At twenty-two, Sharmila Chatterjee has just married her sweetheart of a few years, Abhimanyu Mishra, a somewhat eccentric if handsome, twenty-three-and-a-half-year-old with obscure academic interests and a small fellowship that never arrives in time. They start a household in a tiny rented flat, fending for themselves in the big, bad and very snooty world of south Delhi, with penny-pinching landlords, some romance, and a lot of anxiety.
At fifty-two, Indira Sen is not sure just how she meandered to where she finds herself now. A senior government officer and single mother, she lives with her daughter and three opinionated old people in a rambling house, drives a battered car, and has a history of credit-card-induced-shopaholism.
The Vague Woman’s Handbook is a story told with equal parts of humour, hysteria ad tenderness, about the sparkling friendship between two women as they hurtle through life and its mini-crises while trading secrets in the art of survival.
There are a few books which attract you in the first few pages, the words take you under their wings, make a comfortable nest for you to snuggle in and read away. I wasn’t sure if this book was a chick-lit by the cover and blurb, something told me it will be better than that. It did make my journey much better, though. I was transported into a world of vague women whom we encounter closely in our daily lives.
Who are vague women and why did the author write a handbook about them? These women often reside inside us, for a brief period or for a lifetime. They are absent-minded, geographically and directionally challenged, emotional and stubborn people. Now that pretty much sums up nearly most of us. Being somewhat vague myself, I started enjoying the author’s perspectives on the protagonists. The book is about two women, Mil and Indira, as briefed in the blurb. They are like chalk and cheese in their appearances and lifestyles, and yet they share a lot of similar traits which allow them to bond with each other.
Devapriya has sketched the characters well with complete details of their backgrounds and a collage of their past and present. Mil and Abhi are absolutely the young adults most readers would relate to. Their academic endeavours often turned into adventure strewn throughout the plot. The ambiance of South Delhi and Hauz Khas are captured as well as they could be. Even non-residents of Delhi would admire the imagery of Indira seated in her vintage car on a broad road lined with huge trees.
Little bits and pieces of life in Delhi enamour readers like me who love to visualize scenes after each read. Mil’s chance encounter with her in-laws would evoke much similar feeling into people married against their parents’ will. Indira’s escapades into cupcakes and self-help books is real as well as hilarious. The older generation has been etched to perfection by the author, Kudos to her for that!
What I missed is a little more volume in the story, despite its 350 odd pages. Perhaps a chapter on Mil’s parents would have taken the plot towards completion. The sprawling plot, in my opinion, needed to be stretched a tad bit to fit all parts of the story.
Devapriya has the potential to make it big if she sticks to her kind of writing. She has the ability to paint the story by scene and frame for the reader. I am eager to read her next book already, The Weight Loss Club.
My Rating: 4.25/5
About the Author:
Devapriya Roy has degrees in English literature and performance studies from Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and adds a languishing Ph.D to her list of must-finishes. She had her thirty seconds of fame on the idiot box as the Keo Karpin girl, after which she worked as an editor with Sahitya Akademi and Routledge Books. She is currently working on a travelogue, The Heat and Dust Project, a book of travels through India on a very tight budget, along with her husband Saurav Jha. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as through the Facebook group The Heat and Dust Project.
Language: English, Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Women Literature
Author(s): Devapriya Roy
Publisher: Harper Collins, Year Published: 2011
Binding: Paperback, Edition: First, Pages: 350
ISBN-13: 9789350290323, ISBN-10: 9350290323
Reviewed for: Author
This review is also shared with the Indian Quills Reading Challenge and Debut Indian Writers Month – Readathon 3 at The Tales Pensieve.