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Fasting, Feasting (BBC Radio 4) Audio Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook

3.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd; Abridged edition edition (5 Jun. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563477113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563477112
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 10.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,866,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Anita Desai, through her short stories and novels, two of which, Clear Light of Day and In Custody, have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is one of the most accomplished and admired chroniclers of middle-class India. In this, her latest novel, she tells the story of plain and lumpish Uma and the cherished, late-born Arun, daughter and son of strict and conventional parents--"MamaPapa" in Uma's mind, so united are they in their unyielding views and dictums.

Desai perfectly matches form and content: details are few, the focus narrow, emotions and needs given no place. Uma, as daughter and woman, expects nothing; Arun, as son and male, is lost under the weight of expectation.

Now in her 40s, Uma is at home. Attempts at arranged marriages having ended in humiliation and disaster, she is at the beck and call of MamaPapa, with only her collection of bangles and old Christmas cards for consolation.

Arun, at university in Massachusetts, is having to spend the summer with the Patton family in the suburbs: their fridge and freezer full of meat that no one eats, and Mrs Patton desperate to be a vegetarian, like Arun. But what Arun most wants is to be ignored, invisible.

The novel's counterpointing of India and America is a little forced, whereas Desai's focus on the daily round, whether in the Gangetic plain or suburban America, finely delineates the unspoken dramas in both cultures. And her characters, emblematic in their suffering. but capable of their own small rebellions, give Fasting, Feasting its sharp bite. --Ruth Petrie This review refers to the paperback edition of this novel.


"Desai is more than smart; she's an undeniable genius." (Washington Post) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
'Fasting, Feasting' deals with themes of oppression, suppression and escape. Uma is the eldest daughter of an educated Indian family, superficially Westernised and modern - the father is a lawyer - but at heart provincial and traditional in their attitudes. Uma is the ugly duckling who, sadly, doesn't grow up to be a swan. Instead, awkward, unlovely, prone to fits, she has to watch while her pretty and vivacious sister, Aruna, makes a successful marriage and the celebrated younger brother Arun makes an apparently successful escape to the US to study. Meanwhile, Uma stays at home, an unpaid servant to her parents, humiliated by one failed attempt after another to marry her off, her every attempt to find some freedom and space in her life thwarted by her jealous and possessive parents.
In a parallel but secondary story, we hear about the tragic marriage and eventual death of her beautiful and brilliant cousin Anamika. The two themes converge at the end of the main story as Anamika's charred body is returned to her - and Uma's - home village for ritual cremation and the scattering of ashes. The tradition of arranged marriages which has been a source of sadness, humiliation - and no little humour - for Uma reveals a horrific side in Anamika's story. Uma is spiritually crushed, but Anamika is literally, physically destroyed.
The book ends with a more or less separate novella, describing Arun's experiences in the US, in rooms at Massachusetts University before being thrust into meat-eating, blue-collar, US suburbia for the summer, farmed out to family friends through an arrangement made back in India. Arun's childhood has been one of oppression, constantly coached and pushed by his father through a series exams and scholarships.
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Format: Hardcover
I had to write to compensate for the negative reviews to this very moving, very funny and beautifully written book. It's true that the last chapters, with the change of characters and scenario, do not fit with the rest and give the book a feeling of uncompleteness. But the story of Uma is one of the most moving stories I've read lately. One reader talks about farce and there is lots of it, and very funny it is (the 2 stories on Uma's 2 failed marriages are great tragi-comic black humour). What it struck me most about the novel, however, is how truly believable the characters are, specially compared to most contemporary fiction. They are not cliches we easily identify with because they represent a part of us (see Brigett Jones and her sisters...) They are "real." I'm thus surprised that some readers find the contrary to be the case. It just goes to show, in my opinion, how far our world has moved from that described in the book. I am from a western country, Spain, which only very recently had still more to share, in terms of culture and mores, with most developing countries, than with the West. While still in my late 20s, I can remember another world, still alive in my grandparents, were family, society and the every day rutines and conventions that make life were completely different from those belonging in my current life. Almost every character in Desai's novel made me think of some relative of mine, or of some story I've heard been told. If you don't understand the reasons or the behaviour of these characters, by no means be surprised, or amazed, or puzzled, but do not question their truth, their authenticity. A beautiful novel. Shame of last chapter.
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Format: Paperback
Fasting, Feasting, by Anita Desai, was an excellent novel with strong narrative, interesting characters and discussions on unignorable human issues. The story is written in two parts. The first takes place in India and tells the story of Uma, the eldest daughter. She is all an Indian family would hope their daughter would not be. Although she is not pretty or smart, Uma does have a kind heart and a strong will. Throughout the collection of life-changing stories that make up the first section, Uma grows immensly in spirit. So much so that by the end she has found a place for herself in Indian society where she can show her individuality. The second part of the book focuses on Uma's younger brother Arun who is attending school in Massachusetts. During the novel, he stays with a family for the summer while school is out. This section of the book held eerie revelations about American society. Besides discussing the issue of eating disorders, it also touched on the diminishing of the family structure and the American obsession with materialism. Through Arun's thoughts and feelings the reader is able to see the problems and obstacles that plague society. During Arun's stay, he grows as a character making the end of the book very touching. Entertwined in all of these other concepts is the issue of food. One of the most interesting points in this book is how Desai compares American and Indian cultures through the way they view food. By using this interesting tool of comparison and involving the reader in her work Desai creates a captivating novel that forces the reader to look closely at their own values.
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By A Customer on 6 Jun. 2000
Format: Paperback
I am writing this in response to the negative comments regarding this novel. I have to say that I thought this was a fantastic novel. The characters were so beautiful and poignantly drawn and the pacing of the interwoven tales was perfect. The real strength of this book however comes when you step beyond the immediate and look at the characters as a parable of the experience of postcolonialism. through this the stories of Uma and Arun tie together and add to each other. If you are looking for something with a bit more depth, but without being turgid I would highly recommend this novel
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