Monday, November 02, 2009

Storytelling

I have Trinidadian friends and love their food. That is the extent of what I know about the culture. While browsing around the public library recently, the cover of Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange caught my eye. The phrase which forms the title of the book has a close cousin in my own language - Bengali. Also the cover image of the lotuses in the lake fringed by palm trees must have invoked memories of Bengal countryside. Hit by an unexpected bout of nostalgia, I decided to check the book out. I was only able to skim through it after reading the first chapter which ends with a graphic account of the protagonist's rape by her uncle right after she attains puberty. Maybe it was the brutality of the description but it turned me off the story immediately.

It reminded me of the other book I had attempted to read recently -
A Happy Marriage by Raphel Yglesias. Chapter One was a thing of remarkable beauty and I had great hopes of this being one of those books that I would remember for a long time. Yet in taking us to the tragic denouement in the very next chapter and then going back and forth between past and present, the joy of discovering an unfolding story was gone completely. Very quickly the book became an assault in the senses. I could not bear being yanked from courtship to terminal cancer time after time. It was a good story gone to waste because of how the author had decided to tell it, as far as I was concerned. And so is the case with Amanda Smyth's Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange.

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