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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Book Review: Fasting Feasting by Anita Desai

Pages :  240

Read on : Paperback

Review: A bit disappointed by Ms Desai. I didn't expect a book so closely missed for the Man Booker Prize 1999 to be such a drag. In all fairness, I picked Fasting Feasting for that nomination as a vouch for it's credibility and the assumption that it might be her best to almost attain such an esteemed tittle. Near miss nominations must not be exempted. You never know what treasures it might hold. This however was a let down of a whole new level.

As per the description, the story is of two siblings, Uneducated Uma and her brother , Arun who is sent to Massachusetts for University. Uma is stated as dull, not very pretty and unmarried. Her lack of any appeal has made it difficult to find an suitors thus she is now spending her existence on serving her parents. Arun is the promising child in the family. Under the burden of his parent's aspirations, poor Arun is shipped off to USA for college where one summer he has a strange encounter with the Pattons. Other than Uma and Arun, there's Aruna, the middle daughter- pretty, married and distraught. Caught in her own tides of having everything perfect. 

I'm not going to go into much detail about the story because honestly I really didn't understand what was the whole point of the book. Harsh but true. At several stages we do understand that this book is a direct hit to the kind of society India used to have. Uma was pushed and pulled by her family for their whims and fancy and there Arun was the only semi-liberated one with the easy access to high-quality education. Aruna was as pointless as a doormat. She was there, she was pretty , she was in demand and she was married off. The end. 

Even though I have come across books that lack a definite plot, at least the characters manage to salvage it. However here if anything I felt Uma was constantly made a mockery of. In no way were there any good things about her mentioned which saddened me. Surely she must have had something to her or someone who went close to understanding her. With way too many things happening in Uma's share of the book, it was impossible for me to draw any connection with any character.  On the other hand, there's Arun who encounters all kinds of absurdity in the Pattons house. New to the American 'culture'  but he could see the imbalance in both the households despite the cultural difference. The only part that I somewhat liked and also a marginally better ending than Uma's tale.

Desai's writing is simplistic to where she is to the point yet the whole concept has gone completely amiss. She opens her chapters sharply and quickly with no dilly-dally. That is the only reason I rated it as such. If you were intending to read 'Fasting, Feasting', don't bother. You aren't missing out on much.

Final Rating : 2/5

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  1. I was about to buy this book. I am glad I read your review.

    1. I was informed before itself that it wasn't that great. Had to see for myself. Give it a pass, better books out there.