Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: Daughters by Bharati Ray.

Book: Daughters

Author: Bharati Ray

Pages: 318

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary:A chronicle of the lives of five generations of women in the author s family, this fascinating story spans over a hundred years in its narrative sweep, from the late nineteenth century to the early years of the twenty-first. It mirrors and critiques the progress of a nation, its society and its women, seamlessly blending biography with social history. Sundar-ma, Bharati Ray s great-grandmother, was married into a conservative household at twelve. Self-educated, because formal education was out of her reach, she was an intelligent, deeply thoughtful woman who witnessed some of the most tumultuous times in India s history and actively participated in India s freedom struggle. Ushabala, the author s grandmother, was the proud wife of a college lecturer and a consummate home-maker, while Kalyani, Bharati Ray's Ma, was the first woman in the family to get a college degree, but gave up her studies and a career to raise her children. Ma is lovingly described as feisty and irrepressible, a keen traveller and always ready for adventure. Kalyani s academic successes heralded the author s own remarkable achievements, first as lecturer in Calcutta University, then as its first woman pro-vice-chancellor and later as a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. Bharati Ray s daughters, Khuku and Tista, both extremely bright, lead busy, fulfilling lives as academics. 

Translated from the Bengali bestseller Ekaal Sekaal, this is a candid, personal and immensely readable account of five generations of remarkable women.

General Thoughts: I came across this book whilst randomly browsing on Amazon, I won't lie this beautiful cover art first caught my eye and I was drawn to this book.

I didn't quite figure out this was a non-fiction title when I picked this up. But once this book got to me, I found out this was non-fiction social history of a family of women. I didn't mind. In fact I was rather happy with it. I want to read more non-fiction and having this book seemed like a good one to give a go.

Things I Liked: 

1. I loved the writing. Clear, concise and incredibly easy to read. I also liked the style of writing. I am a fiction reader through and through and sometimes, I can find non-fiction reads a little dry. But this one more or less, read like a fiction book.

2. I love reading about families. So this book felt like a warm hug.

3. I especially adore reading about women. Ordinary women living simple lives, full of chores and responsibilities and raising families. I love all of it.

4. The book covers 5 generations of women from the author's mother's family. So we see over a century of history and through these women see the changing of attitudes regarding a woman's role and also the changes that have occurred in our Indian and specifically Bengali homes. I loved this aspect of this book.

5. I knew going in that I'd probably like certain sections of this book more than others. And I did. I definitely liked the great-grandmother and grandmother portions of the book more than I did the others.

6. I loved reading about the simple daily life accounts of these women, especially the older generations. It also made me appreciate how much work these women put into their homes. Cooking, cleaning, mending, sewing, pickling, looking after family and even catering to the needs of extended family! God! How did they do it?

7. So much of this book felt so familiar. Reading about large Bengali joint families reminded me of the stories I grew up listening to from my grandmother and parents. Of large families living under the same roof and sharing their joys and sorrows.

8. There is a portion of this book set in my hometown in North Bengal and that was just a treat to read about. Gave me all the feels and made me want to rush over to a part of the world I love.

9. There is so much in this book about mothers and how they do things big and small to nurture their children and look after them. Very heart-warming stuff.

10. In this book there are so many anecdotes and mentions of so many kind and wonderful people. And I loved it. Reading about the small acts of kindness and reading about the good hearts of these individuals.

11. Apart from the five women we get to know in this book, there are also many, many characters/people we get to know. And I liked reading about their lives and stories.

12. This book ticked off two things on my list of things I want to with my reading life- read more translations and read more non-fiction. So a personal hurray for me. :)

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The first three women in this book were my favourites. I also liked the author's life story partly. But in the second half of the author's life story my interest began to slip. I didn't enjoy reading about her foray into politics.

2. The thing I liked least but I also found amusing was the author's very Bengali mother bragging about her children. :) I have a Bengali mother so I know that some of this comes with the territory. But I just didn't enjoy or like reading about her brag about her daughters. It was honestly slightly off putting.

3. Also she didn't really go into details about her daughters lives apart from a very superficial level. She really gets into detail with the other women in the book but her daughter's chapter is just very threadbare.

Rating: 3.25/5

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it if you enjoy family histories and are looking to read more non-fiction.

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