Picking up Oleander Girl was an obvious after-effect of reading Palace Of Illusions.
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The engagement of Korobi(Bengali for Oleander, and hence the title) and Rajat sets the stage for a host of complicated situations for each of the characters in the story. Korobi suddenly finds herself faced with the loss of her beloved grandfather and in possession of fragments of a secret about her parents who, she has been brought up to believe, are dead. Rajat comes with the baggage of a reckless past, but having met Korobi, turns a new leaf and strives to be mature and responsible, both professionally and in the relationship. Korobi’s quest for the truth about her roots would take her away to America right after their engagement, the prospect of which stirs misgivings at different levels in Rajat, his parents and Korobi’s grandmother. Meanwhile, Rajat’s parents are also grappling with financial problems and a necessity to remain tight-lipped about their future daughter-in-law’s sudden disappearance to America right before the wedding. Rajat is fighting hard to prove his worth in the family business, fight ghosts from his past and trying to be supportive of Korobi in her mission. How each of them handle their challenges weaves the story.
Personal highs :
- Contemporary fiction generally works well for me, more so when it is a familiar Indian setting.
- Love how different characters take turns to narrate chunks of the story in their voice. It is Korobi for the most part, but Rajat, his mother, the grandmother and the driver Asif voice from time to time, and it is interesting to read the proceedings from their perpective.
- The way the characters are etched out – I think this is the author’s forte. Each character comes with their own inevitable weaknesses. The way they react to situations makes the reader get into the skin of the character and relate to them perfectly.
The not-so highs:
- The writing style and the flow of language, though sufficient for the context, paled a little against the standard she had set in the Palace of Illusions.
- Too many undercurrents in the course of the book – ranging from identity crisis, to worker union problems, to Hindu-Muslim strife, to employer loyalty, to rage of the jilted girlfriend – it seemed as if too many things were thrown in, though they were pretty neatly tied up in the end.
- Though generally a sucker for happy endings, this was toooo much of a happily-ever-after ending for me. Came off as a touch lame.
Recommend? : Yes, at the moment. Might reconsider after reading more of her work.