When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy – Book Review

Rating: 4.5/5

My reason to pick this book…

One fine day, I was lazily pressing the buttons on the remote of my idiot box when the cover of this book, ‘When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife’ caught my attention on a news channel. The anchor was interviewing the author, Meena Kandasamy, regarding her latest release. The amazing cover and the title of the book had me hooked.

This book was shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction 2018; longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2018 and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2018 soon found its way to my bookshelf.

The Storyline

The author has penned down a fictionalized account of the life of a young wife who is a victim of marital rape, physical abuse, social isolation and the peer pressure to stay in a marriage. This book is based on the author’s own experience of her marriage. The unnamed narrator here gives an account of her marriage and life in a first-person account.

The narrator is young and enthused with dreams of becoming a successful writer. She meets a university lecturer, who happens to tick all her checkboxes of Mr. Right. Soon they get hitched. Gradually, the reality of her monumental error dawns on the narrator.

Her husband is a Marxist with communist ideas. He is a control freak. He socially isolates her by deleting her Facebook account; regulates the time spent on the internet and polices her mobile. Domestic and psychological abuse, marital rape and physical assault become synonymous with the everyday life of the narrator.

The narrator gives a detailed account of the ways she tries to make peace with her life. She tries hard to make the best out of the worst. She is a writer and hence tries to etch her life in her mind to be able to present it to her readers in the future.

The story talks about the peer pressure that our loved ones burden us with. It showcases how parents in a patriarchal society, consciously choose to avert their eyes from reality. A father who is more concerned about the impending shame that a divorce shall beget than the atrocities and humiliation his daughter is subjected to. A mother who advises her to remain silent and accept the situation.

I liked

 The book has the reader hooked from its cover. It isn’t just about domestic violence but the story of a wife with dreams of a writer. How she uses writing to escape her real world of abuse?

In the initial chapter, the author beautifully introduces the impending depth of abuse by subtly mentioning it with a tinge of humour through her mother. The beauty with which she has described emotions is par excellence. You shall definitely need a breather after you have read the scene of marital rape. It is written in the rawest manner possible. Once read, it can put a rapist to shame.

My Verdict

This is one of those books that is characterized as ‘must-read’. Everything about this book is breath-taking. No doubt it was the most favourite among the short-listed entries for Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

Post-reading this book, I am definitely going to pick up Meena Kandasamy’s other works. Pick this up, if you wish to read about emotional, physical, domestic abuse in the most real and raw manner possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *