A novel about contemporary Indian intellectuals highlights an age-old problem.
The unnamed protagonist escaped from her abusive husband five years ago when this powerful novel opens, so the suspense is not whether she'll survive but whether she'll be allowed to tell her own story. The woman's mother has been telling the story to relatives, neighbors, and circles of friends, focusing on the physical signs of her daughter's abuse and escape—her thinning hair, her cracked heels. But the survivor has decided to tell the story herself, which then becomes the novel at hand. Kandasamy's brilliant and at times brutally funny narrator leads the reader through her emotional journey, from confident college student then published writer to battered wife. She details the unhappy affair that led her to take refuge in her husband's arms and then step by step reveals how he managed to isolate her from friends and family, taking control of a joint email account, managing all social activities. Most damning of all, the woman shows how everyone from the woman's parents to her friends and her doctors either looked the other way or urged her to give her husband another chance. This is a story that could take place in any culture at any time period. What makes this novel unique is the feisty voice of the narrator and the rich details of her intellectual interests and her husband's leftist politics in contemporary India. Kandasamy (The Gypsy Goddess, 2014, etc.) divides her time between Chennai and London, and the novel was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Jhalak Prize and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.
So long as society does not listen to women, this novel shows, no woman will truly be safe.