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Madras on Rainy Days: 12/15/09
I had just finished reading North from Calcutta by Duane Evans and was thinking of the Business World review which complained about the lack of Indian literary fiction written by actual Indians. The article contended there was plenty of pulp fiction published every year but rarely was it written in English or translated into English. India was therefore left to outsiders to represent itself to the rest of the world.
I don't know how valid the Business World observation is but it did get me to thinking and I had it in mind when my eyes were attracted by the beautiful colors on the cover of Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali. A quick look at the author info on the back jacket flap and I saw that she had been born in Hyderabad and raised there and in the United States. I thought it a perfect book to use to expand my horizons.
Madras on Rainy Days focuses on an arranged marriage. A nineteen year old Muslim woman has been called home from the United States to marry a man she has never met. She has come home though bleeding from an unplanned pregnancy. She is damaged goods but her family has so much riding on the marriage that she doesn't tell anyone her secret, instead allowing them to believe she might be possessed by demons.
Her miscarriage is one of two elephants in the room that everyone pretends not see. The other is her husband's homosexuality. Both secrets are revealed in the context of Indian Muslim traditions and families that are somewhat broken.
I can't say I loved the novel but I did appreciate Ali's way of weaving in the rich details of Layla's marriage and day to day life in Hyderabad. She manages to engage all the senses with enough detail to paint a vivid picture even if one isn't familiar with all the words used. It's a short but ponderous novel that requires a slower than normal pace of reading.
Comment #1: Wednesday, December, 16, 2009 at 06:08:48
Well, the cover looks great... Fits your phrase of "weaving in the rich details" very well! ;)
Comment #2: Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 13:04:10
The cover art is very appropriate for the book.