Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review - Ancient Promises by Jaishree Misra

My marriage ended today. Without the lighting of oil lamps and beating of temple drums, but in a cramped divorce court, in the manner of these things. So begins Jaishree Misra's debut novel Ancient Promises. A book that kept me thoroughly engaged from the beginning to the end, deeply engrossing and moving at times. It is the story of a woman's painful journey of self-discovery, marriage, divorce and motherhood. It talks about the pain that one has to face while losing one's true love.

Janaki or Janu, is like any other typical teenager, whose native is Kerala, but is brought up in Delhi. She falls in love with Arjun, a Delhi boy from the Boys' school. But their love is short lived as Arjun travels to England to be with his mother and continue his education there. Meanwhile, Janu is married off at an early age to the 'Maarars', a highly respected family in Kerala. The book reveals Janu's sufferings in a loveless arranged marriage and the misery she has to endure by her husband's family. The birth of her daughter, Riya, does little to end the loneliness as she had hoped. And when she meets Arjun expectedly after all these years, can she find the true love that she had thought lost?

Eventually, she flees to England to escape the loveless union. But does happiness really come when you go searching for it? Or is it something that we have to search within ourselves? Janu's journey, brings the answers to all these questions.  Above all, we see the various forms of love in a woman - the school crush that soon blossoms into love, the love that she hopes would be reciprocated by her husband and his family, the love of a mother to her daughter, which the author believes is by a stroke of fate or Karma or Ancient Promises, as the novel is aptly titled.

Go for this one if you are looking for a meaningful journey through a woman's life and the feelings she associates with each stage. It also beautifully portraits the mother daughter relationship and the vulnerability of a mother towards her daughter. It is a well written book and I found it deeply moving. The inclusion of some Malayalam words may render it a bit difficult to follow for the Non-Malayalam speakers though. But the inclusion of these words will be much appreciated by those speaking the language as it enhances the reading appeal.

The work is semi-autobiographical and this would increase the curiosity of the readers as to distinguish which is fact and which is fiction. Definitely a must read as it is sure to bring about a nostalgic feeling in all our hearts.

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