The Widows of Malabar Hill- Book Review

Book: The Widows of Malabar Hill (read the kindle version)

Author: Sujata Massey


Another refreshing book suggested by Anne Bogel on her blog- Modern Mrs Darcy:) I had added this to my summer reading list and so glad to have read it.

Yesterday on 15th August, we celebrated the Indian Independence Day, and it was strange that I finished reading a book which was based just during the pre-independence years in Bombay (now Mumbai!). I hadn’t planned for it to happen this way, but that was pretty cool I thought.

I missed being in India this time of the year though. I’m not much of a patriot, but I do love all the celebrations, food, music and cultural programs that the little kids participate in, singing the national anthem and watching our flag swirl in the wind, on this day. On this day, I feel a little patriotic and feel proud of being an Indian. Alas, instead, I was working in my office in Hatfield (yep, in, and making do with reading this book 🙂 So here is my short non-spoiler review on the book.

Things I liked in this book:

  • I have never read an Indian mystery book which has a woman in the lead and that too as a solicitor. Just this fact made me want to recommend this book to all my friends. Imagine, our own version of Nancy Drew, who is not just a detective, but also a solicitor! Woo Hoo!
  • I love books where I get to learn about cultures or anything new in general. I am an Indian and I know we are the World’s largest secular democracy. I know about the many different kinds of religions people practise in India, but I got to get a deeper understanding of some of the practises, way of living, cultural ways of the Parsis and the Muslims through this book. I was amazed and felt like I had a much better understanding of many concepts that were foreign to me- such as ‘pardanashins‘ or a house having a separate section for women, called the ‘zenana‘.
  • All that description about the Parsi food! I was forever hungry reading this!
  • I liked how the author put in little hints of the struggles women had then, and how the fights and sacrifices made by many women years back, has resulted in a very different world for us women now. I couldn’t imagine living in the 1920s, the way Perveen suffers at her in-law’s place, all the superstitions that we had then, the lack of control or independence women had then (that was a similarity with the Alice Network too- how you needed a male to be able to manage your finances, or even order something at a restaurant:() And this wasn’t a thing specific to India. It was all across the World, because we read about Perveen’s friend Alice’s own fights with not having the freedom to decide where to live or study, her being involved in the Suffragettes movement, etc. I’m so thankful for all the women who worked so hard to make life better for us now. Just a reminder that we need to think of the future, and that there is still a lot of work to be done to gain equality.
  • Getting a glimpse of Bombay (now Mumbai) during 1920s, just a few years before the independence. And finishing this book on the day we celebrate our Independence- 15th Aug, felt like I had done something right 🙂

Things I didn’t like so much in the book:

  • Although I was really happy to have Perveen Mistry as the lead in this book, I was a little annoyed with her character at times. I felt like she took a lot of impetuous decisions, both with respect to her personal life and career. Sometimes, I could not understand her anger towards her father. Maybe this was the author’s way to show her growth in character, because I believe there will be more mysteries featuring Perveen Mistry. So will need to wait and watch to give a final verdict
  • It took me a while to get involved in the story. I felt the starting was a little slow, but things start getting interesting about 40% into the book, when I started reading the flashback story of Perveen
  • The mystery part wasn’t exactly to my liking. Almost about 60% into the book, I had guessed who the culprit was and bits of what might have happened. I felt that the focus of the first story was more on showing us Perveen’s character development, the cultural nuances of the Parsis and the Muslim widows, and the working of law, than the mystery part of it.

Have you read this book, or similar mysteries- where you were either surprised with the mystery element or found a lot of information about a time or age you didn’t know earlier? I would love to read your thoughts or recommendations 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Widows of Malabar Hill- Book Review

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