It’s rare that I really don’t like a book that I’ve chosen to read and feel very disappointed that it didn’t live up to its promise. For me, The Painted Ocean sadly falls into that category.
From the moment I received an email telling me about this book, I was desperate to read it. Even a month after I finished it, I’m at a loss about this book and its impact.
The book it becomes is so different from the book I thought that I was going to be reading. That in itself is no bad thing but it doesn’t work here. It’s almost like its two separate books that have been melded together. It is extraordinary but I’m not sure if I mean that in a good way.
The first half of the book shows Shruti “falling” into a lonely place – as a result of the pressures that her mother faces due to the “honour” of her family and the shame of being abandoned by her husband, Shruti’s father. Shruti meets a girl at school who rescues her, but this is yet another domineering relationship where Shruti allows herself to be manipulated. Some of Meena and Shruti’s escapades were funny, but I just wanted to shake Shruti and her mother and tell them to stand up for themselves.
The second half, where Shruti continues to seek out Meena and spend money she doesn’t have on their friendship – was frustrating. It turned to incredulity when the Indian adventure began. It could be seen as a modern take on Lord of the Flies, but for me it just didn’t work. And the escape from the island 🏝- it takes almost “50” (?) pages 😱 to describe how Shruti arrives at the island, in painstaking detail but only one to sail ⛵️halfway round the world back to the UK. I felt sorry for Gabriel Packard at this point – had he run out of steam and was just desperate to finish the book?
MetLine Rating – 2* Bakerloo. This is a real marmite book. Some people have raved about it, it’s just not for me…
About This Book
When I was a little girl, my dad left me and my mum, and he never came back. And you’re supposed to be gutted when that happens. But secretly I preferred it without him, cos it meant I had my mum completely to myself, without having to share her with anyone. And I sort of inherited all the affection she used to give to my dad – like he’d left it behind for me as a gift, to say sorry for deserting me…
So says eleven year old Shruti of her broken home in suburban middle England. But hopes of her mother’s affection are in vain: speaking little English, and fluent in only Hindi and Punjabi, Shruti’s mother is lost, and soon falls prey to family pressure to remarry. To find another husband means returning to India and leaving Shruti behind.
Meanwhile at school a new arrival, the indomitable Meena, dispenses with Shruti’s bullying problems and transforms her day to day life. Desperate for companionship Shruti latches on to Meena to the point of obsession, following her through high school and on to university. But when Meena invites Shruti to join her on holiday in India, she has no idea how dangerous her obsession will turn out to be…
Gabriel Packard’s THE PAINTED OCEAN has been described by Colum McCann ‘as fearless tour de force. It is a rare achievement – an emotionally rich work of literature, delivered in the form of a gripping, page-turning story. The depiction of a British Indian childhood and adolescence is utterly compelling, as is the allegorical exploration of the human condition.’