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Jasmine (VMC) Paperback – 16 May 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (16 May 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853812781
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853812781
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


An adept chronicler of the times and places where improbable worlds meet...She also captures the moments when lives change, by violence or passion...few could record them with Mukherjee's clarity, tenderness and humour - Evening Standard

Tough and voluptuous...she has tapped a source which she converts to a light so bright it dazzles (Candida McWilliam)

About the Author

Bharati Mukherjee has taught creative writing and current lectures at the University of California in Berkeley. She has written a series of critically acclaimed novels, including Darkness and the Middleman.

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First Sentence
LIFETIMES ago, under a banyan tree in the village of Hasnapur, an astrologer cupped his ears-his satellite dish to the star-and foretold my widowhood and exile. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Hunter on 12 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
Many themes are in the novel, the most obvious being the trials of immigrants/emigrants but the deeper theme is Mukherjee's concern with identity and the adaptability of people. The protagonist has a name for each persona: Jyoti, Jasmine, Kali, Jase, Jane indicating her psychological passage, tempting to say Anglicisation, but adaptation is really the point I think.
An engaging tale is backed up by a sparse and excellent first person narrative. In terms of the obvious temptation of being judgemental about either or both East and West, Mukherjee refrains and lets the reader decide. What isn't there is perhaps most significant and this makes it a very mature book. Compare that, say, to another immigration book, The Grapes of Wrath which, whilst good, over-labours the point (in my opinion, anyway!) The language here is simple and unpretentious and punctuated by the occasional very visual metaphor: "The trees were stooped and gnarled, as though the ghosts of old women had taken root." There's no posing or experimentalism and the author lets the story tell the story.
The only possible issue is my partner's (a Sikh Punjaban) criticism that her move to the US seems unlikely (young widow persuading her brothers to help her make the trip.) Having had the pleasure of staying myself in some Punjaban villages close to Jullander last year I have an inkling for what she's saying (coupled with an extra interest in the book) but still remain ignorant enough for this not to bother me in my assessment of it!
A great book that's undoubtedly not got the respect it deserves.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matt Chambers on 9 July 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a superbly written tale of the immense spiritual and cultural difficulties that immigrants to the US face, particularly when they have to give up so much of their previous lives, as is the case with the protagonist in this novel. Mukherjee is never judgmental and illustrates through the eyes of an Indian immigrant woman (and the theme of femininity is an essential aspect of this book) the struggle to conform and be comfortably middle class, even in a nation founded on immigration.
Mukherjee's language is spare, neat and at times beautifully poetic. Even the most terrifying episodes are written serenely and with an immense control that only the very best authors of fiction can achieve. I urge you to buy this book both for its quality and its cultural significance, given the wealth of asian immigration into the US at the moment in time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 57 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
On Becoming an American Woman 19 Oct 2000
By George Schaefer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This novel is a really moving tale. This is my first time reading Mukherjee's writing but it won't be the last. I found it to be a compelling read from start to finish. The story of how a young Indian girl becomes an American is intriguing. The evolution of Jyoti into Jasmine into Jane is gripping. I enjoyed the way Mukherjee wove this tale. She includes flashbacks to her past to let the reader see the past of Jasmine. It allows for empathy as the reader is led through the tragedies of her early life. Her resolve is extraordinary. She has to overcome the murder of her husband, terrorism in her homeland, a rape and many other hardships along the way. You can see how different events shape her views and attitudes. She begins to think and act for herself. There is sorrow and pain on the way but it is ultimately a tale of liberation. It's another example of the indomitable human spirit. Definitely a book that should be widely read.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A gripping, masterfully written work of fiction. 18 Feb 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book had a profound effect on me, despite the fact that I generally avoid the theme of the immigrant experience. In any case, the book succeeds in integrating so many completely diverse settings... Iowa, an impoverished Indian village, New York, Florida... This is done quite artfully; the book is simple to read and not too hard to understandl it achieves depth with simple language, which is always pleasing. Reading it for the first time was somewhat shocking - every new development in the plot is marred with violence stemming from some bizzare twist of fate. Despite all this, a sense of hope is conveyed in a way that is not artificial, and sustained all throughout. Nonetheless, it paints a disturbing picture of traditional India: the caste system, the miserable status of women, the horrors facing a widow, the overall poverty and pervading corruption, the religious wars... all this leaves an imprint on Jasmine (the main character) and haunts her even in the States, even in the remote Iowa. The realism with which all this is served to the reader reminds of Stephen Crane's work, especially "Maggie, a Girl of the Streets" (another powerful piece...) Whatever your literary taste, it is likely that you will enjoy this direct, powerful, and eye-opening work. The only reason I withhold the last star is the unexpected and unfulfilling ending, which in my view ruined the integrity that Jasmine built throughout her difficult life journey, which filled me with a certain optimism up to that point. If it was meant as a liberating finale, then the cost of ruining Jasmine's benevolence was too high. But up to the last page, an excellent read.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Compulsively readable! 30 May 2006
By Fitzgerald Fan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't let the cheesy cover fool you, this book is amazing. It is brutally honest and intense, as well as impossible to put down. The story revolves around a woman with a multitude of identities, one to fit each phase of her ever changing life. "Jasmine" (aka Jyoti and Jane) is a woman who survives poverty and ignorance in a small Indian village, only to be rewarded with brutality. Her journey to America is beyond taxing, and what she must do to survive it is harrowing, if not downright shocking at times.
Jasmine is faced with much turmoil and many choices, none of which are easy. Her life is far from conventional, but it says volumes about what it must be like to forge a new life in a new place with an identity that even she is not certain of.
I found that the ending was a little abrupt, but other than this, I have no complaints. Mukherjee is a vivid and serious writer, one who will leave you with an often times visceral reaction.
Warning: I have heard some complaints about the beginning chapters being mildly confusing concerning character introductions, but I assure you, if you stick with it, what she is doing will become clear quite quickly. This author's technique of introducing characters is very unique and effective and gives the reader a real sense of time without being exactly linear.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
freedom vs. duty 18 May 2005
By alicia - Published on
Format: Paperback
This novel captivates its reader from beginning to end. Jasmine, the protagonist of the story faces many challenges and obstacles that she must overcome in order to make sure her catastrophic destiny is not fulfilled. She has survived being married without a dowry (for she is the fifth daughter of nine children), being widowed at less than nineteen years of age, illegally immigrating into a foreign land, raped on her first day in America, and choosing between love and duty.

Mukherjee's style of writing is unique and difficult to grasp at first. She would refer back to the past or fast forward into the present periodically so the reader must constantly `be on their toes.' She leaves `cliffhangers' at the end of paragraphs or chapters that are reunited with their explanations of what would happen in later chapters. Mukherjee would leave her readers in curiosity as she skips around in her time machine within her story.

Mukherjee wrote eloquently as she weaved Jasmine's various identities into one novel. Jasmine, who is also Jyoti, Jazzy, Jase and Jane, is faced between clinging to her `feudalistic traditions' or her `new western-thinking traditions.' Each identity of hers represents a new lifestyle and a new challenge that she must conquer. She experiences a sense of two sides inside her, each competing to grasp the fullness of her whole body and soul.

Jasmine was torn between assimilating into American freedom and society vs. being bound to her deep-rooted traditions. Characters within the novel assist the protagonist in her journey as she tries to battle her fate and destiny. Overall, the book was well written and packed with a journey between Jasmine's duty as an Indian woman and freedom that she desires in America.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Many Lives of Jasmine 12 May 2000
By Corey Mannie - Published on
Format: Paperback
An astrologer tells Jasmine at the age of seven that she is going to be widowed by the time she is fifteen. After the astrologer's prediction comes true, Jasmine decides to move to a small city in Iowa. Coming from India, she refers to Iowa as the new "Third World". During her lifetime, Jasmine travels to many places where she is given different names. These various names identify her as a new person by the influential men of her life. For example she is given the name "Jase" from her professor and the name "Jane" from her husband. This helps Jasmine to conceal her ethnic difference, and it enables her to survive in this strange, new world. Jasmine believes she is born more than once. Thus, her changing names reflect her rebirths. Jasmine's journey serves as a metaphor for the ever-moving, regenerating process of life itself. Overall, this book forces the reader to see America from a different point of view as a "Third World".
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