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An Unrestored Woman

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ItThe characters in these fearless stories stumble occasionally towards love often towards survival and find that history above all is their truest and greatest opponent And what emerges in the midst of newly erected barriers boundaries and nations is a journey into the centre of the only place that matters the human heart. An impressive confident debut collection of stories that in the main explore how the 1947 partition of India was wrought upon the bodies of women on both sides of that divide I uestion whether a novel with a smaller number of fully developed characters might have avoided the ‘tragedy porn’ feeling that crept up for me a few times but no matter the strongest of these stories has made me eagerly look forward to Rao’s imminent debut novel

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Ws into the wider world An old woman recounts the murdering of what was most precious to her and the many small cuts that led her to that act A girl forced into prostitution wields patience as deftly as a weapon and manages to escape her fate An Indian servant falls in love with his employer and spins a twisted web of dece. As I said on Instagram it was slow going with these stories for two reasons they are emotionally taxing and they don’t grab you right away They took me way longer to read than it should have but I'm glad I didn't uit I can't help but compare this collection to Difficult Women by Roxane Gay because the range here is so much greater The challenges these women face are authentic and the ways they handle them are varied Unlike the women in Difficult Women who need therapy and handle their issues self imposed in my opinion mostly the same way the women in An Unrestored Woman need a lifeline I never failed to be impressed with the way a few of the characters made a cameo in one story which brought understanding to how their lives came to be in the story where they are the central figure Like everyone here I read a lot of books It's rare that when I finish a book I sit and fan through the pages I didn't want to put it down; it's almost as if I needed time to absorb what I'd read With this being a debut collection there is no doubt I will read whatever Shobha Rao writes next

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In An Unrestored Woman the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 cuts a jagged path through the lives of ordinary women and men leaving ripples of sorrow through time and space Each couplet of stories spans the Indian subcontinent from refugee camps and torched trains to the spacious verandas of the British Raj and billo. An Unrestored Woman is Shobha Rao's debut collection about the shared grief that occurred starting with the 1949 partition of India and Pakistan Prior to the publication of this novel one of the stories won inclusion in The Best American Short Stories two years ago Rao's historical fiction that also gives a voice to in depth multi layered characters has gained inclusion in my women's history month lineup Creating characters with backstories Rao allows them to move from one story to the next As a result the collection reads almost like vignettes in one novel rather than a group of stories This is first evident in the first two powerful stories An Unrestored Woman and The Merchant's Mistress In the first story we meet Neela and Renu on a compound for widows They forge a relationship bordering on love in their shared grief and then their lives take diverging paths Renu winds up as a maid for a merchant's wife becomes the merchant's mistress and follows him to South Africa to create a new life for herself that would not have been possible as a widow in a Muslim country Although Renu's story ends here her tale moves from one of grief to that of hope A theme in all of these stories is shared grief either in relationships or over what might have been During the partition Hindus and Muslims torched each other's land killing mainly the men in a religious warfare We find this in The Opposite of Sex where by changing a map Mohan not only alters history but also two countries' opinions of him In Kavitha and Mustafa Muslims torch an entire train of Hindus attempting to escape Pakistan The fact that Kavitha and Mustafa escaped became their secret and neither spoke of it again This story focusing on the bravery of an innocent child won Rao a short story award On top of the grief over the partition and the losses its characters felt Rao brings a voice to a historical event that is often overlooked in western history books Rao develops plausible scenarios resulting from this event in stories as short as sixteen pages Distrust of other religions the treatment of widows and both migration and immigration took place following the partition and Rao allows her readers a window into each occurrence An Unrestored Woman takes its name from the millions of women recovered to India from Pakistan following the partition Yet Rao chooses to call these women restored in order to give them dignity Receiving the Katherine Anne Porter Prize Shobha Rao is an up and coming writer and I would look forward to reading her future novels

  • Hardcover
  • 256
  • An Unrestored Woman
  • Shobha Rao
  • English
  • 10 June 2019
  • 9780349006444

About the Author: Shobha Rao

SHOBHA RAO moved to the United States from India at the age of seven She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by TC Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015 She is the author of the short story collection AN UNRESTORED WOMAN and the novel GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER She lives in San Francisco



