Oleander Girl: Book Review by Asha Seth

It has been on my to-do list for this year to read Indian literature and explore new Indian writers. So I picked up Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Oleander Girl’ which was her first of mine, and also that it was a birthday present from a very dear friend.

I have read a lot of praise about the author of how she is one of the best storytellers. One of the magazine’s called her ‘skilled cartographer of the heart’. I was to experience it myself and find if it was really worth the hype and praise.

In the Oleander Girl, the story revolves around Korobi, a 17-year-old girl who loses her mother at birth, with no news about her father except to believe that he is dead. She is raised by her extremely protective and loving maternal grandparents until this age. She is just a few hours away from her big day; it is her engagement with Rajat, a pleasant man from a wealthy family, when a shattering secret is revealed to her, which changes the course of her life drastically.

oleander girl
Image Credit: Goodreads

Needless to say, when the past is dug a lot of stories spring up; unexpected and unbelievable. Korobi too learns harsh truths. For instance, she learns that her father was possibly never dead, that it was perhaps, a lie. But then it’s been 17 years. Where is he now? Why didn’t he ever try and find her? Is he really alive?

And now since she is planning to travel to America which possibly holds answers to all the questions, will her future family stand by her? Will they support her decision? What if they do not accept what she reaps and finds along on her journey?

I have mixed feelings about the book. Although I kept glued to the pages and read it for hours together, there was something amiss about the story. Apart from Korobi, the characters were feebly developed. Certain instances, I found Korobi week as a kitten and she portrayed a level of immaturity that could not escape my attention. But given the simple yet intriguing storyline, I could easily forget the little expectations the otherwise great book had built.

I’d dived head-first into the book and it does live up to the light heartfelt reading experience that you expect from it. Nothing but that made me fall in love with Chitra Banerjee’s style of writing. Least to say is, this book holds the penchant that makes you want to believe that there still is some good left in the world. This is quite your average book which is a nice cozy summer day read but whether she is one of the best storytellers, I shall have to try her other books to believe that.

If you happen to read ‘Oleander Girl’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.

©The Musing Quill

66 thoughts on “Oleander Girl: Book Review by Asha Seth

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  1. I am not a fan of her writing. I did read Palace of Illusions and it left me with a lot of mixed feelings. I was overall let down by it! Did you happen to read that one?


  2. OHGOD!
    Chitra Banerjee is one of my favourites!
    I’ve read a couple of books written by her, and they are absolutely amazing!
    A Palace Of Illusions is one of my all-time favourites!
    She writes really amazing stuff, and portrays everything in a very beautiful and magical way! ❤
    Lovely post though, Oleander Girl is definitely on my Tbr now! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, I appreciate that attitude. I never go by the public opinion of a book. Read it and know for yourself. Most times, I end up loving a book that others don’t and other times, it’s the other way round.
          I wish I could lend you my copy, Kath. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. In other words, a forgettable book? I’ve heard a lot about Chitra Benerjee too, but your review doesn’t commend her enough to me to ditch my foreign authors and pick up Indian ones.


    1. Yeah, precisely that; I can hardly recall the plot. But it’d be unfair to generalise all Indian authors basis one experience. I’ve heard her book ‘A Palace of Illusions’ is an epic. I will try that some time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is true, but whoever in India I’ve picked up has failed to impress me, Arundhati Roy being an exception. But we must not judge by just one book. I’ll wait for your review on the other book 🙂


        1. Well, I feel fortunate enough now to have found some quite good authors. Arundhati Roy, on the contrary, not one I like much. But I am soon to read her latest launch, let’s see. Yeah, it might be some time before I read APOI.


                  1. Well I like Seth and Bond, but part of the reason why I’m not able to really like Indian authors is because I find the language sometimes unnecessarily lofty and even pretentious sometimes. Of course Bond isn’t like that, and of course the newer lot of times writers hardly write in English I think. Probably it’s because I’ve picked up only literary writers. That’s why I’m looking for someone who can recommend more contemporary authors to me because I have no idea about them.


                    1. Yes, you’re right. Most of the debut novels that I’ve had the pleasure to review have greatly disappointed me. I am now too skeptical about contemporary Indian debut authors. I don’t seem to have the heart to try them any more.


                  2. I don’t know why my reply to this comment of yours isn’t showing on your blog, even though it shows on my app that I’ve replied.

                    Anyway, so I’d written how I like Seth and Bond, but how a lot of Indian authors seem to use lofty English and end up sounding pretentious. Bond though isn’t like that. Maybe that’s because I’ve picked up only literary authors and that’s what most of them write like. Conversely, contemporary Indian writers hardly write in good English. Which is why I’m looking for honest recommendations on who to read in the current lot.


                    1. Well, that’s most of who I read too. Seth, Bond, Lahiri are among my favorites. Also, Devdutt Pattanaik, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, R K Narayan, Sudha Murthy, Amitav Ghosh, V S Naipaul, and Gulzar. I absolutely love their works. Have you tried them? Salman Rushdie, Jeet Thayil and Arvind Adiga, I’ve heard are quite good but I’m still to try their works.


                    2. Wow! You’ve read quite a lot of Indian authors. Even the established ones. I haven’t tried many of these names, but I wanna read Murthy, Naipaul and Rushdie…. Who would you recommend?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. They are very different in their content and style. Try Murthy if you are looking for a quick read that requires not much of intellect indulgence. She writes a lot on social issues. With Naipaul, you need to be patient. His works are sheer wonders and your patience will be duly paid.
                      Rushdie, I am still to try.


“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

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