Evanston Public Library's Reviews > Evening Is the Whole Day

Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
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Jan 30, 2009

I don’t know if Tolstoy ever considered visiting Malaysia (or even if he was aware of its existence), but he would have been interested to find that his belief about unhappy families holds true there, too. It’s hard to say who is the unhappiest member of the Balakrishnan family. Is it Chellam, the much abused and scorned house servant? Maybe it’s Paati, the unreasonable demanding, paranoid grandmother who detests her daughter-in-law and misses the attentions of her grandchildren. But, no, I think it’s Aasha the youngest child, a six year old who doesn’t understand why she’s suddenly being ignored by her beloved older sister Uma who has withdrawn into her own world of college catalogs and wardrobe shopping as she prepares to go off to the U.S. for school. Appa and Amma (mom and dad) go through the motions of a proper upper class family though they barely have a civil word or thought for each other. Amma doesn’t even like her own kids very much.

This is a tale of a very unhappy family set during the turmoil of the 1980s as Malaysia’s newly independent populace sorts itself out. The second and third generation Indians (civil servants, veddy much enamored of their former British overseers and the lifestyle they established) and the Chinese (the thriving merchant class) are vying for political power with the native Malays, who are considered to be unsophisticated local rubes likely to ruin the country. Author Samarasan paints a rich portrait of a culture and a time as well as limning characters who can be found the world over. (Barbara L., Reader's Services)
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