- Author: Avni Doshi
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate India (25 August 2019)
- Language: English
Antara has never understood her mother Tara’s decisions – walking out on her marriage to follow a guru, living on the streets like a beggar, shacking up with an unknown artist, rebelling against society’s expectations … But when Tara starts losing her memory, Antara searches for a way to make peace with their shared past, a past that haunts them both. As she relives her childhood in Pune in the eighties, Catholic boarding school in the hills of Maharashtra, and her years as a young artist in Bombay, Antara comes up against her own fears and neuroses, realizing she might not be so different from Tara after all. Girl in White Cotton is a journey into shifting memories, altering identities and the subjective nature of truth. Tracing the fragile line between familial devotion and deception, Avni Doshi’s mesmerizing first novel will surprise and unsettle you.
The title ‘Girl in White Cotton‘ caught my attention, the cover piqued my interest, and there I knew that I had to give this book a shot. Thereafter, I read the blurb and felt a pull towards the book. It drew me inside of it slowly, took me to the strange recesses of the heart and society, introduced me to the ways of the world, jolted me hard with its smooth narrative, unsettled me with its pervasive and ever-encompassing melancholy, and eventually left me to process what I read and felt.
Doshi’s debut novel is different in a way that it silently steps into your mind, takes your hand and pull you out of your reveries to witness the shifting dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship. Tara and her daughter Antara are the protagonists of this contemporary fiction. With the deterring age, Tara has begun to forget things. ‘Human degeneration halts and sputters but doesn’t reverse.‘ Antara starts taking care of her and makes repeated attempts to make her remember what she’s forgotten. In the story swinging back and forth, we come across the past of the two women interlaced in a pristine relationship but appear to be at different tangents forever. Tara has been a rebellious woman who took an exit from an unloving marriage and found solace in an Ashram. In the process of defying the societal norms, she also meets a vagabond artist Reza who leaves an indelible mark on her. But the impression has more depth on Antara’s rather than Tara’s life. He becomes her art which she continues to display and show around without a care.
As Doshi maneuvers her way through the polar personalities, she unravels the altering identities and shifting memories. She juxtaposes the blunt writing with smooth sadness that never leaves you. You keep on reading through those properly served words and before you realize, start reading between the lines. Everything seems apparent and yet seems not. I traveled to the territories of a raw human which are more or less never tread. You would never want to step in certain places because they put something aflame and douses the other within you. I had no idea that the book will take a different turn altogether and would turn out to be something totally divested from what I perceived it to be. I was invested in the story thoroughly. I took my time to even leave it unattended for some days for I wanted to absorb whatever I was reading.
To conclude it, the brilliant storytelling and excellent development of the narrative had definitely hooked me. I remember a book The Nine-Chambered Heart I read earlier this year and I could sense the similar vibe drawing upon me as I took to reading Girl in White Cotton.
MY RATING: 4.25/ 5
Buy your copy: Girl in White Cotton
Thank you HarperCollins India for the review copy.