Friday, March 14, 2014

G211 Book Review of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas

Name of Book: Of Marriageable Age

Author: Sharon Maas

ISBN: 0-00651325-5

Publisher: Harper Collins

Type of book: India, South America, racism, butterflies, doctor, healing, 1920s-1970s?, England, Interracial love story, World War II, education

Year it was published: 1999

Summary:

A spellbinding story of forbidden love, spanning three continents and three decades. Set against the Independence struggles of two British colonies, Of Marriageable Age is ultimately a story of personal triumph against a brutal fate, brought to life by a multicultural cast of characters:

Savitri, intuitive and charismatic, grows up among the servants of a pre-war English household in the Raj. But the traditional customs of her Brahmin family clash against English upper-class prejudice, threatening her love for the privileged son of the house.

Nataraj, raised as the son of an idealistic doctor in rural South India, finds life in London heady, with girls and grass easily available… until he is summoned back home to face raw reality.

Saroj, her fire hidden by outward reserve, comes of age in Guyana, South America. When her too-strict, orthodox Hindu father proves to have feet of clay she finally rebels against him... and even against her gentle, apparently docile Ma.

But Ma harbours a deep secret… one that binds these three so disparate lives and hurtles them towards a truth that could destroy their world.

Characters:

There are three main characters that are important, which are Nat, Saroj and Savitri. Each one lives in a different time line and has different goals as well as desires. Nat grows up in an isolated area, has an early interest in becoming a doctor as well as an interesting healing power and is raised by a mysterious white doctor up until he decides to travel to London and nearly loses himself in vices. Saroj grows up in British Guiana in South America and is a descendant of a Brahmin family. She is willful, and has a goal of becoming a more modern woman than what her father plans to do, which is to marry her off. There is also Savitri who is innocent, sweet, gentle and a doting daughter who grows up in India and falls in love with the British family's only son as well as heir.

Theme:

You never know which way your life will go or how you are linked to people

Plot:

Its written in third person narrative from Nat's, Saroj's and Savitri's points of views, although at times she does switch to minor characters' points of views for a brief time before returning to the main character. Each chapter is named after the character, although I personally would have liked there to be a few more years in headings because the reader is flipping through three separate time-lines and at times its difficult to recall how much time has passed, as well as brief character sheet listing the family relationships to one another. (For example, Saroj's family, or Nat's or Savitri's family.)

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
in Georgetown, Guyana 
gender
female

website

twitter username

member since
October 2010


About this author

Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951.

She was educated in Guyana and England. After leaving school she worked as a trainee reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown, Guyana. She later wrote feature articles for the Sunday Chronicle as a staff journalist.

She spent 1971 and 1972 travelling around Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia; her serialised account of the trip were published in the Guyana Chronicle. In 1973 she travelled overland to India via England, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. After almost two years in India she moved to Germany, and still lives there after three and a half decades.

Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published in 1999 by HarperCollins, and is set in India and Guyana. Two further novels, Peacocks Dancing and The Speech of Angels, followed.

Her latest book is Sons of Gods -- the Mahabharata Retold, a new version of the magnificent Indian epic. She has been working on it for 30 years, and only now has decided it's ready to go out into the world.

Opinion:

What does a boy living in 1940s training to be a doctor in in Tamil has in common with a girl living in 1950s in British Guiana as well as another girl living in India during 1920s? This is one secret I will not reveal. I found Of Marriageable Age to be a beautiful and enchanting story of culture, forbidden love, hidden stories and secrets as well as secrets of philosophy to be written. Instantly I was drawn to the characters, although at times I had slight frustrations because every chapter alternated from a different point of view and in many cases years and years have passed when we meet the characters again and again, which also has caused me a few times to forget the family relationships. My favorite character has to be Savitri, for strangely enough she has really nestled inside my heart, a caterpillar seeking to become a beautiful butterfly. The images I often recall from the book include Savitri as a young girl finding a soul-mate in her playmate, or else being compared to a butterfly. The butterfly as well as the title do play a huge role within the story, although I often thought that as a child, Savitri was already a butterfly, sort of a reverse of coming of age story I guess. Of Marriageable Age, the title, refers to the other two characters, Nat and Saroj, in particular when a girl turns to a woman, I believe. There are lots of twists and turns within the book, and what did impress me is that she begins to drop some hints early enough, although one cannot be certain until the very end of how three characters with three different backgrounds become linked.

Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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