Praise and Reviews
“A thrilling debut: Ru Freeman has given us a wonderfully bold and determined protagonist in a richly drawn, complex, fascinating story. I loved it.”
—Lynn Freed, author of The Servants’ Quarters.
“Evocative and moving. Ru Freeman is a marvelous storyteller who sees deeply into the complex layers of compassion and love, of sorrow and betrayal. An amazing first novel.”
—Ursula Hegi, author of Stones From The River and The Worst Thing I Have Done
Long listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which aims “to bring the rich and varied South Asian literature to the forefront, the prize is (considered) heftier than the Man Asia Literary Prize — Asian Booker.” (Winners announced in January, 2011)
—The Hindustan Times.
“Ru Freeman has observed closely the subject of her first novel – the relationship between master and servant in contemporary Sri Lanka…Tensions, both political and personal, ultimately explode in this accomplished novel.”
—The Observer, UK.
“Freeman does an outstanding job of depicting tragically circumscribed lives without turning her characters into cartoonish victims; the childhood scenes between Latha and Thara are especially subtle explorations of class dynamics. …Although Freeman has been an advocate for women and workers, she does not lecture the reader; she lets the story and her characters speak for themselves. An earnest, worthy, well-crafted debut.”
“This debut novel is a terrific, absorbing read, showing remarkable control as it engages with caste, fatalism, the oppression of women, and the tragedy of taking wrong decisions.”
—Sunday Times, UK.
“Freeman illustrates contemporary Sri Lankan life through the battles waged between lovers, friends and strangers alike in this study in dignity, strength of character, tolerance and perseverance.”
“Two intersecting narratives from Sri Lanka give a rich overview of the role of women against a shifting political backdrop…(a) dense, involving read.”
“There’s so much detail, so much to learn in this book – but it’s still ultimately an easy read. Freeman’s effortless prose covers every aspect of human life without ever seeming to get tangled or boring…A Disobedient Girl has a truly epic feel, the way it weaves whole lives and families, accommodating decades of hope and disappointment with genuine style. It’s a breathtaking debut novel and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good story well told.”
—The Book Bag, UK
“Stripped to the bare bones, A Disobedient Girl would perhaps seem to be the latest in a long line of coming-of-age fiction to emerge from a politically turbulent Asia in recent years—consider Preeta Samarasan’s Evening is the Whole Day (2008), set in Malaysia, or Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (2003)—but Freeman raises the bar for the genre by her mastery over her characters and her craft. In Latha and Biso, Freeman has created two women who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of fiction’s feminist protagonists. Feisty, confident, enterprising, independent and completely unafraid to love, they demand life on their own terms and never shy away from paying the price…So beguiling are Freeman’s people, so empathetic her voice, that the reader is swept along the twin strands to a finale that is as uplifting as it is organic.”
—liveMINT.com & The Wall Street Journal
“Love in its many forms and interpretations—benevolent and malignant, sororal and maternal, instinctive and presumed—is the motif of Sri Lankan-origin writer Ru Freeman’s first book, without doubt one of the most compelling novels you’ll read this year. A Disobedient Girl is such an accomplished work that it is hard to believe it’s a first novel: At the same time, its wisdom and temperance say much for a delayed debut.”
“This poignant reminder of the subaltern status we confer on our domestic helps comes across as a stunning study of the elite milieu…That is the compelling thing about this narrative, the forthrightness of the women in searching for a better life, a conviction that they were meant for better things. A selfishness, a boldness, a freshness in taking on the world on their own terms, the adrenalin of irreverence and defiance egging them on to a crescendo that is satiating in its resolution. This is a tale of possibilities and hope for people who wish not to be constrained by social subtleties.”
—The Deccan Herald
“Class prejudices, both overt and insidious, come across strongly in Freeman’s novel set in contemporary Sri Lanka…despite all the travails and tragedies encountered by the (two) women, it ends with a commodity in short supply in today’s world: hope.”
