Image of The Sleeping Dictionary


Image of The Sleeping Dictionary

The broad scope in years and decades, history and politics of Massey’s saga will remind readers of Mitchner, Uris and Clavell. Readers may think of a sleeping dictionary as a mistress who teaches her master the customs and language of the country, but such is not the case with Massey’s heroine, who eloquently, slowly and sometimes painstakingly relates her journey from child to revolutionary and lover. There is sadness, tragedy, joy, love and triumph — everything saga readers enjoy.

As the only survivor of a tidal wave that destroys her village, Pom is taken by her rescuers to a school where she is renamed Sarah and given a job as a servant. She is smart and learns first by listening and then by reading. However, when her dearest friend dies, she is once more on her own. Sarah moves to Kharagpur hoping to become a teacher, but is lured into a life of prostitution and is known as Pamela. She survives because of her involvement in the burgeoning movement for independence. In Calcutta, she becomes Kamala and finds a position as a librarian for Simon, an English civil servant. This is her chance to network with a band of freedom fighters. Kamala begins spying on a besotted Simon and discovers he follows the movements of the revolutionaries. Will love finally give Kamala a home and a sense of self, or will the coming war sweep her hopes away once more? (GALLERY, Sep., 464 pp., $16.00)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin