A Book Review-The Daughters of Madurai by Rajasree Variyar.


An image for the book review-The Daughters of Madurai.


Blurb:

Madurai, 1992.  A young mother in a poor family, Janani is told she is useless if she can't produce a son--or worse if she bears daughters.  They let her keep her first girl, but the rest are taken away as soon as they are born and murdered.  But Janani can't forget the daughters she was never allowed to love.


Sydney, 2019.  Nila has a secret she's been keeping from her parents for too long.  Before she can say anything, her grandfather in India falls ill, and she agrees to join her parents on a trip to Madurai.  Nila knows very little about where her family came from or who they left behind.  What she's about to learn will change her forever.  While The Daughters of Madurai explores the harrowing issue of female infanticide, it is also a universal story about the bond between mothers and daughters, the strength of women, and the power of love in overcoming all obstacles. 


The story, in a nutshell.


A poor woman in India, Janai, bearing the social label of being born into a lower caste, suffers all odds, including the ridicule of bearing girl children and their murders and the overt and covert attempts of all people related to her to murder the girl child she wants to keep, in the end, lands in a different country and lives a better life. 


These are the points I readily appreciate in Daughters of Madurai.


👍The book Daughters of Madurai sets forward a superbly relevant theme in the Indian context of female infanticide, the outcome of the low value assigned to girls and women compared to boys and men.  Once done without raising any qualms, it now happens behind the scenes.  The book fictionalises how it happened in Madurai, Tamilnadu, in 1992.  The idea of a mother trying to save her daughter from all her slayers is promising.  For the readers, it has a chance to act as a life simulation. 


👍The description of the locations.  The story happens in two timelines.  The past timeline starts in 1992, and the contemporary timeline begins in 2019.  The former part happens at Usilampatti, where Janai,  the main character, lives with her inlaws- her Mamiyar (mother-in-law), her husband, his mother's toy, and her daughter.  Her Mamiyar practices her social/cultural rights to ravage the daughter-in-law being abusive, physically and verbally and to poison her to kill the child she carries.  By the time you depart Janani at the end of the first timeline, you get a clear picture of the rustic vibe of life in the village, its landscape, and the daily drill of the women folks starting earlier than the sun shows up, the tasking chores in the kitchen, labouring in the paddy field, child care and of the bustling road root that Janani took one day to Madurai Meenakshi temple, it's awe-inspiring inside and outside, the crowd moving in one mind to beg for the benevolence of the idol, the vendors, their displays and the goodies and the flowers and the sweet, temple prasad.  Janani took the time to pray for the blessing of a boychild.   Also, we feel the sweltering day in Sydney and the route Nila takes daily to ease her daily tension. 


How could the novel Daughters of Madhurai have been made better?


👎Secrets are the best bet to keep the readers' anxiety levels sharp and invested in books.  The story promises two secrets.  In the contemporary timeline, Nila is about to reveal her secret to her parents when they make an emergency trip home to Madurai.  The readers learn Nila's secret within the book's first few pages, and they wait for the drama to unfold when she reveals it to her parents.  How Alas!  When a few pages remain to end the story, she says, "I told them."


👎The character's arc is poor, showing no action.  At the end of the first timeline, Janani leaves her home to live in a shop organised by Sanjay, her childhood buddy, in whose house she is a maid.  In the contemporary timeline, the two live together as a man and a woman in Australia, Janani running a tailing course; no character action or the how part.  The book shows the landscape and the locations but is not shown when it comes to characters; everything is simply told.  


👎This book should improve in its technical perfection of story structuring.  I guess this happens when the characters have no agency to take action.  Making the characters without agency to carry out tasks/actions won't look real.  


👎The character arc of Nila is also flawed.  Living in Australia, she has the agency to take action and reveal her secret to her parents.  But the story takes her to Madurai, where people throw at her distance, unfamiliarity, and lack of openness.  There, the readers learn that she told her parents her secret—no height of tension, anxiety, drama, or aha moments.


👎Towards the end of the story, the narrative looks like reporting.  


👎In a nutshell, given the prowess in describing the landscape and the location, the author could have presented a more impressive story, provided she had cared for narrative structure and story structuring. 

My rating for The Daughters of Madurai is 3.25 out of 5.

Book cover for the novel Daughters of Madurai

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This post is part of the Bookish League blog hop hosted by Bohemian Bibliophile.

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