Claudia Putnam's Reviews > Someone Else's Garden

Someone Else's Garden by Dipika Rai
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really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction

Different from most of what I've happened to have read coming out of India in that it deals with low-caste rural women. It's a love story--it seems that this is unavoidable in Indian storytelling right now--but while it's respectful of certain areas of Indian cultural tradition, it certainly doesn't romanticize anything having to do with the caste system, feudalism (still very much alive), or the treatment of women in general. And the love story, I feel, is mostly in compensation for what would otherwise be an almost unbearably dark tale.

It's worth it, though, for what you learn, and for the vividness of the world Rai renders, and for the compelling characters. The writing is lovely, with a few hitches here and there--it's a debut novel and quite accomplished. I was a bit confused by the sub-theme with the bandits--why they were raiding such poor people in the first place rather than focusing on the landlords, and how the surrender vs a trial was getting anyone anywhere, though I did see why it was necessary to the development of the character of Mamta's brother. I also wondered whether Mamta's mother would have had such a clear grasp on all of the aspects of the goddesses. I've been told by some religious leaders that in general the lay folk in India, whether rural or not, and even higher caste, do not always have a very deep understanding of all of the layers. They make their offerings and that's about it. It felt as though the author wanted to share *her* knowledge with her readers in that part of the book. But it also seemed as though there was more to Lata Bai than met the eye, so I wasn't sure. I suppose anyone might be more attuned if they pay attention, just as one Catholic layperson might be more aware of some of the saints than another.

In general an engrossing read that opened me to a world I knew almost nothing about. Highly recommended.


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Reading Progress

March 23, 2015 – Shelved
March 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
April 16, 2015 – Started Reading
December 7, 2015 – Finished Reading
February 7, 2016 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

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