I enjoyed this book - a lot more than I expected to, given some of the reviews I read. It was a crash course on some Indian traditions and it portrayeI enjoyed this book - a lot more than I expected to, given some of the reviews I read. It was a crash course on some Indian traditions and it portrayed very well the clashing of those traditions with the Western lifestyle. I liked the characters - all of them - and my only beef would be that there were certain characters (Saroj Chawla particularly) who I felt got short shrift on some of the history with them, and how it tied into their present life. For instance, what was it that caused the rift (small though it was) between Saroj & Meenal? Never explained...and there wer other small things too, but overall it was a well written story that allowed a small glimpse into Indian culture and family dynamics.
As a postscript,I love books that provide actual recipes for the food that is described in the book. This one does, and while it is worth reading (and keeping) for both the story & the recipes, if the recipes were the only thing of value in the story, they would be worth it alone....more
I loved this book. I was completely immersed in the story of Ramchand, and although I had a hard time understanding why he allowed outside events to dI loved this book. I was completely immersed in the story of Ramchand, and although I had a hard time understanding why he allowed outside events to depress him so, I could relate to his feelings of restlessness & his need to do something...anything.
What I did get...completely...was his gut wrenching sadness when he became aware of Chander's terrible marital situation. By that time he had started to understand that every situation had more to it than could be seen on the surface. On the other hand, what I completely failed to understand was his continued weakness despite his burgeoning understanding of (and subsequent frustration with) the unfairness - and cruelness - of the class system in Amritsar. Although he was obviously unhappy, he could not seem to DO anything (except read) to change. He continued to live in a dreary room, continued to work at a job he clearly despised, and continued to languish in his unhappiness (depression?) until the tragic circumstances of Kamla's death seemed to FINALLY galvanize a reaction from him.
I cheered him on when he chewed out his co-workers. I loved that he spoke the truth to Mahajan & the other sales associates, and I really loved that he berated Hari for laughing in the face of Kamla's death. It was gauche behavior on Hari's part, and Ramchand recognized a lack of compassion that he could not tolerate any longer. After all this, and the 12 day stupor, Ramchand ultimatley disappointed me - not because he went back to his job, but because he (once again) settled into his mediocre existence...the very thing at the root of his previous depression & meltdown. *sigh* Really, really good story....more
I'm a little more than halfway at year's end, so while it won't count toward my finished total for 2014, I think I have made enough progress to includI'm a little more than halfway at year's end, so while it won't count toward my finished total for 2014, I think I have made enough progress to include in in my 2014 list.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love anything that is set entirely or partially in India, and this was no exception. Lahiri is a gifted writer, and she is good as both a novelist and a short story writer. In this collection, she very effectively told stories of misfits (or characters who felt like misfits), who through choices or reasons beyond their control, experienced profound sadness, loneliness or disappointment in their lives. Her title was well chosen as a result, and though it was the title of one story in the collection - a story of a man who interpreted the maladies of patients in a doctor's office - it was appropriate on a larger scale as well, since Lahiri herself was "interpreting maladies" in a way.
My favorite story of the collection was the final story, entitled "The Third Continent." This one, ironically, didn't seem to be in the same vein of the others for two reasons: 1) it was less about the malady than about the loneliness of living in a place where you know no one, and 2) it has a happy ending. In some ways it doesn't necessarily "fit" with the rest, as the tone throughout is entirely different from the rest of the collection, but for whatever reason Lahiri included it, and its placement at the end of the book is ideal....more
So many reviewers point out all there is to dislike about this book, and they're not wrong. Neel is a sanctimonious, pompous jerk. He is ashamed of hiSo many reviewers point out all there is to dislike about this book, and they're not wrong. Neel is a sanctimonious, pompous jerk. He is ashamed of his heritage and desires to be a part of the (specifically white) upper crust society in the US, despite the fact that there is really very little to envy. He is a control freak who has carved out every detail of his (American) life with deliberate exactness...cultivating an Everyman accent, wearing the right clothes, living in the right ZIP code, having the right car, developing relationships with the right people. And, having been rejected by the "right" woman (a white, blond, upper class woman from a rich Southern family), he carries on a not-so-clandestine relationship with another blond woman...not that he would marry her, as she is beneath him in both status and education. He equates all that he has acquired with class and worth, and he has no understanding of what constitutes true class and worth.
