Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Book Review: Tania Tanya by Antara Ganguli.

Book: Tanya Tania

Author: Antara Ganguli

Pages: 202

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 1 day

Plot Summary: Last night there was a snowstorm that made my window disappear. I woke up gasping at the heater. This is my first letter in three years. First letter since I left Pakistan. First letter since Nusrat. 

Tanya Tania is a story about two young women coming of age in two countries that are coming of age. Tanya Talati in Karachi and Tania Ghosh in Bombay, daughters of college best friends, write to each other of what cannot be said to anyone else: a mother who has gone from quiet to silent, sex that has become a weapon, a servant with unforgettably soft hands and a country beginning to play with religion. When Tanya's brother receives a kidnapping threat, she sets in motion what no one could have predicted, least of all Tania, who finds herself alone in a forbidden bazaar in Bombay, listening to the sounds of a riot torn city coming closer and closer and closer . . .

Written in letters that span six years, Tanya Tania is a story of what it means to be between childhood and adulthood at a time when two countries are struggling with what it means to be Indian and Pakistani, rich and poor, confident and lonely. A story of love between girls, between families and between countries, Tanya Tania, is, at its heart, a love story about what it means to be human.

General Thoughts: I picked this book up on a whim during Durga Pujo. I remembered reading some good things about this book and thought I'd give it a go. 

Things I Liked: 

1. I really liked the writing and enjoyed the way the author has crafted these two young girls. 

2. I love epistolary fiction. There is something so immediately engrossing and connecting about reading letters. There is always an illicit voyeuristic element. And such an intimate understanding of characters via letters. 

3. 1990s was my everything! Seriously, any book set in the 90s has my heart and this book not only has the 90s but it's set in Bombay! How could I possibly resist it. 

4. The writer does a good job of equally splitting time between the two girls. We get to see both of their lives equally and spend time with them each of them and delve into their lives and worlds. 

5. Tania Ghosh--- our Indian girl is a typical 16 year old brat. A rich, beautiful, popular and pretty vapid and self-obsessed. She is also mean and cruel and very callous and seems like she is out of a 90s teen flick. But underneath the mean-girl vibes there is a sensitive girl. A girl grappling with parents who aren't getting along, dealing with the pressures of being popular, facing pressure to put out and about her future. Even though when we first meet her she is very unlikable, she grows on you. And I was quite surprised by how much she grows on you. 

6. Tanya Talati--- our Pakistani girl is a world apart from Tania. Her world consists of her clearly troubled and disturbed mother, an almost absent father and a twin brother who honestly doesn't give a damn. Tanya is completely obsessed with getting into an American university and escape her home. Admissions is all she cares about. She is so deeply lonely and ignored and the benign neglect of her by her family is really heartbreaking. I found myself really connecting to her and rooting for her. 

7. The book is told entirely through letters from 1991-1992 and then we meet Tanya in 1996 as she is finishing up college in Columbia University. And this entire portion had to wonder what happened to end the friendship between the girls? What went wrong? I liked guessing and was a little worried about Tania, since she was entirely absent in this correspondence. 

8. This was such a quick and easy read. I breezed through it. 

9. I loved Chhoti Bibi-- Tanya's maid. She was so spunky and sure of herself and I loved her. I wished her the best and hoped that all her dreams, all of her little dreams come true. 

10. The Babri Masjid demolition was a tragic time in our recent history and a time I vividly remember. I was in Lucknow and we had a strict curfew for over two weeks. I remember the tension and the stress of an impending riot. Luckily, things in Lucknow, inspite of it's proximity to Ayodhya remained riot free. Bombay wasn't so lucky. The horrors of December 1992 affected the whole city. The book covers this riot and it's aftermath vividly and well. 

11. This book talks about slut-shaming and how horrible it can be in a very believable and real way. Especially, how it used to be in our schools in the 90s. The worst thing a girl could do was to be sexually active! 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The 1996 portions were just...not my favourite. I found the writing in these bits very vague and a little too meh for me. 

2. Like I said I really liked Tanya when the book started but...by the time we got to the end of the book...she seemed so insipid and sad and bland. And by the end I just didn't like her at all. 

3. There was so much left unsaid and untold in this book...which irked me a little bit. Tanya's family mess was never fully explained and that was a little frustrating. 

Rating: 4/5 

I really enjoyed this book and read it pretty one in one sitting. 

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