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Evening Is the Whole Day
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Evening Is the Whole Day

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,098 ratings  ·  271 reviews
When the Rajasekharan family’s rubber-plantation servant girl is dismissed for unnamed crimes, it is only the latest in a series of precipitous losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha’s life. In the space of several weeks her grandmother passed away under mysterious circumstances, and Uma, her older sister, left for Columbia University, forever. Aasha is left stranded i ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published 2008)
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Lowell Brower
I'm going to go ahead and call this my favorite novel of the decade. I've never, ever, EVER, believed in characters as deeply as I believe in the inhabitants of The Big House. You know what - forget the decade! This is as good a novel as I know of, and as intimate and moving a reading experience as I've had, and as rich and vivid a world as I’ve ever read my way into. I don't know if I've ever loved a character as much as I love Aasha. Love though, is not all I feel for this book – and this, I t ...more
4.5 stars

The second law of thermodynamics is only true on average, only true on the immense statistical scale of beings made of billions of atoms. Life seems to violate it all the time via, for instance, the miracle by which plants release oxygen or the wherewithal of those (women, mostly) who wash dishes, rake leaves, stack dried and folded towels neatly back in the cupboard. Of course, you get tired doing it, so the law is really intact. If time flows in the direction of spill and shatter, it
Just when some thought it was impossible to please me...along comes this book. This deserves 5 stars without any doubt. It baffles me why the world hypes barely mediocre books like 'The Kite Runner' or 'Lovely Bones' when gems like this one go almost unnoticed. There is not a single thing that is wrong with this book. In fact, it is a textbook example of how one should write a novel. Reviving the true art of storytelling, it manages to be gripping, enthralling, and captivating. The novel reveal ...more
May 17, 2008 britta rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every single person.
Holy cow. I have NEVER, EVER had a reading experience like this one. Rich and sad and confusing and rewarding. I need a thousand more stars to even get close to how I feel about this book. From the first sentence (oh, that gorgeous sentence!) I knew it was going to be one of those books that would change my life. And it did. I was hurt and in love and sad for and just bowled over by the characters in this book, wanted to curl up with Aasha behind the PVC settee and and watch and wonder and talk ...more
May 22, 2015 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: Kinga
Shelves: novels, read-in-2011
good but slow, more later..
OK,catching up. Trying to.. this book is a wonderfully calibrated family saga, encompassing such delights as Uncle Ballroom (he’s good at dancing), ghosts, gossips, postcolonial Malaysia, servants badly treated, adultery, snobbery, race riots, and food - Chinese, Malaysian, Indian (I really wanted to tatse those curry puffs). It has a focus on bodily functions: shit, piss and snot drip from its pages. It's quite useful Appa (the house's patriarch) has no sense of smell
The pain, the pain, the pain in this book. Some of it is brought about due to cultural traditions. A great deal occurs because of personality traits that won't allow the characters to move beyond forgiveness. although one must admit that most of the issues are those that would hamper anyone from easily forgiving. Thus, it appears to be pain that will go on forever.
With all of that said, I think that the biggest culprit it the silence among the family members. Samarasan, does an excellent job of
After reading rave reviews of this novel, I was just sure it was going to be fantastic.

I didn't even make it past the second chapter.

The language is beautiful, but it's written in a style that makes it difficult to understand at times. A lot of Malaysian dialect is used, which means the dialogue can be choppy when the characters are speaking. The style itself reminds me a lot of Faulkner with that same stream of consciousness flow. As I've never been a fan of Faulkner, it's not surprising that t
Manu Prasad
Preeta Samarasan's debut novel begins with the kind of prose that actually seems like poetry in disguise - with a description of a part of Malaysian geography. The narrative begins in 1980, on Kingfisher Lane in Ipoh, in the Big House, owned by the Rajasekharans - Raju (Appa) a leading lawyer and a pillar of the community, erstwhile socialist, Vasanthi, his wife, from circumstances far below his, their children Uma, Suresh and Aasha in that order, Paati, the matriarch whose disapproval of her da ...more
I thought this book was fabulous.

The story begins at the end and basically works backward with a little back-and-forth within that structure, a device which would have been irritating and ineffective in the hands of a less gifted author but worked beautifully here. As a result of the structure, events which seem minor at first gradually take on a breathtaking symbolism and significance as you begin to discover their roots, and the story becomes deeper and deeper as you keep reading. The language
This writer is going to be a big, huge deal. She seems to have invented a new kind of prose, mooshing together magical realism (barf, but in her hands non-vomitous) and Tolstoy. I wanted to steal my galley and write notes all over its margins.
This book grew on me. At first I found the amount of detail overwhelming, and thought the pace was too slow. Gradually, though, I got used to the style. By the end, I thought it was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time.

It’s an interesting book in that it illuminates the politics of post-colonial Malaysia and the tensions of race and class, and yet the action takes place almost entirely inside a single house. It’s called the Big House, and the family living in it is wealthy but ab
I chose this novel as my “Malaysia” book in the 52 Books Around the World Challenge. The author, Preeta Samarasan, was born and raised in Malaysia, but came to America in her teens and never looked back.

The story is about a dysfunctional Indian family and through their faulty relationships, we learn about the various cultures of Malaysia, the disparity of wealth, and the country’s own caste system. I appreciated learning a little about this country, but I honestly did not enjoy the book. In the
Liam Wright
Occasionally you come across a novel that so accurately captures the human condition that it is impossible not to identify with some tiny fragment of personality or emotion.
This novel wove together both the story of a servant girl wrongfully accused and that of her employers lives, trials and tribulations, both internally and on the surface.
few books that I have read have portrayed such a raw and deeply flawed cast of individuals, I found it difficult to openly dislike any of them because each
This book is actually set in Malaysia, but the main characters are an Indian family. The story involves the death of an elderly woman in the family, and the subsequent dismissal of a servant girl who is held responsible. Through the eyes of the six year old protagonist, Aasha, and occasionally other characters, the book swoops backward and forward through time to show the subtle and complicated threads that tie together families in love, loyalty, hatred and deceit. While the book particularly il ...more
May 09, 2008 Charlotte rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Oh, I just loved it so so much. All through the last 50 pages I kept thinking, how is this possibly going to end? And then of course it ended in the most perfect, heartbreaking way. If there is such a thing as a romp without the romping, this is it. Also, it is one of the only novels I've ever read to make me feel very very hungry one minutes and then very very not hungry the next. Most only do one or the other. The word bittersweet isn't bitter enough or sweet enough. And ghosts! Is it any surp ...more
great book. really well written. the characters have dimensions! I didn't feel forced to identify or sympathize with anyone in particular. this is really one of the best books I've ever read.
This book is a difficult three stars, because I feel very rewarded by the book but even more disappointed by the larger story.

What I love about this book: the writing. The descriptions, the language, the way the author uses smell and sound, and some of her naked moments, telling us the audience directly that the story does not coming to a black telescopic end, like so many cartoons. Instead that telescope expands to a whole scene, a whole reality. I believed her, and I followed her. The vignette
Comparisons to Rushdie are embarrassing, but Preeta Samarasan has a great deal of Rushdie in the twisty chiaroscuro style of her prose. Like Rushdie, she seems contemptuous of her characters, or anyway she seems incapable of knowing them and loving them at the same time. I'm not certain how she feels about Malaysia, but the desire to escape (rather than reform) makes the satire difficult to handle - I mean, really, do we need to Rushdies at once? What is the good in having simultaneous Nabokovs ...more
Whirl Girl
I loved the writing style in this book. It was engaging, descriptive, and really transported me to another place and time. Peppered with Malaysian (and Tamil-Malaysian) slang and references, it offered a lyrical compliment to the more straight-forward nonfiction book that I read about Borneo this month. I also loved the character development. By the end of the book, the nuances and personalities of each of the main characters shone through, providing an explanation of their motivations. What I d ...more
I tried. I really really tried. But the ILL due date came up, and I was still only half way through. It wasn't that I didn't want to know what had happened to each of the characters, it was just that...I didn't actually want to have to read the book to find out.

I'm interested that so many people connected so deeply with the characters, because I found each one of them to be completely unappealing or just plain unlikeable.

