Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Small Acts of Amazing Courage
Gloria Whelan
2011; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 978-1-4424-0931-6 (hardcover)

Summary:  In spite of her father's wishes, Rosalind is not a proper fifteen-year-old.  Rather than talk about fashion and young men with other English girls at the club, Rosalind spends time with her best friend Isha at the local bazaar.  It's 1919 in India, and people like Gandhi are calling for India to gain its independence from Great Britain.  Rosalind loves India and can't deny the logic behind such demands for freedom.  Sent to England by her father, Rosalind finds ways to show kindness and challenge the status quo.  Whether she's hearing Gandhi with her friend Max or urging her aunt Louise to gain her own independence, Rosalind cannot stand by idly during this exciting, intriguing debate.

Rarely has a novel been so well-titled.  Several characters in Gloria Whelan's latest novel exhibit small acts of amazing courage, like breaking free of their narrow lives, rescuing a casteless baby from a life of poverty, or speaking out in favor of Indian freedom in the face of criticism.  The actions of Rosalind, Max and Louise are contrasted with English attitudes and opinions, and those attitudes come up lacking in justice, fairness and mercy.  Although this thin novel could have used an English character whose viewpoint was not so anti-India, this book is still an eye-opening look at the early development of the Indian independence movement.  What's more, Small Acts of Amazing Courage showcases history through the eyes of engaging characters like Rosalind and Louise.  Pair this novel with Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth and Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman for a full look at India between the World Wars.

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