The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan

The Toss of a Lemon is the saga of an Indian Brahmin family in the first part of the 20th century and is complete with family dramas, political upheavals, technological changes, copious Cliff notes on Brahmin ceremonies and customs, and a rather heavy-handed dose of the slow erosion of the caste system.  I quite liked the first part with its strong yet necessarily obedient young wife (and soon widow) and the well-observed comments about behaviors as in, “He eats again because he is an accommodating sort of boy and, at thirteen, especially accommodating towards extra meals”. I could not quite believe the gold-shedding daughter (why gold-shedding? It does not add anything to the story) but the devious husband, the loyal servant, the sad couple without children, the rather dull boy and his smart sister all ring true. As the book slowly moved through its 600 pages  the heavy beat of the backwardness of the caste system and its necessary disappearance wore me out.


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