—Sunrita Sen for The Asian Age
“A Disobedient Girl is a vivid and captivating story of three lives at once joined and separated by class. An excellent debut.”
—Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son and Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
“A Disobedient Girl is a skillfully crafted, deceptively simple tale of the friendship between a servant and her mistress that offers us nothing less than an indictment of a society’s treatment of women and the oppressed. Freeman elucidates not only the complexities of friendship, but the sanctity of motherhood and the pervasiveness of loss, how political corruption and the violence it breeds affects women uniquely. A heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting novel that celebrates our ability to transcend tragedy.”
—Rishi Reddi, author of Karma and Other Stories and winner of the 2008 PEN/L.L. Winship Award.
“A Disobedient Girl is a deeply affecting novel by a compassionate and observant writer.”
—Michelle de Kretser, author of The Hamilton Case and The Lost Dog
“Ru Freeman’s writing is stunning, beautifully crafted and powerful. She carefully reveals her characters’ desires, motivations and flaws…and in so doing, draws the reader into their stories. I found myself marking passage after passage of this extraordinary novel. Readers who love literary fiction and who want to be wowed by a writer’s talent, should look no further. ”
“‘The unusual mixture of tenderness and anger is powerful… Terrific. I read at a gallop, desperate to discover what had happened. I loved it’.”
—Margaret Foster, biographer and author of Keeping The World Away and Over
“The story lines intersect in a gut-wrenching climax involving (three) women. This beautiful, harsh and unforgettable novel is told with compassion and grace.”
—The Book Works, Emily Recommends.
“Ru Freeman’s remarkable debut novel, set in Sri Lanka and told in the context of civil unrest, unfolds like a hard candy being unwrapped in the theater, twist by crinkling twist, until finally, after suspenseful moments, the sweet interior is finally free…This heartfelt novel, both tragic and triumphant, deserves a wide readership. Its themes of rebellion, friendship, karma, loyalty, and loss lead the story to often surprising places, and the pleasures of those discoveries are many.”
—Debbie Lee Wesselmann, Mostly Fiction.
“Beautifully written … A Disobedient Girl pulls you into another world completely…Judging by this – Freeman’s first book – she’s an author you’re going to want to keep an eye on.”
—Review in Minot Daily News
“Freeman has a gift for dramatic language and situations, illustrating how each woman faces tragedy and overcomes the suppression they feel because of their caste and decisions. A Disobedient Girl is not about a specific girl or woman, but about the rebellious part of human nature that desires to be free and in control of its own destiny.”— Serena Agusto-Cox in Savvy Verse & Wit
“Freeman tells the story of Latha and Biso in alternating chapters with a shared underlying theme: freedom comes at a price…readers will find the bond Freeman creates between Latha and biso is quite gratifying.”
“A high quality debut novel, providing a smooth, easy, highly enjoyable read, and one I will definitely be recommending to many others. The writing style is fluent…the Sinhalese words are contextually, thoughtfully included, and not brandished, and the novel is pleasantly free of heavy-handed exotica. It is, in fact, a novel distinctive for its unostentatious but easily identifiable Sri Lankan cultural flavours and markers, and for (its) fresh depiction of Sri Lankan womanhood and femininity, and their circumscribed complexities..”
“Ru Freeman’s writing is stunning, beautifully crafted and powerful. A Disobedient Girl examines the destructive power of secrets, betrayal, loss, domestic violence, and the power of love to overcome tragedy. Freeman transports the reader with her exquisite language and extraordinary characters. I will be watching for more novels by this talented author in the future.”
—cribousmom, book blog to ten of 2009 pick/
“A Disobedient Girl is mesmerizing…It tells a story that covers any class in any culture and I am very impressed with the story. I love the author’s writing style; she had me at the opening sentence.”
—A bookseller rave from Jacki Leach, Borders Books, Gresham, OR