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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Doing this review from my iPad and for some reason I am not able to get the image of the book onto this blog  post. It is a pity because the cover is eye catching. Did manage it but it is the kindle version

It is also my first download from Netgalley and I am so pleased it worked out so well.  The book was published by Open Road Media - thanks to them for allowing me access to the book. Lots of publishers have geographical restrictions and that seems to be the general rule around. So thank you.

Set in the cities of Lahore and Amritsar long before the dreaded Partition when both these two cities were serene, beautiful and free from the taint of war and suspicion, we have a story told by Virmati and her daughter Ida.   The story is complex and deals with a traditional extended family which Virmati belongs to. The eldest of eleven children, she has to deal with family responsibilities from the time she was a young girl while her mother just went on producing child after child. From her early years Virmati was attracted to education and a career, not seeking the traditional role of wife and mother which was the destiny for almost all Indian women of the time.

The family reluctantly allow her to study and graduate while at the same time making it clear that a marriage is fixed and it is. Fate however decries it and Virmati slowly falls in love with her married Professor which is almost doomed from the start. To be a second wife would be bad enough but would he have the courage to go against society in general and his mother in particular to take this bold step.

Following Virmati through her trials of a secret love affair, an abortion, losing her job due to the scandal of her affair, losing the love and support of the extended family which was so essential for her is the nitty gritty of this story.

Intricacies of relationships and how in a society such as this, the individual may not be thought of as important as the whole , family and the position of the family is of paramount importance and the sheer bewilderment of her mother who could not understand her daughter at all and thought of it as willfulness on her part and nothing to do with emotions or circumstances.

On the part of Ida the divorced daughter who is trying to understand her mother after her death and put together pieces of her mother's life, the story is almost too much to handle. Even after so many, many years the scandal of Virmati's life is something that no one wants to discuss. I do not know whether Ida gets the closure she seeks.

To modern people the story may not be that earth shattering. A young woman falling in love with a married man is not so uncommon but in the context of the times and society they came from it was a very radical thing to happen.  That it did and the story thereafter is very well told.


Athira said...

This does sound very racy and scandalous for pre-partition India. I would be interested in reading it and seeing how it works out.

Isn't NetGalley addicting? I have to stop myself from browsing there so that I will read what I have.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Hmmmm... interesting!