Wednesday, 18 June 2014
The Good Children by Roopa Farooki
review by Maryom
Growing up in 1940s Lahore, the Saddeq children have their futures mapped out for them - the sons, Sully and Jakie, will study hard, earn a place at a foreign university, and after more study, become doctors like their father; the daughters, Mae and Lana, are brought up to be decorative and helpful around the house, to grow into perfect wives and mothers. Good children do as they are told, is their mother's firm belief and through a mix of pious sweetness and merciless bullying she manipulates the children to fit her ideal. When it comes to educating her sons, their mother is a firm believer in using the stick instead of tempting with the carrot, quite happy to literally beat knowledge into them; her daughters meanwhile are dressed up and made up, and played with as if they were dolls.
At first her plans seem to be going well - Sully and Jakie head off respectively to the USA and England for medical training; Mae and Lana marry young - but then things go awry. Sully marries a fellow student, half Indian, half German, deemed unsuitable in his mother's eyes; Jakie falls in love with a hard drinking Irishman, even more unsuitable!; the girls up and leave their husbands.
But it isn't that easy for them to shake their upbringing and no matter how grown up they are or how far away they live, home still has a way of drawing them back.. and in relation to their mother they'll always be children.
The first thing to say is how much I loved this book. There's something special about a good long book that I can slowly sink into - become familiar with its characters, learn their good qualities and their flaws, their hopes and disappointments - and The Good Children is definitely one of them. A story of how childhood influences continue their hold throughout life, of the things that bind families together, even while pulling them apart, and how freedom is a thing of the spirit not distance, it's a grand sweeping novel moving from Pakistan to England and the US, and from 1940 to the present day. Exploring the complex relationship between parents and children, and between the children themselves, the story follows their lives as they strike out for freedom, searching for love and fulfilment, become parents, and grandparents, themselves, but find themselves, like a jumper on a bungee rope, still tugged back to home. Jakie and Lana inherit their mother's pious caring qualities while Mae and Sully have more of her stern disciplinarian side - none of them though try to make and mould their children in the way that she did.
Despite its length - 620 pages - it never feels slow or too long; if anything the story whipped past far too quickly. Although she's a new author for me, Roopa Farooki has written several other books and I'm off to catch up on them - just hoping my library will stock some if not all.
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Tinder Press
Genre - Adult fiction, literary