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A Girl and a River It is the 1930s and the fire of the freedom movement from distant Bengal and Delhi is warming the languid bones of the small town of Mysore where Kaveri and Setu grow up Theirs is a liberal prosperous household and the family takes its privileges for granted But not everyone is as lucky

  • Paperback
  • 336 pages
  • A Girl and a River
  • Usha K.R.
  • English
  • 28 May 2014
  • 9780143101239

10 thoughts on “A Girl and a River

  1. says:

    Confession I had no idea who Usha KR was when I picked this book up at my favorite bookshop I was drawn to the idea of something set in Karnataka What I got instead was a brilliant aching and beautifully written portrait of familial tensions set amidst the backdrop of the Indian fight for independence Sometimes beautiful things happen when you least expect it And this book was one of those uiet and understated Usha KR draws the book with such magic that I left with a feeling of disuiet Why the disuiet? Because we just destroy each other in our relationships don’t we? The said and unsaid The tug and pull The ricochets and echoes The ebb and flow The mess and chaos All we are left with in the end? Broken shards A river that flows And you flow away with it Ok Morose But I love this book And now I need someone to explain the ending because I am confused

  2. says:

    This is the first book I read by Usha KR and I was blown away Sketched with meticulous detail A Girl and a River is about Mylaraiah an illustrious lawyer and his family who lives in Mysore during 1930's British India We are treated to delicious sepia toned vignettes of pre Independence India and little cultural tidbits that I wouldn't have known otherwise For instance I had never heard of a sweet with the very geographical sounding name of 'komberghat' I loved the sweep of the novel and the immense research that has evidently gone behind it Although I initially struggled to keep track of the characters I eased into the story later on The unnamed narrator Setu's daughter is as intriguing as the person she is trying to piece together by looking through long forgotten books and journals To me this was like a parallel uest that was masterfully brought out Kaveri too searches for meaning in life and tries to find herself and so does Setu's daughter I adored this book and I can't wait to read of Usha's works

  3. says:

    It's been a while since I've read a book where the author displays such fine sway over her content and craft Usha K R has been writing for than a decade now her last novel was The Chosen and while she has always received rave reviews for her works it is her latest book A Girl And A River that has come in for some much deserved critical attention The author was the recipient of the Crossword Award recently where she won in the Fiction category for the same book while William Darlymple received the award in the Non fiction sectionOn the surface and as the book cover demonstrates it is a straightforward story that of Setu and Kaveri's life a brother and sister duo brought up in pre independence Mysore and the unexpected turns their lives take Nothing prepares you for the complex ironic web of human relationships emotions and the play of fate influenced by circumstance as much as by character that the author so elegantly unravels Usha draws up an exhaustive social scape of the 1930 and '40s with meticulous detailing on every level studding it with keenly fleshed out characters their actions closely linked with the moral and social fibre of the time So you have the patriarch Mylaraiah running his prosperous household happy to be a beneficiary under the Britishers and hoping things will run as smoothly as they are He’s surrounding by charismatic men like Narayana Rao and CG K Sir the history teacher at school who writes anonymous letters in newspaper columns in support of the freedom struggle who play a proactive role in getting rid of the British Mylaraiah if he feels a sense of inadeuacy and guilt about supporting the English uells these emotions by making donations to welfare projects soft issues like Khadi and so on undertaken by Narayana Rao Mylaraiah’s teenage son Setu is too overwhelmed by his father's aura to defy him and join any of the prevailing freedom struggle groups He watches them from a distance with a glint of envyNot surprisingly the two women of the house –Mylaraiah’s wife Rukmani and their free spirited daughter Kaveri grow up since Rukmani too came to the house as a child bride finding the outside world with men like Narayana Rao and C G K’s son Shyam respectively irresistibly attractive To their imaginative idealistic minds these were the men of real action men who could change the course of history with their fiery speeches and ideals These were local heroes who thought nothing of sacrificing their personal lives and comforts in the wake of the freedoms struggle The men of the house dismiss the rising nationalistic fervour in their women as something stemming from 'a vague notion of patriotism' and think it appropriate to nip such feelings in the bid Rukmani’s disillusionment comes when Narayana Rao marries off his 12 year old daughter inspite of preaching against the practice of child marriage To her mind this is a breach of trust from the man she loved and respected It causes her ill health and she loses her vitality forever However the fate that befalls her daughter Kaveri fed on stories of valour in novels is the poignant one Having lived in her own world of dashing heroes and nearly found and lost one in Shyam she is unable to bear the emptiness and drudgery of a loveless marriage in some measure brought on by her own family The author explores all these threads using one common story that of Setu's grown up daughter in the 1980s trying to unravel the tragic mystery behind the woman who was not just her 'aunt' but something tooUsha K R while recounting the story gives a vivid picture of pre independence South India introducing characters like Dr King an Englishwoman who treats patients in the town riding from place to place on a bicycle and her snobbish niece Ella Then there other interesting ones like Rukmani’s flame throwing uick witted cousin Shivaswami or Setu’s childhood friend Chapdi KalIt’s truly remarkable how Usha crafts this story never hitting a wrong note once Yet for all its wonderful strengths this is not the easiest of reads Its language is impeccable but tends to get too wordy at various points Also the detailing can be a bit tiresome and heavy for those who want to get on with the story This book could have easily been 25 30 pages shortAlso the story keeps moving between two different time span and that can be confusing for the first time reader The book's true worth really unfolds with a second reading if you ask me The first time I found myself grappling to keep pace with the numerous characters and time shifts That's another thing this book seems to run at a stretch and it doesn't help that the words keep tumbling on each other So while it's awe inspiring to see the writer's command of her subject and language I wished she’d allowed her narrative to breath easy at some pointsBut again to her credit Usha constructs the story in a manner wherein some amount of tension pervades the entire story and the suspense is intact till the very endFinally this is a riveting book one that is dexterous and rich More importantly it respects its reader's intelligence by saying a lot and leaving a lot unsaid Sandhya Iyer

