Review: As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan

On a tiny island in the Indian Ocean a young woman prepares for a wedding.

Meterling is about to do something completely against the social grain and break all kinds of traditional culture….this young Indian woman is going to marry an older Englishman.

On the day of her wedding, Meterling’s husband dies….right there during their first dance! Just as Meterling begins to deal with the death of her husband, she finds out she is pregnant.

Ostracized by the village for already being too tall, she is now a widow and having a baby out of wedlock.

Meterling’s husband, Archer, originates from England and he comes to the island of Pi to run a gin distillery. Archer loves everything about Pi, the flowers, the lifestyle, culture, and obviously the women.

Likewise Meterling is infatuated with the western world. After Archer’s death, Meterling learns he has left her three fields and a cottage in England.

While she continues the grieving process, Meterling meets Archer’s cousin Simon. Simon comes to Pi and falls in love with Meterling and ends up taking her back to England with him.

Though initially taken with the sights of London and the English countryside, Meterling begins to feel like an outsider and longs for the beautiful exotic island she calls home.  

This novel is an exotic mixture of culture, romance, loss, and life.

The first half of the novel is told by a series of people thru conversations and observations made by many different people, mostly the ‘younger’ generation of cousins/aunts/uncles etc. In the second half of the novel we get to really focus on Meterling and her side of the story which was the part I was most anxious to get to.

Ganesan did an outstanding job priming the reader to meet Meterling. Since the whole first half we only really get to know her through others, and I often found myself wondering….hummm what’s the world look like from Meterling’s perspective.  I was really excited to keep reading and to actually ‘meet’ her in the second half….that more or less drove me to continue reading the novel.

I think the South Asian culture is wildly interesting. I haven’t read anything from that region or on that culture so I thought the book sounded fascinating. The Indian/Hindi culture is so vivid and colorful and that aspect of the culture was really brought out in this book. I could practically smell the jasmine and feel the sun on my face….what a glorious place to grow up.

I thought the location shift in the novel provided richness to the plot that could not have been achieved in any other way. Going from Pi to England was such a sharp contract in culture and I thought it really highlighted the difficulties that were felt by Meterling.

The only thing I felt was a struggle was the speed of the novel. It took me a long time to get thru the first half of the book. I was just so anxious to get to know Meterling and I felt like it simply took too long to actually get into the overall story.

I liked how the novel started….it literally started off with a ‘bang’ but then right after Archer’s death things just started to lose momentum for me. The second half of the novel was much better and flowed better for me however it was difficult to get to that part of the book.

I really struggled with the rating on this novel, I wanted to give it higher marks for it’s narration style, prose, and intriguing plot, however it took me so long to get into the book that I really didn’t feel as engaged as I had hoped. Perhaps it’s a personal preference, it was good but could have been outstanding with abit of a faster pace. It was only 288 pages so it should have been a fast read for me, but it seemed to go on much longer than necessary.

As a Westerner, I really enjoyed getting to know a fairly unknown culture thru this book. I liked how vivid the imagery was and the prose was as sweet and soft as an island breeze. It was fun to explore a culture so different from my own, though at times I found myself struggling to understand some of the cultural constraints of the island.

This was definitely not a book that I would normally pick up and read but I am very glad I did. It opened my eyes to a fairly unknown part of the world and made me excited to read more books from this region. I enjoyed the richness of the characters and the complexity of the story which was told with a poet’s hand.

A must read for people who enjoy books on other cultures with exotic locations!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan

  • Hardcover, 288 pages
  • Published February 12th 2013 by Knopf (first published February 1st 2013)
  • ISBN 0307960447 (ISBN13: 9780307960443)
  • Review copy provided by: Knopf Publishing in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 (a beautifully written novel set in an exotic location)

Genre: Contempo Lit

Memorable lines/quotes:

But how does one seperate petty from what is important if what is petty seems important at the time? (12)

Who doesn’t have the right to a happy ending? Especially one brave enough to follow her heart? (35)

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3 Comments

  1. This seems like an interesting read. I love a book that is able to really evoke the world it takes place in, and it sounds like this book does that, but I think I would also be frustrated by the pace and fractured method of telling Meterling’s story.

    Reply
    • Ya it was a really interesting book, especially since that part of the world is not necessarily a popular location in literature. I really liked the cultural aspect of the novel and like the characters just the pace I thought could have been faster :(

      Reply
  2. Adding this to my list ..

    Reply

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