The loveliness of the story is exquisite. It's the kind of story that's like eating chocolate: you savor every moment of it, and it leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
What makes your writing so wonderful are the perfect little details, beautiful images, and resonating emotions that the language summons up. It's no wonder that your work tends to end up as vignettes that connect to form a story, because that kind of structure is most suited to your style; it gives importance and beauty to the smaller moments.
Some of my favorite moments were the descriptions of Parvati on the beach, Padma in front of the mirror, their arrival at the flat, “a quiet bird singing what what what,” and this paragraph: “Birmingham is dark and cold and it is raining, and she asks her father, is it always raining here? He says no, and he ruffles her hair, but she cannot really bring herself to believe it, because this is the sort of rain that takes away even the idea of the world's ever having been dry, and in the all she can see is her mother's bright sari like a flame. Her mother is sitting very straight, a bit like a candle and a bit like a fighter.” I don't know what to say other than that they are beautiful. There's nothing to analyze; they are beautiful, and therefore they have truth in them.
You did a very good job at bringing realism to the experience of being Indian, of being a child, and of being an immigrant. The sort of stream-of-consciousness style helped create a childish feeling, and heighten the sense of a child-like wonder at the world, and of seeing the world very sharply in some places, and out of focus in others.
I really liked that this fic was about Padma. We don't see much of her anywhere, and you gave her a character, and not even the superficial characterization of assigning traits to a character. She becomes a person that the reader never doubts is a living, breathing, feeling person in canon.
There were only two parts that jumped out at me as being flawed. The first was section four, whose point didn't come across clearly. The second was the significance of the snow in section six, which I couldn't see. Also, you claim that you can't write summaries. However, I don't think your writing lends itself very kindly to summarizing, so I wouldn't be so sure that you are as bad as you think you are. ;)
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful writing. Pretty please, give us a new fic soon? =) (And one last thing: squee for the Eliot reference!)
Interesting take on Padma! I'd never really considered what their family life is like, and this seems a realistic description. I really liked how you divided it into "chapters" with the different stages of Padma's life. The way you portrayed the family was lovely, and the ending was rather sad. I really enjoyed this fic!
It’s wonderful, Noldo, really. It’s incredibly unique and pleasing to read.
Your tone gave so much to this story! Parvati is always the character that we read about, and it never occurred to me that Padma might be the more subdued sister. Your portrayal of her character was lovely. I really did feel as if I was experiencing moving to the UK and going to Hogwarts and watching her family with Padma. Twins can be hard to write, sometimes, because they’re very similar-looking, but can be very similar in their behavior — or not. I loved the dynamics you created between Padma and Parvati because it was completely new and fascinating!
Your opening paragraph was so interesting. The descriptions of the photograph on the wall and Ashish’s smile drew me in so well. It made me think of the old photographs I have of my own parents and how young they looked. This was a really beautiful opening and immediately showed characterization of both the parents as well as Parvati and Padma.
I loved the quirk of pronouncing Birmingham. It was realistic — I could hear it in my head! I loved that Padma thought it sounded like “burning ham;” that showed both her childhood and also the humorous side of her mind.
The paragraph in which you described Padma’s feelings towards Parvati and their reputations in the community was such great characterization. I thought it reflected quite well the relationship between siblings and how we feel about one another, because sometimes it does feel as if one is afforded a better adjective than the other. I loved your inclusion of that!
I started laughing as I read the part where Padma asked if it was always raining, and how she feels as if it could be true because it’s that kind of rain. Her father ruffling her hair and her mother “sitting very straight, a bit like a candle and a bit like a fighter” were such fantastic reactions. I loved your word choices there. The following sections were also incredible in terms of description and characterization. I just can’t get over how well you captured the mind of this young girl!
I really, really liked the scene on the beach and what you described about Parvati always being in motion, and Padma being the person reading a book on the rocks and always looking up to make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Again, the dynamics between the two took the story to a completely different sphere of writing for its originality.
