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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing novel of stunning contrasts.
With one of the all-time great opening chapters, a traditional Hindu marriage of a five-year-old girl, Mukherjee establishes her themes, conflicts, and contrasts. Amidst the lyrical, atmospheric details of flickering oil lamps, the impenetrable jungle, banks of fog, and smoke from cooking fires, she inserts the singular detail of retching coughs from tuberculosis,...
Published on 25 Dec 2002 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early promise not fulfilled
At the beginning of the book, the author seems to have all the elements of a fascinating story. By the end, it seems as if she couldn't quite decide what she wanted to write about and just finished off the novel as quickly as she could. The book's main theme is Bengali family tradition but it also touches on illegitimate birth, criminals preying on family loyalties, the...
Published on 20 Jun 2004


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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing novel of stunning contrasts., 25 Dec 2002
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Desirable Daughters (Hardcover)
With one of the all-time great opening chapters, a traditional Hindu marriage of a five-year-old girl, Mukherjee establishes her themes, conflicts, and contrasts. Amidst the lyrical, atmospheric details of flickering oil lamps, the impenetrable jungle, banks of fog, and smoke from cooking fires, she inserts the singular detail of retching coughs from tuberculosis, suddenly shocking the reader and abruptly signaling that this is not a novel which will sugarcoat reality. And when the bride's and groom's families differ in interpreting the events which occur on the way to the ceremony and the bride ends up married to a tree, "It seems all the sorrow of history, all that is unjust in society and cruel in religion has settled on her."
Tara Chatterjee, the main character and a descendant of the tree bride, is an orthodox Bengali Brahmin from a well-known Hindu family, someone who accepted without question the groom her father chose for her and who settled in the U.S. when he established a business in California. Now a woman in her mid-thirties residing in Atherton, California, she is divorced, raising her son alone, living with a red-haired biker, and teaching kindergarten. When a stranger, Christopher Dey, arrives at her house claiming to be the illegitimate son of one of her older sisters, she is shocked and forced to contend with the issues he raises, while facing possible dangers, as she tries to check out his story.
The contrasts between life in Calcutta and Atherton, between her ex-husband and her lover, and between her traditional, protected life in India and her free and independent life in the U.S. are very obvious throughout, but as Tara deals with the complexities of Christopher Dey's appearance, we also see how tradition and family stories also guide her inner world, shape her responses, and affect both her views of the external world and her behavior within it--even after she has "changed worlds."
At times the contrasts in Tara's life seem exaggerated and perhaps less realistic than they could be, with the dramatic plot and its violence somewhat at odds with the more subtle (and, to me, more interesting) internal conflicts she faces. The shocking climax, which causes Tara to reevaluate her connections to the past and plan for the future, brings the themes full circle, while leaving some of the details unresolved, perhaps appropriate to a novel about cultural differences. Mary Whipple
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well plotted exploration of Modern Bengali Society, 11 Aug 2006
This review is from: Desirable Daughters (Paperback)
This book was a breath of fresh air to me. (Fed up of reading about white characters all the time whose lives & aspirations in no way reflect the facts of our own - as if ours do not merit a look in).

The author has cleverly twisted a plot involving very real elements of intrigue and immigration with details about what it actually is like now to live across continents and be a part of the new "diaspora". Written a bit pulpily - probably to give Indians a streetwiseness away from the usual grandoise/ self-important pomposity that they (get?) branded with - or brand themselves with?

The only thing that did not seem to tie in well was the extended plot regarding the ancestor who married a tree... Unless I missed some hidden parable?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early promise not fulfilled, 20 Jun 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Desirable Daughters (Paperback)
At the beginning of the book, the author seems to have all the elements of a fascinating story. By the end, it seems as if she couldn't quite decide what she wanted to write about and just finished off the novel as quickly as she could. The book's main theme is Bengali family tradition but it also touches on illegitimate birth, criminals preying on family loyalties, the East/West cultural conflict and resistance to the Raj. Worth reading? Yes, for a few really enlightening moments, but don't expect the book's early promise to be fulfilled.
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Desirable Daughters
Desirable Daughters by Bharati Mukherjee (Paperback - 1 Mar 2005)
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