Book Review: Bonsai Kitten
Author: Lakshmi Narayan
Publisher: Lead Start Publishing, Jufic Books
For a first time novelist, Lakshmi Narayan has packed a telling piece with her literary work Bonsai Kitten, which dissects that honourable institution of marriage and all that is not honourable in it and some more. The writer has woven into the story line the anthropological study of the social fabric of Singapore, a country with expats from every region of the world. That she lived here for a considerable time enables her to use the local slang, dialectical nuances and references to locales with authenticity.
The story follows the travails of a young Tamilian Brahmin girl, Divya, whose yearnings remain unfulfilled within the stronghold of age old traditions. Narayan uses the title as a metaphor. Like a Bonsai plant, a young woman is subject to rigorous conditioning to fit into her domesticated role of a subservient wife. The first chapter, with a dark title ‘Sleeping With the Enemy’ and a telling quote by Elizabeth Taylor, “If you hear of me getting married, slap me”, lays bare the first failed bastion of Divya’s marriage. With zero passion, and utter contempt from the underperformer, Divya does what she was conditioned to do – adjust. Just like all good things, all bad things too must come to an end, as does Divya’s marriage when they move to Singapore.
Narayan’s narrative is unpretentious; as are her characters, including the handsome vet O’Reilley, Toni the Anglo-Pakistani from Australia, Lani, Saroja, Min Hui, Amy et al. There are the layers of regional prejudices, biases, coming to terms, finding love and friendship interwoven nicely.
However, the journalist in Narayan did not take her eye off the likely readers, even for one minute. Not only does an extensive glossary provide translations of all Indian terminology, several words are translated within the narrative. Lazy reader may not look up meaning and miss the point? How very considerate the writer is. The font too changes from time to time, lest the reader not figure out that the references are about another time etc. Also, all such vocabulary beyond the pale of the non-English speaking reader or the one’s with limited knowledge of English and yet reading a novel in this language, are explained graphically. It’s ok Naryan, to let that reader make some effort, Google the word, wrack the brain, re-read the passage.
Do write another novel though. This was a great start.