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In Beautiful Disguises Paperback – January 17, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st U.S. ed edition (January 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582341273
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582341279
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,343,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 na‹vet‚. 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.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Xavier Thelakkatt on June 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Indian name of the author had drawn me to this book, the story of an 18 year old Indian girl from the south who runs away to The City in the north to escape the marriage arranged by her drunken father and ends up as a maid in the household of Mr Aziz and Ms Marceau. As I continued reading more about this stereotype of an abused Indian female deserving our sympathy and needing redemption, it dawned on me that there was nothing Indian about the narrative. It became evident to me that the author had no first hand knowledge of contemporary India. In dealing with the escapades of the free-spirited teenage girl, the author fails to address the issues of the status of women and the cultural restrictions on them. He does not know the barriers and taboos dictated by the caste system which is still alive in the minds of Indians. The diversity of cultures and the difficulties posed by the variety in languages do not seem to concern the author. The teenage girl after traveling alone for 24 hours by train from a Kannada speaking town in the south reaches The City without any trouble and joins the servants of the Aziz family to begin work immediately. The Aziz family is only half Indian, drinking wine and eating steak. But the servant women drinking champagne with the masters, smoking cigarettes and taking day-offs also are unlike servants in any Indian household. The back drop of India with all its complexities does not suit well to the credibility of the events narrated.
Mr Rajeev is successful in capturing the emotions, feelings and inner thoughts of the teenage girl though he gives very little detail while explaining external events and situations. This throws the reader often into confusion. After reading a 246 page novel one is left without even the name of the heroine, let alone the languages she knew.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book in the local library drawn by the lurid cover :). Now, I used to be a voracious reader, but my attention span has progressively shortened, and now very few books can really hold my attention. This one did. Its narrative pulls you in immediately, and feels really grounded in the sights and sounds of its setting. The heroine is a riot - spirited, precocious and original. The few things I didn't like were:
- The introspection/analysis of the heroine got too weighty at times for instance, too many repetitious observations about Ravi
- Some of the metaphors felt really forced. I don't have the book in front of me to give examples, but I noticed that all through the book.
All in all, I'd recommend this for people who want a relatively easy and fast-paced read that makes you think at the same time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MegaMegaWhiteThing! on May 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I loved it, that's all I can say. Main character was brilliant, sweet, and refreshingly independent. The ending didn't make complete sense to me, but it was a novel worth reading overall, and it left me uplifted. I felt like he didn't know how to end the work, so he ended it as he did. (I won't go into the ending to prevent spoiling it for others.)
The perk to reading In Beautiful Disguises is you can feel the passion that goes behind each and every character's niche in life. This is rare in books, because usually the individuality of each interaction is sacrificed for the sake of keeping the focus on the main character.
Read it...and laugh.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Anderson on April 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read this novel for a creative writing class as a junior in high school. The second time I read it was the summer before I went away to University. The third time... well, I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say that my copy is so highlighted and underlined that it's hard to find an unmarked page. This novel is composed of many complicated parts: a relatively simple but effectively mythic plot; a brilliantly imaginative and naive 17 year old main character; a supporting cast of eccentric and yet still real people; and a setting exotic enough to survive bored American scrutiny. Each of these could have caused the book to sink into predictability and even banality, but under the author's skillful hand they become intriguing parts of a wonderful whole. I think that one of the reasons why I love this book so much was because of the time in my life that I first read it. I cannot really articulate all of the emotions that run through the head of a 17 year old girl, but Balasubramanyam can. I felt like everything that the main character said was something that would have come straight out of my own head. The first person narration only brings out the more interesting thoughts gracing her mind. My favorite: "...I thought, Reality is a Dream, and I was scared. I would never be fifteen again, not unless I could forget that sight, but some sights lay eggs" (pg. 238). That quote has floated around in my mind since the moment I read it, proving itself over and over again. The final part of this book that I would love to tell you about occurs in the middle. The main character takes a trip to the zoo in New Dehli. Every animal there is a symbol of another character in the novel.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "panicorfu" on December 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most captivating and charming books I've read in ages.
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