10 thoughts on “An Unrestored Woman

  1. says:

    An Unrestored Woman is Shobha Rao's debut collection about the shared grief that occurred starting with the 1949 partition of India and Pakistan Prior to the publication of this novel one of the stories won inclusion in The Best American Short Stories two years ago Rao's historical fiction that also gives a voice to in depth multi layered characters has gained inclusion in my women's history month lineup Creating characters with backstories Rao allows them to move from one story to the next As a result the collection reads almost like vignettes in one novel rather than a group of stories This is first evident in the first two powerful stories An Unrestored Woman and The Merchant's Mistress In the first story we meet Neela and Renu on a compound for widows They forge a relationship bordering on love in their shared grief and then their lives take diverging paths Renu winds up as a maid for a merchant's wife becomes the merchant's mistress and follows him to South Africa to create a new life for herself that would not have been possible as a widow in a Muslim country Although Renu's story ends here her tale moves from one of grief to that of hope A theme in all of these stories is shared grief either in relationships or over what might have been During the partition Hindus and Muslims torched each other's land killing mainly the men in a religious warfare We find this in The Opposite of Sex where by changing a map Mohan not only alters history but also two countries' opinions of him In Kavitha and Mustafa Muslims torch an entire train of Hindus attempting to escape Pakistan The fact that Kavitha and Mustafa escaped became their secret and neither spoke of it again This story focusing on the bravery of an innocent child won Rao a short story award On top of the grief over the partition and the losses its characters felt Rao brings a voice to a historical event that is often overlooked in western history books Rao develops plausible scenarios resulting from this event in stories as short as sixteen pages Distrust of other religions the treatment of widows and both migration and immigration took place following the partition and Rao allows her readers a window into each occurrence An Unrestored Woman takes its name from the millions of women recovered to India from Pakistan following the partition Yet Rao chooses to call these women restored in order to give them dignity Receiving the Katherine Anne Porter Prize Shobha Rao is an up and coming writer and I would look forward to reading her future novels

  2. says:

    Usually I'm all in favor of not reading too much about books before starting them In this case though I wish I'd noted ahead of time that these are paired short stories Each story overlaps just enough with its partner to cast a skewed light ever so slightly warping and twisting what you thought you knew about the characters or their situation Sadly I was slow to catch on to this pattern Having never encountered a paired short story collection I assumed all the stories in the book were linked and thus wasted a fair amount of energy looking for repeating characters throughout the book I should have recognized Rao had adopted a straightforward rigid structure for the collection because the stories themselves are so well organized and perfectly contained That's probably not a sexy way to describe a short story but it appeals immensely to my concrete seuential brain Rao also wisely limits herself thematically by focusing the entire collection on one historical event Partition—when in 1947 India and Pakistan were divided by a line on a map into two distinct countriesI couldn't help but compare Rao's collection with another I read recently What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi If Oyeyemi's stories are like overgrown gardens that reuire a reader to bushwhack her way out beautiful but oh so thorny Rao's stories are like perfectly smooth glass paperweights plenty hefty but complete in themselves I loved both collections but upon reflection they really could not be differentThis is already one of my favorite books of the year hard but redemptive in theme spare and precise in style Rao has a mysterious way of making her characters immediately knowable—a few lines in and you're right with her waiting with wide eyes to see what will happen to them And I know people say this all the time but I can't believe this is a debut With regards to Flatiron Books and Goodreads for the review copy which I was lucky enough to win in a recent giveaway On sale nowMore book recommendations by me at wwwreadingwithhipposcom

  3. says:

