On my Bookshelves: Desperate Housewives

In Europe, it is Wedding time! That is a good opportunity to talk about novels dealing with marriage. Everybody knows that marriage, looking for the right match, is a national sport in India! There are so many books about marriage! I think I am just going to talk to you about two novels I have read and liked.

Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali.

This book, as far as I can remember, is one of the first books about India I have read. I read it in French, (Jours de Pluie à Madras), which I do not like doing but, well, you cannot always do everything you want to!

Layla is Indian and muslim. She studied in the USA where she lost her virginity. She agrees to return to India and to get married. Although it is an arranged marriage, Layla does her best to be tender to her husband and ends up feeling something like a sort of love to him. However, her husband is not the man he seems to be. The disclosing of his own secret will be a real shock!

Layla’s story is a story about today’s India, a society which sways between tradition and modernity. I loved this novel! I liked the long descriptions of the different stages of a muslim wedding in India. I liked the suspens the author managed to sustain. I liked Layla who was so real, so sincere and so mature, so sensible and thoughtful. I liked the sensuality which was never dirty. I read this novel a few years ago but it is a really good memory!

 A web review at random:

extract from a review by Curledup.com

At one point in the novel, Layla gripes: “Growing up, it was always so confusing to be in both places. I would go to school there and all the kids would point and say, ‘Hey, look, the Indian girl is back.’ Then I’d suddenly be dropped into school here, and the girls would say, ‘The American is back.’ I never fit in.” This complaint might be standard issue immigrant angst, but Ali’s prose does a good job of detailing lives that are bent over by many societal expectations. It is to Ali’s credit that by novel’s end, we can see that Layla and her husband Sameer are products of their unique, individual circumstances. One begins to feel sorry for both of them.

The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

 I promise, I will stop saying « I loved this book » but what can I say else?  

Nina arrives in Canada after an arranged marriage with Ananda, aka Andy, a dentist who immigrated like her a few years ago. Although she is rather optimistic in India, the change of country does not fit her and her relationship with her husband is not what she expected. She feels as a stranger, which is what she is, and she fits nowhere. Andy does not seem to bother about her; he is so absessed with his own problem of premature ejaculation and his attraction to blond-haired girls. Nina’s marriage is doomed to fail.

The Immigrant is about uprooting and boredom. Nina is a kind of Emma Bovary who does not really expect anything and who lives her depression in a kind of melancholic submission, contrary to Flaubert’s heroine whose unfulfilled dreams took her to the worst. Manju Kapur knows how to tell stories of common people, in a down-to-earth way but softly and tenderly, without ever manhandling her reader.

Instead of trying to find an extract to make you read, I show you this review from Youtube. The girl seems quite funny with her side poney tail, her comic tee-shirt and her loud voice but she really talks about this book very well. She didn’t like the book because she found there was no emotion and the different events were set coldly one after the other. For my part, I think that is what makes this book so charming and special. Manju Kapur’s style creates the atmosphere in the story, the coldness between a wife and her husband who are strangers in the country where they live, and strangers in their marriage.

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