  4. says:

    'A Girl And A River' took me into a reverie of sorts the writing for me was strangely poignant and intense Characters like Kaveri and Setu seemed to be people with whom I can identify with the similarity with a Kannada household to which I belong as well has something to do with it I suppose It was therefore easy to get into the narrator's shoe The story is a decent read if you are looking for something about people of Mysore pre and post Indian Independence

  5. says:

    I picked this book because the story is set in a small town in Karnataka While I struggled to keep track of the characters initially the story about Kaveri got me hooked to this brilliant narration of pre independent India I loved how the author has touched upon sensitive topics and taboos that prevailed then All we read in our school textbooks was mostly about the struggle of few fearless men to get India it's independence How often did we read about the daily struggles of a woman's fight for independence from her own family and society's prejudices during that period We will never know of the many Kaveris that have been washed away without being noticed of their sacrifices

  6. says:

    LovelyA feeling of disuiet stayed with me long after I finished reading the book

  7. says:

    The good read The book is about an estranged girl trying to find her roots Her parents have been almost silent through out her childhood She had spent most of her time in a boarding school She has seen incidents which aroused her curiosity The parents trying to hide things from her further increased her curiosityThrough some of her distant relatives and through a couple of visits to her mother's place she pieces together her storyThe book swings between pre independence era where a girl called Kaveri and her brother Setu are living an idyllic life with their father and their mother The initial section of the book is a description of this life of theirs and their relativesThe girl is married off to an important judge in the city This proves to be a turning point in her life She finds that the judge is already married to a Japanese lady and he has married him out of family pressure Just before her marriage she also sees the only person whom she seems to be in awe ofin love with being shot during a patriotic meeting Later she comes to know of the conspiracy behind his death All this devastates herThe girl in the post independence era trying to find her roots is her grand daughter The book has a certain mystery to it which opens up in the last few pages Read the book to unlock the mystery of her roots

  8. says:

    I loved this book for the writing the language the humour the characterization and the craftsmanship The history of India is skillfully woven into the lives of the protagonists The author skillfully juggles two time periods the 1930s and the 1980s What happens in between and why the fortunes of the protagonists are so changed is a mystery that is unravelled slowly through the book The childish antics and concerns of Kaveri her brother Setu and their friends especially Chapdi Kal are engrossing and delightful Their dreams and awakening awareness as they grow up against the political backdrop of the Independence struggle are poignant though one may feel a trifle cheated by Gandhiji's non appearance In terms of literary uality I would put Usha in the top five Indian novelists But the unrelieved darkness of the latter half of this book and the helplessness of the characters rather detracted from my enjoyment of the writing

  9. says:

    I couldn't really recommend this book It's not that it was bad in fact I think the plot was pretty interesting and I like novels which try to weave larger historical happenings into the characters' lives among other good points about the book But in the end I didn't feel like I got to know the main characters very well and the twist in the novel which happened towards the very end of the book wasn't predictable at least for me but I didn't feel like she made good use of it And her writing style is OK but not great I'm left feeling lukewarm

  10. says:

    In prose efficient than evocative Usha KR tells of a time when pre Independence nationalist frenzy was at its peak in India and of the toll it extracts on the life of the protagonist in a small town in Karnataka Would have been better had the frame story which is set in the present had been reduced for all the emotional charge of the book lies in the narration of events of the past

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