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Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan

Evening is the Whole Day (2008)

by Preeta Samarasan

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3211234,553 (3.73)62
  1. 00
    Green is the Colour by Lloyd Fernando (bibliobibuli)
    bibliobibuli: This is the only other Malaysian novel which examines the fallout of the May 13th racial riots - the great untalked about in Malaysia and the great unwritten about in its fiction.

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This novel begins and ends with the departure of Chellam, the doomed and disgraced servant girl the wealthy Rajasekharan family of Ipoh, Malyasia had hired the previous year to care for the demanding Paati (grandmother). During the year of Chellam's stay we come to know and care for the family, and its flawed and damaged members.

Central is Aasha, the 6-year old daughter, who, having accepted her mother's rejection and disdain of her, now has to contend with her beloved older sister Uma's withdrawal of her affections and imminent departure for college in the US. Aasha watches and observes her family, with her only companions the ghosts that only she can see and hear. Suresh, Aasha's 11 year old brother, like 11 year old boys the world over, provides comic relief. Then there is Appa, the brilliant Oxford-educated attorney who, to his mother's (Paati's) dismay chose to marry a simple poorly-educated girl, rather than a more modern woman. The years pass, Appa regrets his decision, and is more and more absent from the home. Amma, the mother, has been transformed from a sweet, caring young woman to a social-climbing harridan, with no empathy for plights of her daughters, or for Chellam or Paati.

This beautiful, sad and hopeful book can be characterized by Tolstoy's line that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Samarasan brilliantly tells this family's story against the backdrop of newly-indpendent Malaysia. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 24, 2017 |
This novel is interesting for the insight into life in Malaysia and particularly for a second / third generation Indian family living in Malaysia. There are few characters here that are attractive, with the exception of the three children of the Rajasekharan family. The narrative unfolds in a complicated haphazard way, flitting between dates to drip feed the reader information and this was disorientating and confusing. Most of the action takes place in the house and the street;, it feels as if the women and children rarely go out and this gives the novel a claustrophobic feel. The father does go out for long periods and we do follow him briefly and the mother makes a trip to her sister in another town at one time. This street, the houses and the occupants are clearly described and are part of the novel. There are many secrets that are revealed that explain the actions of characters and show how the characters have damaged each other. I found this a difficult novel to read because of the structure and the subject matter and got little joy from it. ( )
  Tifi | Mar 22, 2017 |
This book is actually set in Malaysia, but the main characters are an Indian family. The story involves the death of an elderly woman in the family, and the subsequent dismissal of a servant girl who is held responsible. Through the eyes of the six year old protagonist, Aasha, and occasionally other characters, the book swoops backward and forward through time to show the subtle and complicated threads that tie together families in love, loyalty, hatred and deceit. While the book particularly illuminates aspects of its particular setting in time and place, the complications of a postcolonial world, it also examines the complicated division of loyalties within families, particularly immigrant families who feel a special insularity. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
60. Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan (2008, 340 page Hardcover, read September 28 - October 18)

This one just didn't work me. Actually, I'm not sure Indian novels, in general, works for me. I think I have read four different books from Indian authors from very different backgrounds (all women though). Each has very nice prose, sometimes spectacular vocabularies, but go on and on about stories that don't seem very interesting to me. Somewhere along the line I'm missing something.

Evening is a Whole day is the stifling story of an unhappy wealthy Tamil family in Malaysia with one very unfortunate servant. It touches on the place of Tamils in ethnically divided Malaysia, the cultural stratification of this Tamil society, and even the 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur (an ethnic riot between Malays and Chinese). At first I found it pleasantly readable, but not memorable in that I wasn't thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. But I had to force myself through the second half as it slowly revealed each somewhat interesting but not fascinating event in drawn out emotionally indirect detail. I think I'm happy to have read it, but I didn't enjoy the actual act of reading.
  dchaikin | Oct 24, 2014 |
In 1980 in Ipoh, Malaysia, a few jarring events sweep over 6-year old Aasha: the dismissal of an 18 year-old servant in shame and disgrace, the departure of the oldest sister to university in America, and the recent, troubling death of Aasha’s grandmother Paati. The ensuing story is a portrait of a family whose dysfunction and secrets insidiously consume all of its members, with a narrative that slowly moves backwards to reveal past wounds in layers like geologic events told in rock strata. I found this book to be unrelentingly sad, particularly as it chronicles the experience and interpretations of the family’s children and a very vulnerable servant. Aasha, whose companions are the household’s ghosts, is watchful and vigilant, trailing her silent and closed older sister Uma like a shadow in the desperate hope that she might catch a glimpse of the old Uma, the one who played with her and doted on her, before she loses her to America forever. Uma’s exclusion of her sister and emotional distance from the family is selfish and unforgivable, until the reader reaches the Uma layer and gains insight into her cold self-defense. Other characters are likewise excavated and explored: mother Amma’s bitterness and cruelty, grandmother Paati’s manipulation and willful decline, Chellamservant’s wretchedness, and jovial but perpetually down-on-his-luck Uncle Ballroom. Perhaps most complex of all is father Appa -- we trace his path as he navigates the toxic family dynamic, his children’s adoration-turned-guardedness, and his politically idealist hopes and dreams for the nascent nation of Malaysia, a diverse patchwork of Malays, Indians, and Chinese struggling with identity, belonging, and racial and class issues following independence from the British Empire. These interweaving elements are told with wildly playful and humorous language, breathtaking, visceral descriptions of Malaysia, and a distinct Indian-Malay music and rhythm.

