. She was like an alchemist. She took some meat, spices, and vegetables and turned them into sumptuous meals that clouded your senses and drugged you into asking senselessly, "Is there any more?" Her genius was undeniable. She prepared ...more
Rafael Cañete
Sep 30, 2008 Rafael Cañete rated it really liked it
What led me to this novel is the author's second novel, Touching Earth, which I had read first. Like Touching Earth, The Rice Mother engrossed me with the author's description of things so lush I could almost taste every food mentioned in the story. Manicka also ingenuously weaves plot twists.

It could also be I share something with the author, that is, the horrors of Japanese occupation. I come not from Malaysia but from the Philippines and am too young to have experienced World war II, but the
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Mindy McAdams
Apr 13, 2013 Mindy McAdams rated it really liked it
This hard-to-put-down novel tells the story of a woman from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) who marries a Ceylonese (Tamil) man living in Malaya and relocates there to live with him and raise a family. The chilling descriptions of the Japanese occupation of the Malay peninsula during World War II stay with me, months after finishing this book. Even today, one hears many references in Malaysia to the occupation, but accounts often focus on the Japanese army's brutal treatment of Chinese in Malaya who were ...more
Barbara
Dec 02, 2013 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zingers
This book is a tapestry of stories, woven with blood, sadness, tenacity, love, hopes and revelations. It must be read from beginning to end, for at the end is another beginning, so moving that I felt tears well up inside. The Rice Mother is a flesh and blood woman, but also a feminine metaphor of purity and strength. Through her children and those they touch, the multi-faceted essence of the Rice Mother - both the woman and the metaphor - is revealed. The characters in the book have unexpected d ...more
Smitha
Jun 24, 2013 Smitha rated it really liked it
Nothing in Lakshmi's childhood, running carefree and barefoot on the sun-baked earth amid the coconut and mango trees of Ceylon, could have prepared her for what life was to bring her. At fourteen, she finds herself traded in marriage to a stranger across the ocean in the fascinating land of Malaysia.
She realizes when she reaches Malaysia, that her husband was far from the rich man her mother was getting her married to. That was all Lakshmi's mother wanted, a good match for her daughter. For her
...more
Ioana  Theodora
Jun 10, 2016 Ioana Theodora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great-literature
O carte emoționantă țesută minuțios,magic și complex în jurul Lakshamei ,zeiței orezului ,o femeie puternică care prin personalitatea și deciziile sale influentează viețile celor din jurul său ,cu implicații adânci în destinul copiilor săi și în generațiile următoare .
Romanul este construit deosebit prin povestea plină de sentimente,trăiri,frustrări a fiecărui membru din familia Zeiței ,cu referiri la relațiile familiale ,la realitățile sociale din Malaysia secolului XX împletite cu credințe și
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Smita Jairam
Apr 17, 2013 Smita Jairam rated it it was amazing
Oh my, what a beautifully written and very realistic portrait of a family dynasty in colonial, wartime, post-war and modern Malaysia. Why I say realistic, because it absolutely is; being a Malaysian from a similar family background of 3 generations. The characters could be people I know in real life, or friends of friends.

The emotions and thoughts and subtleties expressed are so authentic and the characters are so amazingly fleshed out; everyone's good side and bad side are clearly shown; we see
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Nancy
Aug 20, 2007 Nancy rated it liked it
As most of my friends know, I have a fairly huge collection of literature by South Asian literature. Yet this was the first book I'd read about Indians living in Malaysia. I went back and forth with this book, a little indifferent at first and then I got hooked and by the end I was ready to finish. Maybe I just have a bad copy but towards the end there was a page which seemed to be missing a section, like it just went from one piece of the story to the other with no thread. I think there were a ...more
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Mom's Book Banter: March Book Discussion: The Rice Mother 8 15 Apr 16, 2013 05:17AM  
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Rani Manicka, an economics graduate, was born and educated in Malaysia and divides her time between Malaysia and England. Her first novel 'The Rice Mother'Infused with her own Sri Lankan family history is a vivid imaginative story about the frailties of human nature and the consequences of war. It won a Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2003.

She has published a further two novels,'Touching Earth'in 2
...more
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“Flowers grow beneath her feet, but she is not dead at all. The years have not diminished the Rice Mother. I see her, fierce and magical. Stop despairing and call to her, and you will see, she will come bearing a rainbow of dreams.” 5 likes
“Майка ми седеше край него ден и нощ. Понякога го гълчеше, понякога му пееше песни, които никога не бях я чувала да пее. Може би все пак тя го обичаше. Вероятно по природа си беше такава — като настръхнала. И сега си я представям — дребна фигурка, седнала край леглото, върху което се очертава тялото на татко, заобиколен от вечерните сенки. Облегната на рамката на вратата, подпряла петата на левия крак на прасеца на десния, я слушах като захласната как пее песни, които не знаех, че е скътала в себе си. Спомням си, тогава ми хрумна, че мама е като океан. Дълбока и пълна с неизвестни неща. Дори се боях, че никога нямаше да стигна до дъното му. Искаше ми се да съм ручей, който някой ден щеше да прерасне в река и някога да се влее в океана.” 4 likes
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