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Difficult Daughters: A Novel Paperback – March 30, 1999

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is a skilful, enticing first novel by an Indian writer who prefers reality to magic realism. Manju Kapur's sensuous pages re-create an intimate world where family groups sleep in the open air on the roof and wash themselves in the yard in the dewy cool of morning, where love-making is furtive and urgent because another wife may be listening, and women's lives move to a complex choreography of cooking, washing, weaving and mending, growing, picking, chopping and blending...This book offers a completely imagined, aromatic, complex world, a rare thing in first novels." --Maggie Gee, Sunday Times

"Kapur's book is steeped in exquisite melancholy." --Guardian

"Kapur writes with quiet intelligence and wry, deadpan humour. Set against the bloody backdrop of Partition, this is a powerful portrait of a society where shame is more important than grief, pragmatism goes hand-in-hand with superstition, and a pregnant wife has to share a bed with her mother-in-law." --Observer

"An urgent and important story about family and partitions and love." --Vikram Chandra

About the Author

Manju Kapur was born in Amritsar. She is a teacher of English literature at Miranda House College, Delhi University, and has four children. Researching and writing Difficult Daughters, her first novel, took her five years.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (March 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571196349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571196340
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,307,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on October 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Suggested by the Bengali women in my local book club, this was a fascinating (at times frustrating) but mostly educational (for me) novel about the incredibly intense social and familial structures of Northwest India during Partition. Our story-teller is the daughter of Virmati who, as a young woman, is drawn more to the intellectual pursuits of life rather than the political ones some of her schoolmates are drawn to. Virmati has been given the chance to study (though rather reluctantly) by her parents and travels to Lahore to do so. She is a woman ahead of her time and is not keen to be relegated to the kitchen and the bedroom like wives of the time are, and her wish to never marry is somewhat disgraceful to her family. After returning home she begins to fall in love with (and he with her) an educated man who is a family neighbor (The Professor), in large part because he openly values her intelligence and encourages her constant pursuit of knowledge. He is tormented by his love for her because he is already married - but finally is pushed by a friend to make her his second wife. She is torn about the decision, but to live with the man she loves (and one who treats her as an intellectual equal) is more important than anything. This marriage results in a complete and total abandonment of Virmati by her family something that wounds her terribly. We discover that Virmati's daughter, as she seeks out those who can tell her about her mother, has also been a difficult daughter in her own way. This book was both wonderful and terribly sad....anyone, man or woman, who rails against convention to do what they believe is right for them in their hearts, is bound to be damaged in the process.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By wordfiendca on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Virmati, a woman who struggles against the traditions that her family would like for her to follow. After spending some time with an aunt, she realizes that she doesn't have to be a mother and wife. Virmati becomes interested in furthering her education, despite her mother's desire to have her look after all of her younger brothers and sisters and wed a man through an arranged marriage.
While continuing her education, Virmati falls under the influence of one of her professors. He falls in love with her and pursues her. She is wiling to become involved with him, though she initially does so because he expresses his need for her. The Professor is not that interested in how the love affair impacts Virmati's life until one of his friends tells him to do the right thing--marry Virmati.
The rest of the book talks about Virmati's marriage, her relationship with the Professor's family and her daughter. This story is beautifully written and shows the options that women have in Indian society. For a woman to step in or out of the traditional roles, there is often a very steep price to pay. Virmati's story is a sad one, but it was a very honest and compelling tale. I am looking forward to future works by Ms. Kapur.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Sahil C. on October 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
an absorbingly intelligent , witty and sentimental story , "difficult daughters" follows the journey of a rebellious woman who chases her dreams at the cost of dishonouring her family name at the backdrop of partition , a time when both india and virmati (the protagonist) are in a state of turmoil .
she falls in love with her neighbour , the proffessor , and sacrifices everything to marry him (even though he is already married) and to study further . in return , she earns the wrath of her family .
the only problem is that manju kapur has limited her audience by absorbing a couple of hindi words into the otherwise english narrative , without providing a glossary .
it makes you ask yourself whether sacrificing all you have to attain something else is really worth it .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Set during the partition, this book is about a young girl, Virmati and the difficult decisions she has to make with her life. Virmati is a wonderfully complex character simply because she loses everything she has for something she thinks she wants. Like a typical woman, she gives up everything for the man she loves, not realizing that what she wants may not be what's best for her. The book ends without the traditional Indian "happy ending" but still there's something good there... even though Virmati is not as happy as she probably thought she would be, she made her own decisions... even if it might have been the wrong one. This book will really make you think.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Manju Kapur's first novel is set in India around the time of Partition (and thus also the second world war). It centres on the story of Virmati, the eldest of eleven children. She lives at a time when the duty of a daughter is to marry (in Virmati's case, to a man she has never met).
Virmati would probably have done what was expected of her were it not for the attentions of one of her professors who happened also to be living next door as the tenant of her aunt.
The Professor is already married and although after several years of vacilliation, he takes Virmati as his second wife there is no happy outcome to this situation.
This is a story well worth reading not the least for the questions it raises on whether it is worth losing all to win what you thought you wanted!
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