I often pick short novels for the weekend. However this time around, my recommendation is going to be one with a several hundred pages. I consider this a beautiful piece of literature, just for the vivid descriptions it holds within its pages. This is a book that you would live through, and is best enjoyed in an uninterrupted reading session. A brilliant storyline, full on character and a stunning prose- that’s “The Village by the Sea” by Anita Desai for you!
Anita Desai is known for her simplistic style of writing. Her stories are straight from the heart and appeal to readers across different age groups. The Village by the Sea, was published in 1982 and won that year’s Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers.
Thul is the tiny little fishing village on the western coast of India, about 14 odd kilometers away from Bombay. Set in this village, is a family living a life of utmost poverty. Thirteen year old Lila and her younger brother Hari, struggle to make ends meet. With a mother who is chronically ill, an alcoholic father and two younger sisters in school, it is the responsibility of Lila and Hari to shoulder it all. Where Lila works as a house maid, Hari works on a small plot of land to grow crops. However, the crops seldom yield enough food, nor is he able to catch enough fish with his small fishing net. Unable to cope up, Hari runs away to Bombay, without telling his family, leaving Lila to manage things on her own. How do the siblings manage life’s demands and the responsibility of the family? Two young souls with no dreams of their own, and fighting the grinding poverty they have been subjected too. The Village by the Sea is a remarkable saga of determination, will power and resilience.
Life-enriching, written with utmost sensibility and capable of touching your heart
I loved the simplicity in narration, yet with an ability to bring out the complexities in the lives of those in obscure little places. Vibrant metaphoric descriptions captured my attention. I loved the scenic descriptions and sounds captured through words- words such as “whispering waves”, “scarlet hibiscus blossoms” and “the sweet smiling spider lilies”. Desai’s well sketched characters are a pleasure to read. Hari may well be a boy but it is his hard work and strong determination that serves as the driving force. On the other hand Lila is the quiet and composed young girl, tolerant and patient.
Pace in narration
The first half of the book is slow, and tends to drag on without progressing much on the story. It essentially serves as a descriptive section that throws light on what life would be for a small village, the aspirations of the people and their struggles. However, move over to the second half of the book and the momentum does pick up. You wouldn’t want to close the book until that last page.
It’s a book that would make you smile at joys, cry during struggles and turmoil, and cheer for success. And there are lessons to be learnt from the book too. Accept challenges life throws at you. Strive to meet them without fear, and victory would surely be yours. There is hope, if there is the will power to sustain!
The Village by the Sea is a fiction that is to be read purely to savor the narration.