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Desirable Daughters

(Three Sisters from Calcutta #1)

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,703 ratings  ·  141 reviews
In the tradition of the Joy Luck Club, Bharati Mukherjee has written a remarkable novel that is both the portrait of a traditional Brahmin Indian family and a contemporary American story of a woman who has in many ways broken with tradition but still remains tied to her native country.

Mukherjee follows the diverging paths taken by three extraordinary Calcutta-born sisters

Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 12th 2003 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.33  · 
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 ·  1,703 ratings  ·  141 reviews

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Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, fiction
As fascinating as I find the Indian subcontinent and as much as I want to learn the differences between the cultures, languages and religions of India, reading this book was mostly just frustrating.

Not sure if it's just the fact that the book focuses on the woes of the Bengali elite (ouch, my gold necklace is so heavy, I think I'm developing scoliosis!) or that the heroine of the story never manages to grow a spine (and yet she's suppose to be this independent, modern woman!) or all these surro
Nov 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Why I picked this book up, I couldn't tell you, but after getting through the first portions, it seemed to pick up steam and I liked it more than I would have thought. I enjoyed the gossipy commentary on family and immigrant life, especially on ones who went against the prescribed grain of Indian expectations, but never so far away that there was a total loss of identity. The book is about uncovered truths---ones hidden, others buried deep inside, some menacing, and of gradual uncovering. Some o ...more
Naheed Hassan
Desirable Daughters is primarily the story of Tara Lata, one of three sisters and the namesake of an ancient grand-aunt who became a Tree Bride. The story is slow to progress and doesn't really have much of a plot. What it does do, is paint a fascinating picture of Brahmin elitist life in Calcutta, the bhadralok as they are known. We get a glimpse of a lost time, an age of protected innocence where a 'Loreto school girl' epitomized class and culture and groomed to become a good wife. The story d ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
Another fascinating novel involving the lives of immigrants to the US. In this case, 3 daughters grew up in Calcutta where their beauty was praised and where they attended excellent schools. Years later, the youngest is a divorced single mother in CA whose life changes drastically when a conman approaches her and proves to be very dangerous. The exciting plot keeps leaping ahead while one also learns about different ways of thinking for Indians. A terrific book.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The beginning of the book was no where near intriguing honestly have no idea what the introduction had any symbolic connection to the rest of the book it was like a waste of a chapter. The middle was a bit interesting except when she flew into details and I totally lost my focus, and the words aren't clear with whats going on and whats happening. I didn't like how they were trying to assimilate into America they made it seem impossible like they did not belong and I must say that is sooooo untru ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book was annoying to read. I kept waiting for some sort of climax or turning point and was disappointed. I really didn't even like the main character I found her annoying and odd. ...more
Kristin Dittmann
Apr 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
Very disappointing. Though we’ll written with and full of many interesting details (especially the colorful description of the vast and diverse Indian community in Jackson Heights), I found the characters and plot unfocused and dull. There was some suspense that did not pan out in a very interesting way, and the last few chapters were dreadfully anticlimactic.
Stef Rozitis
I felt keen to learn something about Indian culture and themes, and I tried to argue myself into trying harder to connect with these charcters than I would usually do, to assume my disjunction with them might stem from a "lost in translation" experience. But no, I actually think I found them unrelatable because they were so very rich and casually/blindly privileged. For all that Tara refers to her wealth multiple time in a semi-apologetic way (and she comes across as a semi-apologetic doormat in ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book had me at the first page. I consider myself to be one with my culture, so when this book came as a recommendation I immediately got into it.

What Mukherjee did was to transpose values of old into her story to create a perspective that went deeper than the words on her pages. She hit on some pertinent aspects of Indian culture and provided the consequences of what would happen when questions go unanswered.

The story is a tale of three sisters, whose lives, though separate and different,
Jan 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
The book is great at describing the Indian caste system, with its many ingrained and much accepted prejudices, and talks a lot about the politics of Indian culture. Because of this, however, the story line is fragmented and weak. I found myself becoming bored by the author's monotonous and rather unnecessary descriptions of events and places, and lack of depth at the story line. It left open holes and unanswered questions. It was an interesting look into Indian high society/caste, but otherwise ...more
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is a very decent average book. The prose is decent. The story is decent. In about the middle of the book I thought it was going to surpass decent, but sadly that was the high point. Too many of the characters were cliches. The ending seemed tacked on, but not by a high quality tack that you know will hold something on a wall. Rather, it was as if the wall on which the author attempted to attach the ending was made of a non-sticky surface and unfortunately scotch tape, the author's choi ...more
Sep 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ugh. I find Bharati Mukerjee's voice to be inauthentic and a little pretentious. As a second-generation Indian-American, I wanted to laugh out loud when she tried to get into the head of an immigrant's child that grew up in the US. I keep getting that sense from her that everything Indian is negative, especially the men, and that she is a bit of a snob. After reading this, I found it difficult to read any more of her books. ...more
Holly Bond
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
I cannot say I remember much about this book, which might be information... ;)

What I do remember is how long the author would go on about how beautiful Bengali women are and while I'm sure that's quite true, it got to be too much.

