I'm feeling this great sense of accomplishment right now after finishing this gargantuan book this morning. The crazy thing is that I almost wish it w...moreI'm feeling this great sense of accomplishment right now after finishing this gargantuan book this morning. The crazy thing is that I almost wish it wasn't done. I want to know so many things about the characters - (view spoiler)[ did Varun get it together now that he finally made it through his civil service exams, did anything come of him and Kalpana? Is Malati wedging in between that relationship? So many unanswered questions! (sigh) (hide spoiler)] However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, cover-to-cover and would love to see a sequel, A Suitable Girl, all about Varun and his quest for love!
This book is an excellent companion to the other wonderful (chunkster-size)India-reading that I have done the last couple of years: A Fine Balance and The Toss of a Lemon. While A Suitable Boy offers an excellent look at post-partition India, it also touched on the touchiness of what was suppose to be a caste-free India. There is clearly progress made in that direction particularly with the younger people and the more educated adults, most of the hold-outs are older people such as Mrs. Tandor, it is evident that it will be a problem a long time to come since Indian society is built on this ugly system.
Seth does a wonderful job with his characters - the manipulative, but loveable Mrs. Mehra to the liberated Malati to the arrogant, insecure Arun to the lovely Lata to the ambitious Haresh.
Speaking of the search for the "Suitable Boy", the chase was a fun one. Although originally I told myself I would be disappointed if Lata picked anyone other than (view spoiler)[ her true love, Kabir, (hide spoiler)], I could not fault her final choice or her reasons for picking him. I was surprised with how much I concurred and didn't feel the sense of disappointment expected. So, all-in-all - good book, I recommend without hesitation, especially to around-the-world readers. Don't let the size of this book intimidate you into picking it up, just think of it as a trilogy that you will be reading all at once!
Its not often that I'm sad to finish a 616-page book, but that is the case with this one. The Toss of a Lemon tells the story of a Brahmin family thro...moreIts not often that I'm sad to finish a 616-page book, but that is the case with this one. The Toss of a Lemon tells the story of a Brahmin family through three generations. It not only offers a ring-side seat to watch Sivakami and her family mature and change, but it portrays the evolution of India from a caste-heavy society to one that begins to shrug off the old traditions. (1896-1958) Here are a few slices from this gem of a book:
*The book title: Hanumarathnam, Sivaki's husband, is a wealthy traditional medicine man and foreteller of the future. He believes in horoscopes and what we would call superstitions. He has foreseen his own death in the 9th year of marriage to Sivakami and wishes to prolong his time with his family. He knows he can lengthen his years if someone will toss him a lemon the minute his child's head begins to appear during birth. (This all takes place during the first 25 pages of the book so am not considering this a spoiler.)
*Hanumarathnam and Sivakami consider themselves "liberal" in their treatment of the lower castes. Afterall, they have taken a fatherless lower caste boy and shown him how to manage the lands. They even entrust him with the care of their children. He is allowed to stand in the doorway of their house and speak with them...What this book accomplishes is to show how these perceptions change over time. By the end of the book, Sivakami's "liberalness" is viewed differently.
*If I had to label this book only using one word, that word would be "evolution". A few of the evolutions that take place are: India's progression from British-rule to self-rule; the gradual phasing out of the caste system; a cultural revolution involving less use of tradition, formality in everyday life; a change in eating habits and foods, to just name a few.
I picked this book up looking for a glimpse into the Indian caste system. It was in the YA section of my library which I believe is incorrect. If this...moreI picked this book up looking for a glimpse into the Indian caste system. It was in the YA section of my library which I believe is incorrect. If this is a YA book, it is a young YA book as it reads more like an older child's book. However, none of that really matters because it was an excellent choice for my first learn-about-the-caste-system book. There is an nice look at the Brahmin caste. The story starts with Leela as a pre-teen engaged to be married to Ramanlal a boy she likes very much. A few days before the official wedding is to take place, Ramanlal dies from a snake bite leaving Leela a widow, even though they have never lived under the same roof. What follows serves to enlighten the reader of many Indian customs of the day and the role of the widow in Indian society. The title itself, The Keeping Corner, refers to the tradition that when a women is widowed she is to keep inside and be subdued for one year. The book takes place during Ghandi(ji)'s sit-ins and passive resistance movement which members of Leela's immediate family support. I found it a good source of light history and Brahmin culture.
I picked this book up thinking any book that my daughter recommends, contains food, is a memoir (one of my favorite genres) and takes the reader to a...moreI picked this book up thinking any book that my daughter recommends, contains food, is a memoir (one of my favorite genres) and takes the reader to a foreign land, has to be worth a read. Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India did not disappoint.
