Merrimon Book Reviews

Princess Diana

Sri Lanka Coat of Arms

From Merrimon Book Reviews
A Disobedient Girl
A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman
by Ru Freeman

Disturbing and challenging
In A DISOBEDIENT GIRL, Ru Freeman tells the story of two women separated by time through the use of alternating chapters and alternating use of third and first person narratives.  Latha is a servant girl to the Vithanages.  Raised alongside their daughter Thara, Latha feels herself better than her current position in society.  Latha seeks to grab and hold onto what she feels is hers, yet her actions have consequences for those around her.  Ruled by desire for possessions, friendship and romance, she experiences loss after loss.  In a separate first person narrative, Biso speaks of her escape from an abusive husband and her train journey to her arrival at her destination.  On her way to the better life she plans for her children, Biso encounters hardship and difficulties at every turn. 

Set against the backdrop of Sri Lanka's fight for independence, Ru Freeman tells a story history will not --- the struggles of two individual women and two different generations.  Although Ru Freeman notes the actions of the Tamil Tigers and other revolutionary groups in passing, A DISOBEDIENT GIRL focuses on the interior lives of these two women and the connection between them that unfolds as the narrative brings them together.  As each strives for a better life, class and set social structures conflict with the longings of their hearts.  Against tragic circumstances surrounding them, each woman fights to preserve what is most special to them. 

A DISOBEDIENT GIRL is a disturbing novel, both in form and and content. The alternating, seemingly unconnected narratives present such a contrast of characterization that their connection becomes apparent only as the narrative moves forward. The change between first and third person voice jolts the reader --- but less so than the story itself.  The discongruity of the form emphasizes the jolting content of the story, even more so when the reader reaches the end.  Between the two narratives, Biso's tragic story is the more moving and least unsettling -- at least in the beginning but by the end, her story haunts and disturbs the imagination.  In contrast, from the beginning, Latha is not that likable a character.  One wants her to succeed but her choices and actions irritate at the same time.  How does one respond to the younger generation and their desires?  How does the past influence the present?  Ru Freeman's provocative novel jolts and challenges a reader with a story that will leave readers asking questions, not only about her characters, but also the lives of women and our own response as women readers.

A DISOBEDIENT GIRL would make an excellent choice for women's groups, in particular sparking several intriguing discussions in feminist reading groups. Latha's story poses several intriguing problematics for feminist readers --- particularly how one aligns oneself with the advancement of women when the individual and particular woman herself is more complex and not all that admirable.  Not only do Biso and Latha live in a culture different than that experienced by Western women today, but the inner desires and choices of the characters themselves trouble, provoking many stimulating questions long after the last page.

Publisher: Atria  (July 2009)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
Merrimon Book Reviews

Custom Search

Copyright Merrimon Crawford  2009  All Rights Reserved