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Evening Is the Whole Day Paperback – 28 May 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007271891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007271894
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘I found it a good, strong, spirit-spiked story about caste and unfairness, as furious, controlled, cool and urgent as Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger and an introduction to a writer whose talent with narrative structure combines elegance and potency.’ Ali Smith, TLS (Book of the Year)

Anne Tyler, Guardian (Book of the Year)

‘Samarasan captures beautifully the conflict both within the family and the country during the early years of Malaysia's independence. Vibrant, descriptive, and peppered with colourful Indian-Malaysian dialogue, this is an epic that's informative without being worthy, and engrossing but not frivolous.’ Francesca Segal, Observer

‘You won't find India's heat and dust here; you will sense the moist warmth of South-east Asia. Samarasan represents the quiet emergence of new Malaysian writing in books such as Rani Manicka's The Rice Mother and Touching Earth, Tash Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory, and Tan Twan Eng's Booker-longlisted The Gift of Rain last year. These writers have significantly broadened our understanding of the region.’ Salil Tripathi, Independent

‘A richly complex debut, weaving the troubled Malaysia of the 1980s with a dark, delicious Dickensian family drama.’ Waterstones Books Quarterly

‘A magical, exuberant tragic-comic vision of post-colonial Malaysia reminiscent of Rushdie and Roy. In prose of acrobatic grace, Samarasan conjures a vibrant portrait, by turns intimate and sweeping, of characters and a country coming of age. The debut of a significant, and thrilling new talent.’ Peter Ho Davies

‘An accomplished and magical debut.’ New Books Magazine

‘Preeta Samarasan details the colourful and secretive lives of the Rajeskhrans, a wealthy Indian immigrant family. She keeps us guessing as the secrets that led to the family’s relocation are slowly revealed.’ Image Magazine

About the Author

Preeta Samarasan was born and raised in Malaysia and moved to the United States for her high school education. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where an early version of this novel won the Hopwood Novel Award. She recently won the Asian American Writer’s Workshop short-story award. She lives in France.

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First Sentence
THERE IS, stretching delicate as a bird's head from the thin neck of the Kra Isthmus, a land that makes up half of the country called Malaysia. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Singapore Relic on 16 July 2009
Format: Paperback
The author cleverly develops and interacts the clutch of Malaysian Indian characters in this strong narrative which is set in small-town Ipoh. A bad-tempered acid grandmother, an adulterous pompous father, a petty unlovable mother, a ghost-fraternising younger daughter, an affable joking son, a distrustful eldest daughter ... all circle around the downtrodden servant called Chellam. And she comes to a tragic end. But what prevents a 5-star award is the annoyingly, almost random, changes in timescale. No "ifsandorbuts" it illuminates the tensions in Malaysian society in the 1960-1980s era, but the backwards-forwards lurching was excessive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Barbara Chandler on 22 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
A beautifully - written story, also evokes the pain and tragedy of recent Malaysian history. Would read more of this author's work; strongly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really recommend this; I've never heard of the writer before but I enjoy books based in other countries and the descriptions of Malaysia and the characters in this make for an excellent and entertaining read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an exceptionally good book, set in post colonial Malaysia, and about a highly dysfunctional small town Indian family. The dynamics between the different family members are fascinating to observe - the disapproving mother in law, the pompous son, the laid back son (who seems to have more sense than any of them), and the various daughters - all with their own issues and idiosynchrocies. The down trodden servant is perhaps the most interesting of all, and their treatment and attitude towards her says perhaps more about this family than a thousand other words.

The time line could be annoying for some, and I admit did take some getting used to, but it actually works quite well when you begin to realise what is happening, and I personally feel that this worked better than presenting the chapters in chronological sequence. It helps to build the characters slowly and give a sense of perspective, to see why they behave as they do and what drives and motivates them.