My absolute favorite part was where Padma is looking in the mirror and wondering why she can’t be like Parvati because they look the same. It was beautiful description, and the ending sentence was just lovely.
:) So, lest I simply gabble on about the wonders of this story, I will end this review to say that this is honestly a completely fantastic job that you did with it. I am in love with everything — your descriptions, your characters, your enigmas and metaphors, everything. It was realistic, it was cute, it was hopeful, it was innocent. You captured the mind-frame of Padma from when she was six to when she was sixteen perfectly. The beginning was perfect, the ending was perfect, and so was everything in between.
You’re in my favorites, Noldo!
Nice... it's a really different fic and I got attracted to it, being an Indian myself (a Mumbaikar, actually). Where do you stay?
Anyway, there's one thing- Parvati and Padma are not Gujratis; they are Marathis. Patel is Gujrati. I'm quite sure of it, as I know a few people with the last name Patil. They are all Marathis. Just correct that part.
Guh. Noldo. I have no words for how much I fangirl you. Except for…guh. (Although I suspect I am going to come up with quite a few words over the course of this review, because I am wordy and verbose and like to write, really everything I want to say is right there at the top.)
I recently tried to write a story very much along the lines of this – not the storyline, but the structure and the tone, from the childlike sensibility to the way it’s divided into unrelated-yet-related parts. And now I just feel silly, because yours. is. so. good. You have totally captured the childlike feeling in every part of the story; the way she spends time on the little things that are to her so very important, the rambling tone of narrative, the way things that don’t seem connected connect.
Padma wanders around the garden and looks at the flowers and the dust and the black-beetles and says goodbye to each one as though it is an old friend, which it is. This, for me, is the quintessence of capturing the childlike tone; you really enter into her world, where these things are crucial, and even the way the words flow is beautiful. All the diversions, as Padma describes tiny details around her, are wonderfully done. (Have I mentioned that I fangirl you?)
The ongoing comparison between Padma and Parvati is realistic and sad and so very very familiar to anyone with a beautiful and much-loved sister. And I love the overall structure – going to England and leaving England, two goodbyes. I think my only critique (and it might not really be a critique, because it didn’t bother me at all while reading the story, but only occurred to me when I was thinking about it after) was that these two things never really tie together. Not that they necessarily have to tie together in a neat symbolic way, but for such a short story it seems to be about two very different things: the journey back and forth, and the way Padma compares herself to her sister. Though I didn’t feel awkward with the two while reading the story, upon reflecting it would draw the story together if they somehow connected, if we could see why the story is about both issues – why it’s one short story, and not two.
It is the first time that she has ever seen her mother cry. Another of my favorite techniques – after paragraphs of detail and description and long-windy sentences, you throw in something so short and pithy that it just hits me right where it counts. Power of understatement – manifested right here.
I am in love with the last sentence: (Though not, of course, with a bang; with an argument and a broken plate and four tickets towards comparative peace; and she can't really explain why she feels this way, because all she knows is that she does.) You are the master of combining things that oughtn’t to combine and making it work – the tickets and the broken plate somehow come to symbolize everything that it means for her to leave. Someday I’d like to learn how to do that. My one problem with this sentence – and I hate to find fault with a sentence I love so much – is the semicolons. The two semicolons automatically put my brain into list format, and I read the second phrase (“with an argument and a broken plate…”) as a continuation of the first, rather than as a negation. I’m not sure if this is really a grammatical thing or if it’s specific to my brain – just something to think about.
I have not by any means listed all my favorite things about this story, but I’m afraid of taking up too much space on your review page to say very little other than: I fangirl you muchly.
(Can I please borrow your brain?)
The mood you convey in your stories is why I love your writing so much. This story is no exception. The innocence with which you write Padma is so convincing, and the way she sees the world works as you give us clips of her life. In this short piece, you've drawn a character sketch better than some authors do in an entire book. Her awareness about her sister is something that is entirely realistic. As a young girl, I always wondered what made other girls pretty and why I wasn't considered that way, too. I think you showed that insecurity very well, and it had a greater affect because Parvarti is her twin.
