Tuesday, July 1, 2014 |
In a small village in northwestern India in 1937, a 16-year-old Sikh girl named Roop is forced to become the second wife of a man in his forties, who is desperate for a son. He loves his first wife deeply, but she has not borne him any children. As the two women struggle to deal with their situation, political and social upheaval erupts around them. Shauna Singh Baldwin's debut novel is immaculately researched, bringing to life a troubled time in Indian history from a rarely seen perspective.
In 2000, What the Body Remembers won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, Caribbean and Canada.
Satya's heart is black and dense as a stone within her. She tells herself she pities Roop, but hears laughter answering her -- how difficult it is to deceive yourself when you have known yourself a full forty-two years.
She has a servant summon Roop to her sitting room in the afternoon, when Sardarji has gone to a canal engineers' meeting. When she comes before her, Satya does not speak, but rises from the divan and takes Roop's chunni from her shoulders, as if in welcome, so she can study the girl. She takes Roop's chin and raises her face to the afternoon sun, willing it to blind her, but it will do her no such service. She studies Roop's features, her Pothwari skin, smooth as a new apricot beckoning from the limb of a tall tree, her wide, heavily lashed brown eyes. Unlike Satya's grey ones, they are demurely lowered, innocent.
From What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin ©2000. Published by Vintage Canada.