Yeah, that's all I really remember about it. That's probably not a good sign. But, since I can't really remember thinking "this is rubbish!" I gave it 3 stars just to be equitable. :)
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed. This was not the typical Mukherjee novel that intricately weaves plot lines with history. Although she attempted to do this with Desirable Daughters, I was left feeling like I lurched from one idea to another. Perhaps it was her intent to make the reader feel what Tara, the main character grapples with during her identity crisis; however, it left me frustrated and often re-reading, thinking I had missed something when I hadn't. I only finished the book because I started it. ...more
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
it was quite good but it could have been promised a lot, great premise, good start but somewhere became is very middle-class Indian in its sensibilities and captures the typical mindset very aptly
Kelsey Keller
Oct 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Personally, this book was not my favorite. The way it is written leaves me confused and the whole novel is just all over the place. I would not recommend.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Desirable Daughters seems to cross a lot of literary lines. It doesn't quite read like fiction, but it's not obviously autobiographical, either, and the main character is often quite unlikeable or, as one of my teachers used to like to say, "Too true to be good." At times, it seemed that the author was trying to fit too many things into a single book and the reader is drowned in detail. Even the many, many family names become hard to keep track of, for non-Indian readers. I read The Autobiograph ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
A story of a badralok Kolkota family with three beautiful daughters - Brahmin, conservative and anglicised, convent school education, the 'correct' marriage etc. But times were changing rapidly and life leads the three girls along divergent paths. The story is told by Tara, the youngest, who has been divorced from her highly successful, Bengali husband and is a single mother to a young teenage son. Things and events from the past come to shake her romantic memories of the childhood years. Events ...more
Akalpita Varwandkar
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This book had an interesting plot line and I had been wanting to read it for a long time. Yet when I did, it was just okay. Maybe I expected more. Some aspects like the 'love hate' relationship between the sisters, the easy camaraderie between the exes and the confusion of 'right way to raise a child singlehanded' are very relatable yet the main crux of the story was handled terribly. The end is far outstretched and seems written to be just done with the story. Would have been nice if 'chris fac ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This could have been a better book. The author introduces a conflict originating from a family secret. The conflict has a climax, but no resolution. Grrr. The main character seems to be at peace by the end, but that's situationally temporary. I really enjoyed the Bengali subculture, the way the three sisters each expressed their strict old-fashioned upbringing, and Bish, the main character Tara's arranged marriage husband. I didn't get much of a feeling for their teenage son, but that was probab ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Desirable Daughters has a beautiful cultural backdrop as its basis, and at times I truly felt submerged in Tara's way of life and her unique perspective on life's path. I however was not impressed with the plot. It lacked substance in some instances, and at other times I felt it was not properly developed. Some chapters didn't adequately mesh with others and at times it seemed as if I was reading a completely different novel.

I very much enjoyed Ms. Mukherjee's writing style and her use of colorf
Terry Polston
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
The details of how each segment of Indian society is viewed is interesting and complicated. It's also very one dimensional with no room for personal thoughts. All Brahmin think this way and all Parsi behave this way. Family names are important, for marriage Chatterjees and Mujherjees are okay and in a pinch Bhattacharjees, Gangulys or Lahiris. Like every person with the same family name is identical.
I am too American to put too much stock in that way of thinking.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 stars, rounding up. I enjoyed eavesdropping on all the family dynamics and hearing a liberated woman tell her story. There were some good twists and lots of beautiful prose, but the very beginning and very end didn’t feel as tied to the whole as I would have liked, and I found myself longing for more resolution. I’m usually a fan of open endings—maybe this is me just wanting any scrap of certainty during a pandemic.
Simi Kaur
Mukherjee captures the struggle of Indian families immigrating to a Western country and how this affects their relationships with people and their culture. It is interesting to see how she weaves in her experiences with Americans as well as other Indians in the same situation. There is a form of nostalgia and empathy I felt with Tara on some levels.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I waited the whole book for something to happen or it to turn. I found this book confusing and boring, was a struggle to get through. The only part I appreciated was learning more about Indian cultures.
Smitha Murthy
Oh, this was a torture read. I had no idea what happened in this rambling tome of a book.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
This could have been a good book, but the pacing was completely off. The writing itself wasn't terrible. Amusingly my town was featured. Good job, Montclair. ...more
Matt Neely
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Felt somehow "dated" and too fantastic. ...more
Interesting story of a family in a culture I knew nothing about. At the end of the book, I reread the opening pages and understood the story much better.
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Bharati Mukherjee was an Indian-born award winning American writer who explored the internal culture clashes of her immigrant characters in the award-winning collection The Middleman and Other Stories and in novels like Jasmine and Desirable Daughters.

Ms. Mukherjee, a native of Calcutta, attended schools in England, Switzerland and India, earned advanced degrees in creative writing in the United S

Other books in the series

Three Sisters from Calcutta (3 books)
  • The Tree Bride
  • Miss New India

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