Skip to main content

Self-Discovery & Strength in Sisterhood



Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel follows three sisters on a road trip across India to complete their late mother’s last rites. In order to do this, the three of them have had to press pause on their own personal issues and focus on mending their fraught relationships with each other.

Jaswal’s writing is full of humour and warmth, delivering a narrative that’s both funny and poignant. The three sisters’ characters are distinctly drawn, from the bossy-but-capable Rajni, to the reserved Shireen to hot-mess Jezmeen. The narrative is split between the viewpoints of the sisters, which is useful for gaining an insight into their individual personal problems and for contrasting this against how each sister is seen by the others.

What Jaswal does well in this book is to show how it’s possible for adult siblings’ relationships to fragment under the pressure of other relationships – marriages, children, careers all take their toll. But at the same time, there is always a sense that our siblings are the people who have grown up with us and who know our earliest and perhaps most authentic selves. As one of three sisters myself, I could relate to the close bond these three women clearly shared beneath all the bickering and teasing.

This was a novel about the earliest and perhaps most lasting female relationships we have: between mothers and daughters, and sisters. It was about how we interpret the actions and motivations of those who love us/whom we love. And that despite the turbulence and uncertainty in other areas of our lives, sisterhood can act as a supportive and anchoring force. Put like this, it might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s saved from being mawkish or sentimental by Jaswal’s unique comedic sense: the part with the fish had me snorting with laughter – I won’t say any more.

Jaswal also explores cultural expectations of women and marriage, and while I’m always a bit wary if I think a book is in danger of playing to stereotypes, I think the diversity of experiences within the same family in the novel means she manages to walk the line between writing just another immigrant misery-chronicle, and actually tackling issues which are real and specific in some parts of Indian / South Asian culture. The only thing I was disappointed about was that we didn’t really see the moment where one of the characters finally stands up for themselves and walks out of an abusive situation. I wanted to see the perpetrators of that injustice face the consequences of their actions and felt slightly robbed of a more satisfying sense of closure. However I can also understand the decision not to go down this route, as this might have shifted the focus of the novel.

A great summer vacation read.

Brown Brontë rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @thebrownbronte, and join the discussion on Facebook at The Brown Brontë's Book Club !

<img src="https://www.netgalley.com/badge/2d4f661fdebc1c20924c0f28aa28c651ed290938" width="80" height="80" alt="Professional Reader" title="Professional Reader"/> 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

50 Years of Bangladesh

 Today is the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh. Growing up, my sisters and I would hear stories from parents and relatives about the War of Independence of 1971. We would go to community events commemorating Bangladesh Independence Day, Victory Day, Language Martyrs Day, and listen to veterans and members of the community who lived through that period, talking about their experiences. As they stood in front of rows of nodding elders and bored schoolchildren, the pain and pride in their voices rumbled through the microphone in their hands and filled the small community hall, along with the aroma of biryani stacked in boxes at the back, waiting to be handed round later.     Although we often had mixed feelings about sitting through those three-hour programmes, I've begun to realise that those parents who dragged their children along to those events knew that one day there would be nobody left alive who had witnessed that history.     As second or third generation di

Chatting with Kate Morrison, Author: A Book of Secrets

Something special on the blog today, readers: I'm thrilled to be chatting to Kate Morrison, author of stunning debut A Book of Secrets, as part of its Random Things Tour. Join us as we talk about historical research, women's independence and racism in Elizabethan England. "A Book of Secrets is the story of a woman named Susan Charlewood living in Elizabethan England. Born in what is now Ghana, Susan is enslaved by the Portuguese but later rescued by British sailors, who bring her to England. Once in England, she is raised in an English Cathoic household. When Susan comes of age, the family marry her off to an older Catholic man, John Charlewood. Charlewood runs a printing press and uses it to supply the Papist nobility with illegal Catholic texts and foment rebellion amongst the Catholic underclass. When Charlewood, Susan takes over the business and uses her new position to find out more about her origins.  A look at racial relationships at the beginning of the eve of the

Why Helen Graham is the Best Brontë Heroine

This month was Anne Bront ë ’s 200 th birthday, so I couldn’t let it go without writing a post in honour of it.  Anne Bronte, Project Gutenberg I don't think I'm alone in thinking that Anne was the boldest of her sisters. Her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall certainly is the bravest in rebelling against social expectations of women, and Helen Graham is by far my favourite heroine. Here’s why: 1.  She’s an adult, independent woman who has lived a full(er) life in society. Rather than living in the margins of society, in a state of arrested development, like Jane, Lucy, Agnes or even Cathy who never wanted to leave the moors, Helen’s previous life means she seems more like a well-rounded person. This might have made her story all the more shocking to Victorian audiences, as Helen’s social standing combined with her radical ideas would have been more likely to influence other people than those of a governess. She can’t be dismissed as just a naïve or unrelia