Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: Nectar in a Sieve

Hope, and fear. Twin forces that tugged at us first in one direction, and then another, and which was the stronger no one could say. Of the latter, we never spoke, but it was always with us. Fear, constant companion of the peasant.
(Nectar in a Sieve, Chapter 14)

I picked up Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve at my favorite used bookstore because I'd seen the title as one of Glencoe's free literature guides. I thought I might use it someday in the future when teaching World Literature.

Set in a rural village in India, this book (first published in 1954) follows the life of Rukmani, a peasant woman, and her family. Rukmani marries Nathan, a farmer she'd never met, at age 12 and begins a life of constant struggle mixed with periods of pure joy. She has a surprisingly good marriage, which is unusual in most of the novels I've read/taught for World Lit. Her husband doesn't abuse her, ignore her, or disrespect her.

In some ways this book reminds me of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. There is the continuous struggle of peasants to survive, the hopelessness of life in poverty. But there is more joy in Nectar in a Sieve—more hopefulness. My World Lit kids always complained that the books were so depressing, full of poverty and oppression. Of course we discussed the fact that this is how much of the world is, etc., and that they were all privileged—and rich— beyond comprehension to millions of people.

I loved this little book. It's the kind of book that I couldn't wait to get to every night. Markandaya's writing is beautiful, and the story of Rukmani was fascinating and engrossing. Highly recommended.

Other Reviews of Nectar in a Sieve
Reckless Reader

Life Wordsmith
Semicolon
Reading for My Sanity
Tattooed Books

3 comments:

mummazappa said...

sounds really interesting - I think that is always the challenge with world books, telling a story that is truthful but also hopeful, otherwise it's just depressing. for me, it took a trip to Egypt to make me realise how incredibly wealthy and privileged I am, there are a lot of things I have stopped complaining about since that trip - and will never complain about again!

SoulMuser said...

Glad you liked the book!! Love your blog/s. :-)

Joe said...

Based on your review, I must disagree about the connection of this book to the Good Earth.

Looking at another review, ...

http://authspot.com/thoughts/nectar-in-a-sieve-reflection/

We can see that the lesson is man versus nature while Good Earth is about a different aspect of society.