Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman & a Giveaway

"Earrings are not decorations. They are a statement of legitimacy, of dignity, of self-worth. Ask any woman, and she would tell you that she would pawn everything she has before she gave up her earrings. Even her wedding band. For what is a wedding band worth except to say that a man coveted your children and wanted to claim them for his own? A wedding band can come from any man, just like children. Earrings, a real pair of earrings, come only with love." [pg 121]


A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman
Atria Books, 2009 (ARE)
Fiction; 374 pgs


Sri Lanka is located in South East Asia, an island country just south of India. It is a beautiful country that has been mired in conflict for over 40 years. Cultural and religious differences are at the forefront of the civil unrest and terrorist acts by extremists. Ru Freeman's novel, A Disobedient Girl, is set during these tumultuous times. Biso is the mother of three young children. In the early morning hours, she prepares her children for travel. After years of abuse, she has finally decided to leave her husband. They travel by train to the north, hoping to take refuge with Biso's mother's sister. The long train ride allows Biso time to reflect on her life, about her affair with the love of her life, his death at her husband's hands and the continuing abuse she suffered. Her children are her life, especially her youngest, the product of her affair.

This is also Latha's story. Latha works as a servant for the Vithanages, a wealthy family in Colombo. She and the daughter of the house, Thara, become friends although Latha is never allowed to forget her lower status. Latha has never taken easily to her role as servant. She feels she deserves better in life and often lands in trouble for going after what she wants. Her choices in life are not always the wisest, and, while still a teen, she becomes pregnant by her friend and mistress' love interest.

Biso's story is told over the course of a few days in first person; while Latha's is in third person and spans many years. It is an interesting technique that the author balances well as she alternates between characters with each chapter. The stories of the two women are connected in such a way that makes the ending all the more bittersweet.

I was drawn to both stories equally. Both Latha and Biso are flawed characters and strong women. My heart instantly went out to Biso and her children. While I may not approve of extramarital affairs, I do understand on some level why and how they come about. It becomes more complicated when cultural issues are thrown into the mix. Biso had lost her own mother at a young age and was married to a man not of her choosing. That marriage quickly became a violent one. Biso longed for love and to feel wanted. She found that in Siri. All that ended when he died, and Biso had to begin making other choices.

It took longer for me to warm to Latha. Latha is a passionate character. As the novel opens, she is young and naive and often impulsive. She carries with her a sense of entitlement and does not seem to know her place. The treatment of child servants was appalling and a part of me cheered for Latha for knowing she deserved better even while knowing her life would have been easier had she played along like the good little servant girl. I have read several other reviews that berate the fact that that Latha does not evolve as a character over the course of the novel. She never does seem to fully take responsibility for her actions, always seeming to lay the blame at others' feet. At the same time, I think she did grow as a character in other ways, eventually coming into her own.

Ru Freeman captured the hearts of her characters and the country about which she wrote. Through her characters, readers get a feel for the political unrest, the caste and class struggles, and the inner turmoil and sacrifices of both Latha and Biso. It took me about 76 pages or so to really get into A Disobedient Girl and while I wanted to shake the characters at times for the decisions they made, I enjoyed it just the same.

Rating: * (Good +)


Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge & 2009 Pub Challenge


Be sure and visit Ru Freeman's blog for more information about the book and to get to know the author. Visit TLC Tour stops for a list of Ru Freeman's tour stops!

Many thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for the copy of this book and the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.


I also have a hardcover copy of Ru Freeman's A Disobedient Girl for one lucky commenter. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and notified by e-mail. The deadline to enter is Tuesday, September 29th at 11:59 p.m. (PDT). Giveaway open worldwide. Make sure you include your e-mail address if it is not easily accessible on your blog so I contact you if win. Good luck!

**Stacy from Stacy's Books is the lucky winner of A Disobedient Girl. Congratulations, Stacy! Thank you to all who entered!**


© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

47 comments:

  1. I often find myself wanting to shake characters for their decisions! :) I read Portrait of a Lady a couple of months ago, and I kept getting so annoyed I'd talk to it! lol

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  2. I've been collecting books about Sri Lanka for a while and have been keeping my eye on Ru Freeman via her blog. Her book sounds intriguing and complex. You've done a great review.

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  3. I don't know that I've ever read anything set in Sri Lanka and that fact alone intrigues me about this book. Great review.

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  4. I've read a couple of good reviews on this book and would love the chance to win it. Thanks!

    amanda n.
    fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  5. We are so near Sri Lanka geographically as well as culturally. The Strife there kind of affects India too. In so many ways.

    This is something I am going to read.

    And I might as well as try my luck for the giveaway.

    Please count me in.

    gautami.tripathy[at]gmail.com

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  6. This sounds really good! Great review, Wendy. Have I told you lately how much I adore your blog?! This kitties in the header always make me smile when I stop by to visit!!

