Too many characters in a book sometimes just make the reader lose interest in the narrative. The reader is too caught up in the relationships of characters, and loses sight of the bigger narrative. This however did not thankfully happen to me while reading, “One and a Half Wife” by Meghna Pant.
“One and a Half Wife” may at times feel to be a clichéd book with a plot that is not very unique, however don’t be fooled by the writing that starts off as a simple narrative and then veers into the a little more complicated manner of writing – in the sense the shift between characters and their personalities and how it all interweaves through the story.
The book is about Amara Malhotra and her so-called American Dream gone wrong. She is everything a girl could ask for and has everything a girl could want. Intelligent, spirited and with a strong head, she leads a life worth being envious of, till she marries a Harvard-educated millionaire, Prashant Roy. It doesn’t seem to get better than this for Amara.
Till but obviously the twist in the tale has to occur and it does. The fairytale marriage doesn’t last the way it is supposed to. Amara returns to the place of her birth, Shimla and there starts another episode or rather a series of episodes of her life.
The juxtaposition of the life she had led and the life she would have to given the circumstances is beautifully done by the author. Amara doesn’t know what to believe in anymore – the old is in constant battle with the new and that is not even the start of her problems. She makes new friends; there are new battles to be fought and new territories that need to be explore.
What I liked about the book is that it doesn’t force anything on the reader. The writer says what she has to through the book and leaves it at that. My favourite character in the entire book has to be Baba – the silent, supportive and sometimes someone who speaks his mind nonetheless. Amara is strong, independent and yet sometimes quite not sure of her decisions, which I liked, as it made her only more human.
For me, the book represents the age-old tug-of-war between the old and the new and how much can one or should compromise? Or should one compromise at all?
This is one of my favourite parts of the book: “This is all hogwash, she told herself. All marriages were a consequence of security, tradition, money and beauty. Love was a chance, a lucky coincidence. Its existence was an after-thought, for more serious matters cemented marriage.”
This excerpt is enough to show you the skills of Meghna Pant as a writer – sometimes razor sharp, assured and knows where to take the story and at what pace. I did not get bored reading this book and I am sure neither will you. One of those reads that is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.