Evening Is The Whole Day: Preeta Samarasan
The exquisite challenge of portraying modern Malaysia is in the conveying of subtle paradoxes. Authoritarian yet democratic, stable yet fractious, multicultural yet segregated, its nuances have defied capture in recent literature. While Tash Aw and Tan Twan Eng set their novels in historical Malaya, Preeta Samarasan has crafted hers in a more recent past. Skimming over the dying days of colonialism and focusing on the stumbling years of early independence, Samarasan’s novel is infused with the lush yearning of its title. As evening is the whole day for those without their lovers, the years are interminable for those without comfort. The central cast is the wealthy Rajasekharans, their status and Indian ethnicity a stark foil to the upheavals of young Malaysia. Aasha, the youngest, whispers to ghosts to assuage her loneliness. For her family is privately burdened: grandmother Paati resents a dwindling authority, mother Vasanthi feels trapped by ancestry, and father Raju struggles to reconcile convictions from an Oxford education with conservative conventions. Only the dazzling Uma, sister to Aasha, is to flee from their inherited history. Literary devices of Roy and McEwan will be familiar to readers, but the atmospheric idioms and brave forthrightness of Samarasan are entirely original.