Tze-Wen's Reviews > The Girl in the Garden

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
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's review
Sep 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: india, audiobook

The novel starts off with the protagonist, Rakhee Singh, newly engaged and writing a letter to her fiance. It's clear from the beginning that something unspeakable happened in her past, an event that led to the separation of mother and daughter.
At this crossroads in her life, Rakhee has to decide to either continue down the path she has chosen for herself years ago, or to break free and divulge her secrets to her beloved. Indeed, what exactly happened during that summer of her eleventh birthday, when she left her American hometown of Plainfield behind for a holiday abroad?
I have to admit that I wasn't immediately captured by the storyline, nor did I enjoy it all the way through. It definitely has its weak points, which is why I did not feel compelled to finish the audiobook in a hurry.
What I did like about The Girl in the Garden was the vividness and detail with which rural India was described. Nair (and the narrator, Gandhi) does a wonderful job transporting the reader to this excluded, exotic and and dusty place called Ashoka. The main characters are well developed and Rakhee, caught between childhood and puberty, is just the girl she should be: neither particularly likable or disagreeable. She is most definitely self-centered, but that is to be expected in her situation. The further the story advances, the more the reader realizes how few allies Rakhee has. Who can she trust? Who was not involved in the hush-up of the family's secret long ago? And where is her father when she needs him?
On the other hand, the storytelling was sometimes too elaborate, and life in the country very boring and slow indeed. I also thought there was too much melodrama here and there, but not so much that it did not fit into the story. I am still in doubt whether I liked the ending or not. You could say that a tale that has touches of magical realism (and a whole lot of bad stuff, let's not forget that) woven into it, should have a corresponding ending. From that perspective, Nair created the perfect ending.

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