A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman

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A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Nikki Edwards
Reviewed by Nikki Edwards
Summary: An incredibly moving story of two strong women struggling against the ties of circumstance in troubled Sri Lanka.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670917952

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A Disobedient Girl follows two women struggling to retain control of their lives in the face of servitude. Latha is a servant girl to the affluent Vithanage family, whose daughter, Thara, is Latha's age. As children, the girls are the best of friends, but they are destined to be separated by class, which is made painfully obvious when boys come into the picture. Meanwhile, Biso serves a cruel and drunken husband who beats her and terrorises her children, one of whom is another man's love child. Biso's husband murdered her lover in a hateful rage when he uncovered her affair and she realises that she must escape his house if she and her children are to live. Latha too seeks escape, but she finds it in the arms of Thara's boyfriend and this sets off a chain of events that will echo far into her future.

Will Biso manage to find refuge far away in the hill-country with her relatives despite the long and treacherous journey she must make to get there? What will become of the pregnant, disgraced Latha and what will survive of her relationship with Thara? Ru Freeman follows these two women throughout the twists and turns of their respective lives in a way that had me hooked from the very first page. The voices she creates for her women are strong, authentic and distinctively female. Both of the women define themselves as mothers, daughters, sisters - but also as individuals, and it is this individuality of spirit, even in women who are bowed by circumstance, that Freeman depicts so skilfully. These women are determined and proud. At times they are vain and brittle. Occasionally they are spiteful - but at all times they are real and overwhelmingly likeable.

However, this is not simply a story about tough women. The intricate rules of caste, class and race in Sri Lankan society are omnipresent here, casting long shadows over everyone's lives - even those of the men. There's so much detail, so much to learn in this book - but it's still ultimately an easy read. Freeman's effortless prose covers every aspect of human life without ever seeming to get tangled or boring.

The author gives you such a strong sense of place that you can practically feel the sun on your skin, the sea salt in your hair. It's escapism, although certainly not always to a happier world. Indeed, secrecy lurks in the households in this book. It lurks in every corner, but it can't live there forever, as the author attests to in her explosive conclusion.

A Disobedient Girl has a truly epic feel, the way it weaves whole lives and families, accommodating decades of hope and disappointment with genuine style. It's a breathtaking debut novel and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good story well told.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

This book is far better than Love Marriage by V V Ganeshananthan but there are similar themes. You'll find similar themes too in Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan which we also loved.

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Buy A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman at Amazon.com.


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