A Married Woman: A Novel by Manju Kapur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History” has a point. History tends to ignore or undervalue those who are nameless and do the chores. In other words, let’s took about Socrates but give Xantippe a bad rep because, you know, for nagging about where the grocery money was coming from. Grocery money is so not important. In some ways, this is also true about books. We prefer to read novels with people doing things, discovering things, whacking things, screwing things.
Okay, maybe screwing people and not things, but you take my point.
Kapur’s novel, A Married Woman, is a well-behaved woman novel, a story about stories we don’t usually considering important or even worth reading about. There’s a reason for this. Conflict sells for a variety of reasons, yet we are missing something with conflict all the time.
Kapur’s novel about a married woman does have conflict, though it is a largely internal struggle. Ashta is making her way through life – a desire to be who she is, or to at the very least discover who she is – as well as to follow the traditional roles that are laid out for her. What happens are conflicts between duty and art, the survival of a marriage and the discovery of a new passion. These conflicts are played out with a backdrop of Muslim/Hindu conflict.
The book is quiet. In fact, it is hard at times to feel as if something more major must happen. It isn’t so much that nothing happens, but that what happens is very much real. Strangely, the weakest part of the book is the section that is Ashta’s voice. There is something off about those diary entries.
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