Iliana (Austin TX)
The Toss of a Lemon
Author Padma Viswanathan sets out to tell an epic story of a woman and her family living in India from 1896-1962. Sivakami is a Brahamin woman who is married off at 10 but by the time she is 18 she's already a widow.
She has two children but her life is dictated by what is expected of widowed women, basically that they shut themselves off from society because after all something must be wrong for them to be widow. It is as if they were a bad omen.
Interesting tidbits of what is expected of widowed women are shared in this narrative. That in my opinion is the strength of the novel but even though this is supposed to be the story of Sivakami, I felt that I still didn't know her well enough at the end of the book. I wanted to know what she thought of all the rules placed before her.
Normally I don't judge a book by its size but in this case I do think the novel went on for too long.
Donna Lynn Edwards (New Milford CT)
Impressive Inspirational Journey
Padma Viswanathan has written an impressive inspirational journey of a fictional Brahmin family that spans three generations. Be prepared however, for diminutive details that encompass 616 pages, as the author describes life in India from 1896 to1962.
The Toss of a Lemon is based on the stories told to her by her grandmother and re-created in the character of Sivakami. This woman is widowed at eighteen with two small children, thereafter, she is subjected to the strict rules governed by her caste. Unable to leave the house, unable to be touched from dawn to dusk, unable to remarry I cant imagine how she feels at her age. Further, she must wear white and have her head shaved by an untouchable.
What a powerful woman she is. I love Sivakami because she is such a paradox as supplicant to her caste, yet defiantly disregarding caste rules in to raise her grandchildren. In a patriarchal society this takes strength, endurance and courage. She is a remarkable character. Padmas grandmother must be pleased and proud that her stories have new life. If you enjoy a book with a strong heroine or love historical epics this would appeal to you.
I felt the subject of the caste system was a missed opportunity for more in depth teaching. There is an assumption at times that the reader has an above average understanding of Indian social and cultural life. This would be an ideal reading group novel with a study guide. Brilliantly written by a debut novelist with tremendous talent.
Barbara Hay (Walnut Creek CA)
The Toss of a Lemon
I found this book very tedious reading ... I had to push myself to finish. Great story and family but it took the author too long to tell it.
Andrea (Lafayette IN)
Sweeping Novel about Change in India
I enjoyed this sweeping novel of India in the 20th century as experienced by members of one family. Caught between ancient traditions and the beginning of the new India, the family must learn new ways of being a family. Most interesting to me was the theme of the unfairness of the caste system and the place of women in Indian society. Two of the main characters are women and much of the novel's events revolve around them and their reactions to changing social and cultural traditions.Overall the book paints a compelling portrait of a family in changing times in India or anywhere in the world. The book was also a fascinating telling of customs and culture of India. A book club would find much to talk about here, but it is to be enjoyed by anyone who loves a long read about another country.
Patricia (Fallbrook CA)
The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan
I am a big fan of Indian authors in general, and Indian family sagas in particular, in spite of a sameness in the genre recently. This book, though, is an original, and gives us an insider look at the caste system, and how it affected one Brahmin family over the years. How some of them retained the old traditions, and some didn't, and what this did to the family. It was a compelling read - had to finish - the writing is straightforward narrative, and very funny at times. On the down side, there were some loose ends. We know where everybody ended up, but not why; or what anybody thought about what happened, or even if they had any feelings at all.
A long book but I enjoyed it, I learned a lot about Hindu culture and mythology along the way.
Liz (Kalamazoo MI)
The Toss of a Lemon
It was with great reluctance that I turned the last pages of The Toss of a Lemon. This rich and deftly written novel captures the lives of members of a conservative Brahmin family living in a small village in southern India. I was completely captivated with the world Viswanathan created in this novel. Im partial to novels about India, and The Toss of a Lemon far exceeded my expectations. Readers of Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry and Manil Suri will enjoy this novel.
Katharine (Boulder CO)
Toss of a Lemon
On the back cover of my advanced copy, Yann Martel (Life of Pi author) challenges the reader to "start reading this book and give up on it". Well, I did, and I am...for now. This is the story of Sivakami, a woman (1896-1962) who, because of her Brahmin class, was forced to live a secluded life .. widowed at 18 with two children, she is so bound up in tradition and ritual that I finally had to break out of her daily life and come up for air. Extraordinarily well written, the book is redolent with the wonderful smells and tastes that Indian novels tend to portray, and the details of the daily events of village life are interesting, and I really want to know more about the siddhas, who are naked, ash covered, skinny, itinerant ascetics. For now, though, I have to leave this 600-page still life of ash, and gold, and lemons.