Born in Malaysia; immigrated to England; divorced. Education: Earned degree in economics; studied management training in Germany.
Home—England; Malaysia. Office—c/o Author Mail, Viking, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
Businessperson and author. Ran a restaurant in London, England.
Commonwealth Writers Prize, 2003, for The Rice Mother.
The Rice Mother, Sceptre (London, England), 2002, Viking (New York City), 2003.
Malaysian native Rani Manicka published her first novel The Rice Mother, after the book was the subject of a bidding war between publishers. Manicka, who had previously worked in the restaurant business in her adopted country of England before turning to writing, was inspired to write the book by her grandmother in Malaysia. Manicka was influenced by how hard she fought in her life, and The Rice Mother's main character, Lakshmi, also overcomes many difficult circumstances. In addition to winning the Commonwealth Writers Prize, The Rice Mother was also nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2004.
The Rice Mother revolves around Lakshmi, a native of Ceylon who moves to Malaysia as a teenager in about 1930 to marry Ayah, who has lied about his circumstances. By the time Lakshmi is nineteen years old, she has six children, and Japan has invaded the country. Ayah is tortured by the Japanese. Lakshmi's beloved daughter Mohini also disappears, and is raped and presumed murdered by the invaders, adding to the legacy of tragedy in the family. Despite such horrors, Lakshmi pushes her family forward. They have success in business and in their personal lives because of her, but also experience much loss. Told from various first-person narratives, the chronicle of The Rice Mother includes the point of view of Lakshmi's children, their partners, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. Hwee Hwee Tan of Time International felt that Manicka's "characters were original, its canvas broad, and Manicka's radiant prose brings out all the dark lushness of her ultimately tragic tale." Though a reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that Manicka was "syrupy" in her depiction of such areas as youth, the reviewer also acknowledged that the characters' "voices were distinct, and prismatic sketches form a cohesive and vibrant saga."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 9, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of The Rice Mother, p. 1956.
Books Magazine, autumn, 2002, review of The Rice Mother, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of The Rice Mother, p. 707.
Library Journal, April 15, 2003, Andrea Kempf, review of The Rice Mother, p. 123.
Observer (London, England), September 22, 2002, Hephizibah Anderson, "If you're not sure how to make a sari, read on," p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, June 9, 2003, review of The Rice Mother, p. 34.
Time International, March 10, 2003, Hwee Hwee Tan, "Matriarch of Malaysia: Rani Manicka's debut novel, The Rice Mother, sets a family saga in unexplored literary territory," p. 59.
Guardian Unlimited,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (September 22, 2002), Hephizibah Anderson, "Local colour."
Penguin Putnam,http://www.penguinputnam.com/ (November 3, 2003), "A Conversation with Rani Manicka" (November 3, 2003), summary of The Rice Mother.
Red Hot Curry,http://www.redhotcurry.com/ (November 3, 2003), review of The Rice Mother.
Sawnet Review,http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/users/sawweb/sawnet/ (November 3, 2003), review of The Rice Mother.*