If I'd had more time with this book, rather than being on a rather strict
Licinia Cardoso
Uma escrita que me transportou ao passado quando descobri Gabriel García Marquéz e Isabel Allende. Uma história rica em descrições que nos transmite as cores, os cheiros e os paladares da Malásia e nos envolve na casa da família Rajasekharan com os seus segredos, enganos, desilusões e ilusões.
This book is a work of art, but there is nothing easy about it! Preeta Samarasan has captured the human condition and makes the reader look into him or herself on every page. It is not always pretty and it evokes much discomfort, but it cannot be easily dismissed. The richness of the characters came barreling into my reality and has no intention of going away very soon! Thank you Preeta!
A bitter, bitter-sweet book, this drew me in slowlyslowly, and engulfed me, leaving a sad taste in me that I’m not sure I’ll shake in a while.
At first I wasn’t sure, the story had possibilities, it was set somewhere I quite fancy travelling to, but while the dialogue seemed direct off the monsoon swept streets of Ipoh, the prose didn’t quite flow, it felt like Samarasan was trying too hard. Instead of flowing onto the page it was as if each sentence had to be creative, couldn’t sit on it’s own m
Evanston Public  Library
I don’t know if Tolstoy ever considered visiting Malaysia (or even if he was aware of its existence), but he would have been interested to find that his belief about unhappy families holds true there, too. It’s hard to say who is the unhappiest member of the Balakrishnan family. Is it Chellam, the much abused and scorned house servant? Maybe it’s Paati, the unreasonable demanding, paranoid grandmother who detests her daughter-in-law and misses the attentions of her grandchildren. But, no, I thin ...more
feux d'artifice
This is a book that’s seriously hard to love. When I say this, I don’t mean that this is a horribly written book or anything. In fact, I think the writing is lovely, if sometimes a little overwrought. No, what makes this book hard to read is the fact that none of the characters are likeable. The very premise itself is about how people fail each other, and this process is very painful to watch. No one in this story comes off with their hands untainted. I think I could have came to terms with this ...more
Fathima Cader
i read this book much more slowly than i tend to read novels of this length, but i found two things about it overwhelming.
first is the language. it's dramatic and dramatically insightful. consider the book's opening paragraph:
There is, stretching delicate as a bird’s head from the thin neck of the Kra Isthmus, a land that makes up half of the country called Malaysia. Where it dips its beak into the South China Sea, Singapore hovers like a bubble escaped from its throat. This bird’s head is a sp
This novel, which is told non-chronologically, assumes that the reader's interest will be captured because a grandmother has died by a means unstated, a servant has been sent away, and a young woman is leaving Malaysia for the US. I did not care. I knew nothing about these characters at the outset and still knew very little by page 100 or so, when I abandoned ship. In some other novels I have found that a non-chronological story line is an attempt to cover for weak plotting ability, but of cours ...more
Beautifully observed and written.

The book depicts family secrets and relationships that transcend the time and place they take place in and shows how class and race continue to permeate Malaysian society.

The patriarch of the Tamil/Malaysian family, Tata, rises from poverty to wealth which allows him to educate his children at the best possible schools. When he dies his eldest son Raja (a lawyer educated at Oxford) returns to Malaysia to look after his widowed mother and the "Big House".

Raja, m
Thinesh Rajasingam
As a Malaysian of Tamil origin myself like the author and her characters, I must say I have rarely related to literary characters more than those in this book, or indeed to the themes and tension within it. This is not simply because of a shared background, but because all the characters are in their own ways so humourous, so pitiable, so selfish, so trapped and so ignorant. Ultimately, so human. Indeed, the story itself is suffused with longing and tragedy, hope and resignation, like modern Mal ...more
An Indian family in Malaysia in 1980--the events here take place almost entirely inside their Big House on Kingfisher Lane. The grandmother has just died, her hired caretaker has been banished, and the oldest daughter is packing to go off to Columbia University in New York. Lawyer father is prepping for a big trial, his wife's bitterness about their marriage is out of control, and 6-year-old youngest daughter is seeing ghosts. This story is full of secrets and scapegoating, with occasional glimp ...more
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Evening is the Whole Day- read every word! 1 42 Aug 27, 2008 07:25PM  
  • The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
  • A Golden Age
  • Map of the Invisible World
  • The Rice Mother
  • Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers
  • Love Marriage
  • Devil's Place
  • Mosquito
  • Sightseeing
  • The Coffins of Little Hope
  • Smile As They Bow
  • The Watery Part of the World
  • Beijing Coma
  • Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers
  • The King's Last Song
  • Black Flower
  • The Toss of a Lemon
  • The Vagrants
Please see for more about the book and a regularly updated schedule of events.


Preeta Samarasan has attended a lot of schools, and you should contact her to say hello if you knew her at any of them:

In Ipoh, Malaysia:
The Wesley Church (ACS) Nursery School;
The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Kindergarten;
SRK Tarcisian Convent;
SM Convent, Ipoh (the Convent of the Holy Infan
More about Preeta Samarasan...

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“For that is what miracles are like sometimes: quiet, unheralded, unglamorous to all but the beneficiary.” 0 likes
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