From Publishers Weekly
The unnamed narrator of this promising debut is in many respects a typical teenager--self-obsessed and critical of her elders, projecting a mixture of disdain, irreverence and navet. She's a romantic dreamer, convinced that fate will miraculously make her a movie star, although she has never acted and lives in a small village in India. Meanwhile, she views her own life as through a movie lens, comparing herself to Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. But when her father, an alcoholic bully, insists she enter into an arranged marriage with a man she finds repulsive, the narrator takes action. She has the help of her sister's husband's grandfather, a wise old man who is dismissed as senile. With his connivance, she runs away to New Delhi and takes a job as a maid to the troubled Aziz family. This gives Balasubramanyam the chance to portray the lives of exploited servants and the rich, supercilious expatriate colony, a task he performs with humor and dexterity. It's unfortunate, however, that he makes Mr. Aziz and his wife, Ms. Marceau, so eccentric that they're virtually caricatures: the narrator's life in their home fails to seem credible. Yet Balasubramanyam is agile in depicting the narrator's gradual realization that she is not alone in her self-deception about her role in life, and that all people wear masks to disguise their real selves. (Feb.)Forecast: This novel won the 1999 Betty Trask Prize in England, and Balasubramanyam will assuredly take his place among the talented Indian writers of the decade. Though it lacks the power of The Death of Vishnu and The Obedient Father, it could be swept up in the groundswell of current novels whose characters have roots in India.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This perceptive debut novel, winner of the 1999 Betty Trask Prize (awarded by Britain's Society of Authors), is perched skillfully between the real and fantasy lives of a young South Indian girl. With her long-suffering mother and brother, the unnamed girl endures the tyranny of a raging alcoholic father. Inspired by romantic Hollywood matinees, she determines that film stardom is her way out. When she is confronted with an arranged marriage to a rascal, she decides to pursue her dream by running away to The City, where employment as a maid throws her into a reality as harsh as the one she left. Balasubramanyam tells his coming-of-age story with compassion and humanity, showing a thorough understanding of his characters and a disturbing view of the narrator's oppressive world. The prose is light and quite humorous, masking the astonishing depth and subtlety of this work. Essential for those who enjoy contemporary Indian fiction and highly recommended for larger public libraries. Zaheera Jiwaji, Edmonton, Alberta
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.