For some reason I can’t seem to finish any books these days. There are a number of factors involved. I have a lot of good books right now. I am rereading Fables as well as several volumes of L.M. Montgomery’s generally-predictable-but-sweet-nevertheless short stories. I’m also reading The Two Towers, The Bell, Yes Means Yes, and more of Tom Stoppard’s plays. I have fallen back in love with a still-untitled (I’m crap at titles) story I’ve been working on for ages, so I’m working on rewriting that. Having scheduled a Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Marathon with my sister and her boyfriend for later on in the month, I have also found myself absolutely craving epic trilogies, so I’ve been rewatching Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Secret Keeper is set in 1970s India. When sixteen-year-old Asha’s engineer father moves to America to find work as an engineer, Asha and her sister Reet and their mother (whose depression Reet and Asha call The Jailor) go to Calcutta to live with their father’s family as they wait for their father to send for them. Beautiful Reet receives attention from the local boys, and their uncle begins receiving proposals for her. Asha, darker-skinned, resourceful and athletic, is determined to save her sister from marriage; at the same time she begins to develop a relationship with an artist neighbor called Jay.
For a book set in 1970s India, this book did not say very much about what was going on in 1970s India. I was expecting more of a historical perspective going into the book, and for a while I was annoying that I wasn’t getting it. As the book continued, though, it became clear that the girls’ limited awareness of the outside world was intentional, one among several ways of depicting the circumscribed lives of women in India at this time. Reet and Asha are hardly ever allowed to leave the house, let alone – as Asha longs to do – play cricket with the neighbors. Perkins does a fantastic job of conveying the enforced narrowness of their lives as young adult females, while not forgetting to give Asha enough to do that we see her as an independent, brave, intelligent person.
It’s a bleak view of being a woman, and reminds me, at the same time I am reading ferocious indictments of rape culture in Yes Means Yes, that I am (comparatively) fantastically lucky to be living in this country in this time period. Though Asha dreams of becoming a psychiatrist, her best hope while living with her uncle is that someone will offer to marry her. And Perkins doesn’t pull any punches: things do not end up all sunshine and roses for Asha and her family. Worst-case scenarios are avoided, but best-case ones don’t come to pass either. It is effective, and sad. I am glad I live here and now and I can go shopping alone and wear shorts and decide if and who and why I want to marry.
Because it made me so grateful for my life as a twenty-first-century American woman, in interesting counterpoint to how angry I feel when I read Yes Means Yes, I’m going to count this for the Women Unbound Challenge.
P.S. Friends across the pond, will you please explain cricket to me? I found the Wikipedia article bewildering. My impression is that the batter bats the ball that is bowled by the bowler in an attempt to prevent the ball from knocking over the batter’s wicket. But I also have the impression that there are two batters, and I can’t figure out what the second one is for. Is the batter meant to knock over the bowler’s wicket? When a batter gets a run, is s/he they running back and forth between the two wickets, or running in a diamond/circle shape like in baseball, or something totally else? How many players are there on the field (pitch?) at once? Would there ever be more than one person from the batting team trying to make runs at the same time? TELL ME EVERYTHING.
Reading in Color (thanks for the recommendation!)
My Friend Amy
Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Sarah’s Random Musings
jama rattigan’s alphabet soup
A Patchwork of Books
Musings of a Book Addict
Let me know if I missed yours!