Title: Climbing the Stairs
Author: Padma Venkatraman
Published: 2008 by Speak (division of Penguin Group)
Fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college, an unusual aspiration for a girl living in British-occupied India during World War II. But then tragedy strikes, and Vidya and her family are forced to live with their relatives in a traditional household, where women are meant to be married, not educated. Breaking the rules, Vidya finds solace in her grandfather’s library. There she meets Raman, who treats Vidya like an equal and encourages her education. Then Vidya’s brother leaves unexpectedly, and Vidya’s life gets caught up in political and personal turmoil. In the midst of all this chaos, will Vidya be able to hold on to her dreams and make them a reality?
This is a perfect book. It combines an interesting time in history, with a fascinating character having to deal with a crazy (in my opinion) culture, and adds just a tad of romance.
All Vidya wants is to go to college. Her father has always been pretty open to new ideas, and she is sure it will all work out. Then tragedy strikes! Her father gets really hurt so they have to move to his family’s house. Now, these people are complete sticklers to the Brahmin caste system. They are the highest and they treat the servants like dirt.
I HATED her dad’s family. They were all jerks. It wasn’t all culture problems either, some were just really rude. Padma Venkatraman did such a fantastic job at writing those characters. I honestly wanted to slap them all. Also, Vidya's mother seemed so weak because she didn’t stand up to her sister-in-law’s abuse of Vidya. I think she was very emotionally crippled by her husband’s accident and because she was much more culturally true than her husband.
A big part of the conflict of the novel is the violence or non-violence argument. The Indian people learn through their philosophers not to be violent, because that doesn’t help anything, it’s only stooping to your enemy’s level. But at the same time, World War II is going on and Hitler is killing everybody, so do you join the army to stop his violence? Kitta, Vidya’s brother believes he needs to stop Hitler, but everyone in the family believes in the non-violent approach.
I loved all the moments in the library. It was such a place of wonder for Vidya, and she would sit in there and read anytime she could. Her reading of the classics, books I know, was very entertaining. To hear her thoughts on them and know which ones she likes or doesn’t. She also meets Raman in the library. I loved him. He was more traditional than her but he had his moments of modern thought.
The character development in this book is amazing. Vidya starts off seeming rather immature and silly, with shallow desires and girlish gossip. She grows up rather quickly though once her father is hurt and she moves away. In the end, she is a very independent, mature, and promising young woman who knows what she wants and has a plan.
Sorry it was such a long review! I just LOVE this book!! Also, I got it for $1 at Books a Million! Yay!
Rating: 10/10 easy.
Content Warnings: Nothing