Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review: Strangers on the Roof by Rajendra Yadav.


Book: Strangers on the Roof

Author: Rajendra Yadav

Translated By: Ruth Vanita

Pages: 245

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 4 days

Plot Summary: Samar, a young scholar, is married to Prabha against his will. Ego and frustration combine to make him refuse to say even a single word to his wife on the day of the marriage. They live thus, without speaking, for nearly a year. Until one moment when their suppressed emotions burst through and lead to a passionate reconciliation. Funny, affectionate and hard hitting, this is one of the most unique love stories in Indian writing.

General Thoughts: I picked up this book a few months back on a whim. I intend to read more books translated from Hindi and this one seemed like a good place to start. The plot sounded intriguing and seriously that beautiful cover just drew me in :)

Things I Liked: 

1. Set in 1951 this book and it's writer does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the era. The newly formed India and it's struggles with standing on it's feet and it's citizen going through the same struggles really came alive within these pages.

2. The joint family dynamic is also so on point and so frighteningly real. Often in fiction and in film & television, especially Indian TV soaps, joints families are made to seem like an unreal ideal and all things wonderful. Perfect in every single way. But I don't think that can be a universal truth. I have never lived in a joint family and my only look into a joint family comes from the stories I've heard from my parents. Sure a lot of it seems charming and wonderful. But there also so much strife. This book and the family in it show us the ugly and often undocumented side of joint families. And to think this was written in 1951! Kudos to the writer! :)

3. Samar is our leading man and for most of the book he is the one we see this world through his eyes. He is full of angst and he is a man in throes of a change, not just his marriage and his inability to communicate with his wife but also his ideology is changing. And it was very interesting to see him go through these changes.

4. Family...is perhaps one of my favourite things to read about. But often it is written about drenched in sentimentality. To read about a family in this unsentimental and real way was refreshing.

5. Money or rather the lack of it and the many issues that can come from it were also captured so well in this book. Family ties and love and brotherhood can all go out of the window when monetary matters take precedence. Not having enough money puts a strain on relationships and makes for a miserable home situation.

6. The love story in this book was so nicely done and you really felt for Prabha and Samar. Especially Prabha, who suffers so much indignity at the hands of her in-laws and even Samar.

7. The little dreams and hopes Prabha and Samar have for their future are so heart-breaking and so simple. You root for them and really wish them well.

8. Women and their petty politics and hidden agendas are also shown well in this book.

9. This is such a feminist novel, which came a surprise! The author champions so many causes that were important to women in the 1950s--- a daughter's right to her father's property, a woman's right to ask for a divorce and women's education. So wonderful to read about and God! I feel so grateful to live in the time that I do and so utterly grateful for the rights I have.

10. The characters in this book were fleshed out so well and I felt like you got to know so many of them.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The book ends abruptly and it ends on a uncertain term and you don't know what becomes of our leading man. This is apparently the writer's style of writing, his trademark if you will, which is fine but a little unsatisfying.

2. I wish there was more of Prabha in this book. We see so little of her.

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this book and this book has made me want to pick up from translated works from Hindi Literature. 

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