Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: In the convent of Little Flowers

Book: In the Convent of Little Flowers
Genre: Collection of Short Stories
Author: Indu Sundaresan
My short review: Heartbreaking stories, very realistic situations and characters, simple but powerful writing, thought provoking and highly enjoyable!
My rating: 5 full stars, of course!

Books by Indian authors are “comfort books” for me. As much as I love being in Atlanta, I totally miss India. I miss jostling my way through crowded streets, sneaking out with my brother and eating on “forbidden” roadside stalls, standing on the balcony on Sunday mornings and figuring out what my neighbors are having for lunch just by the scents relayed to me by the breeze, haggling with hawkers and auto rickshaw drivers, hmm!

I love reading books set in India – books in which the sights and smells are palpable - books that take me back home. “In the Convent of Little Flowers” was no exception. I totally loved the book! Thanks to the author, Indu Sundaresan, for sending it to me!

“In the Convent of Little Flowers” is a collection of nine short stories. At the end of the book, Indu has described how she came up with the idea for each of the stories in the book. I found that section very interesting. I was fascinated to read that the idea for each story came from real incidents – incidents that she got to know either through news tidbits, emails, discussion with friends, etc - Events that she pondered about until a new story was born out of it. She fictionalized the news tidbit and created fascinating stories! I cannot do justice to the description of the book. I loved it that much.

Indu Sundaresan is an extremely talented writer. Her characters are very real – so real that you almost feel that you know that in your actual life. She has a fascinating style of writing. You are pulled into the story from the very first line and you cannot put the book down until you’ve read the very last. And when you are done reading the last story, it only makes you sad because you want to keep reading more!

The stories are all about Indians and most of the stories are set in India. In each story, there is a clash between the culture, customs and traditions being followed in India for generations and the new ideals that are slowly seeping into the minds of youngsters these days. Each story is very unique in its own way. Some were emotional, some horrifying, and one totally scandalous!

The stories evoked very strong responses in me. I was on the verge of tears when I read “Three and a half seconds”. It was heartbreaking to read about an abusive son who ill treats his meek and hardworking parents. In yet another story, I could almost feel the Peon’s shame when his beautiful daughter has a child out of wedlock. And when I read about the village where a child was not only forced to marry an old man but also jump into his funeral pyre to show her dedication towards him, I wanted to run there and throttle the necks of her parents!
I really enjoyed this book. I just cannot find the words to describe how much I liked it. One reason I really enjoyed the book was because of the setting. The stories were set in places that were familiar to me. I could relate to the emotions of the people and their thought processes. Having grown up in India I have felt the internal dilemma between behaving according to traditions and following your mind to do what seems appropriate in today's world. Indu beautifully brings out the clash in her stories.

I am not sure if someone who’s never been in India would be affected the same way I was while reading the book. I’d be curious to see how they’d see the book. Have you read the book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Haven’t read this book? I would totally recommend you to grab a copy of this one!


S. Krishna said...

Wonderful review! I found myself nodding along while I was reading it, I felt the exact same way about the book! Though I don't have childhood memories of India (I was born in Texas), I still absolutely loved this book. And I know exactly what you meant when you wrote that "Three and a Half Seconds" evoked tears. I seriously had to close the book and reflect after that story to keep from crying.

Ramya said...

I actually did that for all the stories. I had to put the book down for some time and then think about it for sometime. Short stories have never affected me this much in the past! I am glad you reviewed this book earlier. I would never have found it otherwise!:)

bethany said...

wow, I will add this to my wish list for sure....why do you keep doing that to me?!?! My wishlist will be never ending if I keep visiting your blog. I am an Indian lit junkie that is all I can say.

Thanks for reading and reviewing this.

I know what you are saying about being homesick. I have been sooo homesick lately. My parents still live in Spain, and that is where I grew up...but I look fully american because my parents are americans. I don't wish that I didn't miss it....I love Spain, I just wish people could understand it easier. Spain is my homeland.

Thanks for writing this touching review.

Ramya said...

lol!!:) I am just returning your favor. Your blog's been disastrous to my reading pile. I have My Antonia sitting right on top of the pile right now and I know where I read about that one!:)

And isn't homesickness the best and the worst possible thing? I am sure i wouldn't appreciate India this much if I had continued staying there.. but I still miss it so much!:)
Do you visit Spain often??

bethany said...

The last time we all went was almost 5 years ago, when my oldest (Jackson) was 2 months old. I am acheing inside to go back again really makes me sad to think about it.

I don't know if this happens to you, but the funny thing is when I do go back I am cured of being homesick. That happens I think because I am homesick for the friends I had when I was young, the long days outside playing soccer in the streets long after life is not that anymore, and not that I would want it to be, but it is so different every time I go. For that reason I keep telling my hubby that I need to go back to get cured for another 4 years :)

How long have you been living outside of Inida for? I always wonder if the same thing happens to other ex pats, if when you go back it is bittersweet as things have changed and so have you.

Lezlie said...

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Sathej said...

Thats a beautiful review Ramya! Seems to be a really touching book. Shall pick it up sometime..and the first few lines - so true..those are some of the things that I always cherish..looking out of the balcony on a Sunday afternoon and finding the busy city very tranquil..and so on. There are lots of things to this nice country :)

Dar said...

Wow Ramya, what a beautiful and powerful review. I think for you having lived in India it makes this book much more real for you. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I have to say that you've also added another one to my wish list. I'm still trying to get to the other recommendations you made and I purchased. lol.

bermudaonion said...

Wonderful review.

Ramya said...

@bethany - 5 years ago? Man! That's a really long period! I have been here in the US for nearly 4 years now.. But I did manage to sneak a trip back to India this summer:) Most of my close friends are here in the US now so I mainly miss my close family! When I go back, I just want to stay put at home and eat mom's cooking:)

Ramya said...

@Sathej - lol! sunday afternoons..well, I'd be in deep slumber in front of the afternoon movie on Sun TV for sure..:) Read this book.. it is amazing!

@Dar - It was an awesome book Dar. I totally enjoyed reading it. You should try to get your hands on a copy too!

@Bermudaonion - Thanks! You're catching up on your commenting pretty quick!:)

Kaye said...

Ramya, you should write a book yourself! Your review is powerfully evocative. The emotions engendered in your writing is wonderful.
No matter where you are from and how long you have been gone from there, there is still "no place like home". (stolen from the kid in the red shoes)

Trish said...

I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. I wouldn't say that Indian literature is in my comfort zone but I really really enjoy it (what I've read so far). How long did you live in India for?

Anna said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thanks for the review. Have you ever read Bharati Mukherjee? I read a few of her books in college and really enjoyed them. However, I have no idea if she accurately portrays the Indian experience.

Diary of an Eccentric

Corinne said...

I've never been to India, but I've enjoyed every book I've read by Indian authors. They are so full of foreign sounds and smells, I love feeling like I am in a different place. Thanks for letting me know about this one!