Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

About the book

A wonderful novel in two parts, moving from the heart of a close-knit Indian household, with its restrictions and prejudices, its noisy warmth and sensual appreciation of food, to the cool centre of an American family, with its freedom and strangely self-denying attitudes to eating. In both it is ultimately the women who suffer, whether, paradoxically, from a surfeit of feasting and family life in India, or from self-denial and starvation in the US. Or both. Uma, the plain, older daughter still lives at home, frustrated in her attempts to escape and make a life for herself. Her Indian family is difficult, demanding but mostly, good-hearted. Despite her disappointments, Uma comes through as the survivor, avoiding an unfulfilling marriage, like her sister’s, or a suicidal one, like that arranged for her pretty cousin. And in America, where young Arun goes as a student, men in the suburbs char hunks of bleeding meat while the women don’t appear to cook or eat at all – seems bewildering and terrifying to the young Indian adolescent far from home…

Reviewed by SBWI Reading Group:

Although provoking discussion about the Eastern and Western lifestyles, this book was not generally liked. The division of the book seemed too abrupt and the narrative left too much unresolved. This subject has been dealt with by other modern Indian writers in a better way.

Star rating: **

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5 thoughts on “Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai”

  1. Review by Museum Book Group:
    We all enjoyed reading this book, but felt it had an unsatisfying ending. The contrast between the Indian and American families and the similarity of their attitude to women and children was a subject of discussion.
    Star rating: ***


  2. Review by Everton Reading Group:
    Interesting as a vehicle to view two different societies. The issues come through relating to food and bringing up families. An enjoyable read. Booker listed> Rather sceptical!
    Star rating: ** to ***


  3. Review by Waterlooville Reading Group:
    Enjoyed by the whole group, especially for the author’s insights into Indian family life. Most found the ending somewhat depressing though.
    Star rating: ***


  4. Review by Anon:
    Very good depiction of characters. The Indian section by far the most interesting. The rather abrupt ending left one wanting to hear more about these people. Would like to read more of this author.
    Rating: **


  5. Review by Fordingbridge Reading Group:
    This was the opinion of our group: each member gave a one-word opinion – boring, dull, repetitive, bland, monotonous, atmospheric, insightful.
    Rating: *


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