The authoress of this novel is Rukshana Smith. She was born in Birmingham in 1948, but has lived most of her life in London. This book is based on the experiences of a young Asian friend she met. When you read this book it`s the director who tells the story, but she`s not a part of it.
This story deals with the life of an Indian family, the Patels, which have to move out of Uganda, because the president of Uganda, president Amin, has announced that all foreigners have to get out of the country, unless they will get killed.
They move to Britain where they can give their four daughters a good education. But the family which had been rich and respected in Uganda were threated like they were stupid in England because they couldn`t speak English well, except Sumitra which had learnt it at school in Uganda. Because of this they only got bad jobs and became a poor family. This resulted in housing problems, and they had to get help from the Housing Department. First they lived at Antonio`s Guest House, where it was many strict rules to follow and very noisy. At the guest house they met many mean people, but also some nice people to. One of the nicest was Maria, who became a good friend of the family.
After a long time and after many phonecalls to the Housing Department, they finally got rehoused to their own house. Here could Bap, the father, be «the boss» again.
When Sumitra was staying at the guest house she got a job of a friend at Saturdays. But she is eating her lunches in a pub with her white friends, which is unacceptable for an Indian girl. Jayant, her uncle, watches her going into the pub one time, and this gets her into a lot of trouble.
Sumitra has only two choises; either to stick with her family and their Hindu values with a life like a prisoner, or to run away from home to the English life and freedom. It`s not easy for Sumitra to choose because she wants the best from both the English and the Indian culture.
The theme in this book is equality of status, but it also contains subjects like religion, racism and moral. It describes how some people descriminate other people because of foolish reasons like nationality, race and culture. I think that the authoress has experienced lots of humiliating and degrading incidents herself because of all the detailed descriptions.
SUMITRA is the main character in this book. We follow her life from she`s 11 till she`s 18 years old. She`s a beautiful Indian girl and easily gets in touch with other people. She often wonders why people are having different colours on their skin and why they are being judged by it. When she comes to England she starts to be more English and she doesn`t obey Indian culture and rules as much as she used to.
MAI is Sumitra`s mother. She`s like an old fashion housewife and thinks that her place is at the kitchen. She accepts Hindu values and is like a slave to her husband.
BAP is Sumitra`s father. He is the head of the family, makes all the decisions and he wants no argue about it. He wants Sumitra to stay in the house and help cooking. When it comes to the Hindu values he is very strict by following them.
SANDYA is the oldest one of Sumitra`s younger sisters. In the book we follow her from she`s 9 till she`s 10 years old. She is a bit like Sumitra herself and doesn`t like all the rules her father`s making. She wants to spend more time on school and friends instead of doing housework all the time.
BIMLA is the second youngest of Sumitra`s sisters.
ELA is the youngest of Sumitra`s sisters. Her favorite sentence is: «Hey, do you know president Amin? I hate him!»
MARTIN and MARIA are married friends of the Patels. They first meet at Antonio`s Guest House. They are very nice and Maria has a daughter from before she met Martin. At week-ends they take the Patels girls on a trip.
SALLY is Maria`s daughter. They fled from France from Maria`s former husband. She`s nice and allways tells what`s on her mind no mather if it`s something she`s not supposed to say.
JEAN and RITA are two racistic people the Patels meet at the guest house.
JAYANT is Sumitra`s uncle. He`s much like her father, Bap, but he`s much more strict on the Hindu values. Sumitra hates him. He`s married to Leela. They live in London when the Patels come.
DADIMA is Sumitra`s grandmother. She respects the Hindu values and she means that it`s very important for the women to obey their men.
MOTIBEN is Jayant`s mother.
HILARY and LYNNE are Sumitra`s best friends. They are both very nice and they like Sumitra. Lynne comes from a rich family and Hilary from a poor one.
It`s never told in the story when it takes place, but I expect it does around 1980, because Rukshana Smith won a book award for Sumitra`s Story in 1982. In the first the book took place in Uganda, where they were rich, but later, and in most of the book, it took place in England, where they became a poor family. It`s very important for the book where it takes place, because it contains the story of a family coming to a foreign land, England.
The most exciting part of the story is when Jayant finds out that Sumitra is spending her lunches at a pub with white friends. The other exciting part, and also the turning point, is at the end of the story, but I will not spoil the book for you by telling it.
The message in the book is that you have to live your own life and do what you want and you feel is right, no mather what other people say.
After all, I think that this book is dull. It`s almost no action in it and you can read up to almost 50 pages without anything happening. Maybe someone who don`t like action as much would enjoy this book, but I`m definitive not one of them. So from 1-6 I`ll give this book 2.
Written by Sigurd Nelson, 1aøb.