I usually shy away from reading romantic fiction, a genre I once read the most. But when I chanced upon this beautiful book with an interesting synopsis, I couldn’t stop myself from picking it.
The book summary reads;
Nine characters recall their relationship with a young woman – the same woman – whom they have loved, or who has loved them. We piece her together, much as we do with others in our lives, in incomplete but illuminating slivers. Set in familiar, nameless cities, moving between east and west, The Nine-Chambered Heart is a compendium of shifting perspectives that follows one woman’s life, making her dazzlingly real in one moment, and obscuring her in the very next.
I picked this book on the last day of 2017 and stepped into the New Year feeling invigorated by the fragile, fragmented, tinted in love, stories that weave a young woman’s life.
When the book arrived in the mail, I couldn’t help but be drawn by the majestic watercolour vignettes adorning the cover. The play of blushing petals in shades of pale pink to deep fuchsia subtly hints at the way love touches every heart in varying proportions and intensities.
The book is divided into 10 parts highlighting the mysterious woman’s nine encounters with love. This is what inspires the title of the book.
One glance at the list of contents of the book and you’d come to believe that the book is a collection of short stories which as you dive in, transform into the distinct pieces of the mosaic of a woman’s life.
“You are an undiscovered continent. A land that hasn’t been charted. And in a way, for me, the world.”
I particularly loved the way the author chose to let the perspectives of the people part of the woman’s life shine in simple yet profound words. While you get a glimpse of the fleeting love affairs, changing form and intensity at every turn, you can’t help but feel drawn in by the raw emotions and complexity of them all.
The book explores every aspect of love, in flesh and blood, leaving the reader searching for answers in their own experiences.
I wish to congratulate the author in the powerful portrayal of a woman’s life, which on a cursory glance comes across as far from perfect but on a deeper look reveals some hard-hitting realities of modern relationships. The book beautifully pieces together the collage of perspectives that paint the image of a beautiful, independent, caring, quiet, stubborn, angry, artistic girl who seeks love but is unsure of how to achieve it.
“You have a heart as open as the sky.”
I was impressed by the idea that the author chose to leave the characters and places unnamed to let go of all biases and to let only the perspectives and emotions shine as they paint the picture of a woman, you can’t help but come to relate to.
The title of each chapter has been picked with care to subtly highlight the character of the narrator. Every narrator adds another layer, another dimension to the mysterious woman’s personality, sharing only a sliver of the whole picture. This way the author leaves the woman’s side of the story, completely for reader’s interpretation inspired by their own view of life.
To me, the young woman comes across like a beautiful butterfly flitting from flower to flower in search of love. Finding it in patches and pours, in myriad forms but never in a form to feel at home. Her heart, the nine-chambered heart, is painstakingly seeking solace but is somehow never finding it because she is yet to make peace with her hurt and perhaps her past (given her non-existent relationship with her parents).
“Because life is like that, isn’t it? One cannot stop its ebb and flow. You step into the current and whatever’s in your path will cross you and touch you and sometimes stay. You cannot control the weather. You sail where the wind blows.
It is that way.”
Each chapter honestly yet gently paints first person, observational portraits of the people who step into her life with a promise of love. All of it is confusing at one point, liberating and validating at the other. Sometimes honest, perfunctory at the other and oft times lascivious too. Though none of these succeeds in casting a lasting impression or gift her the soul-drenching tranquillity she desperately seeks.
As the book progresses, I couldn’t help but be disturbed by the silence of the woman, who has no voice and is constantly a victim of emotional and physical violence. A sense of helplessness filled me towards the latter half leaving me emotionally drained with a transitory, impending feeling of loss.
Once I put the book down, I was washed with a disappointment of having lost all sight of what happened with the woman, thereafter. The fog that swallows the mystery woman left me with a desire to reach out, hug her and wish her peace in life.
The writing is crisp, narration lucid, with an intricate prose and an almost poetic ending that left me craving for more. You can’t miss being touched by the revelation that a whole is made of many broken parts.
The font of the book is easy on the eyes and each part of the book blends effortlessly.
Love, as promised, is the essential element of every part of this book.
This book is for everyone who has been touched by love in any form and loves books that widen their perspective effortlessly.
I’d like to summarise my review of this wonderful book with the compelling quote that the book opens to;
“It is easy to love.” ~ Anais Nin
About the Book:
Title – The Nine-Chambered Heart
Author – Janice Pariat
Publisher – Harper Collins India
Genre – Fiction
ISBN – 978-93-5277-379-4
Pages – 204
Price – INR 399
About the Author:
Janice Pariat is the author of Boats on Land: A Collection of Short Stories and Seahorse: A Novel. She was given the Young Writer Award by the Sahitya Akademi and the Crossword Book Award for Fiction in 2013. In 2014, she was the Charles Wallace Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Kent, Canterbury. She studied English Literature at St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Her work – including art reviews, cultural features, book reviews, fiction and poetry – has featured in a wide selection of national magazines and newspapers. Currently, she lives in New Delhi.
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