A spellbinding, exuberant first novel, set in Malaysia, that introduces us to a prosperous Indian immigrant family, as it slowly peels away its closely guarded secrets.
When the family’s servant girl, Chellam, is dismissed from the big house for unnamed crimes, it is only the latest in a series of losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha’s life. Her grandmother has passed away under mysterious circumstances and her older sister has disappeared for a new life abroad, with no plans to return. Her parents, meanwhile, seem to be hiding something away – from themselves, and from one another.
As the novel tells us the story of the years leading up to these events, we learn what has happened to the hopes and dreams of a family caught up in Malaysia’s troubled post-colonial history. What bought the Rajasekharan family to the Big House in Malaysia? What was Chellam’s unforgivable crime? Why did the eldest daughter leave the country under strained circumstances? What is Appa – the respectable family patriarch – hiding from his wife and his children?
Through this vibrant cast of characters, and through a masterful evocation of the clashes and strains in a country where Malays, Indians and Chinese inhabitants vie for their positions in society, Preeta Samarasan brings us an enthralling saga of one household and the world beyond it.
Reviews of Evening Is the Whole Day
- ‘I found it a good, strong, spirit-spiked story about caste and unfairness, as furious, controlled, cool and urgent as Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger and an introduction to a writer whose talent with narrative structure combines elegance and potency.’ Ali Smith, TLS (Book of the Year)
- Anne Tyler, Guardian (Book of the Year)
- ‘Samarasan captures beautifully the conflict both within the family and the country during the early years of Malaysia’s independence. Vibrant, descriptive, and peppered with colourful Indian-Malaysian dialogue, this is an epic that’s informative without being worthy, and engrossing but not frivolous.’ Francesca Segal, Observer
- ‘You won’t find India’s heat and dust here; you will sense the moist warmth of South-east Asia. Samarasan represents the quiet emergence of new Malaysian writing in books such as Rani Manicka’s The Rice Mother and Touching Earth, Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory, and Tan Twan Eng’s Booker-longlisted The Gift of Rain last year. These writers have significantly broadened our understanding of the region.’ Salil Tripathi, Independent
- ‘A richly complex debut, weaving the troubled Malaysia of the 1980s with a dark, delicious Dickensian family drama.’ Waterstones Books Quarterly
- ‘A magical, exuberant tragic-comic vision of post-colonial Malaysia reminiscent of Rushdie and Roy. In prose of acrobatic grace, Samarasan conjures a vibrant portrait, by turns intimate and sweeping, of characters and a country coming of age. The debut of a significant, and thrilling new talent.’ Peter Ho Davies
- ‘An accomplished and magical debut.’ New Books Magazine
- ‘Preeta Samarasan details the colourful and secretive lives of the Rajeskhrans, a wealthy Indian immigrant family. She keeps us guessing as the secrets that led to the family’s relocation are slowly revealed.’ Image Magazine