Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Review: Custody by Manju Kapur.

Book: Custody

Author: Manju Kapur

Pages: 432

How Long it Took me To Read: 2 days.

Plot Summary: The plot revolves around the legal tussle for custody once the marriage of Raman and Shagun falls apart following Shagun’s affair with Raman’s boss Ashok. The children- Arjun and Roohi- become mere pawns in their parent’s divorce. The book basically looks closely at the end of a marriage it’s after effects.

Characters:  There is the family at the centre of the drama.
Raman and Shagun, a seeminly well-adjusted and happy couple and their two children Arjun, 10, and Roohi, 2, at the time of the divorce.

Raman- is an all-round good guy, he loves his wife and he loves his kids. Bright, with a promising future in a famous multinational company he is a good catch for Shagun. He loves his wife and clearly smitten and taken in by her good looks. He is a regular, guy-next-door sort of man, the kind of man who has a nice arranged marriage to a good-looking woman. Raman was a fairly likeable character and I did feel bad for him once his marriage ends. He loved Shagun and didn’t deserve her cheating on him.

Shagun- the cheating spouse/ the spouse with the looks is at best a one-dimensional character. She is a negative-ish character, the one who stepped out on her husband and her marriage. To make matters worse it’s her husband’s boss that she steps out with. Shagun came across as a brash, spoilt and selfish person. Someone who puts her own happiness over anything else in her life, and this is not just in regard to her affair but later in the book, she doesn’t even really care about her kids. I didn’t like her very much and wished her character was a little more fleshed out.

Ashok Khanna- the other man! He is present quite a bit in the beginning of the book. He is suave, worldly and brilliant. Went to Ivy League schools and is a bit of a star in a corporate world- which basically translates to…of course, Shagun would fall for him. He was committed to Shagun and is really supportive of her divorce and helps out with the legal hassles. As the story progresses, he gets a little tired of Shagun’s constant worrying about her custody disputes, he wants Shagun to focus on her new life and not on her old family. So I guess Shagun does end up someone just as selfish as her!

Arjun and Roohi- the pawns in the great divorce drama. Arjun is 10 when his parents split up and is affected deeply by the change in his family life. He stops going to school, because everyone in his school knows about the impending divorce. His grades begin to slip and he really misses his father, whom he is being kept away from. Eventually, Arjun is sent-off to boarding school, Ashok’s alma materin fact after Ashok uses his connections to get Arjun a seat. This marks the end of Arjun’s relationship with his father and was heart breaking to read. Roohi, young at the time of her parent’s divorce, grows up not remembering a time when her family was whole. Roohi is raised by Raman and his new wife Ishita and grows to love Ishita as one would a real mother.

Ishita- Raman’s new wife, she is everything Shagun wasn’t. Kind and compassionate, she has a broken marriage behind her and that makes her the person she is. With her tragic past behind her, Ishita reinvents herself and her life and becomes a strong woman. I really liked Ishita’s part of the story, from her early marriage to her struggles within the marriage and her eventual divorce. Once she marries Raman, is when I had some problems with her character. She got too clingy with Roohi and caused a lot of strive in the already frail equation between Raman and Shagun.

Apart from these principal characters, the book was full of various secondary characters that were well-etched out and memorable.

What I Liked: I love Manju Kapur’s writing and loved her other books- Home, Difficult Daughters and Immigrant. All her books are full of melancholy and tinged with heart-break and sadness. And I love it. This book was no different. It is basically a sad story about a divorce and its aftermath. I liked reading about such a hard time in a family’s life and the way in which the author deal with each character’s reaction to the same thing- divorce. The book is set in the 90s and that further adds to the ‘stigma’ of divorce and the consequences of being divorced and coming from a broken family . (To my non-Indian readers: Divorce was fairly uncommon in India in the past and even today there is a sort of social stigma attached to being a divorcee or coming from a broken home.)

I liked the characters in the book, even though most of them are pretty unlikable and unremarkable but I guess that makes them real and possibly relatable.

What I Didn’t Like: Hmmm…well I guess I didn’t like Shagun. I didn’t like the person she is but more importantly I didn’t like the way in which she was written. A lot of my dislike stems from her being a mere vamp of a piece. She was written without any depth or great context or any understanding as to why she cheats on her doting husband. She just does, there wasn’t any probing into her mind or what she is thinking. She is just a clich├ęd cheater.

Ishita the one woman in the book that I found remotely likeable turns unrecognisable in the second half of the book. Once she marries Raman, she turns all her energy into raising Roohi. She gets so involved in her role as mother; she comes in the way of Roohi relationship with Shagun and refuses to let Roohi visit her ‘real’ mother. She does so fearing that Roohi will stop loving her and love Shagun more. Ishita is also pretty vile to Arjun, who only sees his father during school holidays. Her character goes from being mature and understanding to a neurotic mess.

General Thoughts: I am fan of Manju Kapur’s writing and therefore picked this book up. But this didn’t live up to my expectations and isn’t her best work. While I recommend her other books, Difficult Daughters and Home in particular, this one was a let-down.

Will you like it? If you like decent writing and books full of real characters and reading about a marriage falling apart, you might like this book. Also if you’ve lived through a similar situation you might like this book.

Rating: 2.5/5

Buy it here: | Flipkart


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Unknown said...

Can you please tell me how this ends ? does Ishita live happily ever after with Raman ? also, is the hit TV series "Yei Hai Mohabbatein" in accordance with this novel , or is it purely fictional, though basing its central theme on the novel ?

Pooja T said...

Hey Judy,

Well the book is very, very different from the show. I don't watch the TV show but from what I've seen in promos I can tell that the TV show is only loosely inspired by the novel. The book Ishita is nothing like the TV show, the TV show girl seems overly perfect. Ishita in the book has some shades of grey and Shagun is not nearly as vile.

Read the book if you love the show and see how different they are :)

The ending in the book is actually vague and immaterial to the TV show's story-line.

Read the book, I think you'll like it.

karthick said...

Wow! Good Review, i really want this book to read. if possible can you send me the link of e-book or pdf?

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for clarifying my doubts. I too have to admit, having read the book whilst keeping up with the series, I can't help but feel sorry for the TV portrayal of Ishita. Like you said she is "overly-perfect". It's unnerving. But the book had me gripped from start to finish. I really do admire her style of writing. Thanks so much for your review. If not for its presence, i would never have added "Custody" into my book shelf.

judy :)

Jumpa Bharali said...

Thanks for the information you have given ......
Custody is an interesting novel that I have ever read and it help me clear my doubts of this novel
thanks again for nice book review