Thursday, 31 March 2016

Review: Listening Now by Anjana Appachana.


Book: Listening Now

Author: Anjana Appachana

Pages: 506

Read On: Hardback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary: Listening Now unfolds through the intensely personal worlds of seven characters. First, there is the child Mallika, brimming with romantic fantasies and bemoaning the lack of passion in the lives of her mother, Padma, and her mother's contemporaries - women whom she nevertheless loves fiercely. Mallika renders her fantasies through a highly wrought imagination, re-creating for the reader the events that came to devastate her childhood. Then, we revisit the events Mallika has described as they are retold from the points of view of Padma and Padma's sister, mother and friends. The story that slowly emerges is not the same as the one Mallika told. For the world of these women is one where secrets grow like fungus, where guilt roots and ripens, where anger burns and smolders. Every one of them carries the burden of secrets that may or may not be known by the others - some secrets obvious, others subtler and more insidious - and that have for them become a way of life. And so they tell their stories, stories by no means as prosaic as the child Mallika believes. Layer after layer of concealing silence is relentlessly peeled off, till, at last, the truth behind the greatest secret of all is laid bare - the story of Padma's love.

General Thoughts: This was my re-read for the month of March. I first read this book in 2006 and I loved it. The writing, the story and the people in this book.
But after 10 long years. I didn't really remember a lot of the specific details of the book. So it was time I re-visited this world and it's people.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was wonderful. Deep, full of feeling and really moving. I immensely enjoyed the style of writing and the prose. So good!

2. All of the different perspectives were great and each of them added to the story and even on their own were so good to read. Normally, in a book like this, told from several perspectives, I often like one voice over another. But in this book, I liked all of the women and all of their voices.

3. The bonds of female friendship, the loyalty and the genuine concern and care and love depicted in this book was wonderful to read about.

4. The best, absolute best part of this book was the insight into the lives of wives and mothers in India. Especially in this time period- 1960s and honestly even now. Middle class mothers and wives sacrifice so much of themselves to raise families. Little dreams and big aspirations and even themselves, who they used to be is given up for a new family and their children. This was shown through so many instances big and small.

5. There was also an element of mystery in this book. Not in the traditional sense, but there was the whole love story and what went down and what went wrong 13 years ago. This was interesting and each chapter, each new perspective adds something new and gives us an insight into this little mystery.

6. Among the many important thing this book talks about, one thing that was critical and that needs to be talked about is the harassment and molestation women face in our society. Eve-teasing, sexual assault and creeps that make it their lives mission to make a woman feel unsafe are sadly all a part and parcel of our lives. And this was covered so well in the book and really things like this should be talked about more in both fiction and real-life.

7. Even though I liked all the perspectives in the book, I loved Padma's chapter and her mother's chapter. We get a huge piece of the puzzle from their bits of the story. Especially Padma's mother's story was riveting.

8. Marriage is shown in all of it's shades. Rosy, dark and grey. A real look into marriage and I loved this aspect of the book. Also there are so many marriages we get to see and read about and marriage and relationships are always fun to read.

9. I love that in this book characters were  not simplified and shown in black and white. You might be a kind person yet be completely oblivious to your wife's suffering. You might be a decent person who stands up and supports the weak and yet at the same time you might not be the perfect companion to your wife.  Or you might be a massive show-off  and yet have a heart of gold. People are complicated and complex and come in so many shades and layers and this was shown so well via so many characters in this book.

10. I also really appreciated the ending of this book. It was cinematic or wholly divulged the future course of action for the main characters, but it was satisfying.

11. Anu's character was another that I adored. She is so lovely and like so many women across the length and breadth of India. It was a delight to spend time with her, even though throughout the book I wanted to reach inside the pages and slap her monstrous mother-in-law senseless.

12. Padma's mother and her aka- elder sister are kickass! Read the book and love them.

Rating: 4/5

I really loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it.

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