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When She Was Queen Paperback – 17 Oct 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada (17 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385661770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385661775
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,908,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe on 4 Sep 2009
Format: Hardcover
Having enjoyed reading MG Vassanji's novel The In-between World of Vikram Lall, a rich panoramic portrayal of Lall as a representative of the Asian community in Kenya and their complex relationships, I was intrigued how the author translates such complex themes into a series of short stories. This, his second short story collection, tackles a wide range of 'in-between' life experiences of men and women, either in India, East Africa or Canada and USA.

Across generations Vassanji's protagonists are caught between traditional and modern or urban cultures, between different religions or challenges to their beliefs. Each story, some very short, others more novellas, is an delicate and intimate portrait of a small group of people, exploring different aspects of the human challenges faced by them. Some of the prominent characters are loosely connected across different stories, reappearing over time and space, so that over the length of the book, their different circumstances and personality traits can be explored. Vassanji is a master story teller as well as an accomplished wordsmith. Both talents are evident and make this book engrossing reading.

The title story, a man loses his wife in a night of gambling... seen from the perspective of the child it explores family and relationships in an unusual way. There is a lovely twist at the end that makes the child, now grown up, look at his parents - and love - in a new way. Shamshu, the first person protagonist and Farida, his adorable and much adored wife, are now living in Toronto, in an Asian community district that brings together many of their acquaintances from their earlier life in Tanzania where they met as students.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"We Indians exist in networks..." 4 Sep 2009
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having enjoyed reading MG Vassanji's novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, a rich panoramic portrayal of Lall as a representative of the Asian community in Kenya and their complex existence in that country, I was intrigued how the author translates such multi-layered themes into a series of short stories. This, his second short story collection, tackles a wide range of 'in-between' life experiences of men and women, either in India, East Africa or Canada and USA.

Across generations Vassanji's protagonists are caught between traditional and modern or urban cultures, between different religions or challenges to their beliefs. Each story, some very short, others more novellas, is an delicate and intimate portrait of a small group of people, exploring different aspects of the human challenges faced by them. Some of the prominent characters are loosely connected across different stories, reappearing over time and space, so that over the length of the book, their different circumstances and personality traits can be explored. Vassanji is a master story teller as well as an accomplished wordsmith. Both talents are evident and make this book engrossing reading.

The title story, a man loses his wife in a night of gambling... seen from the perspective of the child it explores family and relationships in an unusual way. There is a lovely twist at the end that makes the child, now grown up, look at his parents - and love - in a new way. Shamshu, the first person protagonist and Farida, his adorable and much adored wife, are now living in Toronto, in an Asian community district that brings together many of their acquaintances from their earlier life in Tanzania where they met as students. Shamshu is an elder in his congregation and is called upon with every type of domestic and political problem. He and his wife act as something like central hub of a network established between characters and stories, that gives the collection an unusual continuity and depth. This technique lets the reader explore connections that would otherwise be more difficult to establish and it allows Vassanji to reflect on the different individuals over time and space as Farida and Shamshu discuss and reminisce.

While all stories are appealing, my favourite is a story about a deep friendship between two girls, Madhu and Khatija, who were neighbours in Amritsar before India's independence and part of India was partitioned off into Pakistan. One of them has to flee and the other, in diary entries, kept over decades, shares her emotions and the dramatic impact that the partition had on ordinary people. A sad, yet beautiful story. All are worth reading. [Friederike Knabe]
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