Oleander Girl

You know a book is truly forgettable when you don’t remember any part of it, just a few days after you finish it and put it down. I started and breezed through Oleander Girl about three weeks ago, but for many reasons I didn’t get down to writing about it. I chugged through the book at a particularly busy time of last month when there was too much happening, and I only did so because reading a book was the only time I had for myself. Writing about it was near impossible. I shelved it for later, and then nothing compelled me to get down to it. Today, I decided to write about it and not a single detail comes to mind.


Much to my disappointment, it was just so underwhelming and I felt like that wasn’t much for me to say. But most of all, I didn’t feel like writing about it because it was the kind of book that started off on a blah note, but the kind that I feel like finishing, purely because I have started it (clearly, I don’t learn from past experience). And if you’ve read enough Indian writing that begins and ends with the pining, insecure Indian woman who pins her hopes and dreams on all the wrong men and somewhere in the midst of is forced to go overseas, on the journey (literal and figurative) that will help her overcome both said lovesickness and lack of sense of self, then you are most likely going to be yawning through it and end finish the book feeling rather meh.

The only shift from the done-to-death post-marriage diaspora of Indian women angle, in this book was that the leading lady takes her journey to the United States of America before she marries the man of her dreams. Of course he is a man whose intentions and motives, personality and character you constantly question, thanks to all that he gets up to while the woman he has hooked is dillydallying overseas, finding herself. And in this case, quite literally so, as Korobi, the protagonist goes on a hunt to find her father, her roots and the very essence of what makes her the person she is.


And then some. Oleander Girl read like a dozen other stories by Indian women that have been whizzed up in a blender, and adjusted very slightly to sound “modern”. Maybe this is what happens when writers find a formula that works and spin it in as many different ways as they possibly can. When they do the same through 20 odd books, over a decade or so, it begins to get stale.I’ve read some CDB before and I couldn’t help but feel her stories follow a set pattern and beyond a point the mystery of pining Indian women is lost on me.

Oleander Girl seemed like it was a fresh new take on her kind of story telling. Don’t ask me why, but the blurb felt like it might have something new to offer. But sadly it was not to be. The scenarios felt stilted, the language sharp and ill-fitting, rather than smoothly flowing on, and the plot was downright unbelievable. By the end, I began to feel like I was being made to watch one of those blockbuster Hindi family dramas, with the implausible plot, the tear-jerker mummy-daddy scenes, the travels across the seven seas in search of love and one too many songs. The kind that is so miserably unbelievable you want to laugh out loud and shut the damn thing off. But all you can do squirm at every melodramatic scene, curse the souls who conceived these weird ideas and turned them into a film, and fast-forward through the song and dance and pray that the torture ends sooner than later.

Someone needs to teach me how to fast-forward through a bad book. Quick.


16 thoughts on “Oleander Girl

    1. Forced is the perfect word. everything was contrived and it just didnt flow like I am used to CBD’s books. I think she needs a change of genre because this has been the response across the board.


  1. R

    I’ve never read a CBD book. I keep telling myself I should, but after reading this review, I guess I never will read one.
    Just got done with The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri). Unaccustomed Earth didn’t do much for me, but this book, I loved. Slow, languid, telling the tales of ordinary and yet extra-ordinary people. From Interpreter of Maladies to this book, you can see how her writing has evolved and yet retained a style that is her own. Pick it up, da, you will like this one.


    1. Accha? Iv mostly read bad reviews, bracketing Jhumpa and this book into the same category that I have just put CDB into. I only liked the namesake, of all her books Iv read, and that too was because of the time I read it. Didnt feel tempted byt he blurb I saw on Lowland. But if youre saying you enjoyed it maybe I should give it a try.


  2. what amazes me is your ability to so amazingly articulate your thoughts about a movie or a book or even a random experience. Please tell me HOW you do it? HOW do you come up with such original thoughts and opinions on any subject?
    Don’t know about you, but sometimes my opinions do get coloured by what everybody else is saying around me or what I am reading. Does that ever happen to you?


    1. Of course it does. I’m constantly discussing books, movies, TV shows, societym the state of the world and everything at large with folks around me, so my opinions are definitely influenced by what I hear/talk about a lot of the time. In the comments above itself, you can see Im not the only one who thought CDB was just average and had nothing extraordinary to present, so I’m not alone. You’re just too kind with your words :)


  3. I have only read Mistress of Spices – was fun but nothing brilliant. I haven’t felt tempted enough to pick any other yet. Sad that it didn’t work. I am learning to run through not-good books coz’ I have this obsessive compulsive disorder of finishing the book taken up, too. It takes a while but very achievable, the fast-forward, I mean :P


  4. Life is too short to read crap books. When you master the art of abandoning books that don’t work for you and don’t serve any other edifying purpose, it’s truly liberating. I’ve been through this.


  5. Very sad… I really did like CDB’s Palace of Illusion.. maybe its the historic aspect which appealed to me, which I mistook for a good writer. I did go on to read Sister of my Heart… and I must admit, that did not do much for me. I did finish it, but thats mostly because, I like to finish books which I start.


    1. I read Mistress of Spices and having never read anything of the sort, I enjoyed it. But again, it was nothing mindblowing. Every other book of thereafter has seemed like it belongs to the same line of story and I was never tempted to even pick them up. Until Oleander Girl.


Pour your thoughts over mine

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.