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A Disobedient Girl

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,064 ratings  ·  154 reviews

Young Latha knows that she was not meant to be a servant. She was born for finer things, like the rose-smelling soap she steals from the family she has worked for since she was five, or the glasses of fresh lime juice she helps herself to after a long day. But the hard truth is that her life
Paperback, 374 pages
Published July 13th 2010 by Washington Square Press (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,064 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Freeman's imagery is breathtaking; I fell in love with this book two minutes in. Her narrative and characters are compelling and dynamic. Universal themes and heartbreaking commentary on life as a woman are brought to life in every scene. I adored every minute and strongly recommend the audio book narrated by Anne Flosnik. ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel tells the story of Latha and Biso in alternating chapters. It begins with Latha as an unloved little girl, rationalizing her stealing of soap from her employers in order to maintain the hygeine habits of the rich. Latha works as a servant and desires the luxuries that her employers, the Vithanages, are accustomed to but deny the servants. Biso is a young mother in Matara, a fishing village in South Sri Lanka, who has decided to leave her alcoholic, abusive husband and flee to her fami ...more
Sep 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sri Lanka is located in South East Asia, an island country just south of India. It is a beautiful country that has been mired in conflict for over 40 years. Cultural and religious differences are at the forefront of the civil unrest and terrorist acts by extremists. Ru Freeman's novel, A Disobedient Girl, is set during these tumultuous times. Biso is the mother of three young children. In the early morning hours, she prepares her children for travel. After years of abuse, she has finally decided ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These women creep up on you. The book seems to be plodding along, and the next thing you know you're completely absorbed in the physical and emotional minutiae of the every day lives of the characters. And then suddenly it's not minutiae anymore, but full blown drama. And although you're left wondering for a very long time how the two stories are connected ... that realization creeps up on you too. ...more
Latha is a servant girl for the well to do Vithanage family. Being close in age to their only child, Thara, she forms a friendship and a quasi sisterhood that she naively believes endows her with some sense of equality. Sadly, she learns over time that Thara is the beloved daughter and she is just a servant and therefore not entitled to the wealth and privilege that Thara takes for granted. Through some poor decision making on her part(she is a child after all) she becomes pregnant by Thara's bo ...more
May 31, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Disobedient Girl; by Ru Freeman is an ambitious debut novel set in Sri Lanka with a theme of class and servitude. The story is told in alternating chapters about two central female characters. Latha is a young servant girl to a wealthy family that includes Thara, a girl about the same age as Latha.

Latha longs for the finer things in life and believes she was meant to have more in life than bathing at the well. She steals a bar of fine rose soap and sneaks off to bathe, using the soap belonging
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ru Freeman’s gorgeous debut novel A Disobedient Girl opens with eleven-year-old Latha enjoying her daily indulgence—an afternoon wash at the well using a rose-scented soap. The soap is a symbol of status and she has stolen it from the Vithanages, a family raising her to be a servant for Thara, their same-age daughter. As they grow, the two young girls become as close as sisters, but the years pass and Latha’s duties to Thara increase; she begins to bristle in her role as servant. When she and Th ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. The writing was good enough, but I found the story progression difficult. By that I mean I didn't like the way the last 1/3 or more of the book went. Also, I feel like the author made the book really authentic with all of the Indian language, but unfortunately I couldn't understand it. I got really confused with the characters having 2,3, & 4 different names/nicknames/ways of referring to one another. I also find it kind of hard to believe that a mother as supposedly as good and nurtu ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The writing style, which was circuitous and poetic, was not for me. It took me several chapters to get into the story. The storyline was not bad and the depiction of life in Sri Lanka was interesting even though the writing style made it difficult to enjoy.
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
I found this book to be absolutely fascinating, but it was also sad. I cried. I guess that says a lot about effective it is.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Latha is a servant girl to a rich high-caste family, the Vithanage's, living in Sri Lanka's largest city of Colombo. Brought to live and work for the family when she was about five years old, Latha resists the servile and humble expectations placed on her, enjoying instead her friendship with the Vithangage's daughter Thara and small luxuries like the Pear's soap she steals from them for her own use.

When she's eleven years old, Thara sets her sights on young Ajith, a high-caste boy from a wealt
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sri-lanka
I don't think I will ever recover from reading this book. I've never read a novel that had as many tragic female heroines as Ru Freeman's "A Disobedient Girl".

The story alternates between the lives of two Sri Lankan women, one being the young mother, Biso, and the other, Latha, a servant girl who wishes to be more than that.

Biso is running away with her three young children from an abusive husband. We learn that her youngest daughter is also a product of an affair that Biso had with a fellow vi
Sep 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ru Freeman's A Disobedient Girl is set in Sri Lanka and is narrated by two women, Latha and Biso, in alternating chapters. Each of these women struggles with their station in society, the desires they have to improve their lot in life, and the journey they find themselves on after making pivotal decisions. Readers also catch a glimpse of Thara and Leela's lives and struggles.

