Mar 19, 2010

Nostalgic Friday: Nectar in a Sieve

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them are books I enjoyed in my teens and others are books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers.

This week's selection is a book I read my sophomore year of high school. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya was originally published in 1954.

The story follows the thoughts of Rukmani, an elderly Indian woman, as she looks back on her life from childhood through adulthood.

Rukmani was the four daughter of a former wealthy family. Unfortunately, after so many dowries and the decline of her family's status, there is very little to offer to any prospective suitors. Thus Rukmani is married off to a poor tenant farmer named Nathan. In a stroke of luck, he is a kind, lovely man who is content to have someone to work alongside him and bear his children. When Rukmani has trouble delivering the sons that are needed in order to bring honor to her family, she secretly begins fertility treatments with a local doctor.

The treatments are an enormous success. A little too much so as the little family of three that was scraping by with a little leftover, is now a huge family of eight. The family continues to creep along, but times are changing. No longer is working the land enough to get by, especially when the tannery opens up. It is helpful in the beginning because Rukmani's sons have ample work and make decent money at the tannery, but as word spreads about the tannery, more and more people show up offering to work for less and less money.

Rukmani watches as everything she has known is torn to bits. Her children are scattered among the globe doing various things, and some have died at the hands of industrialization & Westernization. The change is too great, but it is something she must bear with Nathan.

Set in the early 20th century, rural India, Nectar in a Sieve is an incredible tale of love, loss, class, survival, and industrialization. This book covers the social, political, and personal aspects of being in the working class population during an industrial revolution. When Rukmani, who struggled with infertility, sees that her sons will not decide to work the land that she and her husband have fought tooth and nail to keep, she is heartbroken. A mother only wants what's in her children's best interest, but at what cost? Her educated children are a danger to themselves with their ideas and strikes. Her hard-working children have to watch as their work becomes more and more dangerous, but continues to go to others.

This captivating tale is one that I can't seem to get enough of. Rukmani's voice is powerful, yet gentle, just as I would expect a mother's to be. She is a tough woman who only wants to live her life in relative comfort. She has no higher aspirations for herself, but she wants the world for her children. Watching the changeover from tenant farmer to industrialized work is heartbreaking because you can almost hear the whispers as the old ways fall away. A great read when you are studying Westernization and its affect on developing nations. Give it a go some time.

1 comment:

SmallWorld at Home said...

Great review! I linked to this on my own review of the book.