Thursday, October 28, 2004

House of Blue Mangoes review

Book cover Posted by Hello

A story about the Dorai clan living through the turbulent time of colonial India, in the midst of change and tragedy spanning over three generations. In crafting the story, David Davidar has fused together the historical aspects of India from its transition to becoming a sovereign nation from the yoke of British rule with a vivid description of the Indian subcontinent and also delved into the mindset, motivation and character of the people of India. Begining from Solomon Dorai, influential village headman of Chevathar who is a traditionalist by nature, abiding to the norms, lifestyle and caste system of the Indians. He takes upon the responsibility of his position with a stern undertaking, being as fair minded as he can in handing out judgment. Britain has a firm hold on India and the white man is looked upon as being of high culture as well as infallible and is seen as friends. Though a Christian, he believes that the caste system in Indian is too much a part of their culture for it to be unraveled and also does not look upon changes too well. In the end differences between the past, rivalries and beliefs triggered a tragedy in their village.

This cues to the story of his two sons, Aaron and Daniel, both with personalities so different that distinction can be compared to the night and the day. Aaron growing up bitter, blaming his family to what happened to his father and uncle, he soon wandered aimlessly without any sense of purpose. Daniel meanwhile, with a penchant of learning went to become a celebrated traditional doctor and soon garners success, yet is still haunted by his father’s disapproval of him as not living up to his ideals. The time period now stands at the juncture whereby nationalism has taken foot in India with the British seen as oppressors. Disenchanted with the indifferent attitude of their rulers, the Indians soon seek self rule and thus rebellion is widespread. Caught up in the chaos, Aaron soon ends up in the wrong side of the crowd, fighting for a belief he doesn’t fully understand and ends up in jail, soon to die with regret that he never took the time to heal old wounds with his family. Daniel meanwhile carries on and decided to return to his homeland which he fled after his father’s death. Reviving his father’s legacy, Daniel set up to recreate the village of his birth and bring back its former glory. Remaking his former house into a grand abode (naming it after the blue mangoes grown there) and asking for family members to return and work the land of the newly christened Doraipuram. Yet the road is not without problems and the family is not always a happy one. Another tragedy struck, his mother’s failing condition and a penchant for adventure soon lend to slowly ruin the dream.

This leads on to his son’s story (Kannan). Estranged from his father, young with ideals and energy, Kannan sets out to prove himself to his father but ends up falling in love with a mix raced lady. His father, though liberal found that he still held prejudices no matter how far he thought he put that behind and disowned his son if he insists on marrying for love. Defying his father, left alone and without family Kannan strives to build a future for himself and his love. War has broken out and the days of the British Empire is soon near its end. The white man are still in charge but their arrogance and unwillingness to understand the land as well as the people they are residing in has made the locals realize that the future are in Indian hands. Kannan, having succeeded in achieving a measure of success, still thinks that emulating the white man is the right step. Yet painfully learning that this is not so, as problems of his job, friends and wife soon overwhelmed him. At the end he found that all road leads to home and family.

Besides the three man in the story, the book is as much about the women behind them, how each; Charity, Lily and Helen. The contrast between all three, living in different times, different values and different customs are stark and plain to see. The influence of each on their husbands can also be viewed be it for better or for worse. The books is a comprehensive read for anyone fascinated by India, balancing a rich descriptive narration of the continent with the rich tapestry of history and the strong buildup of the fictitious characters. I’d give it 5/5.

A note : Will be hopping the ferry to Labuan till Saturday so no post for tomorrow :) See ya!

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