"Earrings are not decorations. They are a statement of legitimacy, of dignity, of self-worth. Ask any woman, and she would
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-meh, fiction
Lots of looonnnnggg sentences like:
The school principal still insisted that they chant this every morning, and though there were rumors that he sympathized with the people who wore red and marched with banners embroidered with the sickle and hammer on May Day, and that his job was a front for spreading a doctrine that encouraged his students to think themselves equal to the rich, and though all of that was considered dangerous and subversive, his message and, frankly, his possibly clandestine
Connie Mayo
Nov 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my Sri Lankan friend informing me that there were notable inaccuracies in this book, I liked it very much. The chapters alternate between Latha's story, told in third person, and Biso's story, told in first person, which took a little getting used to. I had no idea how the two stories connected until neat the end, and I found the end gripping - in fact, it was more of a three star book for me until the last chapters.

What I liked best about this book was Latha's consistent attitude towar
Shamidha Hameed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2009
An incredibly moving book...the ending got me. I have to admit that for most of the book I was having a hard time getting into it - I liked the characters and was interested in their story, it just seemed slow moving, I wanted the characters to come together like the jacket promises. And come together they do, at the end...only after reading it do I realize why the author had to do it that way.

I loved Latha (servant girl), was irritated by Thara (Latha's friend and later her master), hated Mrs V
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its a superb read. Ru freeman is not a writer, she is a painter who uses vivid imagery for the landscape and a touching simplicity for the characters. The characters are so alive, that you weep with them and want to cry out for their helplessness.
The story is set against the political upheavals in Sri Lanka. The story follows the daily lives of middle class families as parallel tales which culminate in the last chapter. The reader is overwhelmed in the end, but still yearns for more. I wouldn't
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe that this is a debut novel-I was so sad when I finished it because I wanted to keep reading. It was filled with sweetness, heartbreak, challenge and strength and I just loved it. It was like reading two books in one-both of which were excellent. I look forward to Ru Freeman's next book. I am confident that it will live up to the same standards that this one did. ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book, told in alternating chapters by Biso and Latha, is a kind of parallel story of friendship, love, and mistakes. While one starts hopeful and quickly turns sad, the other is sad and turns hopeful. The pace is a bit slow, but as you read, you begin to piece together what Biso and Latha have in common. And it's heartbreaking.

I really liked this one.
Robbin Melton
Very difficult book to read. We follow two women whose lives are destroyed in their desires to be loved. VERY slow read until the last 42 pages and then it goes by with lightening speed as it's revealed that these two womens' lives are entangled. The outcome is sad and without closure. Not sure I'd recommend as it's too slow and a tad confusing through the bulk of the book. ...more
Seth the Zest
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2011
Few books are as intricately woven together from the start. By the halfway point, I thought I knew how the two stories in the novel wove together. The novel surprised me by continuously adding layers of intersection to the novel. It's outstanding and I have a signed copy. ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts off slow, but once it picks up it really pulls you in. I felt really emotional as I started to put together Latha's backstory. It's an extremely well written book ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Suffered from the over's - overwritten, overwrought, over dramatic & overly detailed. ...more
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

A Disobedient Girl has been on my reading list for a while--I think it came up as a recommendation while I was reading other books taking place in Sri Lanka. However, the university library didn't have it and it also wasn't available through the public library's Overdrive system. But I needed a few other books from the brick-and-mortar public library, so I put in a request for this one as well.

The story here follows two main characters,
Pam Parker
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, debut
This story was a slow-starter for me, but once I realized what my problem was, I was embarrassed. I'd had zero-exposure/experience with Sri Lanka before this book and found I struggled with the foreign-sounding names and diminutives. Once I got over myself and got used to them (for me, it helped adding an audio listen to this book along with reading it), I fell in love with the book. Freeman gives us alternating chapters from the perspective of Latha, who we first meet as a young servant girl in ...more
Gail Glaser
I really enjoyed this book and have appreciate the descriptions of Sri Lankin culture. It makes me curious to learn more! I enjoyed the main characters and how their lives intertwined. The book was a bit slow moving but still held my interest. The last 50+ pages were “page turners”! I was a bit disappointed of the one characters demise and thought she gave in way to easy. It didn’t seem believable to me, but hey it’s a different culture, so whom am I to judge to harshly? I would read a second bo ...more
Dec 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read. Set in Sri Lanka, a story told from the point of view of two women Latha and Biso. The story kept me engaged and I wanted to know more. However I struggled as I did not feel that I could 100% understand the context and background each story was set in. Freedman assumes a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader about Sri Lankan history and even Sinhala words. I wasn’t even sure what years each woman’s story was set in. Whilst this didn’t give me a true insight into context I do ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Sep 10, 2015 04:38PM  
Why do you think Thara treated Latha the way she did? 2 12 Sep 13, 2011 07:19PM  
Disobedient Teens 1 13 Apr 28, 2011 09:14AM  

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Ru Freeman (b. 1967) is a Sri Lankan born writer and activist whose creative and political work has appeared internationally.

She is the author of the novels A Disobedient Girl (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2009), and On Sal Mal Lane (Graywolf Press), a NYT Editor’s Choice Book. Both novels have been translated into multiple languages including Italian, French, Turkish, Dutch, and Chinese.

She is edito

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