Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka

Title: The Rice Mother
Author: Rani Manicka
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Pages: 608
Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A compelling glimpse into a captivatingly exotic world of myth and magic.

Beguiled by promises of wealth, fourteen-year-old Lakshmi leaves her native Ceylon for Malaya and marriage to a man many years her senior. But Ayah has lied to her and her family about his circumstances and in fact he lives in poverty. A woman of formidable energy and intelligence, Lakshmi provides security, if not luxury, for her family, though at a considerable emotional cost. Then the Japanese army invades during WWII.

The family bears deep scars and inflicts those wounds on the next generation. But in Nisha, Lakshmi's great-granddaughter, it is as if Fate has come full circle . . .
The Rice Mother is a multi-generational, multi-viewpoint story mainly set in Malaysia. The story begins in the 1930s, chronicles the Japanese occupation, and continues until the early 2000s. This book is full of beautiful descriptions of cultural traditions and customs, it really was an absolute delight to read. I found myself completely enchanted with Lakshmi's story and how her poor marriage affected her life and subsequently, her children's lives. There is a lot of heartache that befalls Lakshmi's family, friends and neighbours.

What I loved most about this book was the magical realism that was woven into the narrative. There is plenty of superstition and magic sprinkled throughout. Many plants and objects have mysterious power and meaning which gives a magical aura to the story. I became so attached to Lakshmi's family and I felt that each member had a very distinct voice. The narrators are each unreliable in their own ways as their points of view constantly differ and contradict each other, and I really enjoyed seeing how all the different viewpoints converged at the end.

The only disappointing aspect of this book was the way it ended. The beginning of the book was very strong but the ending was abrupt and strange, once the last character tells their side of a particular storyline the book ends. I found myself wanting so much more and would have gladly welcomed viewpoints from additional family members that were briefly mentioned. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book I can see myself re-reading it in future.

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