We’re going back to historical fiction today with What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin. Once upon a time, I used to discover new books and new authors by browsing at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. I really did pick books by their covers, or at least I’d pick them up for the first time because of their covers. This trade paperback has a beautiful cover. It won the Commonwealth Prize in 2000 and was prominently displayed in the store at that time. The quote from the NYT Book Review is on the back cover of this edition: “A sumptuous tour of [India}, that rich and poor and calm and chaotic country.”
And I wasn’t disappointed. Far from it. This is a glorious book. It’s a story of a man taking a second wife in the hope of gaining an heir, and the change in dynamics within his household. It tells of the new bride’s expectations and the existing wife’s struggle to accept the change. At the same time, the greater picture in India is one of political change and religious conflict. This is a layered story, rich with historical detail, teeming with strong characterizations and conflict. It’s so beguiling that it pulls you right into the story – I just looked for a pull-out quote and ended up reading for half an hour. The author’s voice is wonderful.
If you’ve never read Shauna Singh Baldwin’s work, give this book a try.
Edited to add: I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I was queuing up books in this series of blog posts about my keeper shelf. Recent events and initiatives made me realize that my keeper bookshelf needs more diverse voices. I’ll let you know what I discover to add to my shelf in the upcoming months in case you, too, want to hear some different voices.