That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande

Jaya’s life comes apart at the seams when her husband is asked to leave his job while allegations of business malpractice against him are investigated. Her familiar existence disrupted, her husband’s reputation in question and their future as a family in jeopardy, Jaya, a failed writer, is haunted by memories of the past. Differences with her husband, frustrations in their seventeen-year-old marriage, disappointment in her two teenage children, the claustrophia of her childhood—all begin to surface. In her small suburban Bombay flat, Jaya grapples with these and other truths about herself—among them her failure at writing and her fear of anger.

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There is so much potential for an amazing story in that blurb ! But this was such a disappointing read that I have given it a 1 star rating on Goodreads which is something I rarely do.

Where do I even start ??

Ok first, the writing. Jaya is the narrator and I think it is deliberate to make it seem unorganized and rushed because it is, in essence, what she is thinking at that moment. I didn’t mind the style per se – here is a sample

The illusion of happiness – yes, I had to let it go. Perhaps the truth is that I was not then remote enough from the scene I was fantasizing about to sustain the illusion. Perhaps – who knows ? – after some years time …..

I had 2 problems – one, the numerous typos that were distracting and two, the unnecessary and repetitive usage of certain words and phrases. Heavy words like “diaphanous” for sarees and every few pages there is “ambrosial” and “perspicacity”. Not at all impressive.

More than the writing it was the character of Jaya that irked me. Despite all her constant outpouring of grief and frustration, not once did I feel any kind of empathy for her. This is a character who is pretentious and judgmental – how can the reader even begin to feel sorry ? She looks down on poor women because they are poor and she looks down on rich women because she feels they are just arm-candy. There is no apparent reason for disliking her husband or children. She turns her back on people who have helped her in life –  her mentally ill cousin, her college friend, her neighbour, etc, etc. Her neighbour, Mr.Kamat, is someone with whom she cultivates a friendship bordering on intimacy but when she walks to his room one day and discovers him dead, she just walks back to her apartment.

Now I have the suspicion that all these situations are thrown in just to make the novel fit in the “literary prizes and awards” category. That way, we have pages and pages of her grief described in poetic flourish.

But what I got was a snobbish work in which I felt no connect with the protagonist.

Have you felt this way about a book ? If so, let me know !!

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3 thoughts on “That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande

  1. Yuck! Sounds dire – thanks for the warning. The Village by Nikita Lalwani had a similar effect in me – faux profound, silly vocabulary and an attempt to be poetic – another one I felt was looking for prizes rather than readers…

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