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  7. I'm intrigued that one story takes place over a few days and the other over many years. Interesting.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  8. This sounds like a fascinating read. Count me in, please.

    jessica(at)fan(dot)com

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  9. Sounds good, but totally different from everything that I normally read. I should lookout for this one. Don't you have a love/hate relationship with some characters? It's great that a story draws you in so much that you feel that passionate.

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  10. I think this will be an inspiring but troubling book to read and very worthwhile. I saw this title somewhere else and wondered what it was about.
    Please enter me in your giveaway.

    Amy
    Aimala127@gmail.com

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  11. This sounds very powerful. Your great review has me adding it to my wish list (unless I win, of course).

    stacybooks at yahoo

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  12. I have never read a book set in Sri Lanka so this book sounds very intriguing.

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  13. Great review, Wendy! I don't think I've read any book that set in Sri Lanka. This sounds like a great read!

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  14. OOH! I really want to read this one! Please enter me!

    j.t.oldfield[at]gmail.com

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  15. I feel like the caboose this month...this will be the second time I follow you on a blog tour. :-)

    I really liked the alternating stories in this book...and the taste of Sri Lanka.

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  16. Haha, I often want to shake characters in books :D It probably shows you're getting "into" the book, though, even if you get annoyed at the decisions the characters make!

    I love books set in unusual cultural settings. I recently read SOLD by Zana Muhsen... it left me so frustrated at the end, though. Possibly because it's a true story, and you just wish it had ended differently.

    Anyway, I would love to enter to win this, please! My email address is: kiwibooklover at gmail dot com

    Thanks so much for doing the giveaway - and for making it international! :)

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  17. I never thought of SriLanka and after going through your blog i am very exited about this book. plz enter me

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  18. I've really been interested in reading this book. Love your thoughts on it!

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  19. I'm always interested in reading books set in neighbouring countries and I don't think I've read many based in Srilanka.

    Please enter me Wendy

    elizascott2005 at yahoo dot co dot in

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  20. I love the idea of earrings being so important to these women. Glad you enjoyed the book!

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  21. Don't enter me. I just wanted to stop by and say HI.

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  22. Hi Wendy, no need to enter me. Like Booklogged, I'm here to say HI!

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  23. I'm having a hard time getting into this one. I'm about a 100 pages in, but have set it aside for the time being....

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  24. Very nice review! I haven't read the book but it sounds like the story is very much similiar to "A Thousand Splendid Suns".

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  25. Sounds interesting. count me in.
    battyaboutbats at gmail.com

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  26. This looks pretty good, but I wouldn't rush out and buy it because you didn't give it a very high rating.

    When in October would you like to aim to have our buddy read completed by? Just the end of the month, or something more specific?

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  27. Nice review. I've never read any stories set in Sri Lanka, but in fact I'm intrigued to read novels that center on different cultures and issues. Please do enter me for the draw. :D

    linna.hsu at gmail dot com

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  28. Looks like an interesting read. Please count me in. Thanks for the chance.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

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  29. sounds interesting, thanks for the giveaway!

    adbcoz (at)gmail(dot)com

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  30. Please count me in. I hadnt even heard of Ru Freeman till I came into the book blogging world just recently and I am from Sri Lanka. I have been looking at the local bookshops and this book is not available here yet.

    Mystica

    mystica123athotmaildotcom

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  31. Hi Wendy! Great review. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. It sounds like a fascinating glimpse into a place and a society that I know nothing about.

    Thanks so much for all the time and energy that went into reading and reviewing this book! It is much appreciated.

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  32. Well written review (as usual), Wendy! I just wrote my review (to be posted on Wednesday). I actually found this book to be one of the best I've read this year...Freeman's writing just blew me away...and unlike some people, I never saw the ending coming.

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  33. Thank you for this. Count me in.
    mauagd@gmail.com

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  34. Please enter me!

    tanialexandralves@gmail.com

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  35. This sounds like a great book. Count me in!
    Please enter me!

    joanapatriciadias@gmail.com

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  36. This book looks amazing! Please count me in.

    luisfilipebarros88@gmail.com

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  37. This book looks soooo good! I really want it! :)

    rosamariabarrosmaria@gmail.com

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  38. Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to enter.

    joaomiguelrocha85@gmail.com

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  39. I've been wanting to read this book.

    augustod56@gmail.com

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  40. I would like to read this book!

    isispath@gmail.com

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  41. Thank you for this. Count me in.

    mariabarros1987@gmail.com

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  42. I would love to win this book!
    filipemaria90@gmail.com

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  43. Great giveaway!

    migueljardim85@gmail.com

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  44. Thank you for the chance to win this wonderfull book.
    alexsweetbabygirl@gmail.com

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  45. Thank you to everyone for entering and dropping in to read my review!

    **Stacy from Stacy's Books is the lucky winner of A Disobedient Girl. Congratulations, Stacy! Thank you to all who entered!**

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  46. I'm curious about this book, but I think others are calling my name louder.

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  47. Joy - I understand. I have a few who are calling to me right now. I'm glad I have nothing pressing at the moment.

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