Ninth century. In Puduvai, a small town in what we now know as Tamil Nadu, young Kodhai is taught to read and to write by her adoptive father, a garland-weaving poet. As she discovers the power of words, she also realizes that the undying longing for a great love that she has been nursing within her – one that does not suppress her desire for freedom – is likely to remain unfulfilled. Then, she hears of a vow that she can undertake that might summon it to her.
In deepest winter, the sixteen-year-old begins praying for a divinely sensual love – not knowing that her words will themselves become prayers, and echo through the centuries to come.
Rich with the echoes of classical poetry, in The Queen of Jasmine Country, Sharanya Manivannan imagines the life of the devotional poet Andal, whose sublime and erotic verses remain beloved and controversial to this day.Goodreads Synopsis
I have to start this review with a heartfelt thanks to a lost friend, who had presented this book to me, after a lot of thought clearly, for my birthday. We used to have long conversations about sexuality, accepting desires, the relevance of monogamy or the traditional institute of marriage, poetry, feminism, history, among many things. So I can imagine why he picked this book for me to read, since this fictional retelling of the life of the south Indian devotional poet Andal, touches upon many of these subjects.
I really enjoyed reading this book. If you’re a fan of books with prose that sound like poetry, then this might be one for you. It is also a short book of just 156 pages, and I was able to finish it in a single sitting.
All the description about Kodhai’s desires, or the rituals she partakes in to find her life partner, or her love for words and poetry were simply breath taking. I could picture myself in that age, in that setting of the jungle, where people lived simply and loved deeply.
I’d like to read more of Sharanya’s books now – she has a collection of poems and a collection of short stories, and the description of both sound very interesting. Glad to have read an Indian author whose work I enjoyed after such a long time 🙂
Bookish Conversations 🙂
Have you guys read this book or any other by Sharanya Manivannan? If yes, would love to read about your reviews or thoughts. Do leave a link of your blog in the comments section..
I had read a similar book called Circe with beautiful poetry like prose last year, which I absolutely adored. I’d love to have some more recommendations of books that are written in a similar fashion and touch upon subjects of independence, especially with a female protagonist. Please leave behind your recommendations in the comments sections 🙂