This book is part of a genre that is getting increasingly popular every day, that of the experience of the immigrant Asian in the West. In this case, it is an Indian family, who emigrate to Wales in Great Britain during the early seventies. The father, Mahesh, who has made it to the prestigious job as a mathematics professor, at the University of Wales, has survived the horrors of the Partition of India in 1947 and is a self made man. The mother, Schreene, is a pretty, pleasant housewife, brought up in the time- old self- sacrificing Indian tradition, ever ready to forego one's pleasures, for the good of the whole.
Their first child, Rumi, is the central character of the story. Rumi turns out to be exceptionally intelligent, so the father, a strict disciplinarian, takes upon himself, the task of showcasing his daughter to the world, in order to experience, albeit vicariously, the attention and publicity she would receive as a child prodigy. Seeing her properly established in the right circles, for him, would be some sort of a corroboration of the values that had inspired him to acquire the status and community standing that he had acheived over the years. Both parents, believe, (not unlike improvident Asians from other countries) that the grandeur of their daughter's success would also reflect on the superiority of their own culture and norms and show 'the decadent West' their place in 'civilisation'.
Rumi, obviously, does not know of her parents' agenda. Soon enough, however, she gets to feel the heat as Mahesh puts her on a very strict regime of discipline. The rules set for Rumi, leave little room for her to be a child, leave alone playing with her peers. The greater part of her waking time was to be devoted to mathematics, not even story books were allowed. Mahesh's goal was to set a record by getting his daughter to Oxford, before her fifteenth birthday. How far he succeeds in this attempt, how Schreene reacts to the sequence of events, and how Rumi develops, is the main theme of the book.
The story has been very poignantly written. The characters are very vividly portrayed, especially Schreene, who reacts violently as she finds herself cloven apart between her Eastern values and Western mores, and how, she can, nevertheless, as a mother, set aside her own pride, and reach out to her daughter in love, and forgive. In contrast, Mahesh, the rule maker, finds himself trapped within his own self image and is unable to react. The scenario is familiar to many immigrants from developing countries who have yet to realize that the values that procured for them, their present material abundance, do not work for the second generation who need a totally different kind of nurturing.
Rumi's situation, is one that is relevant to women who have been brought up before and upto the late eighties. In actuality, the onslaught of the Internet, has changed the situation for women, quite significantly.
There are other books which have been written, by and for women, on the theme of gifted daughters, being pushed to extremes under the pressure to perform. However, not many can match this relatively fast paced book in sheer readability. Strongly recommended