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A Disobedient Girl
by Ru Freeman

Release Date: 7th Jan 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978 0 6709 1795 2
RRP: £12.99

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Meandering tale of two Sri Lankan women whose lives are linked...

A Disobedient Girl is essentially a tale of two halves. On the one hand, we are drawn into the vicariously rich life of serving girl, Latha, who despite her humble origins and status maintains an irrevocable self-belief in her own worth. On the other, the seemingly more desperate struggles of a grown woman striking out on her own with her children in order to escape an unhappy alliance with a man she doesn’t love.

Alternating character narration between chapters minimises confusion for the reader in terms of whose story we are hearing at any given time, but does little to dispel the growing sense of confusion over where the overall plot is going, with Freeman’s attempts at suspense falling a little flat due to her use of stilted and occasionally dry prose. Of the two characters, Biso’s account is the more complex and occasionally bordering unintelligible; the author giving more credence to creating an atmosphere of mystery rather than offering us real truths about the woman.

Freeman evokes a nostalgic, albeit nostalgia imbued with sharp bursts of realism, view of Sri Lankan life. Suffering with a slow pace, at times the narrative bumbles along aimlessly like tumbleweed and it therefore takes a certain amount of commitment to read to the end. Not as emotionally compelling as similar novels in this genre, such as A Thousand Splendid Suns, nor as dramatically written but you could do a lot worse.

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