A wonderful novel in two parts, moving from the heart of a close-knit Indian household, with its restrictions and prejudices, its noisy warmth and sensual appreciation of food, to the cool centre of an American family, with its freedom and strangely self-denying attitudes to eating. In both it is ultimately the women who suffer, whether, paradoxically, from a surfeit of feasting and family life in India, or from self-denial and starvation in the US. Or both. Uma, the plain, older daughter still lives at home, frustrated in her attempts to escape and make a life for herself. Her Indian family is difficult, demanding but mostly, good-hearted. Despite her disappointments, Uma comes through as the survivor, avoiding an unfulfilling marriage, like her sister's, or a suicidal one, like that arranged for her pretty cousin. And in America, where young Arun goes as a student, men in the suburbs char hunks of bleeding meat while the women don't appear to cook or eat at all - seems bewildering and terrifying to the young Indian adolescent far from home...
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(198mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
This is Desai at her best, painfully and wittily perceptive about close but destructive families. The novel is divided into two parts: in India, Mama and Papa dominate the family through domestic and social ritual, constricting their children's lives. The pretty daughter is married off, disastrously. The plain, passionate one is trapped at home by duty of the wrong sort. Meanwhile, the idolized only son is educated to within an inch of his life. In the second part of the book this bewildered boy is at college in the USA, boarding with a family that is dysfunctional in a completely different way - but here too, a daughter's life is being stultified. In both cultures an obsession with food - and Desai is mercilessly funny about both Indian and American eating habits - is a substitute for the understanding craved by the emotionally starved young people caught up, in the West as in the East, in 'the sugar-sticky world of family conflict'. Shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. Review by VICTORIA GLENDINNING Editor's note: Victoria Glendinning's books include Jonathan Swift. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Anita Desai
Anita Desai was born and educated in India. Her published works include many award-winning short story collections and novels, three of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, most recently Fasting, Feasting. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and lives in New York State.