Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Evening Is the Whole Day” as Want to Read:
Evening Is the Whole Day
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Evening Is the Whole Day

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,612 ratings  ·  352 reviews
Set in Malaysia, this spellbinding and already internationally acclaimed debut introduces us to the prosperous Rajasekharan family as its closely guarded secrets are slowly peeled away.

When Chellam, the family’s rubber-plantation-bred servant girl, is dismissed for unnamed crimes, her banishment is the latest in a series of recent, precipitous losses that have shaken six-y
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Evening Is the Whole Day, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Igor Koyfman It's some of the most beautiful prose I've read, bringing the world fully to life. But every chapter will wring your soul also. The achronological str…moreIt's some of the most beautiful prose I've read, bringing the world fully to life. But every chapter will wring your soul also. The achronological structure works great, posing and answering all the important questions in turn. If you're emotionally exhausted you'll need more energy to get through this. A book of this size should take 3-4 days to read, yet I've struggled for over 2 weeks because it's so poignant.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,612 ratings  ·  352 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Evening Is the Whole Day
LA Brower
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bechdel-pass
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
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is a fascinating tale which takes place in the 'Big House' of an idealistic hot shot lawyer. The setting is in Malaysia, at about the time she gained independence from the British in 1957. The story has many layers, which unfolds in a non-chronological manner. There are many questions begging to be answered, like what made a doting elder sister suddenly turn cold and indifferent to her 4-year old sibling? What 'crime' did the servant girl, Chellam, commit to cause her to be dismissed under ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: Kinga
Shelves: novels
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
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story is set in Ipoh in Malaysia and it follows the domestic drama that unfolds in the family of Lawyer Rajasekharan who live in the Big House located on Kingfisher Lane.The lawyer lives with his wife Vasanthi,his mother, children -Uma,Suresh and Asha and a maid Chellam who is the same age as Uma.The story begins a week after Uma has left to the US and the family is in the process of kicking Chellam out of the house.And thus begins the narrative that goes backwards to tell the reader what ha ...more
Dec 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cross-cultural
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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Why should I feel sorry for her when she doesn’t feel sorry for me? It could be the family motto, this question, something to emblazon on their coat of arms, except that not one of them has noticed how often the others ask it.”

This is a fantastic book with a tragic story, about a prosperous Indo-Malaysian family slowly tearing each other apart. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic design and bright colors of the cover; this is a dark and complicated novel that offers plenty of sympathy but little
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review
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 cannot say that I love this book. The people living in the Big House— painted a ridiculously happy peacock color, were such an unhappy bunch that so many times I was forced to put it down. just to get away from them. It was painful to look at the meanness and unkindness of people from such close quarters. But oh for the writer to be able to write like this! I was compelled to read every word. At first I thought it was too slow, but glad I persevered, by the time I finished I felt it was one of ...more
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
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K by: Kinga
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
Faith Reidenbach
Sep 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Celeste Ng
You know how sometimes, people you know write things and when you sit down to read them, you wonder if when you're done you're going to have to pretend to LOVE them when really, you didn't like them at all? This is emphatically not one of those cases.

EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY is bold, beautiful, and heartbreaking all at once. The tone is so confident and assured that it's hard to believe this is a first novel: from the first paragraph, it whisks you away into the vibrant world of Malaysia in th
Whirl Girl
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Evening is the Whole Day" is mostly set in 1980s Malayasia. A family unravels through the eyes of the youngest daughter who hides and spies in the shadows. Although the dense, lavish prose and the over-stuffed sentences sometimes felt overpowering, I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what happens.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
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
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
Jayne Catherine pinkett
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the choice for May from Mel's Bookland Adventures around the world reading choice

A tide of understanding washes through her; in that moment she knows...what it is to escape, though as soon as she moves from the window she will find herself searching, once again, for those answers. p333

Each of us possess the key to our own truth. Many of us lose that key, misplace it or throw it away; we may sidle away from our truth if it is not to our liking. Most often we can fool ourselves by creating alternative fictions. If we can collaborate our fictions, we can create a plausible trut
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Harmony Silk Factory
  • Shelter
  • The Blind Man's Garden
  • The Rice Mother
  • Though I Get Home
  • Candor
  • Andai Itu Takdirnya
  • 13 Jam A380
  • Ombak Rindu (Ombak Rindu, #1)
  • Bicara Hati
  • Ghouls, Gimmicks, and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, 1953-1968
  • Porn Studies
  • The Girl on the Stairs
  • Paradise of the Blind
  • The Henna Artist
  • Doruntine
  • Tree Of Sorrow
  • The Jasmine Wife
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

From independent presses, to tales in translation, to critical darlings and new debut novels, these books (all published in the U.S. this year)...
20 likes · 2 comments
“For that is what miracles are like sometimes: quiet, unheralded, unglamorous to all but the beneficiary.” 0 likes
More quotes…