Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dreaming in Hindi: Disappointing memoir of life in Udaipur, India

Dreaming in HindiDreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I SO wanted to like this book!!

After surviving cancer, Katherine Russell Rich decides she would like to learn Hindi. Eventually, she takes off for India to study Hindi there. She lands in Udaipur in the far northwest of India, very close to the border with Pakistan. (Very few people I know have been to Udaipur (or Rajastan), and the place is close to my heart because it's where my husband proposed.)

The week she arrives is September 11, 2001. Over the next several months, sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims escalates in India. She can't ascertain whether she is safer in India or back in New York City.

Her book recounts her experiences in India, including her bizarre classmates (Asian countries seem to attract a lot of oddball expats) and host family, and shifts constantly between travelogue and nonfiction treatise on the difficulties and science of learning another language.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Sadly, I had to stop reading it. I'm giving it 2 stars, because I did enjoy parts of the book and found some pieces moving (such as when she meets an Indian woman with uterine cancer who doesn't have a hope in the world of surviving the disease--the doctor said, "if you get cancer here, you die"). I kept getting bogged down in inane details and names of people I couldn't keep straight. Sometimes she goes so deeply into her Hindi studies that non-Hindi speakers will end up completely missing the point. At other times, she surprises me with her naivete and ignorance (such as not knowing the word "papadum").

Rich badly, badly needed a really strong editor. Life is too short to read a book that makes me keep looking to see how many pages I have left! I was disappointed, because I had such high hopes for this book.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment