Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Book Review: When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

Book: When I Hit You

Author: Meena Kandasamy

Pages: 272

Publisher: Juggernaut

Read On: My iPad via the Juggernaut App

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealized version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. 

General Thoughts: I read an article by the author ages ago about her short lived and abusive marriage. This was years ago and the article was being widely shared on Facebook. I like so many others were appalled by what the writer had gone through. When I saw, years later the same writer had written a full length novel about the same time in her life, I knew I had to read it.

I read this book on the Juggernaut App via a Blogger program.
All thoughts and  the review that follows is my own.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for Violence, Abuse and Rape. IF you find any of these things too triggering, please read with caution.

Things I Loved: 

1. Domestic violence is never easy to read about. It is scary, sometimes triggering and something no women deserves and wishes for. As a woman, reading about domestic violence is hard. To know it happens so many of us, even ones we least expect it to happen to makes is a topic that is at once terrifying and engrossing. The author manages very skilfully to make this very difficult topic not only readable but also hard-hitting and poignant and someone matter of fact.

2. Being at the receiving end of domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone. It can happen in any household. Any community. Any class. Any kind of marriage- love or arranged. Just because you fell in love and think you know someone doesn't mean it makes you immune to abuse. I love that this books shows how any kind of marriage can turn abusive.

3. Being based on real life events and something the author has lived through herself, there is an element of gut-wrenching realness that is infused in every single page. It shows us how even a strong, educated, opinionated woman can be broken and controlled and left unrecognisable in a matter of months.

4. This book is so atmospheric. The writer does a fantastic job of taking us with her into this world. This scary, quickly unwinding into chaos world. The small-town where she lives with her husband, the small house and it's many gritty elements feel like something you know. It feels like you are there. Reading this book was a visceral experience. It gets under your skin in a way only a very well-written book can.

5. There is no one kind of abuser. There really is no prototype. Not all abusive husbands are drunkards who drink cheap booze and steal your money and beat you regularly. Not all of them are uncouth and uneducated and unlettered. They can just as easily be a very well-liked, educated, man of the world, a charming charlatan. I think books like these shine a much needed light on many kinds of abusers that lurk beneath the surface.

6. This book was hard to read in many places but that doesn't make it any less important. Partly because this actually happened to someone but also because so many women live through this and worse. So many women suffer in silence for decades. Abuse can take so many forms, verbal, physical, mental, emotional and sexual. And books like these are needed to give voice and show us that it's not OK to treat a human being like this. Marriage is often exalted in our culture and so many girls grow up believing that marriage is their ultimate goal, and not once are they told about how to handle abuse if they encounter it and the many forms abuse can take. I wish books like this one were made mandatory reading.

7. The narrator's parent's reaction to when first told of her troubles in her new marriage is so infuriatingly common place and so frighteningly 'desi'. Adjust. It happens. Work harder on your marriage. Do things to please your new husband. Ugh! Why do parents do this? This is your child being beaten and tortured and tormented. Why is it so important for a marriage to work? And at what cost?

8. Abuse doesn't need to be longstanding and go on for years and decades for you to do something about it. GET OUT NOW. It doesn't matter if you've been married for a month, a year or 25. Get out. The narrator and writer's marriage lasted only a few months and in even that short span of time it was spirit crushing and extreme and demeaning.

Rating: 4/5

Read this, I cannot recommend it enough.

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