Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Toss of a Lemon-Review


The Toss of a Lemon
by Padma Viswanathan

Padma Viswanathan has written an impressive inspirational journey of a fictional Brahmin family that spans three generations. Be prepared however, for diminutive details that encompass 616 pages, as the author describes life in India from 1896 to1962.

The Toss of a Lemon is based on the stories told to her by her grandmother and re-created in the character of Sivakami. This woman is widowed at eighteen with two small children, thereafter, she is subjected to the strict rules governed by her caste. Unable to leave the house, unable to be touched from dawn to dusk, unable to remarry I can’t imagine how she feels at her age. Further, she must wear white and have her head shaved by an untouchable.

What a powerful woman she is. I love Sivakami because she is such a paradox as supplicant to her caste, yet defiantly disregarding caste rules in to raise her grandchildren. In a patriarchal society this takes strength, endurance and courage. She is a remarkable character. Padma’s grandmother must be pleased and proud that her stories have new life. If you enjoy a book with a strong heroine or love historical epics this would appeal to you.

I felt the subject of the caste system was a missed opportunity for more in depth teaching. There is an assumption at times that the reader has an above average understanding of Indian social and cultural life. This would be an ideal reading group novel with a study guide. Brilliantly written by a debut novelist with tremendous talent.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Iliana said...

Great review of Toss of a Lemon! I really struggled with this book because I felt that for all it's 600+ pages I still never really got to know Sivakami - her thoughts, her internal struggle you know. And, I agree, I think this would be a great book to read with a book group. It just covered so much.

9/8/08, 3:38 PM  

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