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In the Convent of Little Flowers: Stories Hardcover – December 16, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sundaresan (The Twentieth Wife) bluntly questions how evolved the globalized world truly is in these stories of individuals trapped between India's archaic traditions and blitz into modernity. In Three and a Half Seconds, Meha and Chandar's arranged but loving marriage blossoms regardless of the unease they feel regarding the violent peculiarities of their son, Bikaner. As their humble but hard working lives wind down, they become victims of abuse in the home that they share with Bikaner and his wife. In The Faithful Wife, Ram, a journalist, is called home by his grandmother to intervene in a sati, the immolation of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre. The widow in this case is a 12-year-old girl. Finally, in Hunger, two women re-evaluate their own worth as well as their own definitions of love and happiness. The stories are sobering, all the more so for Sundaresan's nuanced character work and blistering social critique; she doesn't pull any punches in her heartbreaking and sometimes repulsive portrayals of oppressors and victims. (Dec.)
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About the Author

Indu Sundaresan was born in India and grew up on Air Force bases all over the country.  Her father, a fighter pilot, was also a storyteller—managing to keep his audiences captive and rapt with his flair for drama and timing.  He got this from his father, Indu's grandfather, whose visits were always eagerly awaited.  Sundaresan’s love of stories comes from both of them, from hearing their stories based on imagination and rich Hindu mythology, and from her father's writings.

After an undergraduate degree in economics from India, Sundaresan came to the U.S. for graduate school at the University of Delaware and has an MS in operations research and an MA in economics. But all too soon, the storytelling gene beckoned.

The Twentieth Wife, Sundaresan’s first novel, won the 2003 Washington State Book Award.  Her second novel, The Feast of Roses, is a sequel to the first and continues the story of Mehrunnisa, Empress Nur Jahan’s life as the most powerful woman of the Mughal dynasty that ruled India.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (December 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416586091
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416586098
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,842,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Indu Sundaresan was born and brought up in India, on Air Force bases around the country. Her father, a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force, was also an avid storyteller--as was his father, Indu's grandfather. She grew up on their stories on various themes--Hindu mythology and fictional tales of an elephant and a horse living in the wilderness.

She came to the U.S. for graduate school at the University of Delaware and has two degrees; an M.S. in operations research and an M.A. in economics. But, the storytelling gene beckoned and she began writing soon after graduate school.

The Twentieth Wife (2002), based on the life of Mehrunnisa, Empress Nur Jahan, is the tale of one of India's most powerful women. This was her first published novel, but the third one she wrote--the first two still languish on the hard drive of some forgotten old computer and are never to be revived; they were practice runs and taught her how to write a novel.
She is the author of five books so far. The Twentieth Wife (2002); The Feast of Roses (2003); The Splendor of Silence (2006); In the Convent of Little Flowers (2008) and Shadow Princess (2010).

All of Indu's work has been published, in hardcover and paperback, in the U.S. by Pocket Books/Atria Books/Washington Square Press--imprints of Simon & Schuster. Her work has been translated into 17 languages to date.

Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book unreservedly and look forward to her next one.
Amazon Customer
The mark of a good book to me is how much you end up thinking about it (positively, of course) after you're finished reading.
indiestar
That is quite a feat for an author, to write stories of such depth and magnitude that they are all equally moving.
skrishna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Pooja D on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"IN THE CONVENT of LITTLE FLOWERS" (Atria Books; ISBN: 978-1-4165-8609-8) is a compilation of impressively elegant short stories by Indu Sundaresan.
She skillfully with utmost confidence takes the reader on a journey to the ancient culture, the unique diversity of India- its age old traditional rituals while at the same time making the reader question them and ponder over their hold on its inhabitants. The readers are introduced to compelling array of characters that are unforgettable, each is a portrait painted adeptly and even with their flaws and complexities are treated with respect by the author. The characters are struggling under the weight of thousands of years of ingrained beliefs and teachings on class, caste and sexuality- as it challenges their today's modern view, hopes and dreams. Thus the foregoing conflict within themselves and for their place in the 21st century India which influenced by western modernity cannot totally accept the age old practices or let go of their sway on them.

