The gorgeous, poignant novel about unexpected love within an arranged marriage in mid-century India, by the award-winning author of Brahma's Dream.
Against the backdrop of World War II's momentous upheaval and world-changing events, Shree Ghatage weaves a rich, intimate story about the many forms desire may take, especially for the young Indian couple at its heart: Vasanti, an intelligent and beautiful woman who has grown up sheltered from the world by her well-meaning father; and Baba, the wealthy, accomplished scion of a prominent Brahmin family. Thrown together into an arranged marriage that neither has wished for, these two conflicted souls slowly learn to tolerate, grow fond of, and finally, passionately love each other.
As Ghatage expertly unwinds her tale, she moves between the lushness of India and the sombre grey of London during the Blitz, gradually allowing the outside world to encroach upon the lovers and forcing us to reexamine our assumptions about them. In a shocking conclusion, Ghatage brilliantly reveals how the unruly forces of love and desire can combine in large and small ways to utterly change a family's destiny.
About the author
Shree Ghatage was born in Bombay, India, and lived in St. John's Newfoundland. She has won three awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition. Shree Ghatage now lives in Calgary.
Thirst for LoveAn absolutely beautifully written novel. Both main characters are believable and lovable. So far this is my favourite novel of my summer reads!
Thirst promises a story of longing, veiled passions and doomed international love affairs set against the backdrop of World War II. Sound good? Calm down, it's not.
It starts with a love letter written by Baba, a young Indian man who has (inexplicably) moved to London in the summer of 1942 to continue his schooling, to his wife Vasanti who is still in India. Cut immediately to a seemingly endless fifty plus pages of Baba wandering around Wales with the a case of The Worst Amnesia in the World (more on that later). During this time he is a boring non-entity of a character, an unreliable narrator who has no cause to be (he has amnesia, but he can still see and hear--why isn't he describing things better?). Then, when he finally remembers who he is, we cut back to India a few months earlier to learn about his relationship with his wife, Vasanti.
This section proves to be no more interesting or satisfying. The couple's arranged marriage is unpleasant to read about, not because the concept of arranged marriages is a foreign one to me as a Westerner or anything, but because they seem to be rather unpleasant people. Baba is cold to his wife and consumed with his own angry judgement of his father. Vasanti is so passive that it's hard to get to know her or sympathize with her as a character. When Baba leaves for England it's hard for me, as a reader, to summon the enthusiasm to care.
The conclusion is equally passionless and annoying. I don't want to ruin it but my honest reaction was "Oh for #$%#'s sake!? Are you kidding me with this?" It's not sad or tragic or filled with "thirst-like" longing or any of that $@&*. It's just further proof that our hero Baba is a jerk-faced jerk I don't care about.
Oh, I promised more on The Worst Amnesia in the World! Yes!
This was a horrible childhood game that my best friend Kathy and I used to play with Chrissy Worst (not her real name, but she really was the worst so it fits). Chrissy was an annoying girl who lived in our neighbourhood who nobody wanted to play with but we had to because she was the granddaughter of the school principal or something. She used to invent games like "Carry Me Around the Yard" (in which she taught Kathy and me how to do the basket catch and then insisted we use it to carry her around the yard). Again, she was the worst.
So sometimes when we were forced to play with her we'd make her play Worst Amnesia in the World. The game was that Kathy and I would pretend to have amnesia and Chrissy would have to be a doctor or a detective or something and figure out what happened to us. The fun part (for us anyway) was that our version of amnesia was that we would forget everything. Like, everything. "What's your name?" I don't know. "Okay, come sit on this chair so I can examine you." What's a chair? "Do you know what year it is?" What's a year? The game would continue until Chrissy got mad at us and went home.
Make no mistake, this game was an act of aggression. We were being jerks because we were annoyed at Chrissy. But the first four chapters of Thirst is exactly like this. Baba forgets everything. Nothing seems to trigger his memory. At all. Then, just when we're ready to throw the book out the window, boom! He remembers everything, end of chapter. This has led me to conclude that for the first fifty or sixty pages, Shree Ghatage was annoyed at me. Hmmm... maybe I shouldn't have asked her to carry me around the yard.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley.com. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.