Crystal Clear

Far from a brisk how-to-solve manual, it is not even straightforward chick-lit. But it offers unexpected delights and a dollop of charm.
The Vague Woman’s Handbook
By Devapriya Roy
HarperCollins | Pages: 343 | Rs. 199

When a novel’s title stoops to conquer, one finds too late that books deceive. The gift potential for a handbook on vagueness is endless; many a bankruptcy could thus be avoided and many a relationship saved. But alas, this is far from a brisk how-to-solve manual a la India Knight’s Thrift Book.

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Nor even is it straightforward chick-lit, as the winsome jacket seems to indicate; Indian publishers typically coming late to this money-spinner and now scrambling madly to entice young readers with curly fonts and pastel palettes, regardless of content or authorly intent.

But persist, because unexpected delights await. Mil and Abhi, married absurdly young, are tackling domesticity with an insouciance more heart-stopping than heart-warming. Lurching from one unexpected cheque to the next as household supplies dry up and landlords get grouchy would be the stuff of parental despair. Yet, this is where the book offers its first dollop of charm. Young Mil’s brave attempt to deal with the searing pain of estrangement from her parents is affecting; it drives the narrative forward. An endearing protagonist, she combines ditziness with an ability to counsel Indira, an older colleague waging battles against maternal and bank-managerial disapproval. In gifting Indira confidence, Mil reveals the book’s second jewel—a tribute to that most effective support system: female friendship.


(Misra’s seventh work of fiction, A Scandalous Secret, will be published in June.)

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