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A Story In Parallel

Indu Liberhan

By Ru Freeman
Simon & Schuster, London, 2009, pp. 384, price not stated.


D isobedient Girl by Ru Freeman is a story, in parallel, about two wo-men living in two different periods of time and in different situations. The novel is set in Sri Lanka against the backdrop of the political upheaval and social unrest of that time.   On the one hand there is Latha, a young orphan girl who comes to the house of the Vinthrages to work and on the other is Biso, a married woman with three children who runs away from her murderous husband so that she and her children can live a better life. The novel is about the journey through life of these two women—and the reader is curious to find out if and when the twain shall meet and with what result.   The author has a tremendous eye for detail and a great insight into human character. The portrayal of the characters, their feelings, emotions, behaviour, reactions are so real and natural that they immediately form a ‘bond’ with the reader. Latha and Biso are such lifelike characters who everyone would understand and empathize with.   Latha, the young orphan who has come as a househelp to the Vinthrages home is around the same age as Thara, the daughter, and in her mind a friend of Thara’s rather than a servant girl to look after Thara. The desire to have the things Thara has, the dresses, the sandals, the food, the luxury and comfort and the knowledge that she cannot, raises all kinds of questions and causes a great deal of friction in her mind. She has to be content with bathing with stolen bathsoaps which are beautifully scented or lick jam while carrying it from the tables. Why can she not dress up and look beautiful—wear lovely clothes, lovely sandals when she is as beautiful, if not more so than Thara? She has a lovely figure and her feet look beautiful in fancy sandals. Her feet were made for fancy sandals!   This underlying resentment is an intrinsic part of Latha’s character and comes out ever so often in her reactions, responses and a number of little things till it reaches gigantic proportions of revenge, when she is not allowed by Mrs Vinthrage to buy sandals with her own money. This desire to take revenge on Mrs Vinthrage leads her to actions which not only lead to the betrayal of her loved friend ...

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