How I got hold of this book:
I came across a blog titled ‘Three Strong Women’ which was about three women writers who dominated the reading life of the author in last 6 months. (https://iamagreedyreader.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/three-strong-voices/).
One of them was KR Meera, who happened to be my all time favourite writer in Malayalam, whose words, imagination and thoughts have never failed to leave me in awe and adoration. Since Sharanya Manivannan was placed on par with my favourite author, I thought I should get to know her writing. Sharanya Manivannan writes poetry in English and this book is her first collection of stories.
What is this book about?
This is supposed to be a ‘short story’ collection. A short story, by definition, can have words ranging from 1000 to 20,000. So most of the 26 stories in this collection about women who live on their own terms, do qualify to be classified as ‘short stories’ though some of them are too short and some of them are too long.
What are the positive aspects of this book?
- The writer has used words directly from Tamil, the local language spoken in Chennai interspersed with English without taking any effort to clarify the meaning of those words or putting them down in italics. By this undertaking, poverty of English language compared to vernacular language is exposed.
- Some of the imageries used are lucid and poetic( Sharanya is essentially a poet)
- All the stories have women as central characters. I appreciate women who write about women.
What are the drawbacks of this book?
At the outset, let me be clear that I am neither a writer nor a trained reviewer. All I know is to read and feel what is written.
- Sadly, I could not appreciate the craft of story telling in any of the story in this collection. The ‘stories’ are narrated in first person. Many a times, my mind strayed away and I had to forcefully make myself come back to the story. They all simulated solitary, narcissistic elocution by different women.
- Some of the words used are complicated and instead of becoming an evidence of the author’s command on English language, they kill the joy of reading. Those words don’t serve any special purpose and feel like stones amidst tasty food.
- The women in most of the stories are considered ‘liberated’ because of the sexual choices they make. I don’t believe that sexual liberation alone will lead to improvement in womens’ affair. That alone cannot be considered as a yardstick for measuring women empowerment. After reading about even stronger and more real women in stories and real life, I could not admire( leave aside admiration), nor could empathise with a single woman in any of those stories.
- Explicit description of sex in many stories did more harm to those stories than good. A good short story has to be really short and subtle. The words have to be weaved in the right proportion and direction so as to make an impact.
- I really doubt whether the author believes in anything that she has written. Because the moment an artist believes in his/her own art, the outcome will never fail to touch human hearts.
- One of my very close companion said something very relevant and important, about beauty being an essential component of art. Beauty in lines, strokes, words or actions makes every art form divine. Sharanya’s stories lack beauty as far as I understand.
- To be short, I did not like what I read.
I am not sure whether my sky high expectation about the writer curbed my ability to enjoy the stories and may be I should get hold of her poetry to appreciate her talent.