Once There Was a Girl (Vattathul)
Year of Publication: 2012
Price: Rs 400
About the Author:
A poet and fiction writer, Vatsala started writing at the age of 48. She retired from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1999. Her short stories have won the Illakia Chintani award, the Agni-Subhamangala award and the Rajeswari Balasubramaniam prize. Vatsala’s poems have been translated into English and appear in anthologies like The Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry (2009).
About the Book:
The winner of the Tiruppur Tamil Sangam award for Best Novel, 2008, this book examines the way women are perceived in a socio-cultural framework that is inherently patriarchal. Spanning the entire twentieth century from pre to post-independence India, Once There Was a Girl is a poignantly narrated tale about Rani alias Janaki, a young Brahmin girl with spunk, attitude and native intelligence. Married off to Raghuraman, a childless widower from a conservative Thanjavur Brahmin family, Rani has to negotiate and survive the complex familial politics that threaten to engulf her life. If Janaki’s wings are clipped by the patriarchal culture of the mid-twentieth century, it is not without consequence. Her daughter Prema, who lives through a painful divorce, has to bear the brunt of Janaki’s limited way of imagining women’s lives. And, yet, Janaki endears herself to us.
A feminist bildungsroman, Once There Was a Girl is rich in period-detail. Both linguistically and culturally, the novel affords us a unique insight into the mindscapes of women who lived through times so different from our own. The presentation of cultural issues in this novel would appeal to present-day India at large and contemporary Tamil society in particular.