"Powerful and poetic."
"Hypnotic and lyrical, this mesmerising tale brings to mind Amy Tan at her best."
"Centering around a fascinating emotional dilemma, this book is sprinkled with exquisite nuggets of description and alarming insights into human nature"
"'Myths of old India and realities of the contemporary Caribbean, ingeniously blended into a fast-moving narrative that both informs and delights; the enchantment of fairy tale and the learning of a scholar seamlessly interwoven. As in her previous novel 'For the Love of my Name,' Persaud again deploys formidable narrative skill."
Professor Frank Birbalsingh, York University, Canada.
Professor Frank Birbalsingh's review of 'Raise the Lanterns High' in the Trinidad and Tobago Review, Vol 26 No11, November 1st, 2004.
"Tradition and culture mixed with intrigue make this an exciting novel to read."
BBC Asian Network.
"Raise the Lanterns High - an absorbing read. Lakshmi has been compared to Nobel laureate VS Naipaul. We at Veena actively prefer Lakshmi."
Veena Indian Arts Review, Editorial, Apr 2004.
"In her observations of human frailty and cunning, Lakshmi Persaud delights us with her style that is at once sharp and delicate, and warm and ironic. Her new novel Raise the Lanterns High is a subtle exploration of how a woman’s impulse to shake off the weight of centuries of oppressive tradition is constrained by the ties of love. For me the fascination of the book lies partly in understanding how the Indian diaspora negotiates its relationships with the idea of home and India as the mother country. I hope this book will play its part in placing Indo-Caribbean women’s writing on the literary map of the world."
Rahila Gupta (author), Southhall Black Sisters Association, London.
"I've just finished reading your last novel and I just wanted to tell you that I found it totally gripping throughout... I was particularly impressed - and moved - by the way you effortlessly glided between the worlds of the 1960s and the history of the suttee queens 200 years before. The structure worked beautifully in my opinion. Your material was absolutely riveting."
Angela Thirlwell, author of "William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis", see www.AngelaThirwell.co.uk.
"I have just completed reading Dr Lakshmi Persaud’s novel. “Raise the lanterns High.” What an exhilarating and enlightening journey it was! It was a true joy to read: the pace is fast moving, it captures the human spirit from the playful to the profound, the prose is eloquent and beautiful - so characteristic of Dr Persaud’s unique style, the plot is breathtaking and the substance, most enlightening."
A reader from Virginia, USA.
"I enjoyed reading 'Raise the Lanterns High,' Lakshmi Persaud should be congratulated not only on the literary sophistication that characterizes her writing, but also on the imaginative and sophisticated manner with which she dealt with an important, but difficult, subject. I am already looking forward to her next publication."
A reader from Surrey, UK.
"I loved Lakshmi Persaud's book, 'Raise The Lanterns High'. She is a delightful writer who addresses the issues of cultural pressure and custom as they impact on women, often asking them to pay the ultimate price to further demonstrate their loyalty to the men they have sworn to serve in life. Lakshmi ... manages to take you on a journey resembling a deep and troubled dream to enable you to live the issues. I thankfully awoke into the security of my daily life all the wiser for the experience and profoundly committed to prevent further injustice. Lakshmi skilfully avoids apportioning blame and demonstrates thoughtfulness and dilemma across both sexes. Please read this book to have your eyes opened and your mind fed. Thank you for a fascinating experience"
Dr Melanie Lee from London, UK.
"I have just put down 'Raise the lanterns High' and want to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I am so pleased that I was at 'Borders' in Islington to purchase it and to hear you share your experience of writing it. For me, apart from being a very engaging read and a page turner, it echoed ultimately, women's strength and courage, especially in the ugly face of oppression - you highlighted amongst other things how we can use our resources, inner strength and wit to attain what is rightfully ours - freedom. It would be an understatement to say that 'Raise the Lanterns High' has struck a deep chord within me. Thanks for the inspiration"
Simran Sembhi from London, UK.
"Congratulations on yet another major work. It was very informative and touching. I am not able to articulate it as well as you do, but I believe that deep somewhere in our psyche we carry the history of out ancestors and that even though we live in different times we are grounded in some way with the past. Thanks for giving us yet another interesting work"
A reader from Barbados, West Indies.
"I felt I must write to you to tell you how much I enjoyed reading 'Raise the Lanterns High'. I found the justification for each character's stance fascinating and so plausible and convincing, until the other side of the dilemma was expressed, which was equally plausible and reasonable... I admire how you are able to present all the conflicting justifications for a particular action with such clarity and conviction... Altogether the book is a wonderful read and I am sure I will read it again... I have passed on my copy to my daughter."
Pamela Brown from Essex, UK.
