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100 Shades of White - Preethi Nair

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1 Review

Paperback: 304 pages / Publisher: HarperCollins

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      08.10.2012 14:50
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      ethnic chick lit

      100 shades of white (not to be confused with 50 shades of grey(!), is a book I read a few years ago. The story stayed with me, and I remembered it being a heartwarming book, so as I had been feeling a bit down, decided to re-read it. I read another book by Preethi Nair; 'The colour of love' but didn't enjoy it.

      I bought it used on amazon.co.uk for 1p plus £2.80 postage. A kindle version is available for £3.99.

      Some info:
      Paperback: 304 pages
      Publisher: HarperCollins; first published 2003
      ISBN-10: 000714346X
      ISBN-13: 978-0007143467
      Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm


      === The author ===

      I learned from http://www.preethinair.com/ that "Preethi Nair worked as a management consultant but gave it up to follow her dream and write her first book, Gypsy Masala.

      Working under the alias of Pru Menon, Preethi managed to gain substantial coverage and subsequently signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. She won the Asian Woman of Achievement award for her endeavours and was also short listed as Publicist of the Year for the PPC awards. When the author couldn't find a publisher who could publish her previous book, 'Gypsy Masala', she reacted by publishing and distributing the first run of copies herself. This fact really impressed me! I would recommend visiting this website if you are interested in the book or the author as it contains some interesting information.


      === Who would enjoy the book? ===

      In my opinion, the book is definitely a girly one. I would recommend it to people who want to read something on the less superficial side of 'chick-lit' (I really hate that phrase!) and people who want something that is an easy and relatively short read but still gives you some food for thought after reading it.

      As with many books, the inside page contains praise for the author. I agree most with the following (from The Guardian) "She writes evocatively about childhood and there are passages of tight and lyrical immediacy"


      === The quality of writing ===

      The standard of writing in the book is generally good, but oscillates between passages that are almost poetic in their beauty and depth of feeling, and those that are very simplistic and a little stilted. Some of the dialogue is a bit like this too. It was a very easy and quick read. I feel like the book would have benefitted from being fleshed out as it felt like it went too fast

      === The plot ===

      The book is has two main characters, Maya and Nalini. Nalini starts off life in a village in India with a troubled childhood, where her father abandons her mother, who is a wise, warm and loving person, who she is extremely close to. Her mother supports them by being the village cook. Nalini's meets Raul when her mum is cooking for events before his wedding, but he falls in love with her and they elope and marry. They have an idyllic life at first, as Raul is charming, doting and seems to be very rich and successful.They have 2 kids (who call him Achan). He seems to always be away working, and eventually gets a job in London, and eventually gets Nalini and her two kids to move abroad too. Nalini struggles to adapt to the new lifestyle in a foreign land with an unfamiliar culture and language when her husband abandons her and their children. It's understandable that she decided to lie about his disappearance to protect her children's honour and self esteem, but it changes the course of everyone's future, and their relationships.

      A lot of the book centres around relationships; blood relationships and that are formed and made, and the sacrifices each person makes (or doesn't make) in life, including those that go unappreciated and those that aren't appreciated enough. Looking back, I can see that the author was also exploring how history repeats itself. The experience of living life as an immigrant, fitting in and adapting is also explored (with a bit of humour thrown in!).

      As the title of the book suggests, the main theme is truth and the need for it (truth in what we tell people, and being true to yourself, and who and what you are), and that intentions are so important with regards to this. As Nalini says at one point: 'Maybe there are one hundred shades for explaining truth, a spectrum of light to dark, depending on the vulnerability of those who have to hear it. Things are not always so clear-cut, they are not either black or white, life just isn't like that. I know my mother would disagree, arguing that there is one immutable truth and it is just a question of facing it.'

      Another theme in the book was forgiveness, and some of the passages about forgiveness are really touching, e.g 'My mother used to say that it was forgiveness that worked magic on the soul and made miracles possible. According to her, forgiveness from a broken heart combusted energy that made insurmountable obstacles just dissolve. So if she found Luxmiammayi gossiping about her, she forgave; if a servant boy stole whatever little she had, she let him take it; if I hurt her, and I know I did, she just forgave me. Not the forgiveness that belongs to a coward - he who sees but refuses to believe and so pretends nothing has happened - but the kind of forgiveness which belongs to a courageous heart, the heart that accepts and says no matter what anyone does, or whatever circumstances are thrust upon it, it will always, always be all right. It does not become embroiled and constrained in anger and bitterness, but moves forward and grows'

      The plot is good overall, with twists and turns to keep you interested



      === The structure of the book ===

      The book is written in chapters of narration alternating between those written from Maya's perspective and from Nalini's perspective. This makes things interesting as some of the same events are told from a different point of view.

      The structure, I think, makes things a bit confusing, as you would think the book would start with Nalini's beginnings, what she did and why, to set the scene. Instead, it starts off with Maya talking about her own birth (which I found weird) and then describing her life and her take on it. I had to read the book twice to fully understand everything that happened, because I got a bit mixed up. The actual course of events comes out in drips and drabs because of the alternating narrative.


      === The characters ===

      The characters in the book are believable, varied and well developed. We see them change with time and events.

      Maya starts off feisty, rebellious and keeps a distance from her mother, because of the hurt she suffered from her dad leaving. She blames Nalini for this.

      Nalini starts off really naive and lacking in confidence.

      The rest of the characters, I won't tell you about as it might give things away, but it is good to see how everyone changes by the end of the book, and the different effect that secrets and misconceptions have on different people.


      === Overall ===

      I would recommend this book to most of my female friends. There were a lot of quotes that I took from this book and saved, because they were so touching, and this is what made me re-read it. I think a glossary would be useful for some of the Malayalam terms used, and the different Indian dishes mentioned

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