The book is too depressing for an unqualified recommendation, but I do admire Ms. Samarasan’s storytelling skill. The family story is too complicated and intricate to assign blame. The Malaysian history is fascinating, and intimately, subtly told, and the language is simply captivating, right from the first page:

“There is, stretching delicate as a bird’s head from the thin neck of Kra Isthmus, a land that makes up half of the country called Malaysia. Where it dips its beak in the South China Sea, Singapore hovers like a bubble escaped from its throat. This bird’s head is a springless summerless autumnless winterless land. One day might be a drop wetter or a mite drier than the last, but almost all are hot, damp, bright, bursting with lazy tropical life, conducive to endless tea breaks and mad, jostling, honking rushes through town to get home before the afternoon downpour. These are the most familiar rains, the violent silver ropes that flood the playing fields and force office workers to wade to bus stops in shoes that fill like buckets. Blustering and melodramatic, the afternoon rains cause traffic jams at once terrible -- choked with the black smoke of lorries and the screeching brakes of schoolbuses -- and beautiful: aglow with winding lanes of watery yellow headlights that go on forever, with blue streetlamps reflected in burgeoning puddles, with the fluorescent melancholy of empty roadside stalls. Every day appears to begin with a blaze and end with this deluge, so that past and present and future run together in an infinite, steaming river.

In truth, though, there are days that do not blaze and rains less fierce. Under a certain kind of mild morning drizzle the very earth breathes slow and deep. Mist rises from the dark treetops on the limestone hills outside Ipoh town. Grey mist, glowing green hills: on such mornings it is obvious how sharply parts of this land must have reminded the old British rulers of their faraway country.”
3 vote AMQS | Apr 3, 2012 |
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History begins only at the point where things go wrong; history is born only with trouble, with perplexity, with regret.
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September 6, 1980: There is, stretching delicate as a bird's head from the thin neck of the Kra Isthmus, a land that makes up half of the country called Malaysia.
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Book description
Wanneer het dienstmeisje van de welgestelde familieRajasekharan om onduidelijke redenen wordt ontslagen,is dat de laatste in een reeks gebeurtenissen diehet leven van de zesjarige Aasha op zijn kop hebbengezet. Binnen enkele weken is haar grootmoeder opmysterieuze wijze om het leven gekomen en is haaraanbeden oudste zus voorgoed naar Amerikavertrokken. Aasha blijft eenzaam achter, gestrand ineen familie die langzaam uit elkaar valt.Tegen de achtergrond van het zinderende Maleisiëvan de jaren zestig gaat het verhaal terug in de tijd,om stapje voor stapje de duistere, complexe geheimenen leugens van een immigrantenfamilie te onthullen.Het blauwe huis is een krachtige, indrukwekkenderoman. Het wonderschone taalgebruik en de superieureopbouw zullen de lezer gevangen houden tot de laatstepagina.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 061887447X, Hardcover)

Set in Malaysia, this spellbinding and already internationally acclaimed debut introduces us to the prosperous Rajasekharan family as its closely guarded secrets are slowly peeled away.

When Chellam, the family’s rubber-plantation-bred servant girl, is dismissed for unnamed crimes, her banishment is the latest in a series of recent, precipitous losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha’s life. A few short weeks before, Aasha’s grandmother Paati passed away under mysterious circumstances and her older sister, Uma, departed for Columbia University--leaving Aasha alone to cope with her mostly absent father, her bitter mother, and her imperturbable older brother.

Beginning with Aasha’s grandfather’s ascension from Indian coolie to illustrious resident of the Big House on Kingfisher Lane, and going on to tell the story of how Appa, the family’s Oxford-educated patriarch, courted Amma, the humble girl next door, Evening Is the Whole Day moves gracefully backward and forward in time to answer the many questions that haunt the family: What was Chellam’s unforgivable crime? Why was Uma so intent on leaving? How and why did Paati die? What did Aasha see? And, underscoring all of these mysteries: What ultimately became of Appa’s once-grand dreams for his family and his country?
Sweeping in scope, sumptuously lyrical, and masterfully constructed, Evening Is the Whole Day offers an unflinching look at relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, the wealthy and the poor, a country and its citizens--and the ways in which each sometimes fails the other. Illuminating in heartbreaking detail one Indian immigrant family’s secrets and lies while exposing the complex underbelly of Malaysia itself, Preeta Samarasan’s debut is a mesmerizing and vital achievement sure to earn her a place alongside Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, and Zadie Smith.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Chellam, the family's rubber-plantation-bred servant girl, is dismissed for unnamed crimes, her banishment is the latest in a series of recent, precipitous losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha's life. A few short weeks before, Aasha's grandmother Paati passed away under mysterious circumstances and her older sister, Uma, departed for Columbia University--leaving Aasha alone to cope with her mostly absent father, her bitter mother, and her imperturbable older brother. Set in Malaysia, this spellbinding and already internationally acclaimed debut introduces readers to the prosperous Rajasekharan family as its closely guarded secrets are slowly peeled away.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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