Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Club: While the Gods Were Sleeping

I recently finished While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal as part of my book club.
Shortly before I started reading it, a massive earthquake hit Nepal, killing more than 8,800 people and injuring more than 23,000. My thoughts immediately went to my Nepali friend and co-worker, because many of her loved ones are still living in Nepal. Luckily, her village was largely spared and she didn't lose anyone close to her. But the devastation in Nepal still occupied my thoughts as I read this book.
While the Gods Were Sleeping is a memoir by anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin. Love and marriage led her to a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal, where she faced the challenges of married life, birth and childrearing in a foreign culture during increasing political turmoil.
If only the book had been as interesting as that brief synopsis makes it sound.
I really wanted to like this book, and I kept reading to the bitter end despite wanting to give it up about a third of the way through. Although I found some sections about the Nepali culture quite fascinating, the vast majority of it read like a research paper. And when Enslin's voice did come through, it was that of a whiny, spoiled, self-indulgent woman who had no true appreciation of this tremendous opportunity as an anthropologist (and a mother).

I was very interested in the tales of pregnancy and delivery, women's issues, domestic violence, harsh living conditions, and the various cultural restrictions for women in Nepal. The constant battles between men and women, cultural and religious expectations and the caste system in general really reminded me to appreciate the freedoms and choices we have here in America.

I preferred the parts of the book where Enslin shared snippets of emotion and real life in Nepal. But unfortunately these were brief sections in between ones that were heavy in political and anthropological notes where she ventured deep into the research and less into the stories, so I ended up skimming a lot. 
I was also disappointed that there wasn't some sort of update at the end of the book related to the many members of Enslin's husband's family. The story ends in the early 1990s, and I'm curious to know how their lives unfolded. Even a brief epilogue would have been nice.

 Enslin was presented with the unique life opportunity to fully immerse herself into Nepali culture, but in my opinion she wasted it. I disliked her writing style and did not have much respect for her as a person, so this book was not for me.

I'd still love to visit Nepal someday though, and my thoughts are with those who are dealing with the aftermath of the country's recent tragedy.
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1 comment :

  1. It totally sucks when you don't enjoy a book you're reading! I almost always persevere to the end...especially if I want to write a review, but I'm always thinking about the better books I could be reading instead!


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