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Book Review: That Long Silence

That Long Silence, bred in the soul of every Indian woman, whether married or not married, educated or non-educated. It is always there, silently eating into some women’s heart, or coming out in some other way.

That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande is a fictional story, yet something that many women can relate to. Nowadays, every woman born is aware of their rights and can stand for themselves, but still the silence continues. That Long Silence is a story about Jaya, an educated middle-class woman living with her husband and kids, Rahul and Rati. Jaya is an idle example of typical middle class Indian woman, who is confined between her realization and restrictions. Though her upbringing was like any other modern woman, from time to time Jaya faces strange looks from the society who are still not ready to accept individuality in a woman.

That Long Silence is a story of Jaya’s life when it all starts to fall apart. Her husband is asked to leave his job because of allegations of him being involved in business malpractices. Differences with her husband along with frustrations in her 17-year-old marriage, disappointment in two teenage children, the claustrophobia of her own childhood and her writer’s block, all start coming to the surface and haunt her. Now, shifted to a small suburban Bombay flat, Jaya is left alone to deal with demons of her past and her soul. Jaya’s constant fight to fend off that long silence which is embedded in her since childhood is the main plot of the story.

Throughout the novel, Jaya ponders over her role clarity, she keeps on searching her identity and questioning situations where she was not able to take charge of a situation and turned submissive. From being a failed writer due to circumstances she was not able to control to changing her name to ”Suhasini” after marriage, Jaya dissects each and every moment where she could have done something different to keep a hold on her life.

When we started reading the book, it was a bit difficult for us. The sentences are too long and some of the words, seem like, are deliberately included in the story, maybe to make it more exciting or gripping. But in turn, it confuses the reader. After 60 pages or so, you will start getting the hang of the story. The flow of the story is easy to read and understand and at the end of it, you will feel good to have read such a story. Though the language could have been made a bit easy and some of the chapters might have been removed as well. For housewives or women born during the 70’s, this novel might strike a cord. But for women like us, born in new times, you might feel surprised at the oppression and confusion of a woman which we hardly come across these days. But a little part of that long silence still remains with the new age also, in the form of a mother or a sister.

Though That Long Silence is not everyone’s cup of tea, we still recommend the book to everyone. Especially to those who are familiar with Shashi Deshpande’s talented writing.

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