8 Sep 2010

"Evening is the Whole Day"

Preeta Samarasan's book Evening is the Whole Day is about an Indian family in Malaysia  and has been out since 2008, but I've just finished reading it today. The book is rich in detail and  beautifully crafted though at times she does go over the top. However for a first time writer, I'd say it's a marvellous attempt and really good,  slightly skewed though it may be where the racial politics are concerned.

The novel is about  young Aasha Rajasekaran and her family - brother Suresh, Amma (mother), Appa (father) her sister Uma who at the beginning of the novel leaves for the US to study and the grandmother, who has died but has returned as a ghost. No its not a ghost story, but Aasha who is 6 years old at the beginning of the story, for some strange reasons, seems to be able to see spirits. Most of the events in the story are seen through the eyes of Aasha, who seem to be left alone much of the time and who longs to be heard and played with by her sister Uma or even Chellam, the maid. But Paati, the grandmother has died in mysterious circumstances and the maid Chellam is suddenly dismissed without any reason given. Uma has left for a country so far away. And even if she did not leave, Uma had changed. She was no longer the laughing happy Uma who loved to talk to her little sister but a quiet, sullen older sister who neither laughed nor talked.

The book gives us glimpses of life in Malaysia in the 1960s - just after independence. Some critics say that Preeta's view of Malaysia is too limiting but I believe that she's not a historian and this is not a history text. It's a novel about a family - with all its secrets and its hopes and dreams. Its a strong novel, with no illusions and a lot of honesty. But what caught me right from the beginning are her descriptions - they are almost poetic in their beauty, whether she's describing her characters or the landscape. The stories, for there are many stories within this story, are not pretty though - they are brutally honest - men who beat their wives after drinking toddy (illegal alcoholic drink), men who have mistresses on the side, murder and incest, a father too intent on his own activities, a mother who is shallow and often cruel. The plot is sometimes complicated as the writer weaves her stories of private miseries with public events of the day and she uses a lot of flashbacks as it goes back and forth. The stories unfold like a tapestry - rich, colourful, unforgettable. A book I'd recommend to anybody who likes a well-woven tale.

The other book I'd just finished reading is Lisa Kleypas' book - Sugar Daddy. Earlier I'd read her regency romances and though they were okay, I didn't find them great, not as enjoyable as Georgette Heyer's books or Mary Balough either. However somebody mentioned that her contemporay novels were better so I decided to look for one. And after reading Sugar Daddy, I find that I want to read the sequel - Blue-eyed Devil.
Sugar Daddy is written in the first person narrative, about a girl Liberty Jones. Its more of a finding yourself type of book. A romance, but slightly different from the usual. I really liked the heroine - Liberty, who is spunky, loyal and very much a fighter. We see her as a young girl living in a trailer park  with a flighty mother who has a string of boyfriends that come and go. The first time she moves to the park, she is rescued from two dogs by Hardy, a good looking, hardened boy. She is struck by his good looks and falls in love with him. But Hardy is ambitious and wants to get away from his poverty stricken life in the trailer park.So even though he cares for her, he leaves her behind and moves on. Liberty also loves her mother and baby sister, whom she brings up by herself after her mother's death.   LIke Hardy, Liberty struggles to improve her life and becomes a beautician at a well known beauty salon. Here she meets Travis, a multi-millionaire who wants her to become his personal assistant. But staying at his house she discovers a lot of things about him, including some deeply kept secrets. She meets his family, especially his eldest son, Gage, who accuses her of sleeping with his father! Just as things begin to improve for this spunky girl, along comes Hardy  back into her life. Will he spoil things for Liberty?

The style is quite straightforward, but I like her characters - they are lively and realistic, especially the kindly Miss Marva. I'd give this book a 3+ star rating. Fairly good reading, interesting plot and character development. Keepd you entertained.


Blodeuedd said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

I do like the sound of the first. And like you said, it's not a history book but a book about a family. And I think I would like it for just that reason

naida said...

Evening is the Whole Day sounds interesting Kat. I always enjoy poetic descriptions and writing in books.
I've heard about Sugar Daddy. It sounds like a nice romance.


Kat said...

Hi back Blodeuedd and Naida,
Glad you liked the review. Yes I enjoyed reading the both books. The second is more relaxing, not so introspective but the first was really good.