- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (16 May 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1853812781
- ISBN-13: 978-1853812781
- Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Jasmine (VMC) Paperback – 16 May 1991
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
The story is about a young woman named Jyoti. Jyoti grows up in India and is eventually married, and living a happy life with a young husband that she loves. However, a tragic attack widows Joyoti and she decides that she will fulfill her husband's dream of going to America for school. She enters America illegally, and her journey as an immigrant is one of bleakness. When she arrives in America, she starts calling herself Jasmine. She eventually starts working for a family with one child as a live-in-nanny. As it turns out, she falls in love with the husband, and when the couple separates it seems like Jasmine can once again be happy. Instead, she flees to Iowa, where she ends up marrying a man named Bud. The couple adopts a Vietnamese boy named Du and Jasmine, now going by the name Jane, ends up pregnant with Bud's child. Again, more bleakness --and she realizes she loved Taylor (her former employer) all along. At the end of the novel, she gets to decide if she wants to stay with Bud or flee to California with Taylor and his daughter.
Overall, this is a good book about immigration, identity, and how hard it is for "outsiders" to fully engage with American culture. There are several scenes within the novel that are wonderful in expressing the turmoil female immigrants face--specifically in terms of sexual assault. But all of the scenes that present this material are in the front half of the book. Even though the novel goes back and forth between three stories (the three different times in her life), the first half of the book is still far more engaging than the second half. For me, the last half of the book seemed to drag on, and I actually ended up deducting a star for this.
I think there are several genres that this book stands out in: Indian literature, immigration studies, stories about identity, etc. But that doesn't mean that this book should be over-praised just because it is a breakout Indian novel. There is still a lot that is lacking for me to give it more than 3 stars. For example, I'm not really sure how strong a heroine Jasmine actually is. She seems to run from her troubles, and never seems to want to settle anywhere--in fact, even by the conclusion of the book I'm still unsure if she has finally decided what she wants her life in America to look like. Again, the second half of the novel also drags on a bit, and while I was somewhat interested in the Iowan farmer's problems that are brought up in the second part of the novel, this sub-plot also seems a bit unnecessary.
Is it a good book? Absolutely. But I don't think that it needs all of the hype that it has been given. There are certainly (to date) some other books that deal with issues of identity, immigration, assimilation, etc., that have clearer story lines (though not Indian literature). Did I enjoy reading it? I loved the first half, but the second half was just okay. Is this something that you may get assigned in class? Yes. But that doesn't mean that everyone is going to fall in love with this book. As much as I wanted to love this book, I set it down just feeling kind of okay with it.
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.