"I am convinced that this book 'Raise the Lanterns High' is in a category of its own and could inspire the script for a block-buster movie as engaging as 'The Far Pavillions'. You have excelled in this one. Congratulations for this masterpiece."
Seopaul Singh, USA.
"Absorbing and challenging, you'll be ensnared from the start."
"'Raise the Lanterns High' brings to mind a direct comparison with the writing of her fellow countryman, VS Naipaul... they both capture the beauty of Trinidad in a mellifluous literary style and where Naipaul leans towards dark humour and melancholy, Lakshmi Persaud creates a gentler lilting prose... 'Raise the Lanterns High' is a hauntingly bittersweet novel about female emancipation in 18th century India and modern day Trinidad"
Lopa Patel for www.redhotcurry.com.
"'Raise the Lanterns High' is another masterful creation by the versatile Caribbean novelist Lakshmi Persaud... The book is a must read for all those who still do not understand the root and impact of customs and practices in the Indian culture."
Raise the Lanterns High
Set in Trinidad, within a rich Hindu family, and also in a Kingdom of North India, in the Palace of Jyotika, in the 1800s. The novel is a highly dramatic page-turner, full of intrigue and strong characters who face life-and-death dilemmas. It has a universal appeal as it not only heightens the ago-old conflict between modernity and long-honoured traditions, but also shows the strength and limitations of each.
Two chance encounters, one on a hot afternoon in a sugar-cane field in Trinidad when schoolgirl Vasti witnesses a violent rape, and the other twelve years later in a jeweller’s shop on the same island, when she learns that the rapist is her husband-to-be, come close to shattering her sanity. It is the eve of her arranged marriage: how can she escape from this situation without bringing disgrace to her gentle, loving family?
The conflict rages within her and makes her ill; she collapses, unconscious, and is transported to the Kingdom of Jyotika, one hundred and fifty years before, where the three widowed Queens of King Paresh are facing an even worse crisis: as widows, they are expected to climb the pyre of the dead King, and perform suttee, the iniquitous rite of self-immolation demanded by the culture and customs of North India.
Ghost-like, Vasti follows the Queens and their courtiers around the huge royal compound, listening to their learned debates and gaining enlightenment in her own situation. As suttee takes place within 48 hours of a husband’s death, the Queens have very little time to devise an escape route from the Fort of Jyotika. Inspired and led by the Southern Queen Renu, they enter an exciting and terrifying period of intense discussion and planning. The intrigue in their court is as dark as anything encountered in Elizabethan England. 'Raise the Lanterns High' is a rich visual treat full of powerful ideas expressed in powerful language. It would make a superb choice for book circles as the subjects for discussion come thick and fast. And at its heart is the image of burning, which ensures that the intellectual and emotional temperature never drops.
"I cupped the water as I had seen grandmother and mother do and washed my face again and again. Joined palms opened as petals, refreshing my spirits as I bathed my neck and burning arms.
A Lizard rushed past. A crapaud with throbbing throat sheltered in long grass. I quickly raised my skirt before him, cooled my thighs, flapping this contrived cloth fan. I looked around, sitting as quietly as I could under an overhanging branch. For a while I enjoyed the solitude, listening to the buzzing of tiny wings and leaves falling beside me.
Then I heard a sound, a low, deep cry of anguish. Quietly I got up. Alert. Still. Nothing but the rustling of sugar-cane. On this expansive plain, the strong wind lifted and fell as sheets on a washing line.
The next time I was waiting for it - an unmistakable cry, a pitiful pleading, a trembling from within the canes... creeping through the sugar-cane field, parting the sharp long leaves...
Focusing my new binoculars I saw a young girl, my own age. Her school uniform was above her waist and her intimate garment lay beside her attacker. From where I crouched I could not see their faces, but I heard her voice begging him to stop. He had parted her legs, now flailing helplessly as a butterfly struggling, caught in a web."
"'I do not recommend simple designs for weddings. A wedding is a grand occasion. You should appreciate that. Look at its full meaning. Have you thought of that? When people ask on that special day and you say it is Rojani's art, they will get the wrong impression of my work. I am a true artist. I know what is suitable for every occasion….A simple design for a wedding is not advisable. It may even bring bad luck.'
Rojani shook her head knowingly,
then smiled broadly.
'Maybe it is cold feet na?' She asked. 'That is so common. Nerves play up. A lot of modern girls are not coping well with arrangements. The problem is what to put in its place. Our custom does not allow girls to go to parties and so on as they do overseas; how then will they meet anyone? On the other hand, at that age they are too impressionable. A fellah only has to say some nice things a couple of times and they fall like ripe mangoes. So I am asking these modern reformers, who think they have all the answers - what are parents to do?' "