The Rice Mother is included in a California School’s Course Syllabus & Soon: A Third Novel from Malaysia’s Rani Manicka

by Suzan Abrams

(The photograph of the novelist Rani Manicka  is from my personal collection.)

June 15: Postscript:

The Castellija School in California, devoted to the excellence of education for women includes Rani Manicka’s The Rice Mother as part of its new course syllabus (2009-2010) for Asian literature. This  appears to be the only title selected from the Far East. Other rich texts include excerpts from traditional works such as The Analects of Confucious, Chinese and Japanese poetry, The Te-Tao Ching, The Dhammapada, The Bhagavadgita, The Mahabharata and The Thousand and One Nights.


Rani Manicka: Malaysia’s first internationally acclaimed author who resides in England, was  published in London in September 2002. The Rice Mother which commanded an instant world distribution, was widely successful  and later, translated into 22 languages. The plot revolved around Lakshmi, a stern matriach and accompanying family saga held during the  turbulent Japanese World War II years in Malaya.  It also won the South East Asia’s 2003 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. This was followed by Manicka’s second novel,  Touching Earth, also published in the UK.

A Personal Note: The Rice Mother is Malaysia’s only fiction title so commercially popular that you can find it easily in the majority of Dublin bookstores.

Hopefully, another novel will soon be on the way with rights already secured in European countries.


The Japanese Umbrella by Rani Manicka  (following in the tradition of The Rice Mother).


‘How could she tell him what she was waiting for? That she had been waiting all her life for love, a love that knew no bounds, a thorny, wild, beautiful, musk scented weed that waits for the raging monsoon flower’

Set against the powerful backdrop of 20th century Malaysia, THE JAPANESE UMBRELLA tells the story of a young peasant girl, Parvathi, whose penniless father sends away to Malaya to marry a rich widower. Fooled by a false photo, Kasu Marimuthu is horrified at his ‘dark’ skinned, uneducated bride. Parvathi seeks comfort in the surrounding exotic landscape and together with the servant and legendary healer Maya, cooks up an alternative version of reality, trying to forgo the shameful abuse by her husband. Only on his deathbed does Kasu regret that he has not known his wife at all, leaving her to bring up their son and the orphaned daughter of his late mistress.

Kasu’s death coincides with the Japanese invasion of Malaya, and Parvathi and their children are forced to leave their home. Striking a deal with a Japanese senior official to save her daughter’s dignity, Parvathi gives herself to him each night, startled by her own sexual awakening. Their unexpected love enables them to survive the nightmares that go on around them until they are forced to separate at the end of the war. Parvathi struggles on through the tragic aftermath, anticipating the year 1957, the day of Malaysian independence from the British, the day her Japanese soldier promises to return…

A saga described as beautifully composed and rich in imagery….
Wait for it!

Credit: This information is secured from the Darley Anderson agency  in London which looks after Manicka’s writing career.)