Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | January 30, 2010

snow day and another book down

Today we got snow. That’s not a big thing for much of the country, but here in NC, that is a highly unusual, once a year kind of event. The city seriously shut down. We went out for dinner since we were suffering from cabin fever and even Mickey D’s was closed. I kid not.

Anyway, the munchkin seems to have just been wiped out by having been sick and the craziness of a snow day so I forced a nap onto her. It was either that or I would have lost my mind. She was tired enough that even with a nap she went to bed at a reasonable hour.  Actually, knock on wood, getting her to sleep these days hasn’t been that bad. I have some new routines in place that seem to be working. Thank goodness for small favors. While she took her nap, I finished my fifth book of the year.  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone.

A Disobedient Girl: A Novel A Disobedient Girl: A Novel by Ru Freeman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A Disobedient Girl is the story of three very different women in Sri Lanka told from the voices of two of them. The reader doesn’t get a clear sense of the time line except that one story is told in flashbacks over the course of a train trip and the other is over a number of years.

The book jacket says that this novel is about “betrayal and salvation, the strength of the human spirit, and the boundlessness and limits of love.” Personally, I think that is pushing it a bit far. For me, this novel was more about position, sense of self, class, family and secrecy.

The narrators are Biso and Latha and the book alternates between their stories, which we are told are interwoven. Biso is a mother of three who has just left her abusive husband and is traveling to what she hopes is her salvation. Not only was her husband abusive, but Biso had had an affair and her husband murdered her lover. On her journey away from her husband, she meets strangers both good and bad, and as the book jacket says, her journey turns from hopeful to disastrous.

Latha we meet when she is eleven years old. The opening sentence of the book characterizes this young girl – “She loved fine things and she had no doubt that she deserved them.” Unfortunately, she is a servant in the Vithanage household. She grows up as a playmate to their daughter Thara, but as she hits her early teenage years, she is allowed to socialize less and required to work more. When she asks to be given some of the money she feels she deserves for working in order to buy a pair of sandals, she is refused. She overhears Madam Vithanage say that it is time for her to stop going to school and start learning how to “cook and clean and get ready to be a proper servant.” That statement burns her so badly that she vows revenge and does it the only way that she knows how – she lures Thara’s boyfriend away in order to cause Thara to become miserable and then fail in school which would apparently crush Mrs. Vithanage. Her plan somewhat backfires when she gets pregnant. For some reason, after having the baby at a convent, Latha comes back to work for Thara when she gets married and that is what parts 2 and 3 of the book cover.

I finished the book, but I was just willing it to end rather than hoping it would last just a few pages more. I wanted to read it to see if it got better, but it didn’t. At the beginning you feel something for the characters, but that seems to fall away as you continue to read. I felt more towards Biso, but her story just got boring. I don’t know much about Sri Lanka, but for a novel, that shouldn’t really matter. I just don’t see how this is such a spectacular debut. It definitely makes you think about how little things can change your life and about the master/servant relationship, but that’s not a reason to read a book.

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