Cracking India

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Overview

The 1947 Partition of India is the backdrop for this powerful novel, narrated by a precocious child who describes the brutal transition with chilling veracity. Young Lenny Sethi is kept out of school because she suffers from polio. She spends her days with Ayah, her beautiful nanny, visiting with the large group of admirers that Ayah draws. It is in the company of these working class characters that Lenny learns about religious differences, religious intolerance, and the blossoming genocidal strife on the eve of ...

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Cracking India: A Novel

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Overview

The 1947 Partition of India is the backdrop for this powerful novel, narrated by a precocious child who describes the brutal transition with chilling veracity. Young Lenny Sethi is kept out of school because she suffers from polio. She spends her days with Ayah, her beautiful nanny, visiting with the large group of admirers that Ayah draws. It is in the company of these working class characters that Lenny learns about religious differences, religious intolerance, and the blossoming genocidal strife on the eve of Partition. As she matures, Lenny begins to identify the differences between the Hindus, Moslems, and Sikhs engaging in political arguments all around her. Lenny enjoys a happy, privileged life in Lahore, but the kidnapping of her beloved Ayah signals a dramatic change. Soon Lenny’s world erupts in religious, ethnic, and racial violence. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, the domestic drama serves as a microcosm for a profound political upheaval.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The narrator of Sidwha's ( The Bride ) timely novel about the violent 1947 partition of India is the extremely observant Lenny Sethi, whose family belongs to the Parsee community in Lahore. As a child, a polio victim and a member of a minority, she is the perfect witness (though somewhat precocious) to the historic upheaval. Sidwha tempers Lenny's hyper-awareness, however, by capturing the whole range of her fears and joys as her innocence becomes another casualty of the violence among Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus. At one point Lenny declares: ``Lying doesn't become me. I can't get away with the littlest thing.'' Persuasive, this statement reinforces earlier comments she lets slip about herself which display this artless candor: ``the manipulative power of my limp''; ``I place a hypocritical arm protectively round her shoulders.'' Lenny's honesty is compelling, and the reader, like many in the story, cannot help but trust her. She is alternately thrilled and frightened by the events she dutifully records, and so, in the end, is the reader. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Presented in the first person by a sparsely educated Parsee girl in Lahore named Lenny, who grows from four to eight as she narrates, this novel is incongruously overloaded with erudite diction. Thus, unlike Huck Finn's tale, this child's story becomes unbelievable. Despite the title, it focuses on the everyday lives of Lenny, her family, and their associates, often interesting but frequently trivial. Throughout the book, Lenny includes verbatim transcriptions of extended conversations/situations about racial relations, sex, politics, religion, and selected aspects of the 1947 Partition. Sadly, the promise of the novel (semi-autobiographical?) is inadequately fulfilled and seems to falter from its conception. (Needed: a glossary of Indian words.)-- Glenn O. Carey, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Kirkus Reviews
Pakistani Sidhwa's third novel (The Bride, 1983; The Crown Eaters, 1982)—written from the point of view of a young girl who's surrounded by the personal and political violence that accompanied the partitioning of India in 1947—manages to do justice to the complexity of racial, ethnic, and religious violence in the era and to evoke the passage from an affluent childhood to the ambiguities of experience. "India is going to be broken....And what happens if they break it where our house is?" asks narrator Lenny, the daughter (who turns eight in 1947) of an affluent Parsi family in Lahore. And in fact her household does break apart when her young nanny, or Ayah, is kidnapped. Before that event takes center stage, the novel glorifies in the "beautifully endowed" world, which, as evoked by Sidhwa's luminous present-tense prose, is laminated with the magic of childish wonder: moving between her own house and that of her dynamic Godmother ("It is her nature to know things"), who lives "with her docile old husband and slavesister," Lenny dramatizes the textures of multicultural Indian life, with its summer trips to the Himalayan foothills, dinner parties, visits from the ice-candy man, and, increasingly, hints of "Hindu-Muslim trouble." While Lenny "learns to tell tales" by "offering lengthier and lengthier chatter" to fill dinner-time silences, she also becomes "aware of religious differences." Sikhs start keeping to themselves, whereas before "everybody is themselves." Violence escalates, India is divided, fires appear "all over Lahore," and Ayah is kidnapped. She's finally found in the red-light district, then rescued through Godmother's influence, but it's clear that—alongwith India and Lenny—she will never be the same. Richly layered, both realistic and magically evocative as well as topical: a novel that brings to triumphant life an India that "has less to do with fate than with the will of men."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780915943562
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Pages: 289
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2004

    Not for Everyone

    Don't waste your time on this book if you're ignorant and unaware of the Hidden Holocaust, the partition of India, which claimed a million lives, and about which little has been written. If you are aware of the history, however, you will fall in love with the simple but powerful and thought-provoking prose and the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction semi-autobiographical story line. The narrative is first-person told by a little Parsee girl but the canvas is humanity itself: how a partition conceived as a simple geographical device generates a fundamentalist political torrent and uncages the demons inside all of us. The novel is impossible to put down if you understand the background.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2000

    A Must-Read Cautionary Story of Real Life

    This is a well-written, gripping story of the effect of India's partitioning on the lives of ordinary people in a city along the new border. It reminds us of how mob psychology and fear can turn friends against one another and cause certain personalities to commit atrocities. Too bad humanity doesn't learn from such cautionary tales; just look at the Middle East, Bosnia, Africa, Russia, ... My brother-in-law survived the partitioning, and now I better understand what he's never told us. Ms Sidwal is an adept storyteller who can maintain the distinct personalities of all the characters from beginning to end. The plot is quite believable. This is a great book.

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