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Nectar in a Sieve

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  8,352 ratings  ·  837 reviews
Married as a child bride to a tenant farmer she never met, Rukmani works side by side in the field with her husband to wrest a living from a land ravaged by droughts, monsoons, and insects. With remarkable fortitude and courage, she meets changing times and fights poverty and disaster.

This beautiful and eloquent story tells of a simple peasant woman in a primitive village
Paperback, 186 pages
Published 2002 by Signet (first published 1954)
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Laughter Kamala Markandaya didn't really write a chickflick. Nectar in a Sieve is rather a critique of colonialism and its structures and effect on the…moreKamala Markandaya didn't really write a chickflick. Nectar in a Sieve is rather a critique of colonialism and its structures and effect on the millions of India who had their lives drastically altered. It also examines relationships between women in a patriarchal society. It is a fantastic read but should not be taken as a chickflick. Thank you(less)
Michelle Cabatingan it is a very moving piece. i only have beautiful things to say. it showed me the world of women in very trying moments.…moreit is a very moving piece. i only have beautiful things to say. it showed me the world of women in very trying moments. (less)
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Jim Fonseca
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The hardship of life in rural India written in 1954. As I read it I wondered how much things have changed in those 65 years? And I suspect the answer may be “not much other than cell phones, and motor scooters instead of donkey carts.” Hopefully there are more social services and people don’t die as often from starvation.


The main character is a woman who has the bad luck of being born a fourth daughter (so no dowry left) and she’s kind of plain looking, so she can’t hope for much in the way of
“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”

----Leo Tolstoy

Kamala Purnaiya Taylor, a.k.a, Kamala Markandaya, the late Indian internationally bestselling author, had penned a terrific yet extremely honest tale of a woman's struggling yet endearing life right after India's independence in her book, Nectar in a Sieve which marks as a pioneering book in Indian literature, that outlines the importance of a woman's simplicity, her sacrifices, her unconditional love
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Oh, man, talk about grimsville!! I think I'll just run along now and lay my head on that old railroad track!

These characters are just born to suffer and endure and work their tails off and all for what? Nothing, because they get screwed every time they start to get some hope back. Screwed either by Mother Nature or by their fellow human beings. Imagine seeing your child die from starvation and feeling relieved because you won't have to watch him suffer anymore!

Grimmest of all is that there are
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
At its heart, Nectar in a Sieve is a story about suffering and our response to it. The protagonist is an aging Indian woman looking back over her long life and reflecting on her fate as well as her choices. Much that happened to her, she had no say in. She was a child bride of an arranged marriage. In some respects, Providence was kind to her; in many others cruel.

But it would spoil the book to tell Rukmani’s tale before you read it. You need to experience it through her own sparse prose
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and touching, Nectar in a Sieve follows a young Rukmani who is married to Nathan, a tenant farmer, when she is only twelve. The marriage, of course, is arranged. The story focuses on the growth of her family and the struggles a tenant farmer and his family must face in a developing India.

I had one minor issue with this book...that is that there wasn't more.

The story should be depressing because the family has to scrape by to survive. And I mean really scrape by...with very little
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Man alive !
Apart from the book 'Untouchable', also set in India, I do not believe I have read a more dismal, depressing and hopeless book.

This books tells the story of a young woman who marries ( arranged marriage ) as a 12 year old to a rice grower and their extreme hardships, much dependent on the weather as too much or too little rain badly affects the crops. Each chapter is filled with death, despair, child mortality, wife rejection, prostitution, shame, illigitimacy, etc and just when you
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'Sometimes at night I think that my husband is with me again, coming gently through the mists, and we are tranquil together," begins Rukmani as she takes the reader into her life, the rare ups and several downs of it as she reminisces the years following her marriage to Nathan, a poor tenant farmer. The aura of this book is that of gloom and depression, they are depressed when they do not have children, they are upset when they have too many children to feed and the reader is upset because life ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
and hope without an object cannot live."

Written in 1954 this million-copy bestseller with a afterward by Thrity Umrigar is the story of Rukmani a very young girl whose father marries her off to Nathan an unknown farmer in rural India. Reminiscent of Pearl S Buck's The Good Earth in its theme featuring a strong woman who spends her life battling adversity and poverty while trying to best care for the ones she loves.
Cited as a favorite book by
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 500gbw
The story is compelling and full of interesting details, but I couldn't help feeling there was something unreal and stilted about it. Strangely enough, the section set in the city seemed more felt and was more believable to me, although it was filled with unexpected and strange turns of events.

(view spoiler)
Grady Hendrix
Really, really, really depressing. But at least it's short!
A Don
Mar 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
I just finished reading the novel, Nectar in a Sieve written by Kamala Markandaya. The author, born in the highest caste in India but lived mainly in England, writes about the tale of a family's struggles with poverty and globalization. Being Markandaya's first published novel, Nectar in a Sieve is a worldwide best-seller and has been translated into seventy languages. Markandaya takes us to rural India set in mid-1900's, with the reflection of main character, Rukumani, taking the reader ...more
Ashwini Ragunathan
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
One should go over the epigraph "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live". Each page in this book depicts the sufferings faced by a family (let's say a group of people, a village or surrounding as a whole). Each character in this book suffers a lot. One would have guessed it from the title. The story evolves around Rukmani. Rukmani is portrayed as a simple traditional Indian woman. Nathan, Rukmani's husband is a farmer. The age-old ethics followed by ...more
John Wiswell
Sep 19, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Anti-colonial/capital readers
A tale of utter hopelessness in the face of colonial or capital evil. The only inspiration one could draw from this is to hate to hate economic development, hate outsiders, or become determined to not be like these people, who can't or won't do anything to prevent ruin. Unfortunately in this desperation there is also little sense of love or bonding, such that the reader can only understand that it is terrible for people to be torn apart or turned against each other, rather than feel it as they ...more
Laura Harrison
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was required reading for me in high school. I just adored it. So well written, powerful and emotional. It is still one of my favorite books after all these years. I consider it a must read.
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Justin Nichols. He likes the language.
Shelves: 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Are you happy with life but really wish you could despair for humanity and grapple with unending loss that makes a desolation of human existence? Read this book.

