Dreaming in Hindi, by Katherine Russell Rich

When I first heard of this book (in a review in Oprah magazine, where the author has also written articles I’ve enjoyed), I was sure I would love it.  It’s another of those “my year of adventure” memoirs, but the premise here was really interesting: cancer survivor Rich goes to live in India for a year to learn Hindi. Given my love for memoirs, and for India, and for “how I found myself in an unlikely place” stories, I figured this was a definite favourite.

I did enjoy the book, but not nearly as much as I’d expected.  Lots of interesting things happened to Rich during her year in India and she met a variety of interesting characters there, but something about her writing distanced me from the experience rather than drawing me in.  For one thing, she spent a lot of time talking about the theory of second-language learning, which was obviously central to what she wanted to explore in the book, but was less interesting to me than the personal-memoir parts of the story.  Another problem is a purely personal issue I had with the way she wrote. I’m sure it was just a matter of style and another reader might have found it quite engrossing, but something in Rich’s tone, the way she describes people and events, made it hard for me to remember who was who or to follow the narrative, so that my interest was never as engaged as it might have been.

I still think this is worth reading, and for a reader with a different set of preconceptions and preferences, it might be the perfect book, especially if you like memoirs and travel writing or if you have a particular interest in how people learn languages.  But for me, it won’t make the list of my favourite memoirs of 2010.

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Filed under Nonfiction -- memoir

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