14 September 2008

The Toss of a Lemon

The Toss of a Lemon
Padma Viswanathan (4/5 stars)
Hardcover: 640 pages
Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (September 8, 2008)

The Toss of a Lemon is the beautifully written, gently told lifetime story of Sivakami, a Brahmin woman, and her household. The reader follows Sivakami from her marriage ceremony in 1896 at ten, through her widowhood at eighteen, her establishment of her own household (against custom) and then watches the paths taken by Sivakami and her children and grandchildren until death in 1962. The focus easily changes between Sivakami and other family members, presenting a full and fascinating picture of a Brahmin household and of life in India at that time. This was a book I read slowly, not because it was tedious or difficult to read, but because I wanted to savor it, and not miss any, even minor, detail.

Unlike many historical novels, The Toss of a Lemon is very realistic in that, though there are many major historical events happening, they are not generally immediately effecting Sivakami and her family. This was quite refreshing and gave this novel the feel of real life.

In a way, I was reminded of the novels of Jane Austen, in which not a whole lot happens that might be considered earth shaking and yet, one must keep reading. Sivakami and her family were so well fleshed out, their lives so fully drawn, that I grew to know them, and their domestic concerns were of great importance to me, as well. And while it is a family epic, so to speak, I was not overwhelmed by length of the story or by many changes in characters.

The one discordant note in this lovely work is that Ms. Viswanathan tended to switch back and forth between present tense and past tense verbs. I found that to be distracting and as a result, could not give The Toss of a Lemon a full five stars.

Despite that, The Toss of a Lemon is truly a wonderful book that brought alive a time and place and culture of which I had no previous knowledge. I most certainly recommend this!

Despite the fact that Ms. Viswanathan is not a Indian citizen, I'm choosing to use this book for "India" for the ORBIS TERRARUM Challenge. She used her grandmother's own stories as a base for The Toss of a Lemon and did quite a bit of research. I learned so much about India through this book that I feel I can safely use it for that challenge.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine program for the Advanced Reading Copy! :)



Blogger bethany said...

Oh, this looks like a great book....it has a stunning cover!!! Thanks for the review girl! :) I'll be looking for it at the bookstores.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

This sounds absolutely beautiful! Lovely, lovely review!

10:10 AM  

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