    This is a collection of short stories which focus on women from India and Pakistan I knew next to nothing about these two countries before reading this I didn't even realise they used to be the same country and since reading it I am now fascinated with the culture and particularly the way of life for females within the countries This short story collection does something I've never seen before which is to join some of the stories together Each pair of stories has a link be it theme characters or setting and it's fairly clear I loved this becuase it showed different sides of similar stories and it also meant that the author got to show off her styles tooThe stories which I think most hit me were the ones involving young women feeling trapped in their marriages or who have been abducted and taken to work in the sex trade be married to a man or to earn their way on their own There is rape and abduction in a fair few of these stories and nearly all of them were uite heavy with emotion I think this isn't a collection to be taken lightly but saying that the wiring is nice and some of the phrasings are uite beautiful and poignantWe do get a lot of same sex couples and different types of people and relationships showcased within this collection which is certainly something I didn't anticipate and I was pleased to encounter I would definitely say it's well worth a readOverall I just loved this collection and I would hugely recommend it It's not a long collection and won't take a long time to read but it's beautiful and lovely and heart wrneching and it made me want to learn myself which is always great 45s from me #DiverseAThon

  4. says:

    This was very difficult for me to read With that said I would recommend it to every one of my Goodread's friends You feel Rao's heart and the heart and mind of each person depicted in this book that deals with the lives of people involved in the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947

  5. says:

    This is around 4 star uality but I think the rating has to do with my changing relationship with short stories collections I just don't find them very satisfying to read any even when they check all the boxes this one does thematically focused characters appearing in than one story beautiful writing Most of these 12 stories are related to the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan so naturally many involve violence against women although the stories are about evenly split between male and female perspectives and they don't all deal with heteronormative love I think Rao handled her subject matter gracefully and has a real talent for the short story form I just found this collection so unbelievably depressing and there was zero humor to help you through it all Still this is one of the memorable short story collections I've read and I recommend it

  6. says:

    As I said on Instagram it was slow going with these stories for two reasons they are emotionally taxing and they don’t grab you right away They took me way longer to read than it should have but I'm glad I didn't uit I can't help but compare this collection to Difficult Women by Roxane Gay because the range here is so much greater The challenges these women face are authentic and the ways they handle them are varied Unlike the women in Difficult Women who need therapy and handle their issues self imposed in my opinion mostly the same way the women in An Unrestored Woman need a lifeline I never failed to be impressed with the way a few of the characters made a cameo in one story which brought understanding to how their lives came to be in the story where they are the central figure Like everyone here I read a lot of books It's rare that when I finish a book I sit and fan through the pages I didn't want to put it down; it's almost as if I needed time to absorb what I'd read With this being a debut collection there is no doubt I will read whatever Shobha Rao writes next

  7. says:

    Onvan An Unrestored Woman Nevisande Shobha Rao ISBN 1250073820 ISBN13 9781250073822 Dar 256 Safhe Saal e Chap 2016

  8. says:

    A heartbreaking collection of short stories from the author of Girls Burn Brighter I loved this collection These stories are in pairs usually with a side character in the first one appearing in the second It made the collection feel cohesive than others I've read This book is not for the faint of heart It's blunt in its depiction of rape and abuse If you can handle it I highly recommend this book

  9. says:

    An impressive confident debut collection of stories that in the main explore how the 1947 partition of India was wrought upon the bodies of women on both sides of that divide I uestion whether a novel with a smaller number of fully developed characters might have avoided the ‘tragedy porn’ feeling that crept up for me a few times but no matter the strongest of these stories has made me eagerly look forward to Rao’s imminent debut novel

  10. says:

    I could tell within the first few sentences that this would be a beautiful read It is a gorgeous book A collection of stories portrays the diverse experience of Partition in 1947 Each story is uniue and accessible and heartfelt and tragic Several stories are paired to create a dynamic tension revealing how the earlier story led to or unraveled into a latter one This book gives voice to and honors an awful piece of our world history a scar of colonialism that endures and a shame the British cannot deny Rao gave me a glimpse of the individual and realistic tragedies and in doing so brought into a clearer frame how millions suffered some 70 years ago I believe that we are still suffering from this and that much of the current social unrest in the South Asian region can be traced directly to Partition and imperialismI didn't want the book to end I'm definitely waiting for her next bookI refer to feminist rehearsal here as a concept that helps me grapple with the past our history As a reader I seek art that helps me address redress understand frame and re frame where we are today The stories in this book are not only imaginings of historical events they also represent lived experiences at some level and in doing so help us reckon with the present

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