Monday, December 06, 2010

Book Review: Curses in Ivory

Curses in Ivory traverses three generations of women as seen through the eyes and memories of Sreya. The 3 main characters are Sreya, her grandmother Hansabati and mother Regina. The minor but still important characters are her mothers sister Queenie, her Fathers brothers wife Brishti and her sister-in-law Nilima.

The curse supposedly has its origin in the time of Hansabati's mother-in-law Kamala and carries on in various forms through the Rai Bahadurs family.

This novel is a subtle yet wonderful exploration on the status of women across 4 generations in West Bengal. Societal norms, the prevalence of purdah, the British influence, the lowered status of women who lost their mothers or were orphaned, the overwhelming obsession for a male heir all of these are explored in this novel.

Curses in Ivory is a relatively easy read but will leave lasting impressions on the reader. The slow decay of once wealthy households holding on to their past. Family secrets - explosive if revealed but even more destructive if concealed. Arranged marriages where pre-teen spouses grow up together and office romances that lead to marriage. The changing fabric of society reveals itself in the course of this book.

While Curses in Ivory is not chicklit, women readers will be more appreciative of the subtleties in the story telling and the implications of events.

Anjana Basu's story telling flows very smoothly and there are minor differences in the flow depending on which characters perspective is being put forth. The poetic turn of phrase around Brishti is the most palpable.

While not in the league of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay or Satyajit Ray, she still succeeds in bringing an older Bengal to life.

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