Right off the top, I want to say that I don't foresee every reader liking this book because it is not a swashbuckling venture through India. This book is a slow-cooker and it never comes to boil. What it is is a delightful feast that simmers slowly: memories of delicious Indian dishes prepared by her Mother or a meal with Jaffrey's very large extended family; the pain of growth individually and of her family and country; a wonderful look at the different cultures in India, Muslim,British and more; an enlightening peek at Jaffrey's subcaste, the Kayasthas; many trips throughout India with an emphasis on what makes those part of India unique. I loved the flavor of this book; light and delicious. I ended it feeling I knew much more about the Kayasthas and had made a delightful acquaintance in Jaffrey, herself.
The Kayasthas subcaste angle is a part of my feature on the Indian caste system for my Monday, May 13th blog
Being a sucker for beating-the-odds stories, I picked up this book hoping it would prove to be an unveiling of how a single man helped poor women of I...moreBeing a sucker for beating-the-odds stories, I picked up this book hoping it would prove to be an unveiling of how a single man helped poor women of India start their own businesses. The beginning of the book was promising as Akula relays an anecdote of a poor Indian woman picking up a few spilled grains of rice one-by-one and his resulting realizations that some people are that poor and that hungry. However, as Akula becomes more educated and more experienced in the field of micro-finance the emphasis shifts from helping to justifying his for-profit lending company, SKS's practice of charging 28% interest and his own CEO salary. When he started taking a stopwatch into the field to time how long his employees spent with customers in order to streamline the business in line with McDonald's management policies, he lost my respect. Perhaps, that type of tactic does save money, but what happened to good old fashioned first-name basis customer service? So, I wasn't surprised when the last few chapters became a place to drop names like Bill Gates, the Ghandi family, Bill Clinton, etc. Since I'm no finance expert, its hard to point my finger at Akula particularly since so many Indians have made his system work for them, but I'm still looking for books about people who are able to help the needy without patting themselves on the back.
Boo won me over when she presented the impoverished people of Annawadi as individuals with worries, ambitions and desires as everyday as yours or mine...moreBoo won me over when she presented the impoverished people of Annawadi as individuals with worries, ambitions and desires as everyday as yours or mine rather than victims. I found myself brokenhearted by the recurrent police and governmental corruption they must wade through in order to just exist. Apparently, it isn't enough that most are ill from their habitats and scorned by society. In spite of their loss of dreams and position, I was impressed by the resilience of most.
This book received a lot of positive press which I believe made me expect more from it then it was able to deliver. I don't mean that negatively because I learned ever so much about Annawadi, its citizens, Mumbai corruption and India itself. However, I think I had my expectations too high, because I did feel a tad bit disappointed with it although I can't put my finger on why that was. I may re-read it some time in the future.
The book did cause me to reflect on many issues regarding what happened to the Annawadians when forced to move when Annawadi was cleaned up for aesthetic reasons. We have similar situations nearby in Detroit. Whole neighborhoods being demolished for their blight. What happens to those people? They aren't being paid adequate reimbursements that would allow them to purchase better homes. Sometimes I think aesthetics influence us more than empathy. Couldn't there be a way to remove the eyesore and eliminate the societal problems that caused it? Maybe I'm a dreamer. However, I believe the real reason for the removal of Annawadi (and inner city homes) is not wanting a reminder that poverty exists. We need to do something about it in order to help those caught in its clutches.
An all around good look at Indian society at three different levels: outcasts who dared to move up through the eyes of Om and his uncle, Ishvar; Dina...moreAn all around good look at Indian society at three different levels: outcasts who dared to move up through the eyes of Om and his uncle, Ishvar; Dina Dalal, widowed seamstress and woman striving to remain independent of her wealthy brother's control and lastly, student, Maneck, who really wants to run the family store but can bide to do it his Father's way. In Dina, the reader gets the flavor of a lower middle class city lifestyle, while Maneck, who is not wealthy, but he hasn't known poverty or mistreatment like the tailors, Om and Ishvar have or even Dina, to a lesser extent.
The best part of the story takes off when all the above characters are living together in Dina's house. All learn from each other and become better people, more sensitive to the pain shared by the common people who are so often abused by the Prime Minister's government reforms. The book offers an excellent look at how programs such as the "Beautification Project" effect the poor. What can seem so good and sensible to most can be devastating to others.
There are many beautiful, poignant parts of this book, much wisdom (especially from Ishvar) and many scenes that I will remember for a long time.
This was a buddy read with my friend, Mary, whose insights made the read even better.
I read over a 100 pages of this book and never understood the point of it. Although the style was somewhat interesting there never seemed to be a plot...moreI read over a 100 pages of this book and never understood the point of it. Although the style was somewhat interesting there never seemed to be a plot.(less)