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Off the Brunch bookshelf: The women we’re reading this summer

We’re spending a lot of time indoors this summer, reading. That is how we discovered these women and their books – there’s something for all kinds of readers here

brunch Updated: Jul 20, 2017 11:50 IST
BrunchBookChallenge,Rosalyn D'Mello,Umera Ahmed
Nowhere Girl by Umera Ahmed

We’re spending a lot of time indoors this summer, reading. That is how we discovered these women and their books – there’s something for all kinds of readers here:

The book: Nowhere Girl, translated from the Urdu novel Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan, aired on TV in India as Kaisi Ye Qayamat.

The author: Umera Ahmed is a bestselling Pakistani writer – she wrote the Fawad Khan-starrer Zindagi Gulzar Hai.

The gist: Sara’s only family was her mother Saba, a factory worker. After Saba’s death, Sara discovers her mother’s secret past: a broken heart, shattered pride, estranged family, an unused college degree. None of this makes sense, until after Sara is engaged to Haider, the son of her mother’s ex-husband. Sounds weird? It is.

One-line review: The cover says this is allegedly about love and forgiveness, we’d imagined a prudish Mills & Boon, but it’s not – instead, it’s like a dramatic Hindi serial: a loose plot, lots of drama.

A tiny extract: She wrote: ‘When one loves something unconditionally, one should not think about it. Thoughts lead to doubts and doubts destroy love. Is that what you want? That I stop loving you?’

Never again had he asked her her opinion of him.


A handbook for my lover by Rosalyn D’Mello

The book: A Handbook For My Lover, an erotic memoir of a young writer in love with a much older man

The author: Rosalyn D’Mello is a freelance writer in Delhi.

The gist: Guised as an instructive manual, it chronicles six years of their unconventional relationship, which is at times calming – you encased my fingers within your fingers so your pulse could invade my own – and often infuriating: “You insulted me last night.” “How?” “By suggesting I take on a younger lover”.

One-line review: D’Mello’s words flow like poetry; her feisty writing – You’ve been nothing but an inconvenience. You were supposed to be a one-night stand. A bookmark. A ten-line poem in my grand anthology of lovers – adds to the sensuality that is this book.

A tiny extract: It was my first lesson in body dichotomy; the paradox of pleasure coupled with misery. It was my first betrayal in which my body desired to be with a body other than the one it was with.


Hedon by Priyanka Mookerjee

The book: Hedon is millennial fiction – a glimpse into the lives of India’s urban, entitled youth

The author: Priyanka Mookerjee’s bio sounds like her protagonist: young, privileged, global, pop-cultured.

The gist: A mid-20s guy flirting with a teenaged schoolgirl is creepy as hell – especially when he makes a reference to Nabokov’s Lolita. But thankfully, there’s more to this than Tara Mullick and Jay Dhillon’s love story. It’s about the weirdness of growing up – heartbreak, sex, drugs, quarter-life crisis – and if you’re in your 20s, it’s familiar territory.

One-line review: Its narcissism overpowers what could have been the voice of a generation, or at least, as Lena Dunham said, a voice of a generation...

A tiny extract: Anger surged. Not at him, only a little at myself. Mostly at a system where the sexes have virtually no avenue to mingle before they’re drunk on the cocktail of being teenagers. It... lets us out with all the naivete of a fresh heart into a world just waiting to bump it round like so much rubble.


An Unrestored Woman and other stories by Shobha Rao

The book: An Unrestored Woman, short stories, most of them set in or about Partition.

The author: Shobha Rao’s short story about a train robbery, Kavitha and Mustafa (in this collection), appeared in Best American Short Stories 2015.

The gist: This isn’t a book recounting the horrors of the largest mass migration in history. It is about individual lives: an unloved wife who found happiness in a refugee camp; a mother who throttled her baby girl to save her from life’s horrifying consequences; a prostitute’s vendetta; a cartographer’s recommendations to the Radcliffe line – that changed the border – so he could marry the girl he liked; among others.

One-line review: This is unlike Partition lit we’ve read before – it is a very contemporary collection, but one that is so human, it sets you off on a trail to read as many more Partition stories as you can.

A tiny extract: Lines could be disputed, armies could fight, people could die, but really, when it came right down to it, maps could tell a truth that men could not.


Walking Towards Ourselves

The book: Walking Towards Ourselves – essays on being a woman in modern India.

The authors: Retired justice Leila Seth, authors Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, among others.

The gist: Autobiographical narratives exploring themes like love, sexuality, and education. Tamil poet Rajathi Salma recounts hiding in the toilet to write because of her husband’s opposition to her work. Journalist Mitali Saran is unapologetic about her life in her “mid-forties, single, childless”.

One-line review: A perfect read for those who like reflective writing.

A tiny extract: They tell you that until you’ve held a being of your own living blood in your arms and looked into its eyes, you haven’t really understood the power of love. And this is somehow more offensive to me, because if love were really going to be judged as if it were a hierarchy, then surely a more powerful kind of love is that which is inexplicable, which has no familial DNA running through its cells. — from Tishani Doshi’s essay Tick Tock.

From HT Brunch, May 22, 2016

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First Published: May 21, 2016 19:18 IST