However, my favorite part of this piece is when Padma moves to England and sees the new house. She's so full of dreams of a new, better life, but it doesn't turn out that way, and you underscore that perfectly by having her say it was the first time she'd seen her mother cry. That line, set apart from the rest of that section, is moving and evokes more emotion than an entire paragraph could have done, I think. Also, from knowing many Indian people, I think you did a fine job with the cultural aspect of this piece. When I first read the books, the implications of Parvarti and Padma's ethnicity and background seemed of little consequence, but you've managed to show how their parents and their heritage affected them all throughout their lives.
Oh, how I love getting the email that Noldo has posted another fic. ^^
I haven’t ever really read a Padma fic before – a result of her being a character I don’t happen to be overly fond of, so I suppose I don’t have much to compare this to. But I thought it was very very very wonderful all the same. The only fics I’ve read from you are Black-family-related, so I was eager to see your portrayal of a character I’m not so used to. I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least.
The beginning is a good, if not completely natural one. It’s a good place to begin the story, with the event that essentially begins Padma’s life, as it were. I think your first set of parentheses (about the picture – lovely idea, by the way) might be a tad long. The reason might be the second set of parentheses contained within the first, but I think somewhere it becomes too long. I’d say take something out of those parentheses and try and stick it somewhere else in parentheses, if you catch my drift. Break it up a little so that we’re not overwhelmed in the very first paragraph.
I love the mispronunciation joke. Heart it. It adds in that little taste of humor a fic needs, and it reminds me of my own dad in a strange little way (funnily enough, he’s absolutely horrid at pronouncing things, especially foreign things). I love the description of the house and the family’s reaction to it. It just emphasizes that they’re in a different place now, and including the bits about what people think of Padma and Parvati is great. There’s inevitably sister-rivalry there, and seeing what Padma thinks of it sets up the relationship the girls will have later (particularly when they’re sorted into different houses). The beach scene also helps to demonstrate how left out Padma feels, and I can’t help but feel sympathy for her.
She thought, eating a pig is very strange. But the girl was nice, and played wonderful games, and so Padma didn't say anything.
I feel like ‘but the girl was nice, and played wonderful games’ would be better unitalicized. The ‘eating a pig is very strange’ is Padma’s thought, so that should be italicized, but the second bit I think is just fine unitalicized.
All it's supposed to be is a school (school, n. citadel of torture, generally.), but that seems not nearly enough. What a great line. (I agree about the citadel of torture, naturally.) One of my favorite things about this fic is the way you added touches here and there of the Ravenclaw in Padma. When she looks in the mirror – another great, though more direct, I think, way of separating Padma from Parvati. I feel like Padma seems a real girl in that scene, too, looking at herself and wondering about her appearance. And then the brief mention of the Yule Ball is also wonderful. All those middle sections are put together very well – in the right order. It all flows nicely and concisely. You always have a talent for flow, and creativeness as well. I just love your writing, basically. :D
I think the ending parts are my favorites, the ones about the coming war. I love love love Padma’s thinking that some questions have no answers. It’s so fitting, while at the same time a little chilling. And her parents leaving the country – again, fitting. It’s like this fic has bookends. First, leave India, finally, go back. Great. I don’t what else I can say about this, except that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I like hearing a story from Padma's point of view. And as an Indian, I can see how England would look to someone coming in.(Although I've lived in the US my whole life)
I found it a bit unsettling for some reason...although that isn't a bad thing. Definitely excellent, though. I was so excited to see you had a new story out! Padma is such a different perspective, and I particularly enjoyed the way she saw her relationship with Parvati. I liked the description of the apartment building too, and the very end parenthesis.
hmmm... powerful is the word im looking for. i like it a lot. good job.