It's a interesting thing, to see how much control families continue to have on their offspring, even when they're adults and live not only in a different country, but on a different continent. Neel is a control freak, yes, but he comes from a family of control freaks, and he is an amateur compared to them. In his efforts to separate himself so completely from his Indian heritage, he seems to have overlooked some crucial aspects - especially regarding the arrangement of marriages - that render him a married man at the end of a momentous trip to India. And not only is he married, but his private plans to leave his new wife in Indian and return to his old life are thwarted (and likely deliberately so). As much as I relish the fact that he was beaten at his own game, this type of jockeying for power in families is just ugly...even when (or perhaps even moreso when) it is a cultural imperative.
I like Leila, Neel's wife. I like that she has fire in her belly, that she is not afraid (much), that she is intelligent and educated. I like that she represents the reality of what Neel is seeking, and I find it repeatedly hilarious that he fails to see her - really see her - because the "packaging" is all wrong. But her family is just as bad as his, and despite her fiery nature and outspokenness, she is controlled with an iron fist and the threat that her behavior is the controlling factor on whether or not shame is brought on their entire family. That is a crippling, and potentially soul-destroying responsibility to put on anyone.
The thing is, Leila is a good girl. She deserves better than Neel, and she knows it, but the control her family has on her - even from a continent away - keeps her in the marriage, even as she finds out more and more about his duplicity. What I find utterly upside down is the fact that staying in a marriage with a philandering jackass of a husband somehow brings less shame than leaving. I'm not saying it wasn't (or isn't) reality in the Indian culture (and many others), but I am saying that it shouldn't be...that a woman's value is much more than her attachment to a man. Sure, Leila is redeemed in the end. She does eventually win his heart, but why does she want it? She is smart enough to recognize the freedom and privileges of her life in America. She doesn't want to go back to her life as it was before. And yet she stays.
Here is where Anne Cherian has a tailor-made opportunity to write a strong, female Indian character...not strong because she endures indignities, but strong because she fights back against them. I wanted some of that fire she had to demand better from Neel, rather than simply outlast his bad behavior. And ultimately, Neel is unconvincing as a changed man, suddenly miraculously devoted to Leila. He is weak and vain. He is seduced by appearances. And though he DOES finally do the right thing (though it is far too late in my opinion), I as a reader am left thinking that it's just a matter of time before he will succumb once again to the generic "Americanness" (or at least, as he defines it) of another gold-digging, home-wrecking bimbo.
There was so much potential here. Cherian's characters could have been rich and complex, but they weren't. They could have played against the stereotype, but they didn't. I could have loved the book. I really wanted to, but I didn't....more
This book is a continuation of my love affair with Indian literature. Divakaruni delivers in a sublime fashion, developing a story that is rich not onThis book is a continuation of my love affair with Indian literature. Divakaruni delivers in a sublime fashion, developing a story that is rich not only in Indian setting, culture & lifestyle, but also in multi-dimensional characters whose strengths and weaknesses are understandable and relatable. How many young women, growing up in a generation rife with privilege and (Western) influence, do not seek to find their own places in the world, even if it means stretching (perhaps to the breaking point) the constraints, cultural requirements (and even taboos) of previous generations. Anju & Sudha both try to do this in their own ways, and yet, when they are faced with making a decision to pursue happiness, they find the personal cost too great.
In some ways, I found both of these women ridiculously frustrating. I thought Sudha was weak and selfish. I I thought Anju was rebellious and smart-alecky. That Sudha would not allow herself the happiness of marriage to her only love was something that made me nearly scream in frustration...until (at the end) he proved to be unworthy. That Anju followed through on an arranged marriage when she learned her betrothed loved someone else equally frustrated me...because he was untrustworthy and she knew it. In the end both of their lives were nearly shattered by these decisions. And yet, it was very obvious that these (naive) decisions were (eventually) the catalysts that gave them strength to change their lives...to protect their loved ones, to reconnect with each other, and to allow for understanding and forgiveness to take root and grow.
See this and more reviews at htto://bookishnerd.com/...more