The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar

Cross-posted at Bookreviews at Bookrack

The House of Blue Mangoes is a story spanning three generations of a non-Brahmin Christian family in Tamilnadu. It follows the story of the family while mirroring the developments in society at that time. India’s own freedom struggle from the British, is happening at the same time.

Solomon Dorai is the head of a village Chethavar in what used to be Madras Constituency in Pre-independence India. He was very particular about maintaining peace between the various powerful castes. He prided himself with the fact that Chethavar had not seen the nasty caste-based clashes which were so common around them. The peace which had been maintained for long is threatened and broken in a caste based clash, which results in Solomon’s death and Solomon’s elder, studious son Daniel, his wife Charity and daughter moving to Charity’s hometown. Solomon’s younger son Aaron stays on in Chethavar. Solomon had always been a little disappointed with his elder son who was more interested in his books and learning that the so-called manly interests like fighting and sports. Aaron on the other hand had always been sporty and also looked down on his gentle elder brother.

Aaron feels detached from his family and goes on to get involved in the Freedom struggle. Daniel goes to become a doctor and even markets a fairness potion that becomes very popular. Slowly, Daniel is pulled back to his birth village. He realizes that his destiny is entwined with his village. He goes on to build a house surrounded by the famous blue mango trees that are a specialty of Chethavar  and builds up a community, which he  heads. The local legend has it that the blue mangoes are the best in the world.  His life and times and his son Kannan’s life with the new opportunities and new temptations take on a different aspect. The values that Daniel cherishes are not exactly high priority for Kannan.

The story that spans three generations, Solomon, Daniel and  Kannan, is captivating and has a charm of its own. The backdrop of India’s freedom struggle and the equation between the last Britishers who are on their way out is fascinating.  The prejudices and the distrust that seem to exist on both sides of the divide is very beautifully brought out. Alongside this, Davidar does a beautiful job of chronicling the lives of women at that time. When a man hitting a woman for bringing him coffee, that was not the right temperature was justified. Be it, Charity, or her daughter’s lot, or her daughter-in-law’s life.. A portrait of society where a woman’s role was primarily to ensure that her husband’s life is enhanced, even if her own is endangered.

It was an enjoyable read. It gave me a lot of insight to the lives of people at that point in time. The belief system, the caste divides, the politics of caste and religion and the bigger question of India’s independence all part of the same book. It did make me wish that there were more women who made a real difference in the book, but then again, it might just have been a reflection of times. It would interest anybody who likes historical fiction, even it is not very old history.

I would give it a 3.5 on five.

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24 thoughts on “The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar

  1. Second!! Oh, I’ve been curious about this ever since I read an earlier review (by Swaram, I think) and now I am even more certain of laying hands on the book!! Btw, Smitha, I just started reading ‘space between us’, gripping and poignant so far… thanks to your book reviews, I know what to read and what to avoid 🙂

    I have not been able to get my hands on The Space between us! I am waiting for my library to get it to me 🙂

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  2. Ahaa at least one book from your reviews which I can say “I have read this one”. As you said I loved the way the author describes the lifestyles of the different generations.

    🙂 It is rather good, na?

    Hey let me suggest one book to read :mrgreen: V.S. Naipaul’s A House Form Mr. Biswas. It’s an excellent book.

    Noted and reserved 🙂 Hopefully my library will get me these books in the near future 🙂 By the way, I have managed to reserve Shantaram too! Yay!

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  3. Read about this in Swaram’s blog too… just loved this books cover…

    I love the cover too!

    and I am going to pick it up just for the insight it gives into pre-independence era….

    It is very interesting! Hope you like it 🙂

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  4. Pre Independent India fascinates me and I love the movies set in that period. I am waiting for this book from the library, sadly amazon doesn’t have the Kindle edition!!

    I love them too! It is such an insight into lives then.

    Hey did you get a hand on The Help? I finished it and reviewed it few days back!!

    No, not yet 😦 I missed your review! Let me hop over and read it.

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  5. This book is supposed to be read only in the summers, na? I mean, thats the mango season, right?

    Yeah yeah, only to be read in summer 🙂

    ..yeah..yeah..I get it. Present Ma’am ! 😀

    LOL!

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  6. Swaram also did a review on this book na? 😀
    But, somehow, I keep forgetting about this book, everytime I step into a book store!
    Will make a note of it for next week’s visit! 😀

    Yes, this one was Swaram’s recommendation 🙂 It is a good book, give it a try, Pix 🙂

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  7. I am yet to read a full blown historical fiction!!! Lemme see if I get this one 🙂

    I love historical fiction. I always try to pick up historical fiction, if I have an option 🙂

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  8. Your last review was also for a book by Davidar ,na.. both seem really interesting ,despite the fact that i am not too much into historical fiction .. but u r reviews have piqued my interest a lot !!

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