Monday, 28 May 2012

Tell a Thousand Lies

4/5
by 
Rasana Atreya

Amazon.co.UK
Amazon.com

Three sisters, Pullamma, Lata and Malli have been brought up by their grandmother. The grandmother wants to find them a husband, but only two of the girls are "pretty". Pullamma is too dark to be considered attractive in 1980 India.

That’s the theme in essence. We don’t have anything to do with Malli (although her wedding brings us Kondal Rao and he’s is going to be Pullamma’s nightmare), Malli is married off from the start and we only begin to get to know Lata towards the end of the book. It’s Pullamma’s story and her that we life we get to know, but she’s a girl very much of her time and heritage. All she wants is a husband and a family. Unlike her twin, Lata, she isn’t interested in education.

In the beginning I did wonder if the book had too much "info dump" because there was a lot telling about how people from that culture lived, but before I realised I was hooked on Pullamma's story and found myself keen to finish. There were a few flashbacks that became a jumble at times, and I did wonder if the story was too "big" for the author, but overall I think Rasana Atreya did a very good job indeed. It was easy reading, and opened my eyes to how "free" Western culture is and how much it's taken for granted.

Pullamma, as a character, was delightful, although I found her too naive at times, especially as she openly trusted people even when, one after the other, they took advantage of her. Her husband was a character I couldn't warm to at all! I hoped Pullamma would dump him by the end of the story for being such a wuss and a pushover, but no, she "loved him".

Tell a Thousand Lies is a story I’m going to remember (for all the right reasons), I do think there was a lot packed into it, maybe too much? It wasn’t so much as a roller coaster read, but a long, fast straight ride until you arrive with a bump the end. There was no break, no respite from the misery dumped on poor Pullamma, or if there was, it was in very short supply of a line or two of prose. I was quite out of breath towards the end!

In short it is a powerful book, and very much worth a read.


Blurb: 
In a land where skin colour can determine one's destiny, fraternal twins PULLAMMA and LATA are about to embark on a journey that will tear their lives apart. Dark skinned Pullamma dreams of being a wife. 

With three girls in her family, the sixteen year old is aware there isn't enough dowry to secure suitable husbands for them all. But a girl can hope. She's well versed in cooking, pickle making, cow washing -- you name it. She's also obliged her old-fashioned grandmother by not doing well in school. Fair skinned and pretty, her twin sister Lata would rather study medicine than get married. 

Unable to grasp the depth of Lata's desire, the twins' Grandmother formalizes a wedding alliance for the girl. Distraught, Lata rebels, with devastating consequences. As Pullamma helps ready the house for her older sister Malli's bride viewing, she prays for a positive outcome to the event. 

What happens next is so inconceivable that it will shape Pullamma's future in ways she couldn't have foreseen. TELL A THOUSAND LIES is a sometimes wry, sometimes sad, but ultimately realistic look at how superstition and the colour of a girl's skin rules India's hinterlands.