WIFE by Bharati Mukherjee


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Like The Tiger's Daughter (1972) Mukherjee's account of the short, terrible marriage of Dimple Basu nee Dasgupta is a study of cultures in collision, told with double-vision irony. Scene by scene, she is humorous and tragic at once. That's quite a trick, but she pulls it off by exploiting the wide-eyed naivete of a 21-year-old Bengali girl who can't quite compass the fact that husband Amit is no Prince Charming, that Miss Problem-Walla of the Calcutta newspaper cannot provide a solution for her increasing depression, that even New York withholds the glamour, happiness and freedom of her adolescent fantasies. Despite--or because of--her new liberated friends, her consciousness is one of ""a pitiful immigrant among demanding appliances."" Dimple, who sleeps all day, spends insomniac nights compiling absurd suicidal strategies--like tying herself up in a green plastic garbage bag. Mukherjee works up the motif of violence from a number of angles, including TV and street muggings and Indian friends with morbid imaginations, and strikes only at the last page--but it's Amit who gets the knife. The deliberate, workmanlike construction of this novel with all its fine and funny touches (Amit's crib sheet of American jargon or Dimple's despair over the dying plants) is something to admire with a double take. You don't have to be Indian to understand the no-way-out entrapment of Wife.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1975
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin