Friday, April 9, 2010

The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar

Rating: 4/10

I've heard a lot of great things about the author Thrity Umrigar and I've read several rave reviews for this book The Space Between Us and went in with quite some expectations, which went for a toss. Putting it simply, this book is too overtly dramatic, cliche and predictable for it to be anything more than an 'okay' read. 

The book traces the lives of two women in Bombay, middle-class Parsi housewife Sera Dubash and her old, loyal maid Bhima; women separated by their class status. Both of these women have in common tragic stories to recount, be it of abusive husbands or betrayal. Bhima's grand daughter Maya, whose education Sera has taken care of with great love, turns up pregnant and refuses to name the father. Things will never be the same again for the two women, after this new tragedy.

Every single bad, tragic thing you can think of, happens to one of these women or their families. Poverty, AIDS, abuse, violence, slums, abortion; all of it features in the book. It's a bit like Slumdog Millionaire with more importance to female characters, a kind, rich boss and Jai Ho.

The story-line is very simplistic, formulaic and though Umrigar can definitely write well, with a plot that has limited scope, the book becomes repetitive easily. Much like some Bollywood movie, it relies on the drama, the overboard emotions and a very guessable 'surprise twist'. I figured out Maya's baby's father much before it was revealed.

There's just too much sadness in here: Umrigar piles on the agony, adds on more tragedy that it didn't move me to tears, just got too predictably irritating for me to care. However, to give credit where it is due, Umrigar captures poverty and the divide between the classes very well. I particularly loved these lines:
'The generosity of the poor, Sera marveled to herself. It puts us middle-class people to shame. They should hate our guts, really. Instead, they treat us like royalty '

I'd still try reading some of Umrigar's other novels, perhaps just to find out what the hype is all about. Because this book didn't explain it to me and probably was the wrong one to pick. I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone. But if you don't mind a predictable, fast read, go ahead and pick this.


Birdy said...

My friend would agree with you! She has given a not-so-good review too at our blog!

Kals said...

I just found her review and replied to it :) I'm glad people think it is over-hyped!

JoAnn said...

I do want to read Umrigar, but I think I'll start with The Weight of Heaven. Thanks for the review!

Vaishnavi said...

I had actually heard a lot about this book but don't know if I'll read it now. I don't like books that pile on sadness like that but maybe I will read some other Umrigar book..

Alyce said...

Thanks for the warning! I'm not a big fan of books that pile on the misery.

Kim said...

A friend who recommended it for a book club choice loved it. Me? Just like you said. Different strokes for different folks.

Veens said...

Ouch, that hurts! Now was I not so long ago thinking that I really need to read this author :)
Now plss figure out which other book will be good to start for us ;)

The Book Mole said...

I am no fan of tearjerkers and will pass on this one.

Kals said...

JoAnn - Yep..I've heard that's pretty good :)

Vaishnavi - Umrigar is worth reading. Just not in this book :)

Alyce - Same here! They make me exasperated.

Kim - Absolutely :)

Veens - Haha. Will do and let you know soon! :P

The Book Mole - Yes please do. I don't think you'll be missing out on anything :)

christa @ mental foodie said...

This is on my TBR after reading a review elsewhere. I don't mind sadness much in books, but don't usually like predictable plot!! Guess will still give this a chance to see if I like the writing (or I suppose can try another book by the same author!)

Booksnyc said...

I have this one on the shelf for the SAAC - I have heard such great things about the author and am disappointed to hear you didn't like it.

Anonymous said...

I think I read another review of this at Shona's blog :)

She liked the book I think, but I thought the story sounded a bit depressing...glad that I didn't go for it

Kals said...

Christa, Booksync - Do read Umrigar, most certainly! I'm looking forward to reading more of her books too. This book was a bad place to start :)

Nishita - is depressing and a major tear-jerker!

Booksnyc said...

Well, I finally read this book! I did really enjoy it even though there was so much tragedy. It is interesting that you commented on the drama - another reader from the read a long made similar comment - she thought it was like a soap opera. For some reason, that didn't hit my while I read the book!


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