Book Reviews

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal by Elizabeth Enslin

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List Price: £12.99

 

Paperback: 312 Pages.

Published: 23 September 2014 by Seal Press

ISBN: 1580055443

EAN: 9781580055444

Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself. While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal tells a compelling story of a woman transformed in intimate and unexpected ways. Set against the backdrop of increasing political turmoil in Nepal, Enslin's story takes us deep into the lives of local women as they claim their rightful place in society--and make their voices heard.

Reviews

4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

Excellent about her personal experiences

This book is the author’s biography of the time which she spent in Nepal, the birthplace and home of her husband and her husband’s family. As she is an anthropology student the book has a bit more depth than it would have had it just been a description of the life that she lived in a distant country. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage in the book – the advantage is that she can explain in context the social patterns she observes but the disadvantage is that sometimes she appears to be using her family and friends purely as fodder for a dissertation.

The author spends time in Africa and wants to work amongst African people considering the lives of women in their communities. When she finds herself attracted by a Nepalese she shifts her concentration to first India and then Nepal. There is a certain amount of desperation in her

search for an appropriate subject to study to gain her qualifications. It was this aspect of the book that made me feel like she was using the people she was working among as some form of scientific experiment. When we concentrate on the author’s experiences in the home of her husband and his family then the book comes alive. We see how at the beginning of the book she has a lot of trouble in accepting the semi-primitive circumstances in which they live. She is horrified, for example, by the sanitary arrangements. By the end of the book she and the reader can see how far she has moved on and that things which originally horrified her are now commonplace. The family into which she has married are of a very high status in the country and as a non-Nepalese person she is not seen as being pure – this means, for example, that no one in the household will eat any food that she has prepared. It is interesting to see someone from America be treated as a second-class citizen in this way but it is noble of the author to accept her position and to work with it rather than railing against it in every paragraph.

As the author lives in the small town and community where her new family are she learns more about how the community functions. There is a lot about the position of women in this community and as seen from the inside we also experience how many of them are fighting against traditional treatments. The author also becomes involved in starting political action but it does seem like it will take many years for any form of equality to be achieved. We do understand, however, how women make their own place in the society and how they assert what power they have.

Some of this book is an anthropological study and some of it is political. These bits were not as enjoyable for me as a reader as the parts in which the author described her experiences in living with her new family. I rather wish that the balance of the book had been more skewed in that direction. Nevertheless this is an interesting book and I learned a lot about how Nepalese families live and their communities work. It is very interesting to see it from the point of view of an outsider. I recommend this if you are interested in books about other cultures but I would warn any potential readers that some of it is very theoretical rather than a practical description of what happens. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

 
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