Tag Archives: India

The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Village Bride of Beverly HillsThe Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priyanka’s aunt told her she would be happiest if she didn’t expect too much from marriage if she was obedient and kept quiet and kept the house. So a week after meeting Sanjay, like a good daughter, she packs up for a new name, a new family, and a new country. Of course then, when her new in-laws inform her that she is to take a job and contribute to the household finances, that’s exactly what she does. She’s still not quite sure how she went from a secretary to a reporter, though.

Kavita Daswani’s bittersweet novel is a story about finding oneself in the midst of difficulties. While I first read the novel several years ago, I feel that a second read allowed me to understand better the facets of the characters: how Priya’s hopeless malleability stems from naivetee and fear, but not weakness of character, Sanjay’s blind but well-intentioned misogyny, and how most characters, no matter how kind or cruel they seem, are simply attempting to fulfill their own motivations, even if it means using Priya, and how her failure to completely escape the cycle that chains her down for being a women is not a romantic ending but a precursor to future tragedies.

At its surface level, The Village Bride of Beverly Hills is an enjoyable beach read; beneath, it has enough questions and conflicts to prompt several essays. – Anya W. ’20

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The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong (review by Andrew R. ’17)

The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious TraditionsThe Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In The Great Transformation, religious historian Karen Armstrong sets out to analyze the origins of Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, and Daoism in the context of political and social strife in the centuries leading up to the Common Era. As a primer to the study of ancient Mediterranean and East Asian philosophy, The Great Transformation occasionally hits the mark: its analyses of the historical realities of the Babylonian Captivity in the Middle East and the Period of the Warring States in China bring clarity to historical periods often overshadowed by the state-building that occurred on either side. Such moments of lucidity, however, appear far too rarely in this thick 500-page text. Having set out to compress an eight-hundred-year history of philosophical movements in the entire Eastern Hemisphere into a single volume, Armstrong falls almost constantly into disjointed, abstract accounts of wars, reigns, and migrations, indulging in so many disparate stories that her ostensible subject—commonalities of Mediterranean and Asian religious movements—disappears for twenty pages or more. Too wide-ranging to shed light on any particular historical subject and too bogged down in specifics to synthesize its parts into one coherent thesis, Armstrong’s book leaves the reader with little more than a mound of undigested historical facts by the last page.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (review by Melissa K. ’18)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Television personality Mindy Kaling has an opinion about everything, from the ideal level of fame to men’s chest hair. In her first book, she recounts stories of photo shoot fiascos, lists her favorite moments in comedy, shares her elaborate “Revenge Fantasies While Jogging.” While her memoir may read like a series of unrelated essays—she might transition from a chapter about “Karaoke Etiquette” to a chapter about “Day Jobs” without so much as a page break—the lack of flow reflects Kaling’s writing style: spontaneous, bold, and prone to going off on hilarious tangents.

As a size eight Indian woman, Kaling is the minority in Hollywood. She could have easily preached to her readers or reveled in her own achievements. Luckily, she wrote a much more enjoyable book instead: one filled with sarcastic humor, random entertaining facts, and insightful observations. Highly recommended.

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The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama (review by Shannon H. ’16)

The Marriage Bureau for Rich PeopleThe Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this book was a fun read — I enjoyed learning about marriage practices in India (although I am not entirely sure how accurately the practices are portrayed). The depiction of modern India resonates with me; I understood the ever-present inequality and the social turmoil, and I felt the heated debates between traditional cultural values and modern interpretations of humanity. However, I found that the novel dissolved from a potential critique of the system into a contrived love story between a rich Brahmin male (upper class) and a poor, but still Brahmin, working woman. I was mildly disappointed, but I still found The Marriage Bureau for Rich People a quick and fun read.

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