While reading this new novel by Chitra Banerjee Diwakaruni named Independence, you will feel like a spell is cast upon you and you cannot leave the story midway. There’s a good reason why you must read this book if you enjoy reading Indian historical fiction. Read further to find the reason.
Indian Historical Fiction by Chitra Banerjee
It’s a story of the time when the British colonisation was waning away from India and the Indian subcontinent was in the process of division. This period is described vividly by author Chitra Banerjee, who has written several Indian historical fiction books.
Story of Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
From the very beginning, the author grabs your attention with her descriptive narrative of the three sisters, their doctor father Nabhakumar Ganguly, a mother who stitches Kantha embroidered quilts, Zamindar Somnath Chowdhury and his son Amit.
Initially set in Ranipur of Bengal, the author gradually introduces other people integral to the story. Each of the three sisters is endearing and has a unique personality.
The story is compelling as it begins in August of 1946 in the Mansion of Somnath Chowdhury, a Zamindar. Somanath owns several fields in Ranipur, a shipping business and a well-kept mansion in Kolkata. Yet he delights in staying at his village mansion which happens to be his favourite.
Doctor Nabhakumar Ganguly is a friend of Somnath Chowdhury. Nabhakumar contributes meagre earnings to his family, as he refuses to charge fees from poor patients. His wife embroiders special wedding quilts with exquisite Kantha work and earns some extra money.
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Somnath enjoys playing chess with Priya, the youngest daughter of NabhaKumar. He is fond of her and taught her to play chess when she was barely eight years old. She calls him Kaku (uncle) as he would let her win as if she were his little daughter. Priya secretly aspires to become a doctor like her father Nabhakumar.
The eldest sister, Deepa, is beautiful and could marry a suitable Bengali boy but she falls in love with a young Muslim league leader named Raza. What consequences does she have to bear for this brave love?
Jamini, the middle sister, is talented and assists her mother to stitch Kantha embroidery on quilts. Even then, she is resentful and harbours a secret desire.
Exciting yet Heartbreaking Historical Fiction
How does the story of each of these sisters play out during independence? Does each sister become independent as India becomes independent?
This story is poignant and will etch out the turbulence of the times. Are the sisters separated because of the choices they make?
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On the surface, you may think the story is set in the time India got its independence, but it has fascinating characters and interesting events with multiple sub-plots around the people, their aspirations and their lives.
The book speaks a touching story of transformation, love, friendship, separation, conviction, bravery, aspiration, communities, families, and nationhood.
When the official decision to divide India is made, a big and dangerous change is coming. Now, Hindus live in India and Muslims live in Pakistan. The sisters are on different paths that take them away from each other. They are afraid of what will happen to them and each other.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni goes above and beyond with this deeply moving story about sisters and friends. She paints a picture of India’s independence that is both exciting and heartbreaking, which will turn any reader, new or old, into a devoted fan.