Books, Cheer, New Year

Indira Ganesan, streak of sunlight, 2013

Indira Ganesan, streak of sunlight, 2013

Dancing with joy at this lovely starred Kirkus review for As Sweet As Honey: (review text below)

Reading The Marriage Plot; When I Was Cool; Lake People; & Tree Barking!  But, oh, I saw the “Downton Abbey” season three premiere  yesterday, & down the slippery BBC slope I go!  Those gorgeous clothes, actors, moments!

Ah, Welcome January!

From Kirkus Book Reviews:

  • Online Publish Date: January 6, 2013
    Pages: 288
    Price ( Hardcover ): $25.95
    Publication Date: February 15, 2013
    ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-307-96044-3
    Category: Fiction

The imaginary Indian coastal island of Pi, where Ganesan has set her previous fiction (Inheritance, 1998, etc.), works beautifully as the setting for this East Asian homage to To the Lighthouse, both the nostalgic recreation of a lost perfect moment and an exploration into Woolf’s “thousand shapes” of love.

The novel opens with a wedding and a death almost in the same breath. After a brief but romantic courtship, 6-foot, 28-year-old Meterling (thoroughly East Asian despite her eccentric German name) receives permission from her Hindu family to marry Archer, a dapper 4 foot-7-inch Englishman in his 40s. During their first wedding dance, he suffers a fatal coronary. Meterling is naturally heartbroken; she is also pregnant. The narrator of the aftermath, Meterling’s much younger cousin Mina, lives with a passel of cousins, aunts and uncles in her grandmother’s household of joyous pandemonium, which is not unlike the genteel chaos of Woolf’s Ramsays; coincidentally, Mina’s is a family of well-read Anglophiles, not unaware that Pi is a little like Prospero’s enchanted island. Looking back from her own adulthood, Mina describes growing up in an innocent but not unsophisticated world in which people really do take care of each other and where what is meant to be happens. So her family accepts the scandalous fact that Meterling had sex before marriage and adores the resulting baby, Oscar. But Western influence is unavoidable. Mina lives with her grandmother since her parents are getting Ph.D.s at Princeton, and eventually, she ends up in America. Yet Mina still manages to tell the story of Meterling’s unexpected second romance and marriage to Archer’s cousin Simon, with whom she moves to England. The novel is masterful at exploring the difficulty of cultural identity and integration. There’s also a bit of magical realism in the shape of a ghost. But ultimately, this is a novel about the many permutations of both love and family.

Despite some slightly strained plot twists, the characters’ genuine charm and the girlish, witty energy of the storytelling are irresistible.


10 thoughts on “Books, Cheer, New Year

  1. Yan Jing's Family

    Oh yes, I’ll weigh-in on Downton Abbey. I agree with Sandra about Shirley MacLaine. Was hoping to see Joanna Lumley in some part. She could do an Amercan accent.

    I must confess, despite spoiler alerts, all autumn I was peeking at The Guardian blog as episodes unfolded on ITV in England. But knowing does not spoil the pleasure of watching…yes…. Too Pretty… Clothes, interiors, architecture, lighting, actors, accents, music. Nice break from here and now aboard the English holodeck.

    I am drawn to these upstairs/downstairs formulas. They give me an idea of what life may have been for my downstairs great great grandma, of whom I know nothing, except that she was a scullery maid. Something in my heart stirs for her. My imagination wonders if great great grandfather lived upstairs. Or was he from China, or India, or Africa. Or the Spitalfields.

    Did you hear Julien Fellowes interview on NPRs, Fresh Air? When asked if Lady Sybil and Tom Branson marriage could happen, he respond that, in reality, a daughter of an Earl ran off with the groomsman.


  2. Yan Jing's Family

    Yay! Joyous January! This morning, in sparkling winter sunlight, Dogs, cats, and I are dancing, Ganesan Style!

    Going to pick up my copy of Sweet as Honey at Farley’s Bookstore in New Hope.

    Love, us


  3. Ro

    Wanted to read the review immediately but since I am not a subscriber I have to wait two more weeks 😦 but I read the review of your last novel instead! Sounds nice! I had asked for your novels in one of the landmark outlets in chennai the last time I was there but in vain. When do you release here? Will ask my friend to try for one then!

    Take care Indira And I wish you the very best for the release of your new book. With much love and a couple of hugs! Ro

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Sandra

    Ah, thanks for the review! It occurs to me this book, and maybe your others touch on themes I feel I want to write about, but not sure how since I’ve never considered myself capable of fiction, even as it gnaws at me. We are so identified with ethnic/racial labels, and a host of others, we can hardly see who/what we really are. For me, not these bodies, or cultures. Will have to delve into the book!

    As for after the long-awaited wedding, must think…they came back from the honeymoon, happy in a fancy new roadster, but still fussing about Matthew’s inheritance that he says he won’t give to Downton. I believe it was also after the wedding that Ms. MacLaine’s character tells Lord Grantham that she can’t bail them out, but will hope he finds his way to a solution. And there’s a “hint” in the next episode that the head lady downstairs may indeed have cancer.

    If you did not see the accompanying documentary re: the real castle, it’s worth seeing, “suggests” what may unfold to save DA. Interesting how much parallel there is.

    Til next time!


    1. Sandra

      Forgot to say I’m hooked on Downton myself, but got the strange feeling this season will not be up to the standard of the previous two. I was a bit nervous about the choice of Shirley MacLaine (who I like) as Cora’s mother and still not sure she works for me. But, it’s been so extraordinarily wonderful up to now, I’ll not mind if the writing slips!!


  5. rosie

    indira dear , us ordinary mortals with out a subscription cannot read the review until 2 weeks before the publication date (Feb 15th) but I am so glad it is a good review. congratulations!



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