If you asked me to sum up the moral of the story, I would glibly reply "mo' babies mo' problems" and seriously this short novel offers a painful iteration of what any specialist in international women's rights knows. Although the language definitely rings of an author who spent way more time reading English literature than planting rice
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was basically the diary of the main character, Rukmani. From the get go the emotions were raw and real. This is a very realistic story that follows the life of Rukmani and her struggles throughout it. Anyone who likes autobiographies would enjoy reading this book.
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 5-stars
The back cover honestly doesn't do it justice. It was soooooooo good!
Mar 14, 2008 added it
Recommends it for: Teens
Recommended to Sonali by: World Lit Reading Requirement
Shelves: world-lit
Death, theft, prostitution and tenant farming. How could these elements be woven into a tale that inspires, evokes sadness, and creates pathos? Only one tale, spun so well, could this be made possible; that book is Nectar in a Sieve. Kamala Markandaya, authoress extraordinaire, can create emotions no one knew they could feel for written text and hardback cover. Markandaya lived no hard life herself, so the way she weaves a tale with such authority, such knowledge, and such passion about a family ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Nectar in a Sieve is a short but powerful portrait of the fragility of life as an Indian farmer and the importance of family and love. The narrator, Rukmani, begins the novel as a young woman who has an arranged but love filled marriage with Nathan who rents a piece of land that sustains them. As the years go by and children are born, the line between surviving and thriving is thin and drought or excessive rain can ruin a year’s work in a few days. The absolute importance of the rice
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it

Set in rural India at the dawning of a new age, Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve tells the story of one woman's quest for happiness and peace amidst heartache and hardship. Despite attempts to ignore comparisons, one is indelibly reminded of Pearl S. Buck's classic The Good Earth. The heroine, Rukmani, is a sort of female Wang Lung, who narrates the rise and fall of her family as India grows and changes around them.

The story begins with Rukmani remembering her
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Nectar in a Sieve, written by Kamala Markandaya, is a wonderful novel that lets the reader peek inside the heart of Indian culture. Markandaya, the author of A Handful of Rice and
Some Inner Fury, is actually named Kamala Purnaiya Taylor; she was raised in Mysore, India but she later moved to Britain after India declared its independence. Nectar in a Sieve follows the life of an average lower-class Indian, looking at the effects of globalization and the conflict between traditional and rural
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indian, historical
I really loved this book. It's told with empathy as we follow a young girl married off to a poor farmer, and the joys and sorrows they experience as the world around them changes. It is a story that challenges the virtues and ambitions of the modern urban society, and takes a deep look at the impact on people who don't really have a say in the direction the world is moving in. To us, constant change in technology, free markets means increased opportunities, to them, it means loss of livelihood ...more
Nectar in a sieve isn't a story but collection of memories of days past and present. Set in a village in southern India, this is story of a woman and the hardships she faces with her family when the country is in the brink of industrialization and stepping out of decades of colonialism. Markandaya times the novel in this time of change in a community that solely thrives on outcome of monsoon season. The dichotomy isn't played to its strength with narration never taking into the contrasting ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I found this to be beautifully written, with characters that were believable and admirable. I always appreciate the opportunity to see life from the honest viewpoint of another culture. This book was a firm reminder of how impossibly difficult life is for so many people.
Preeti Gupta
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have ever read, hands down, and I have read many 1000s of books. I have no connection to this author whatsoever, I just happened to love her writing. I also read Handful of Rice, which was also very good, but this one was the best!
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
See my review on my book blog:
Mar 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really disliked this book.
A beautiful and painful book. I truly feel it is important to walk in another's shoes for a little while, and what a better way to do that than in a book? I do not think or react in the way the protagonist does, and I learned much from the book. I also was that much more grateful for my life and for the natural quest in me to do something "else"---something different---something more. By book two, I was so grateful to see her do this too, though on a smaller scale. Definitely a classic...a ...more
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Pseudonym used by Kamala Purnaiya Taylor, an Indian novelist and journalist. A native of Mysore, India, Markandaya was a graduate of Madras University, and afterward published several short stories in Indian newspapers. After India declared its independence, Markandaya moved to Britain, though she still labeled herself an Indian expatriate long afterward.

Known for writing about culture clash
“For where shall a man turn who has no money? Where can he go? Wide, wide world, but as narrow as the coins in your hand. Like a tethered goat, so far and no farther. Only money can make the rope stretch, only money.” 13 likes
“To those who live by the land there must always come times of hardship, of fear and of hunger, even as there are years of plenty. This is one of the truths of our existence as those who live by the land know: that sometimes we eat and sometimes we starve. We live by our labours fromone harvest to the next, there is no certain telling whether we shall be able to feed ourselves and our children, and if bad times are prolonged we know we must see the weak surrender their lives and this fact, too, is within our experience. In our lives there is no margin for misfortune.” 9 likes
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