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CHARL RD‘NIE‘ M’ECI‘INT”:
'I‘IIIS ILLUSTRATED BOOK . :‘RODUCED , I IN: COLLABORATION WITII I t‘II,.»\Soow SCHOOL OF ART- . IS THE r‘IRST TO GIVE . .I-x omen/IL VIEW OF THIS SIHQULAR MAN a: ' IIIS III'I‘IIIIISTIC VISION I . I 2:) E35)
. RICHARD DREW PUBLISHING I I I I I I I I I I I
Not what you might expect from Indian feminism, That Long Silence is a subtle, balanced lament, concentrating as much on the silence within relationships as on that of the suppressed ‘weaker sex’.
Jaya, the heroine of the novel, is in the process of writing down her own self-questioning stream of doubts and uneasy memories, so giving the work an illusion oi realism that is hard to shake oft even after author Shashi Deshpande’s quiet reassuranceds that ‘no, it’s not autobiographical.’ Indeed, readers may experience the unnerving sensation of reading about themselves, for Jaya’s story is not about the tyranny of the arranged marriage, orthe struggle to make ends meet in rural India, but about a middle-class journalist with a professional husband — a woman apparently content, but nursing feelings of marital staleness and uniuliilment that must be familiar to wives and mothers everywhere.
The crunch comes when her husband is accused of business malpractice and the two of them go into a retreat where Jaya is forced to reassess their marriage and everything she has taken for granted. Shashi originally envisaged it as a more political novel charting the growing disillusionment that followed Independence and its time of optimism, but the personalities took over. Jaya is scrupulously honest
mamm— COME AGAIN? ‘
Hock SlarJackie Collins (Heinemann I £10.95) (.‘ome-ons. come-backs. ! comeuppance. coming and not coming among the up and coming and downwardly mobile in the pop world are what make this horny novel throb. Barely a page passes without a blouse popping open. revealing ‘truly sensational'. ’incredibly large‘ you-know-whats. There's as much getting on and off as there is in Princes Street in the rush
1, hourandafterten pageslfeltquite
giddy. By then most ofthe cast had
checked in. all apparently named
1 after cars (Nova ‘She makes Imelda
Marcos look like a‘pussy.‘.CitrOen).
' Italian restaurants. or down-at-heel hairdressers. After twenty pages it was impossible to distinguish who
4 was doing what to who and why. Not that it matters. But the narrative steams on regardless. bland as a
Barry Manilow album and with as many bum notes. It is the ideal book fora summer in the sun. It JIM-page parasol which. when you're finished with it and lying face down. will Cover the parts even the most ardent sunbathers don‘t want singed. [can’t think ofa better use for it. (Alan 'l’aylor)
Ellen Foster Kaye (iibbons ((‘apc £9.95) ‘1 figure I made out pretty good considering the rest of my family is either dead or crazy.‘ This is 12 year-old [ﬁllen’s account of how
she ‘made out ‘. Abused by her lather
(’he was a mistake for a person'). she runs away and is shunted from her wicked grandmother ( ‘oh she boiled violent inside') to her dreadful aunt who ‘demonstrates food slicers in your home'. until she finally finds a ‘new mama’. Set in the American South. the book is a mixture of The (0102' Purple and [Ii/IV ( Tut-1mm (/ze Rye. and is destined to become
Ti‘i .75 Sling
in her outpourings, recognising the dangers of directing all her anger at her passive husband. ‘l’ve sacrificed my life for you and the children,’ she finds herselithinking, but she is aware that it is a cliche amounting to self-parody. ‘She’s done a bit of the stilling herself,’ says Shasi. ‘I think I’ve been a bit unusual in trying to turn the blame inwards more, because a lot oi writers in India do tend to blame their families and society entirely.’
Though Jaya has sustained a successful newspaper column, she has failed to write about what she wants to, and it is a failure which she cannot divorce from her own negativity, a
another classic for both teenagers and adults. Without a word of polemic. it speaks volumes about the issues ot'child abuse and racism. in the sharp. sassy voice of Ellen. It is this voice which saves the novel from sentimentality. and one which lifts [Ellen off the page so that she stays in your head. as though this
. extraordinary person were someone
you‘ve met and not just a character in a novel. (Elizabeth Burns)
Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain (Virago £4.50) Acknowledging the invaluable contribution made by black women writers to British literature. Virago publish a collection ofessays in which ten writers discuss their lives and work. In this slim but substantial and wide-ranging collection the writers document personal experiences ofwhich ‘the truth must be told' — work. family. motherhood. male-dominated society. their thoughts on slavery. colonialism and the hierarchy of oppression they witness being black and female: all related with an over-riding sense of loyalty to their history and ancestry. Examples of racism are drawn from the [idinburgh Festival to prejudices encountered in welfare. education or publishing. 'I‘heir answer is defiance which strengthens their identity as representatives ofan infinitely rich. strong and multidimensional cultural force. ((‘atriona Oates)
frightening blankness within her. As the thoughts come unbidden, she finds herself worrying that she could even have passed this on to her son. When nagged by him to express her politcal allegiance, she says, exasperated, ‘We are nothing.’ Now she wonders: ‘Had Ruhul taken my word for it and made himself nothing?’ Filling in the silences is a process which will enrich Jaya’s life and marriage as she rewrites the lies present even in her own diary.
That Long Silence is an excellent ii uncomfortable read. Jaya writes at the outset: ‘. . . I’m not writing a story of a callous, insensitive husband and a sensitive, suffering wife, I’m writing about us.’ The real author, Shashi Deshpande, is probably the only woman the book is not about. ‘My husband has been so supportive; it’s ridiculous that I’m writing about a woman trying to go her own way,’ she says. But she admits that even for her, writing was difficult while the family was growing up: ‘It has taken me a long time to make myself feel that my life was most important to me. . . You feel guilty for doing your own thing.‘ She is too ‘superstitious’ to talk about her latest novel, but says it hasn’t stopped her knocking oif thrillers at the same time. ‘Everyone tells me “don’t” — including the reviewers, but I think I'd like to try one again. . .’And despite her appearance of frailty, she looks suddenly invincible. (Stephanie Billen)
bﬁiiihge .Vfay — 9 June 1988