11 September 2007
MotherTalk Blog Tour:
On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad

MotherTalk Blog Tour
Today my blog is one of the stops on MotherTalk’s Blog Tour for On Borrowed Wings by first time novelist Chandra Prasad.

On Borrowed Wings; Chandra Prasad; ISBN-13: 978-0743297820; Atria Books (June 19, 2007); hardcover; 320 pp.

The synopsis provided on MotherTalk goes like this:

On Borrowed Wings by Chandra PrasadSet in the 1930’s, Chandra Prasad’s debut novel tells the story of Adele, a sixteen-year-old girl destined to live out her life in the tiny Connecticut quarry town in which she was born. When her brother Charles is killed in a quarry accident, Adele decides to impersonate him and enrolls at Yale in his stead--an educational privilege that is simply unimaginable for a woman in that era. As Adele encounters bigoted professors, wealthy bookworms and dashing WASPS, she begins to see her true self emerge--in however unlikely a package. On Borrowed Wings is a lovingly researched social history, tinged with the intrigue of gender-play and the pathos of a coming-of-age novel.

I was excited to read this as I always enjoy discussions of gender, social status, racial, and familial identity, and from the looks of the description, Prasad seemed to touch on each of them--all in a period context, which I especially like.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

During the first 50 or so pages of the book, I was fondly reminded of a little-known but critically acclaimed novel from the late 1930s, Christ in Concrete by Pietro di Donato; both Prasad's and di Donato's main characters are thrust into family leadership roles because of the deaths of their fathers, but Adele’s status as a young woman adds a unique twist to Prasad’s story. And it was a true pleasure to watch Adele come into her own not only as the leader of her family but also as a woman in her own right.

Prasad does a great job of painting the scene, making the reader part of an old quarry town in Connecticut, feeling what it was like for small town girl Adele to stand on the stone steps of mighty Yale and caress them just to feel closer to her father. In fact, Prasad's writing shines in her scene descriptions; her clearly meticulous research, though, sometimes comes off as a bit heavy and is incorporated awkwardly in parts, but is always full of interesting tidbits--great for an information geek like me.

Prasad succeeds in ushering the reader into Adele’s everyday world, one in which she is stifled by so many characteristics over which she has no control; I can feel the constriction of Adele's breasts bound under her clothes every day. This emotional connection with Adele's struggle turns this story, in which this young girl learns about herself, her intelligence, her talents, and her sexuality, into an inspirational tale as well.

Some could criticize that since the book is set in a time long-past, its applicability to modern life is a bit strained. Prasad effectively eases this disconnect, though, by creating a cameo for one of history's great women, Amelia Earhart--a timeless heroine. And so, Prasad's basic message of believing in your abilities and working hard despite obstacles transcends period or place.

I can't end my review, though, without mentioning the character who stuck with me even after having finished the book: Adele’s mother. She is rather inconsistent--sometimes showing outright hatred for her daughter while other times doting on her like a woman enamored. I still can't decide whether this was character sketching genius or flaw, although I suppose since it's made me consider her inconsistencies more closely after I closed the book, at the very least, I suppose it's a little of both.

I wouldn't mind reading a book featuring this former Philadelphia socialite mother who married an Italian immigrant quarryman--especially as a follow up to On Borrowed Wings.

Overall, I'd give this book 4 espresso cups out of 5 and look forward to reading Prasad's second effort.


*On this, the 6th anniversary of 9/11/2001, my thoughts are with the victims and survivors of the events of that horrible day.

I urge all my readers to watch "Loose Change" if you haven't already and read what the government has to say in the 9/11 Commission Report. That day changed the world along with millions of lives, and the only thing I know for certain is that we deserve to know the truth.

Information is a good (and patriotic) thing.

Never Forget.



Blogger Farfallina said...

Uh! "4 espresso cups out of 5" is pretty good!

Isn't that video quite something? I was glad when I found it...

I first saw it about half a year ago, when I was taking care of my brother's 4 year old daughter since both parents where shipped to military bases abroad! (which is one of the reasons why I couldn't go submit my visa) one of my two my brothers is a 2 time veteran of the Iraq war, though he was only on logistics. I think I even hint about it at the beginning of my blog...though I tried not to.

Yes, I even saw the "Popular Mechanic's" response trying to debunk the video...

Though a lot that needs to be explained for sure!

Information is desperately needed and patriotic :) citizens need to learn to question again...

Blogger Farfallina said...

Nope, I just saw that I have almost no posts from "Surprise, Arizona" but that's why I was there :)

Loved the clip, you always make us think a little Sognatrice :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Farfallina, the book wasn't perfect, but it did keep me turning pages--a big plus to me ;)

I didn't know about your brother or your experience taking care of your niece or the visa issue...so no, you mustn't have written about it much if at all.

Like you said, I think there's a lot that needs to be explained, that's all--it never strikes me as a good thing when a government refuses to answer questions and/or revisit issues that others have called into question. Makes me suspicious :(

Blogger Karina said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Like you I'm always fascinated by gender roles in history and in the now, so books like this pique my interest. In fact, I'm in the middle of a memoir of sorts now that is based on the gender roles in Latin America.

So many things I could say about your second part of the post, but I'll just agree with you, we definitely deserve to know.

