This book has been around for a while, and I can't imagine why I haven't read it before this. As usual, I was prodded into action by the fact that my...moreThis book has been around for a while, and I can't imagine why I haven't read it before this. As usual, I was prodded into action by the fact that my local book group chose it this month. I absolutely loved it.
The story centers on Bhuma, the elderly Hindu maid, who has been with her employers for thirty plus years. And also her employer, Sera, a Parsi, who is told by her contemporaries that she is too good to her "help". The lives and the families of the two women intertwine in this fabulous book set in Bombay. (The book never mentions Mumbai instead of Bombay, so I shall not either).
Apart from the fact that the story is so good, I was fascinating by the cultural aspects of the book. I had never really understood, or realised, who Parsis were before I read this. When I visited Bombay a few years ago, I remember visiting the area where their Towers of Silence are on the Malabar Hill. Our guide just mentioned that this was where the Parsis left their dead for the vultures to pick clean, and I imagined that they were some small sect of "odd" Hindus. If you become as interested as I was after reading the book, then there is so much if you "google" the religion. Including the fact that the late Freddie Mercury of the Queen rock group was Parsi.
On the other hand, the story of Bhuma is a sad reflection of the downward aspects of poverty. Bhuma has spent her married life in an apartment with her husband and two children, and by the time we meet her, she lives in a terrible slum with her eighteen year old granddaughter, having lost everybody and everything else. Small things stay on your mind. I cannot get out of my head the fact that, every morning, Bhuma tried to delay going to the bathroom until she got to her employer's, rather than face the terrible communal latrine at the slums. To her the memory of living in the apartment, sharing a bathroom with three other, not-too-clean families, amounted to luxury. How much we take for granted.
At her employers, they reserved a special cup and plate for her to use, as despite being scrupulous about her personal hygiene, she was considered unclean. She was also not allowed to sit on the furniture for the same reason, and had to squat on her haunches on the floor, whilst having a cup of tea with her employer, Sera, who was seated at the kitchen table.
But the women have a strong bond, and for years they have turned to each other in times of trouble and of rejoicing. This incredible book lives with you long after you read it. It seems crass to say that the human spirit remains the same in all of us no matter what our circumstances appear, but you can relate so clearly to these two women from such different cultures as ours.
Loved this book - if I could give it more than five stars I would, and now I am going to search out the other books that she has written.
I expected to have to work my way through this book. It was selected by my local book group, and I must admit that my expectations of enjoyment were l...moreI expected to have to work my way through this book. It was selected by my local book group, and I must admit that my expectations of enjoyment were low. What a surprise! I loved it. I couldn't put it down. Lyrical, exciting and beautifully written. Maneus, in the heart of the Amazon forest came alive, and the quest to find out the fate of Anders in the rain forest had me riveted. What wonderful characters and what a beautiful sense of place. This book really goes to the top of my "Not to be missed" list.(less)