Book Review of Breaking Free by Vaasanthi
Translated from the Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman
Published by HarperPerennial (an imprint of Harper Collins India)
MRP: Rs. 399/-
If you do decide to pick this book up, i highly recommend going through the translator’s note at the end of the book first. You will understand why im saying so once you read it. There is no need to write a preface for every novel that is written. A social novel does not need to be explained or the author's motivation for writing it unless absolutely necessary.
Although it is entirely a fictional story, history is involved. Based on historical events that actually happened. There is a difference of opinion on the fact that the legal schemes in the upper caste dominated socio-religious system were, and still are in various forms, unjust to women, without even being perceived as such. Set against the rising clamour for India’s independence, Breaking Free is a nuanced and thought-provoking story of three generations of women and the effect history and memory–and secrets–have on their lives.
The author keeps her narrative moving across time and characters, and it does take some effort to ascertain which time and whose perspective is being talked about but once the rhythm settles, the characters take over. Touching on themes of collective shame and the stigma that upper caste people foist on those they keep at their whim and mercy, Breaking Free provides a glimpse of the way in which women of the lower caste were tightly controlled and how their exploitation was enabled by society, including the women in their own families.
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