I suppose for me, it was the human interest element that really shone through - the hypocrisy and double standards of the father as opposed to the common sense kindness of his brother, the black sheep, and how the relationships between the different characters developed. It says a lot about the frailties of human relationships and perhaps the characters egos too, highlighting not only the tensions in Malaysian society in general, but also within the family itself, and tbeir treatment of the more vulnerable members. It is in some ways quite a dark book, where the various members fail to take responsbility for their actions anc choices. Despite this, one is still left with a sense of hope, hope that the characters (the younger ones at least) will wake up and understand that they can change their fate, and choose a different path. If ever there was a follow up to this book, it would be interesting to see if that happened.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 38 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
`Even noon is evening to she who waits..' 19 July 2008
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a hauntingly beautiful novel. Simultaneously filled with hope and despair, Ms Samarasan gives us characters who are never just stereotypes (although sometimes the accurate depiction of certain characteristics comes dangerously close to a stereotypical presentation). No, what Ms Samarasan has delivered is a novel peopled with individuals who are generally disappointed in the past and present and occasionally hopeful for the future.

The story finishes in Malaysia in 1980, but circles through the family history, aspirations, hopes disappointments and secrets of the Rajasekharan family since Appa's grandfather emigrated across the Bay of Bengal in 1899. We view the present through the eyes of Aasha, the youngest of the three Rajasekharan children. Aasha is secretive and far from impartial: she doesn't want her older sister Uma to leave Malaysia for the USA and is reacting to tensions and other secrets within the family that, at 6 years of age, she can observe without necessarily understanding. By contrast with the relative life of privilege of the Rajasekharan family, is the sad tale of Chellam: the exploited, underprivileged and wronged servant girl who is the same age as Uma.

This novel is primarily about family: secrets, relationships and aspirations. But it is also about life in Malaysia over a century which encompassed independence, race riots and significant migration. Each of the Rajasekharans struggles to find his or her own happiness in a world which is changing rapidly. My favourite character was the 8 year old son, Suresh. He brought a perspective to the story and a hope, perhaps for a collective future that was less apparent from the views of the other characters.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Lowell Brower - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm going to go ahead and call this my favorite novel of the decade. I've never, ever, EVER, believed in characters as deeply as I believe in the inhabitants of The Big House. You know what - forget the decade! This is as good a novel as I know of, and as intimate and moving a reading experience as I've had, and as rich and vivid a world as I've ever read my way into. I don't know if I've ever loved a character as much as I love Aasha. Love though, is not all I feel for this book - and this, I think, is what makes it so seriously, truly, utterly great: it's also unrelentingly painful. It will hurt you. It hurts, even when guided by a loving hand, to look so honestly at the brutality and smallness and meanness of which humanity is capable. It hurts to follow the trails of ruin left by willful blindnesses, shameful prejudices, and faithless underestimations; it hurts to watch small mistakes, no matter how innocently or ignorantly perpetrated, result in huge, enveloping, unrescindable sadnesses - but to be able to look at all of this squarely, attentively, and unsparingly; to depict it fully, in all its ugly complexity; to dwell on the pain, to pick and prod and examine it, to stare into its hideous face with humor and healthy cynicism, but also, somehow, hope - is, I think, the bravest sort of thing a piece of writing can do. I smiled on nearly every page, but never did the novel allow me to indulge the dangerous fantasies of a happy ending - not for everyone, not in a world like ours.

oh yeah - and did I mention that it's got absolutely everything else that anyone could possibly want in a novel - mystery, political strife, domestic intrigue, hilarity, a thrilling loop-the-looping structure, and 339 pages of pure, unadulterated dazzling prose.

In sum:
I friend this book, know or not?
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
worth staying up all night to finish 4 Jun 2008
By amiriams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In this gorgeous debut (by turns heartbreaking and deeply funny), Samarasan tells the story of both one ethnic Indian family and the whole country of Malaysia, reminding us that History is the individual people it happens to. This is a tale of layered mysteries and secrets, of misunderstandings and the assignations of blame -- among family members in a divided house, and between Malay, Indian, and Chinese citizens in a country where race determines a person's legal rights and social identity.

It's 1980 in Ipoh town, and the prosperous Rajasekharan family (Appa, Amma, and children Uma, Suresh, and Aasha) is forever changed when grandmother Paati cracks her skull in the bath and dies. Was she pushed, and if so, who did it? What did six-year-old Aasha see? As in Ian McEwan's _Atonement_, a child makes a terrible, irreversible mistake in the name of love. The effect is exhilarating: we love and sympathize with lonely imaginative little Aasha, even as we recoil from what she sets into motion. Chellam, the family's eighteen-year-old servant girl, is blamed and dismissed the same week that Uma, their oldest daughter, leaves for college in America. Meanwhile, Appa (the father) is prosecuting -- in a highly publicized, racially charged trial -- a Malay defendant who might have been scapegoated for the rape and murder of a Chinese girl.

The novel's narrator is big, lush, and Rushdie-esque, panning in and out. Samarasan gives us access to a cast of characters across three generations, moving around in time to show us how Amma and Appa's emotional landscapes were formed, and how colonization, independence, and race riots helped shape Malaysia's future. The central narrative moves backwards in time, ending the book on a high note. In less deft authorial hands, this might make the reading experience *more* painful because we know what will come to pass; but here, Samarasan reminds us of the strong, cyclical nature of hope in both society and family.

Hope hums beneath the surface of this novel, like the somber beauty of the Simon and Garfunkel tapes Uma plays and Aasha listens to outside her door: "Who will love a little sparrow?" Longing is an acute form of hope, and it undercuts these characters' pain and isolation with moments of discovery and connection. Hope may sometimes lead to disappointment, but it also puts _The Wind in the Willows_ in Aasha's hands and Uma on a stage. It offers Paati the sigh-worthy pleasures of warm water and surprises Uma's face with a smile -- one too real for photographs -- as she boards the plane.

I highly recommend this novel; it's a great book club pick - much to discuss, relate to, and learn from.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Tolstoy in Malaysia 7 July 2008
By the autumn leaves - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Trying to think what the novel is about, in my mind I skip right over "about a family" to "Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. " But it is also about a country. The novel is centered on a rich Malaysian Indian family, put in the context of several generations but really focusing on two. The main protagonist is.... well, I'll let you decide for yourself. There is a 6-yr old Asha, who is virtually abandoned by everyone, wandering the Big House and talking to some really awesome ghosts; then her older sister Uma, who can't wait to leave for America and her Ivy League school, and who mostly subsists inside her own head, for reasons unknown. They have a somewhat less consequential brother, Suresh, but one of the main catalysts of all sorts is a rubber-plantation girl, Chelam, who is a servant helping their old and infirm grandmother. There is the bitter mother, Amma, and the brilliant lawyer father, Appa. The plot goes back and forth in time, and mostly just back, to explain certain mysteries and relationships.

What I absolutely loved most of all was the writing. I feel that the author must choose her words ultra-carefully. Everything feels in its right place and it sounds right because the right word was chosen (and no other could be). The first thing I can think of when describing this writing is delicious. It was really delicious to plow through the weaves of the language in combination with all the carefully planted details. It's always the little things that matter and that ultimately make up a character. The author's really filled them all in, preparing the ground in such way that the final narrative outcome is a very natural conclusion.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Novel!! 9 Jun 2008
By adsilvee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First of all I just have to say...Wow, this is not your typical debut novel!!! This author is already right up there with the great writers of today. The prose is assured and beautiful, the world is detailed and vivid, and the characters just jump off the page. I completely agree with previous posts in that this is surely one of the most exciting first novels to come along in recent memory.

This is the story of the privileged Rajasekharan family and the events which conspire to topple them from their pedestal of social superiority. The first chapter opens with the girl-servant, Chellam, being banished from the house for allegedly pushing Paati (the grandmother) and causing her immediate death. Paati's demise is unfortunate indeed...but the situation turns out to be even far more complicated than it first appears.

From here the novel reveals, layer by layer, the dark secrets lurking beneath the family's polished facade of garden parties, chocolate wafers, and beautiful, genius children. The narrative moves deftly through past and present, in and out of characters' minds, and extends even to the political upheavals taking place in the country. The very true-to-life dramas are accentuated by vivid flights of pure imagination: ghosts that speak to children, personifications of "Fact" and "Rumor" that dance through the streets of Malaysia, and smiles that can be peeled from glass and slipped into a pocket. And then comes the ending...I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that I couldn't put the book down!

In some ways EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY is a classic story--that of a family struggling against the effects of their own prideful ambitions. And yet in Samarasan's hands, everything feels new. Truly, this is the kind of epic family saga that you won't forget about any time soon...Highly Recommended!!!
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