My hat's off to you Sognatrice for both parts of your post. First the book review was amazingly written. I thought I was reading my Sunday LA Times book review section it was so professional! I like historical novels; they're a great way to be entertained and learn something. Secondly, I will watch that video as soon as my OH wakes up, but I undertand your thoughts completely. Our government has made it unpatriotic to question and demand answers. It is time we take back our rights as Americans and question, ask, demand - all because it IS patritotic to do so, just like you said. And, yes, our hearts are with all those who suffered on this day 6 years ago.

Grazie for the great post.

Hi lovely,
I enjoyed reading your book review, and am pleased to add this novel to my next amazon order (finding new English books in Geneva can be a challenge!) I also received your emailed recipe, thank you very much. I will be making a batch of amoretti's tonight & will email you to let you know how they turned out. Hope all is well :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Karina, ooh, that book sounds good too--will you be doing a review? ;)

Jeni, thanks so much for your comment; be forewarned that the video is over an hour long, but worth every minute, IMHO.

Erika, can't wait to see the results of the recipe (wish I could taste them)! Thanks for stopping by :)

Blogger Vic Grace said...

What an elegant blog you have. I like the look a lot and superior content too! Thanks for popping in to say Hi at my place on the web.

Blogger Bonggamom said...

I love your last sentence "Information is a good (and patriotic) thing". To those who say that questioning the government is unpatriotic --Discussion and debate are also good (and patriotic) things!

I can't wait to read the book, that was an excellent review.

And I appreciate your posting a memorial today. We will never forget.

Scarlett & V.

Blogger Maryann said...

Nice review.
Thank you for mentioning this sad day in our history. I still remember the day so clearly. Two of my sons enlisted in the military to defend us right afterwards. I would hate to think that their service and my sleepless nights worrying about them were all for nothing. I got them both safely home, thank God, but it left a bad taste in our mouths. Blessings and prayers to those who lost loved ones.

Anonymous Lulu said...

This is a great review! I am very excited to add this to my booklist! It will be a while before I can get to it, though, as I have been caught up in the life and times of King Henry VIII and his wives for the past few months. I've got 2 more books to read after my current one. As well as your tales on Calabria!

I better start reading!

Blogger Sparky Duck said...

Hey who knew you were a mother ;)

Um, I am a crazy conspiracy theorist and the second part of the post seems even nuts to me.

Blogger Karen Cole said...

I'm ready for a new book. Thanks for your beautifully written review. I'll go pick it up tomorrow.

The tour of your town is spectacular! I'm doing the "tourist" trip this time (husband hasn't been to Venice or the Cortona area, we're also going to Emilia Romagna and Rome)...when we come back sometime in June I intend to head south.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Hi Vic, thanks so much for your nice words and visit :)

Bonggamom, that's really the thing that bothers me the most about all this--the fact that the media and government portray anyone who dares question the official version (when even members of the Commission say there are errors/omissions) as a nut job.

Scarlett, hope you enjoy it, and thanks :)

Maryann, I'm happy to hear your sons are safe; thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Lulu, I know what you mean about the reading list being a mile long. All in due time....

Sparky, the great thing about reviewing with Mother Talk is that you don't have to be a mom--or even a woman!

As for the second part, you're showing yourself to *not* be much of a crazy conspiracy theorist, I'm afraid ;)

Karen, I hope you enjoy the book and trips to Italy--especially when you head down my way. Be sure to let me know when you're coming!

Hi! I have seen loose change - and I also watched a show here in Italy that talks about the facts shown in loose change. A lot of the interviews that they feature in loose change are edited or only shown in a small tid-bit of a longer interview. When you see the longer interviews of the witnesses from the pentagon, they do not in fact support the loose change theory, but the *more factual* version. I was annoyed that they distorted their research/facts.

So, I do question much of the movie, as well as MOST of the *factual version*. I have my own theory that I plan on writing about soon. But, do some research, and don't rely only on loose change - they distort the facts in their movie.

However, I do believe we were not told the truth! (i am anti-bush, and believe something is not right about that day, so don't think I am trying to put down loose change because I am a Bush supporter. That is not the case! haha)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Hi Sara, well I certainly didn't mean to imply that there are two choices on what to believe happened and that's all. I saw the specials on here as well about debunking the video, but to be honest, I didn't find a lot of what they said very credible--especially knowing that the people presenting that also have a fairly clear political agenda.

In general, though, most every documentary maker/writer/etc. "distorts" facts--or, speaking as a lawyer, chooses those most beneficial to his/her argument. I personally take everything I read/watch with a grain of salt, and truth be told, I read much more than I watch, although the same biases are always there.

Like I said, I'm not advocating one version of the truth or the other--just the fact that the truth must come out, and I don't feel that it's in the 9/11 Commission Report, not in its entirety anyway.

Thanks for your comment :)

Blogger JennieBoo said...

This is truly amazing.

Thank you for sharing it.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Thanks for your kind words, Jennie :)

Believe me, I am ALL for questioning, and I totally think there was government knowledge of 9/11. I was just mentioning that the eyewitness reports that were shown in loose change were cut to make it sound a certain way. When I saw the full interviews, I was frustrated that loose change distorted those interviews, so I wanted to mention it. There is SO much out there to read! I think tomorrow I will write about my own theory!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Sara, I look forward to your post! Thanks for coming back around :)

Blogger Jen said...

This sounds like a fascinating novel. I'm glad you reviewed it.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jen, thank you for reading :)

Blogger sarala said...

Sounds like a good book. I'll look for it.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Sarala, if you get it, let me know what you think!

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