Book Review – Independence (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)

Book – Independence

Author – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Genre – Historical Fiction

Independence is the latest book by Chitra Banerjee set against India’s Independence. It is a touching story of love, loyalty, sisterhood and nationhood and as with most of her books, this one, too, has a strong feminist angle to it. And so, while talking about the country’s Independence, it focuses on the Independence of women in the financial and emotional sense. It is about how women have always had to struggle for their Independence, but if they are determined, they will achieve what they desire. The only thing is that they need to have the courage of conviction that Chitra’s protagonists have in abundance.

The three sisters born in a Bengali household are fortunate to have a progressive father who believes in giving his daughters the liberty to choose according to their desires. The three sisters are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. Deepa is the beautiful one, Jamini is the devout, dutiful and talented one, and Priya, the youngest, is the idealistic one who is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor. And though life comes with its curve balls, the sisters rise to every single occasion and follow their hearts. The book is about love, courage, loyalty, sibling rivalry, sacrifice and determination. It drives home the point that though families may have misunderstandings, blood is thicker than water, and when adversity strikes, it is family that comes to our rescue.

The fascinating part of this Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni latest book is the different connotations given to the word Independence. On the one side, there is the country and its leaders looking to liberate it from the British and on the other side are these three sisters looking to make independent life choices. So if one wants to marry the man of her dreams, another one desires to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor, and the third one, knowing she cannot get who she wants, tries to carve out her future by choosing to live with the mother and helping her in her business. Everyone wants liberation from the existing situation.

What I loved about the book is its positive and inspiring tone. The book reaffirms the fact that if we are clear about what we want in life and move towards our goal with passion and determination, there is no way that we will not achieve it. The feminist angle makes every woman believe in herself and her aspirations. We women are always made to think that others should govern our lives and that our choices should be determined by their interests. But the book differs. According to it, our lives are ours, and we should be the ones to make the choices that we want. This belief is as relevant today as it was in the period in which the book is set.

The author also arouses the spirit of patriotism in the readers through her references to the freedom struggle.

The language is simple, and the narrative is gripping and absorbing. So once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down and finished reading it in two days.

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Though I loved the book, the part about Deepa’s rescue seemed far-fetched, like in a movie, but I guess the spirit and courage behind the action need to be appreciated.

The book is an excellent read with a realistic touch to it. The relationships, especially between the sisters, have been described in a very authentic manner, and one can easily relate to them. The love angle though unfortunate, is matter-of-fact. The book like most books by Chitra Banerjee has a Bengali touch, which added to the appeal for me.

I give it a rating of 5/5.

From the book –

‘ Here is a river..

Here is a Village..

Here is a grand old mansion…

Here is the country that contains them all..”

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