Title: First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood
Author: Thrity Umrigar
Release Date: October 21, 2008
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 5 out of 5
First Darling of the Morning is a series of glimpses into author Thrity Umrigar’s childhood, growing up in Bombay at a time when the country of India was still new and unstable. The stories start at a very young age with some of Umrigar’s earliest memories and continue until she is twenty years old and leaving India for the great uncertainty of the United States.
This isn’t a contiguous memoir, though; there are gaps in between each story, sometimes of a few days, sometimes of a few years. It allows the author to pick and choose which of her memories she wants to share with the reader. Sometimes they are humorous and sometimes they are incredibly painful. Each is a part of a larger story: the tale of Umrigar’s coming of age in an uncertain time.
Though First Darling of the Morning is a memoir, it reads like literary fiction. This is the perfect book for those people who want to read more nonfiction but have trouble with writing styles or pacing. The book itself is relatively short and the words flow like a smoothly moving water; Umrigar’s writing is simply beautiful. She writes with such longing, in some ways desperate to once again be the child she left behind, to correct all those mistakes she made. However, there is also wisdom behind her words, the realization that she can never return.
Her writing also holds great passion. Umrigar shows the reader what it was to be a conflicted youth in Bombay at a time of unrest. There is no preaching here about what India was or what it has become; it is simply memories, thoughts and observations from someone who lived at a turbulent time. In some ways, India was coming of age at the same time that Umrigar was. And that’s what this is at its core: a coming-of-age story. It has all the pain of what it is to grow up, to be a teenager. Anyone of any culture will recognize Umrigar’s self-doubt and inner turbulence. You don’t need to be Indian to sympathize with her and understand her plight; it is a story that has been told again and again since the beginning of time in a thousand different ways.
However, it is those Indian elements that make First Darling of the Morning special, in many ways Umrigar’s tribute to her heritage, to where she came from. It is her signal that she will never forget and never push it aside in shame. She writes proudly with her head held high.
Between the poignancy of the stories and the gravitas and beauty of Umrigar’s writing, First Darling of the Morning is a gem that is absolutely not to be missed. I can’t recommend it highly enough; I only wish there was more to read. For now, though, readers must settle for this small but satisfying look at one girl’s journey to adulthood.