Title: Bhaunri: A Novel
Author: Anukrti Upadhyay
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 25 May, 2019
Purchase Link: Amazon
The number of book reviews on my blog have increased monumentally in the last couple of months, and I love it! Today, I review “Bhaunri: A Novel” by Anukrti Upadhyay.
Bhaunri belongs to the nomadic Lohar caste in rural Rajasthan. She is married off to a wealthy family in a different village as a child, and joins her husband, Bheema, a few years later. The couple fall passionately in love with each other, but that doesn’t stop him from straying to other women in the village occasionally. Bhaunri’s extreme jealousy of these women forces her to make questionable decisions.
Upadhyay expertly handles the theme of romantic envy, in this book. Brought up by a fiercely independent woman, Bhaunri believes in equality between husband and wife. Her personal beliefs are starkly different from those of her mother-in-law and the prevailing customs of society, where men do as they please and women accept their fate without complaint.
Through the two beautifully written characters of the protagonist and her mother-in-law, the author explores manifold emotions women feel. These include undying love, fierce jealousy, compassion, hatred, generosity, and narrow-mindedness. What sets Bhaunri apart from most, is that she acts on her base emotions without caring for the consequences. She behaves like a wilful child who can go to any length to get her way. While her belief in herself is admirable, her lack of judgement is not. This makes her character layered and interesting.
Some other characters of the book are equally important in advancing the story and adding depth to the theme. Bhaunri’s father-in-law is particularly noteworthy, acting as the moral compass in the novel. Despite being hated by his family members, he is the strongest voice of reason owing to his travels and life experiences. Bheema is one-dimensional, seen purely through Bhaunri’s love-struck eyes. A mentally ill brother-in-law seems out of place here, solely existing to show the father-in-law in a negative light.
I feel the real strength of the book, however, is its description of rural life in Rajasthan. The author goes into painstaking detail of the daily activities of the household, as well as their occupations. Her descriptive narration transports you to Rajasthan and makes you feel a part of this troubled family of Lohars.
The novel is well-written and easy to read, short in length with a captivating plot. However, I felt that it ended too abruptly. The story builds well like a novel should, but ends rather suddenly like a short story. It has the potential to be explored further and fleshed out.
“Bhaunri” has a rustic charm that makes it stand out. It explores young, passionate love, as well as the colourful life of a Rajasthani village. I recommend the book to people who enjoy good fiction, and those that enjoy exploring different ways of life and different worlds through books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anukrti Upadhyay has postgraduate degrees in Management and Literature, and a graduate degree in Law. She writes in both English and Hindi; Daura and Bhaunri are her first publications in English. In her other life, she worked in a global investment bank as a compliance and risk officer. She divides her time between Mumbai and Singapore.
Review done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program
Buy “Bhaunri: A Novel” on Amazon here.
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