Grateful Web Book Club & Review 'The Rice Mother'

''The Rice Mother'' - for the Grateful Web

Original title:              The Rice Mother


Translated in Dutch:         De Rijstmoeder


Author:                      Rani Manicka


 


Rani Manicka was born and grew up in Malaysia. She studied economics in Germany, where she met an Italian man with whom she moved to England. Nowadays, she divides her time between Malaysia and the UK.


 


The Rice Mother is Manicka's debut novel and is infused with her own South Asian family history. This book is her way to reawake her grandmother, and to bring her back to a time when she was still proud and strong. The book won a Commonwealth Writers Prize for 2003.


 


Short summary:


 


The book contains the history of four generations of a Malaysian family. The story begins with Lakshmi, the rice mother, who has been married off to a man twice her age. Her mother was told this man was rich, but Lakshmi realizes very soon that he can hardly make ends meet. In a short period the couple gets six children, three sons and three daughters. Lakshmi wants her children to have a better life than she had, but she does not succeed in realizing this dream.


 


A milestone in the family is the capture and killing of their beautiful daughter Mohini by the Japanese during World War Two. Only when Dimple is born, a grandchild of Lakshmi and a mirror image of Mohini, Lakshmi and her husband Ayah's world changes. Dimple is very interested in the family history and records the stories of different family members. After Dimples tragic end, Nisha, her daughter, gets knowledge of this tapes by which she gets to know her ancestors…


 


Comments on the book:


-         The book is written from different points of view, in that all different characters take the floor by turns. One might find this confusing, but with the clear headings and the family tree in the beginning of the book, it is easy to follow the story.


-         The book is written in a flowing style, and it is easy to visualize the situations described. In this matter, one should be warned for the cruel passages on the Japanese occupation during World War Two.


-         As others have said "Manicka's voice is strongest in presenting the sadness and loneliness of characters, and in the beauty and culture of South Asia".


-         Rani Manicka already finished a second book: "Touching Earth". I am looking forward to read this book as well.


 


Kelly Bobelijn, European Editor


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