Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kurinji Flowers by Clare Flynn

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Unlimited
Read: August 10, 2015

It is 1936. Ginny Dunbar, an 18-year-old debutante and amateur artist, has been exploited for years by a charismatic, older man. The fallout from this abusive relationship jeopardises her future. Ginny gets a second chance with a new start living on a tea plantation in India. Left to cope with the repercussions of her past, Ginny has to battle her inner demons, the expectations of her husband, mother-in-law, and colonial British society, and her prejudices towards India and its people. Set in South India during World War II and India's struggle for independence, Kurinji Flowers traces a young woman’s journey through loss, loneliness, hope, and betrayal to unexpected love and self-discovery. 

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Kurinji Flowers by Suresh Krishna
The Kindle Unlimited catalog is chock full of titles. I've browsed it a couple of times and bookmarked more than a few promising pieces, among them, Clare Flynn's Kurinji Flowers. None of my friends had read it, but the premise sounded different and I loved the idea of a WWII story set in a nontraditional locale so I threw caution to the wind and checked it out.

Fortune, it's said, favors the bold and my daring was justly rewarded. I felt certain aspects of the novel could have been stronger, but I genuinely appreciated a lot of Flynn's ideas and admired much of the material she incorporated into Ginny's story. The social structure of the British, its contrast to that of the natives, and the inevitable struggle between the two was particularly noteworthy. I felt the relationship between Ginny and her mother struck a very intriguing note and I liked the subtle way that politics influenced events as the story progressed. 

Not to downplay Ginny, but I was fascinated by three of Flynn's male characters. Hector is a flat out brilliant addition to the piece. His character arc really appealed to me and I felt Flynn's treatment of his trials both appropriate to the period and sensitive to the subject matter. Rupert is a disgusting example of humanity, but such individuals do exist and despite my distaste, I admit a certain appreciation for Flynn's depiction of his depraved personality. I genuinely disliked him and right or wrong, my lack indifference speaks to a penetrating characterization and that is something I feel all authors should strive for. Tony rounds out the trio and though I felt his dialogue annoyingly reminiscent of Phil in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I felt his emotional journey the most engaging of the narrative. He is arrogant, but weak, sheltered and naive. He strives to fulfill society's expectations, but he is woefully ill-prepared to do so. I might be alone here, but I liked seeing so much emotional conflict and individual struggle in a male character. I personally thought it a refreshing change of pace and lent a certain authenticity to him and his role. 

Thematically, I liked what Flynn presented, but I'm not ashamed to say I felt there was too much going on. There is a lot of great concept material within these pages, but the various concepts compete for the reader's attention and I don't think any is explored as thoroughly as it could have been. Looking back, I certainly appreciate where the story went, but I can't help wishing Flynn hadn't tried to fit many underlying motifs into a single piece. Not to sound picky, but I honing in and really developing one or two of these ideas would have been more satisfying on the reader's end.

That said, I've no regrets over the time I spent with Kurinji Flowers. I found the novel original and thought-provoking and look forward to reading more of Flynn's work. 

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"Because we can. It's called running the empire. We've been getting away with it for centuries. But our days are numbered. It's only a matter of time before we have to throw in and give them what they want - what is, after all, their right. Then, they'll probably kick the lot of us out. They'll be glad to see the back of us."
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