When my brother announced he would be living in India for two years back in 2005, my family was a little taken aback, we knew nothing about Indian culture other than what we could gather from movies like The Jungle Book and Gandhi. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about India and its people, and gained an immense appreciation in particular for Indian women. Thus, I enjoyed this book quite a lot, as it follows the life and dreams of a teenage Indian girl during World War II.
Vidya, our protagonist, is a perky character with a stubborn streak and a sense of independence. Her fascination with India’s growing discontent with British rule clashes with her brother’s belief in doing his duty to fight the Nazis. All these opinions are thrown into the relative background when Vidya and her father are caught in the middle of a protest march and tragedy strikes the family. Vidya must move to the strictly Brahmin household of her extended family members, where she is forbidden to mingle with males (including her brother), and isn’t even allowed to go upstairs in the house. Here, she fears she will be forced into an arranged marriage before she has a chance to fulfill her dreams of higher education. Every day is a struggle, and the reader struggles with her.
While this historical fiction novel held some definite appeal to my interests, I can’t say it would fascinate everyone in the same way. It has some slow moments, and there is definitely some feminist angst that might not strike a chord with many males in the same way it did with me. If you have the time and the interest, it’s definitely worth reading, but I can’t really see it winning the Beehive Award.