Manjula Padmanabhan does a reading of her novel, Escape, tomorrow at Crossword, and I will be in conversation with her at the event. She will read out a part of the book, after which we shall chat about the novel and her writing, followed by audience questions. If you are a fan of her work—and there is much to like—drop in tomorrow. The details:
Where: Crossword, Kemps Corner, Mumbai
When: 7pm, Thursday, December 18, 2008
Even if you can’t make it to the event, I recommend you pick up the book. It is set in a country of the future where all women have long been exterminated. The story stars a young girl named Meiji, who has been brought up in secret by three uncles, who run an enormous risk if they are discovered by the ruling generals. As Meiji approaches puberty, they keep her from adulthood by artificial means—but then realize that this is unfair to her, and she should be allowed to grow. Equally, her presence there is dangerous to both her and them. So they decide to let her blossom into a woman, and to send her away from this country, presumably to a place where women are natural. She is accompanied by her youngest uncle.
At one level, this is an adventure story of the journey these two make. At another, it is a coming-of-age story, as a young girl grows into adulthood without having the slightest clue of what it’s like to be to be a woman, both physically and emotionally. At the level I most enjoyed it, though, it is a love story, as her uncle, who hasn’t seen a woman for many years, tries to balance his desire for Meiji with his concern for her welfare.
I won’t give away any more—but be warned that if you start this book close to bedtime, you will be groggy in the morning, for it’s extremely hard to put down.
Also read: Jai Arjun Singh’s review of Escape, and his interview with Manjula; and Nilanjana S Roy’s article placing Escape in a literary historical perspective. There are many more useful links on Manjula’s blog.