Powerful story features two loved ones fighting in painful battles in India | Book reviews

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Sunjeev Sahota’s “China Room” is a clever and serious novel, and although one of its plots is weaker than the other, it’s still captivating, a radical double portrayal of a woman forced into a teenage marriage and of the troubled descendant that she will never know. meet.

The common thread of the book – which takes place in 1929, in an India increasingly resistant to British rule – centers on a 15-year-old who is engaged against his will. Mehar’s poor parents agreed that she would marry the son of a domineering and relatively wealthy widow named Mai. Adding insult to marriage, Mehar did not meet her future husband. The wedding day will not bring any clarity.

His future mother-in-law arranged for Mehar and two women – Gurleen and Harbans – to marry her three sons in one ceremony. Mai’s interpretation of the family’s Sikh faith requires brides to be “veiled from head to toe in … a gown.[s] and golden curtains. Men wear “curtain[s] of white worries ”, hiding their faces. Eager to set a dictatorial tone, Mai won’t tell brides who will marry whom.

In the weeks following the ceremony, Mai sowed confusion by ordering the young wives to spend most of their hours in the cramped “porcelain room” of the family, so “named after the old willow-patterned plates” on the shelves. But the courageous Mehar will not “remain conscientious, veiled and silent.” She persuades her sisters-in-law to play hopscotch. She comically personifies Mai.


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