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Novel set in India

15th March 2023

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff, novel set in INDIA (Uttar Pradesh)

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023.

Novel set in India

This is such a competently put together novel and very evocative of India.

Geeta’s abusive husband, Ramesh, disappeared 5 years ago and everyone is of the opinion that she somehow killed him. Did she, or didn’t she? As the novel opens she is a woman who seems content with her own company, slightly stand-offish and abrupt, clearly someone who has seen life and now keeps herself to herself. Shunned for the most part by the other villagers, she has a real presence, which the author fleshes out, lending credibility to this unique character.

But then the tide shifts a little and she is approached by other women, who seek her advice on how to dispose of their own husbands. Society at this level in India can be particularly cruel to women, it is patriarchal, and the author does a really good job of describing how the cogs in small villages turn – usually at the expense of the female inhabitants. The real-life Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi, is Geeta’s inspiration as she formulates plans to help support her fellow sufferers. There are some wonderfully drawn characters in this novel!!

It is hard to overlook the many difficult societal issues that affect India when it comes to women and the author snappily confronts the rawness of life for many in the sisterhood. It is a hard life and many must resort to creative strategies where they can.

The novel is particularly strong on setting and immerses the reader in the colour and vibrancy and the utter despair that underlies modern India at so many levels. Throughout there is dark humour which lightens the starkness of conditions for many of the women who move through the pages. The novel has a very strong sense of place which transports the reader to the reality of the country, written with a light touch that mitigates some of the worst situations.

If you like this novel then I would suggest you pick up Fear and Lovely by Anjana Appachana, a character-driven novel set in 1970s New Delhi and The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, set in Jaipur. You will start on your varied journey through India via fiction!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Catch the author on Twitter @PariniShroff

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