All the nine stories in this collection explore the intricacies of relationships between friends, neighbors, sisters, husband-wife, grandparents and children-societal ties; their deep roots, their connections to past. It is interesting to note that the names of characters that people these pages are also taken from the Indian mythological legends with consequences in present day.

In "Shelter of Rain," Padma, the American raised Indian adoptee prepares to meet her guardian nun from the orphanage 'Convent of Little Flowers'. Indu's evocative prose effectively opens our hearts to the conflict going on in the protagonist's mind and heart.

"Three and Half Seconds" story about unforgettable characters of Meha and Chander.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Indu Sunderesan's new book, "In the Convent of Little Flowers," is a collection of short stories set in a more contemporary time than her previous works. Set mostly in India, the stories touch on topics still somewhat taboo to mention or acknowledge in Indian society. The writing style is so vivid, it makes you feel as if you are a part of the story and you end up thinking about the events long after you have put the book away. I would recommend this book unreservedly and look forward to her next one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By skrishna VINE VOICE on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Indu Sundaresan's work. She has written three historical fiction novels; two are about Empress Nur Jahan (The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses) and one is set in India during World War II and the Indian independence movement (The Splendor of Silence). All three are wonderfully written novels that any fan of historical fiction should pick up immediately.

When I heard that Ms. Sundaresan had a short story collection coming out, I eagerly sought the chance to obtain a review copy and was thrilled to receive one. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew that they would be amazing stories. And I was right; the stories are very different from her historical fiction work, but they evoke the same emotion within the reader.

The stories in In the Convent of Little Flowers are simply written and utterly beautiful. Some are very emotional; others are horrific (after reading the story about a son who is abusive to his mother and father, I called my own parents immediately, in tears). Each has its own quality that recommends itself to the reader. As such, there is not one bad story among them, not one lesser tale. That is quite a feat for an author, to write stories of such depth and magnitude that they are all equally moving.

All of the stories are about Indians. The majority of them are set in India, though not all. There are classic stories that people of any culture can relate to, stories about love lost between a husband and wife. But there are also stories that are appalling, that make the reader want to weep - the tale of bride burning is one of these. Each story has its own force that propels it forward. Not once did I want to put down the book, to move onto something else. Usually, I read other novels between the breaks in short stories.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sneha Jacob on December 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Indu Sundaresan's new book In the Convent of Little Flowers. She writes her new book with the same prose and sincerity that I have come to attribute her with. I have been hooked from the time of The Twentieth Wife, one of her earlier novels, and was looking forward to her latest work, and Ms. Sundaresan delivers again!

In this wonderful collection of nine short stories we are introduced to a variety of modern-day and mythical characters that range from being inextricably entrenched in age-old Indian traditions and ancient beliefs, to the other extreme of nonconformist Indians. I found it interesting that Ms. Sundaresan drew from real life experiences and discussions in writing these stories. All authors are inspired by various means, but when the basis of a story has true life ties it makes for a more intriguing read.

First we meet an orphan, adopted by an American couple, who as an adult living in Seattle receives a letter from the nun that runs the orphanage revealing that she is her Aunt, and that her biological Mother lies dying surrounded by her husband and legitimate children. The story of four and half seconds unravels in a unique manner, and is by far my favourite; it is the poignant tale of an elderly couple who take desperate measures in dealing with the mistreatment of an ungrateful son. In the story of a sati, we feel the desperation of a man who attempts to stop the burning alive of a young widowed girl on the funeral pyre of her husband. Then there's the one of two married women with strong attractions toward one another, who are compelled to leave their respective marriages for a life together in a society that even today does not openly condone homosexuality.
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